If you've already had the pleasure of being introduced to the talent powerhouse that is Siouxsie Q, whether it be through her popular, insightful podcast Whorecast, her performances at Queer Porn TV or Kink.com, or her original mermaid musical, Fish Girl, that opened to rave reviews, you are already familiar with her unstoppable charm. For those of you who have been missing out, get ready to have your socks knocked right off. Once you learn about her in the interview below, your crush on this real-life mermaid and self-proclaimed superhero will be just as big as mine.
So let's start with really basic stuff: You're a woman of many talents, doing all kinds of entertainment and working on so many things. What would you identify as your job/jobs? Or do you have one awesome job title that rolls them all into one?
I'm San Francisco based sex worker, escort, podcast queen, performer, activist, writer, musician and mermaid. Thats the bulk of what I do anyway. I also moonlight as super hero though.
I love it. What inspired Whorecast? And did you expect the amount of success that Whorecast has seen so far? It seems like it has gotten a lot of attention (deservedly so)!
WhoreCast was inspired by my love of podcasts and I really got a huge push to do it after listening to Kevin Smith's book Tough Shit. He is a movie guy who now does podcasts, and I figured...sex work is just as interesting if not more so than movies...why don't I do a podcast? So I did. Actually, technically my partner Jesse James came up with the idea. Then we just ran with it.
We hoped and dreamed that it would be this successful someday, but didn't expect it to happen all so fast. All of the success we hoped would happen in the distant future has happened within the first year and we are just ecstatic. We can't wait to see what comes next.
Of all of your episodes, which one is YOUR favorite? Which has been the most popular in terms of listeners?
I'm actually really excited about the episode we are working on as we speak! Episode 23 is a tribute/memorial/wake for The Lusty Lady Theatre, which is where I got my start into the world of sex work. We were there to document its final night and we got to talk to many generatons of Lusties and the episode is very very close to my heart.
In terms of popularity among listeners though, our most popular episode so far has been the Fish Girl sneak peak we released last week.
So talk to me about Fish Girl! I know you've already talked about it a lot, but it got such an amazing reception. I actually just listened to that episode this morning! I particularly loved the SF Weekly coverage.
One thing that really interests me is the intersection between theatre and sex work, and I feel like there are a lot of former (and current!) theatre kids in the sex industry. Do you feel like those two things have informed each other in your life?
Absolutely. I mean, historically actresses and sex workers were often in the same class bracket, and kept fairly close company. I remember reading about this in college and having a huge moment of realization. I feel like many of the things that make me a successful performer/actress also make me a successful sex worker, like being able to listen really well, or being able to stay present in a situation and react quickly. Also, the way you make yourself vulnerable on stage for a brief time. The intimacy I engage with an audience is real, even if my stage persona is an act. It's the same with sex work.
Absolutely -- and I think that's something that folks (civilians) don't realize about either acting or sex work.
I don't think so either. I wrote a response to Glee's sex work plot line, actually. I posted a blog about it.
Glee, you seem to miss a really important piece about the role sex workers play in artistic communities. Myself, and so many others like me who are artists, free thinkers, the kids who didn’t fit in when we were in high school—well, some of us grew up to be whores. Sometimes if we happen to be queer, fat, trans or many other types of “othered” identities, sex work may present some of the best and only options for us to make money while we conquer our dreams. While it should be noted that Brody’s character is a straight, white, cis-gendered male, it should also be noted that many sex workers do not come to the table with all that privilege.
Until this point in the show when it is revealed that Brody has been paying for his tuition to the New York Academy of Theatre Arts by doing sex work (they use the word “gigolo” because apparently it’s still 1979 on Glee) no one has ever really mentioned how these kids are paying FOR ANYTHING—not their tuition, not their rent, not their supremely fashionable clothing. This is particularly strange considering they live in the biggest and best decorated boho-chic apartment in New York City.
-An excerpt from Siouxsie's response to Glee's sex work plot line
It's funny you bring that up, though; I know that for myself, it's especially offensive when actors/performers say whorephobic things.
Completely! It's like, HELLO? WE ARE OF THE SAME CLAN!!!
Yes! And actors really do all kinds of "sell out" wild shit that they justify with the label of "art," but somehow sex work is a totally different beast? (And I don't mean that disparagingly about actors; I just think it's the reality of paying bills and doing performance work.)
It sounds like you have a very conscious awareness of the parallels between performing on stage and performing, so to speak, for a client. Do you ever feel like that gets in the way of your work? Or does it create any kind of anxiety in any way?
Absolutely. I really feel like I use my Theatre degree every time I go to work. [As for anxiety,] I don't think so. I mean, everything we do as humans is some kind of performance. Performing gender or sexuality is something that everyone does, Some just find a way to get paid to do it.
Again, another thing that I think civilians don't necessarily have an awareness of.
