I’ve been to a peep show just once in my life. I was aged 19, with one of my various good-for-nothing 30 yr old paedo boyfs of the time. I wanted to be the dream GF, an embodiment of the cool girl; willing to go to any lengths to fill out his fantasies without thinking even for a second about my own desires.

And so on our hol to Amsterdam I was more than willing to spend a crazy night in the red light district doing anything and everything. First stop was the peep show. I don’t remember much except the novelty of the experience.

We paid by slotting coins into a machine, not dissimilar to an arcade, then we came to sit in a little booth, next to other little booths that formed a circle around a stage. Weirdly, we could see the other clients each in their own booths watching through the glass.

When the stage lit up, we were given two mesmerising minutes of a woman strutting her stuff before the lights suddenly went black again. Our time was up.

Peep Shows: The Forgotten Sex Work?
Play Pen, NYC. Photo by James and Karla Murray

That was 2017. Two years later, I first watched a live cam and immediately saw a similarity to the peep show: the excitement at watching someone right in that moment, being able to look, but not allowed to touch; being close, but never close enough. The dynamic was much the same.

Now, post-pandemic with OnlyFans and live cams being bigger than ever,  peep shows really do seem like a relic from a long forgotten past. I wanted to know what peep show work used to be like, and try to gauge if there’s still a space for it in the industry today. So I spoke to Brie.

 

Brie Daniels, peep show entertainer in the 80s
Brie Daniels-sex working since the 80s.

Brie is a Florida based sex worker. In the 80s, she worked at a peep show in North Hollywood, aged 25, for eighteen months. Brie likes TV trivia (much akin to myself), she goes to museums and enjoys people-watching, kayaking and scuba diving. We connect through Twitter, during which she tells me in much appreciated detail about her peep show experiences.

 

 

 

Working at a Peep Show in The 80s

‘I have social anxiety and crowds of people can put me in tears. An open stage like in a strip club was out of the question. My husband suggested peep show work, as he knew with the closed stage and house rules, I would feel safe. I worked on an enclosed stage. Mirrors all around. Mirrored panels within the mirrored walls were between the girl and privacy booths.

Men entered booths with doors for their privacy that had a pane of glass that faced the stage. When they fed the meter, the light between two panes of glass went out, giving him a timed view of the girl on stage.  From the girl’s view, the inset panel would go black and no longer reflect.

She would dance up in front of the now blackened glass and ask for tips through the slit above the window. Men could also request a private dance. These were done where again, the man had a private enclosed booth, and the girls booth next to his had clear glass between them. When the man fed the meter, the light would go on in the girls booth so that he could now see her.

She would dance, or press herself against the glass, performing for the man as he did as he chose. There was also a phone on each side so they could converse. I loved talking seductively dirty, while the man jacked off. It was open 24/7. I worked mostly with other housewives during the day. While not always busy, it was enough to keep me from looking for something else.’

 

 

Rules, Safety and Cleanliness

‘Keeping in mind our current health crisis, I think it’s important to note that a peep show kept me relatively safer health wise. A maintenance man circulated between the private booths and the booths around the stage, cleaning and mopping constantly. There were rules for the girls to follow.

It was illegal for us to touch with our hands, our nipples, or anywhere in our public region. Making dates, leaving for car visits, giving out personal contact info was all prohibited. You were walked by staff to your car and watched that you left alone. There were cameras on stage and the stage and private booths were mic’d.

The manager/owner came and went at random times day and night. He always watched and listened in. One time on a weekend, I was dressed in lingerie, standing in an uncurtained window of a private booth, trying to lure patrons in. We took turns doing that and working the stage.

There were several girls waiting on a bench behind the stage. From where I stood, I saw my brother walk on the back door of the building. I freaked and jumped out of the booth behind the stage. I asked another girl to look and tell me what the bearded guy with the Lennon glasses was doing.

In moments the phone at the stage bench rang. The manager was in asking me who he was. Was he a problem? The Mgr was cool about it all. Offered to have him tossed but I told him that would be more suspicious. My car was distinctive and in the lot out by the door he had come in through.

So he had the maintenance guy keep a close eye on him till he left, while I hid out of sight the whole time. Kinda funny to look back on it. My brother never asked me about it. Probably thought my husband had driven my car and was in there somewhere.’

 

The Good and the Bad

‘I gained a good deal of self confidence and improved body image while working there. I practiced slow moves and suggestions to see how they would turn a man on. It made it easier when I left to get other jobs. However, I didn’t make as much at a peep show as girls on an open stage or the escorting that I do now.

But we all enjoyed working there. Better than half were married or in committed relationships, where the guy wasn’t intimidated by her working behind glass.  You are probably right on the correlation to peep shows dying out, as private cams are very similar.

While I have tried webcamming and I do have an OnlyFans account, I prefer in-person work more. Online, you can’t read a guy’s responses like you can in person. Online I play to a camera and don’t always have a guy I’m even playing to. It’s great if you are an exhibitionist and just love talking to hear yourself speak, but I enjoy the interaction of in person sex work.’

 

A Future for Peep Shows?

Although peep shows are slowly dying out, they potentially offer a happy medium between online and in-person sex work.  They possess the real-life, personable element that you get in escorting, stripping and so on, but they also have a level of removal which gives you the physical protection that you get with online sex work such as live cams and OnlyFans. Today, peep shows might be a great choice for:

People who are drawn to the intimacy of in-person sex work but:

  • Are conscious of their safety in a health crisis.
  • Have anxiety. 
  • Don’t feel comfortable with any actual touching.

 People who are drawn to the safety of online sex work but:

  • Don’t want to have a big online presence 
  • Want something slightly more face to face
  • Don’t want to have to work for themselves

So whilst the pay aint all that, we mustn’t disregard the humble peep show. It can work great as a side hustle, or for someone not so bothered by the money and more so bothered by the excitement of it all.

They offer a truly unique form of sex work and just as unique an experience for all the punters out there. Plus, what’s not to love about those retro neon signs they always have outside?  #Bring back ze peep show!

 

Interview
entertainment
peep show
Sex Work
Iso

Iso

Author

Iso is a writer and filmmaker based in East London. She is passionate about all things erotic and leads a sexy, shame-free life in hope that she can inspire others to do the same. Originally from a Northern seaside town, she is naturally drawn to the best things in life: candyfloss, trashy karaoke bars and heart-shaped sunglasses.


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