For four years I worked as Contributing Editor of Skin Two Magazine. I loved writing features and columns and helping Editor Tim Woodward put together the magazines. We would sit together in front of his gigantic Apple computer with strong coffes in Tim’s magic stay warm mugs, looking through fashion photography and going through piles of books to review. Skin Two is a fantastic mix of latex fashion, erotic short stories, fetish balls from around the world and much more.
Here are some of my comedy columns from various Skin Two magazines as well as pics from these 4 years of my life.
Rise of the Barbie-Doms!
When vanilla girlfriends find out you are in the scene, the first thing they want to know is how to be a dom. Doms have an instant appeal for aesthetic reasons (shiny latex and a belt full of toys, yes please!) as well as being alluring from a lifestyle point of view (financial servitude is always handy when the economy goes splat). There’s no doubt that a certain level of violence is highly fashionable. This year, Joanna Lark reported an increase in catnail sales (fierce nail extensions for leaving scratch marks down your partner’s back). After Eights have been out-cooled by offal- inspired haggis chocolates (actually rather tasty with toasted oats and black pepper) and even Quintessentially’s birthday bash at The Savoy featured staged police raids and a spanking booth. But there are important questions one must ask before diving into domination and swapping your wallpaper for floor-to-ceiling flogger hooks. These are: do I have more of a penchant for hardware stores or Agent Provocateur? What does ‘candle factory’ and ‘tack shop’ make me think of? Would I rather smell of Chanel number 5 or rubber? What is my most erotic thought associated with “tying the knot”?
My girlfriends Kitty and Mel, are well versed in the above questions and consider themselves to be on the road to domhood. As far as I’m concerned Kitty, who is a Japanese heiress to a huge computer firm, is quite scary and Mel is clearly a sub.
Mel is married to a pilot, but every time he slips on his uniform (for work), he spends ten minutes running his fingers across her body saying: “I’m going to chop you up here and here and here and put you in my hand luggage.” Mel smiles into her smoothie giving us all the finer details on their latest fear-play scenario, at work, on the tube, in the bath, at the theatre… She said her latest was inspired by her trip to the Royal Opera House to see The Nutcracker.
“I’ve got news!” Kitty interrupts as Mel is about to launch into the virtues of men in ballet tights. If it was anyone else interrupting her, mid man-in-tights talk, Mel wouldn’t stand for it, but Kitty is currently holding the laminated in her sword hand. Kitty caught the bouquet at Mel’s wedding using a move ordinarily associated with ninjas, so when the hand darts anywhere, we tend to be on guard. “I’ve dumped Craig.” Kitty says and then flicks her lipstick across her lips for dramatic effect.
“Oh?” Mel says, “was it the V for Vendetta mask that he wore in bed?”
“Or the horse mask?” I ask her.
“Or his stiletto collection?”
“Or his Kinder egg fetish?”
“No!” Kitty snaps, her lips now blood-colour, “I liked all those things!” She moves my milkshake to the side with her polished talons, fresh from a fish-manicure (no I’d never heard of them either). “It’s just, I feel like I’ve upgraded my software from ‘casual play’ to ‘live in slave’ and now I can’t run any other programs without getting nag pop ups.”
“Have you tried using the safe word?” Mel asks.
“It’s not a question of safe words. He has turned into a whole operating system!” Kitty says. “I used to feel like I was at the Last Tuesday Society, staring at curio-fetishes. But now…” Kitty prods her espresso cup hoping to find the right word.
“Berlusconi’ is our safe word,” Mel says “puts me right off my sausage.” The waitress comes over pen and pad.
“I’ll have the full English but without the hash brownies,” Kitty says.
“Hash browns.” I correct her.
The waitress looks puzzled.
“It’s such a relief to be able to tell you girls,” Mel says once I have ordered my pancake stack “I told Rob in accounts yesterday about our fear play scenario and he gave me a twenty minute lecture about ‘not joking about getting chopped up’.”
“I bet you loved getting told off by Rob.” Kitty says.
“Only because he was feeding me lemon drizzle cake!”
“You’re such a sub,” Kitty snorts. “If you were at all dom you’d come fencing with me at The Lansdowne.”