Exactly. And I never want a client to think that just because I'm "performing" means that I'm being "fake" or disingenuous. When I perform onstage as an actor or a musician, what I'm doing is being present, making myself vulnerable and sharing a very intimate part of myself.
It is as if acknowledging the performance or harnessing its power somehow cheapens it, when as you said, it's something we all do -- in many contexts.
Exactly. When I am with a client, I'm doing the same thing.
It’s a complex subject; so many civilians seem to see sex as an inherent vulnerability, or intimacy is only significant/"real" when it is limited or spontaneous. How would you define "making yourself vulnerable" in this context for people who don’t totally understand it?
Right, so anyone who's been onstage knows that it's a little bit terrifying no matter what.
I've been performing since I was 6 years old and I still get nervous. So when you take the risk to put yourself out there and get on a stage, you're really showing a very vulnerable scared part of yourself. It's the same with sexuality. Whether you are lacing up latex boots and being someone's Mistress or putting on lucite heels to dance naked, you are putting yourself out there and that can be very risky and terrifying.
Whether you’re performing in a play, or performing sexuality for a client, it can feel like revealing a very vulnerable part of yourself.
Some of the misconception also arises from the idea that if you do something too many times it will become routine, but with both great art and great sex, the opportunities for creativity are boundless. And for both, it seems that doing more of both actually encourages creativity and passion, and fosters that vulnerability.
Absolutely. The more times I perform Fish Girl, the more in love I fall with the story and the characters. Every time feels like magic. It's the same with sex work. Every time I learn something new, every time I put on heels and stockings and red lipstick it's exciting. Everytime I see a client I've seen dozens of times I discover something new.
Both are crafts. You get better with practice, age, and experience.
What's your favorite "role" with clients? It seems like most of us have trends in the types of roles we play or the clients we attract (some of which is crafted, of course, by our marketing, but some of it seems a little inexplicable, in the same way that we hit it off with "types" of people in terms of interests/traits we value). Do you have a role that you play most often?
I like to be a living pin up post card in my sessions. I like to play with the tropes set up by that pin up fantasy. Sometimes over the top innocent, wide eyed and coy. Sometimes devilish and cruel with a Bettie Page riding crop (but with the experience of a real kinkster) I present as femme in my everyday life, but as a sex worker role I like to be super 1950's inspired extra femme. But then the counter to that is that I always try to be one hundred percent present. I may look like a two dimensional pin up post card, but I can also talk politics, baseball, wine, and big feelings.
I also love crazy theatrical role playing (obviously). The stranger the scenario the better. I've been someone's older sister, stepmother, a yoga instructor, a neighbor, a small penis specialist, and more. I love that stuff. I did a lot of improv in college, so that kind of stuff is extra fun for me.
Who is your ideal client?
My ideal client has some kind of strange but fairly innocuous fetish that we both have a great time with. He or she is well read, humble and very kind. Always on time, respectful, and communicative. It also helps if he or she has Giants season tickets, or brings me cookies before the session. I'm fairly easy to please.
Also, my ideal client is a WhoreCast fan who is all about sex worker rights. I've been super touched by how my clients have been supportive of WhoreCast. With my regulars or folks I feel a good connection with, I’ll tell them about the podcast and see if they're into it. Most of the time they come back a couple weeks later just raving about it. I think it's exciting for clients to have that window into the world of the industry and to engage with the political issues, even if they can't be out to the rest of the world about being a patron of the industry.
What are the plans for Whorecast in the future, other than continuing being rad and doing what you do so well?
Next for WhoreCast: I have plans to release some more music soon.
How do you balance so many interests and hobbies? You've mentioned being insanely busy, and I can imagine how! What do you do for self-care or to relax?
I do a lot of yoga. I also love cooking and relax that way. My favorite self care day is waking up with NPR and really strong coffee, going to an Oakland Farmers Market, and then cooking a glorious seasonal meal for my partner and I. Then maybe watching some Game of Thrones or Star Trek. Those are my go to fantasy worlds for self care.
That sounds like a perfect day.
Right? We all deserve that day. But luckily, I do what I love for a living. Making sex work my career was one of the best decisions I ever made. It's allowed me to fulfill my American dream.
Do you have any words for people who think that choosing sex work is not a possibility? (Other than maybe "fuck you")
My clients are amazing; my colleagues are amazing; I can pay my rent and provide for my family. The only bad part about being a sex worker is the stigma that comes with it. The work itself is not inherently dangerous, it's the way it is criminilized and stigmatized that makes it dangerous.
My ultimate hope for WhoreCast is that by sharing the stories, art and voices of the amazing sex workers in my community and beyond that we can end that stigma.
If you are interested in learning more about Siouxsie Q, you can follow her on Twitter @siouxsieqjames. Catch up on Whorecast episodes here, and make sure to follow the Whorecast Facebook and Twitter as well.
You can also buy the Fish Girl soundtrack here. Happy swimming!