“Being dom isn’t just about the capacity to spear people in the kidneys,” Mel says. “I’d say a real dom would be able to instil fear using a mere feather.”
“That’s because you’re from the countryside.” Kitty says, shivering. The only time I have seen Kitty on a patch of grass was at Mel’s wedding. Her heels were sinking into the mud and her head had gone loose trying to look out for spiders.
“Perhaps.” Mel says. “But what’s an outdoorsy gal to do?”
“Become a member of the Worshipful Company of Gunmakers,” Kitty says. “There’s an all female shooting club called Covert Girls, but it’s a bit…” Kitty glares at me with her ninja-death stare.
“What?” I ask her, sipping my milkshake.
“It’s a bit Barbie-dom.”
“Barbie dom?” I ask.
“You know, those doms that are more concerned with the type of boots they’re wearing than getting any bullets into bird-guts,” Kitty says.
I gulp my banana milkshake down, wishing I’d ordered a Bloody Mary.
Tessa Ditner for Skin Two Magazine Issue 62.
I was dating an Australian rugby player until I wore my corset and all he had to say was: ‘that looks uncomfortable’. I was so irritated by his comment that I decided I had no choice but to dump him. It wasn’t just because I had lovingly made that corset over three days of hard slog, but because it was the equivalent of my going to watch him play rugby and then only say ‘that looks violent’. The next guy I fancied was a hottie at Club Subversion. He was most definitely a corset-connoisseur, I could tell by his over-the-knee stilettos and a leather underbust with silver rings all the way down to his crotch.
“Nice corset.” He said, removing his legs from the table so that I could step past. “Very colourful.” I sat down beside him trying to think of a chat up line. But then I hesitated; does he like my corset and want to wear it? Does he think I look fit in my corset? Before I could ask him to specify, he slipped a gas mask on. How was I supposed to seduce a man through a gas mask?
Since I became the news reporter for the London Alternative Fringe Festival (it’s just like the Edinburgh Fringe but with nipple tassels) I’ve discovered that my obsession with tight-boning is shared by both men and women all over England. Cecilia Lundquist life models for Kink Ink wearing a peppermint coloured corset, Major Suttle-Tease of boylesque show More of Lesque wears a black underbust with nipple tassels and Kitty Bang Bang wears her fireproof glitter overbust in Agent Lynch’s Studio 64. Kitty tells me that what she loves about wearing a corset is that it screams ‘woman!’ but if that’s the case, then why are so many men getting their mitts on them?
I contact Autumn Adamme of Dark Garden, based as she calls it in the city that is a “safe haven for sexual outlaws” San Francisco, to ask her if men now have the upper hand when it comes to corsets. She confirms my fears that “men’s corsets are more relevant than ever, except perhaps in the 1830s when every dandy seemed to be wearing one.” And the reason? “I feel there is only so much room for jeans and t-shirts and enjoy seeing more effort in dressing. Making interesting clothing for men is quite challenging as there is so much judgment to be passed on men with a sartorial bent.” My corset making teacher Bethan Billingsley, based in the Welsh countryside, tells me that both men and women attend her three day corset making courses. But just because you’re wearing a corset, does that make it a fetish item? I ask Kitty what the difference is between a builder who wears a corset to protect his back for heavy labour and a fetish corset.
“It seems to me that the fetish scene likes the exaggerated aesthetic but also the way it feels. I personally like the way my corset holds me, there is a restrictive quality that is highly fetishistic.” To which Autumn says. “Many of the men who have come to me for corsets over the years are interested in the feeling of the corset above how it looks. I have as of yet met only one man who didn’t enjoy the compression that corsets offer.” Worryingly Skin Two is full of designers such as Louis at AMF Korsets whose male clientele is as important (if not more important) than their female one.
I ponder all these disastrous discoveries over tea at the vintage tea room It’s Time for Tea. But a solution presents itself between a vintage motorbike and a stack of Sherlock Holmes’ suitcases in the form of a study of 50s undergarments by What Katie Did. In Katie’s book, there isn’t a single picture of a man in a corset. Katie writes “I won’t go into detail about male corsetry, but in the 18th and 19th centuries it was usual for men of a certain social standing to wear corsets – which were indeed part of Army officer’s uniforms.” So is What Katie Did a male-free zone? The lady sipping tea beside me tells me some rumours about the company. Madonna’s new film features a whole load of What Katie Did gear, but “shhhhhh, it’s a secret” she says biting into a scone. I decide to head to Portobello to see for myself. One last sip of Johnny’s signature smoky lapson suchong and earl grey blend and I’m on the tube to my man-free boudoir. Claire Marie welcomes me, her hands full of stockings.
“Katie’s been working on the whipped-in waste and big hips.” She says showing me a bright pink number. “We have in underbust as well, they are called Laurie.”
“No! No!” A sales assistant with a Betty Page fringe says “It’s after Mortisha.”
“No, Laurie was before Mortisha.” Claire corrects her. The girl with the fringe isn’t convinced but she’s too busy re-arranging the nipple tassels in the glass display box to argue. “Anyway” Claire says “we don’t do complicated, we do affordable basic. The Musical is in cotton you can dye it and we encourage that.” I point out a sailor girl corset. “We are doing more elaborate designs now also though.” I ask her if What Katie Did is exclusively for women.
“Oh no!” She says. “We made a Burberry corset for a guy doing a chav act, but the shape is a bit different for men because they don’t have hips.” Turns out the chav in question is male burlesque performer Warren Speed. Mr Speed has not only shared a stage with Dita von Teese in Paris, but even performed in front of Simon Cowell.
Ladies, we are doomed.
I guess I should just accept that I’ll soon be dating men in better underbusts than me.
Tessa Ditner for Skin Two Magazine Issue 61.
“It doesn’t matter how old you are if you’ve got a great wig,” John says turning his head. He is wearing a pink wig shaped like a giant dollop of freshly whipped cream. This little wonder comes from Gypsy Rosalie’s in San Francisco. For the LFW Ball he was hoping to wear an ‘evil duck’ wig with yellow and orange swirls by Giorgio Galliero (http://giorgiogalliero.com/) but Mr Galliero was swamped with Halloween orders and has been too busy. John and his pink wig are in the right place. The LFW Ball is bursting with show stopping outfits. There is Superman in full latex (incl. the cape!) Little Miss Naughty with her Tim Burton-esque light up dress (“Just buy a battery pack set of fairy lights,” she whispers “This one was £9 and I’ve handkerchiefed it around my waist, see?”) There is also a spy in military gear Pritesh who admits that he “likes to dodge bullets” and 6 foot 8 (without the heels) Tall Marc who calls the night “yummy lovely.”
This year’s LFW Ball is held at Area, a new venue under the arches at Vauxhall. Described as being all about ‘the dark corners’, in the gloomiest part, a lit-from-behind stained glass window gives it an ancient feel. “More queer than usual,” a regular says “which is good. It means it is more mixed. There always is a mix of classes and race but it is usually a bit straight.”
There is a balcony that hosts the couple’s room and medical area manned by Mistress Absolute’s butler Smedley. “What you don’t want,” he explains, “is people hanging out, putting people off their stroke. I had two guys who came to sit on the bench and started chatting,” he seems appalled. “So it was a difficult call, but I said to them you can’t just sit there and chat. You’ve got to make out.” Luckily the definition of making out is fairly generous, as a couple of painted jokers are massaging each other’s shoulders. Not that being thrown out of the couple’s room would be such a problem given than you would be thrown into the medical area, which is currently home to an amorous couple in full rubber with just the relevant parts unzipped.
Despite all areas being popular, including the dance floor DJed by Piqué followed by Hoxton Whores, The UnderCover and ending the night is Miles Gorfy, there is a definite congregation around the rope suspension area.
Several first timers have gathered wanting to make use of the rope they bought at LAM earlier in the day. House Rigger rodm99, recognisable by his Uncle with Benefits t-shit is at hand to help. His ‘niece’ Annaphoenix describes her love of bondage as coming out of the closet. “When I first started I denied that I enjoyed it, but I do…” she smiles and checks her breasts that have been pin wheeled. Then she hurries off to look after boykitten who has been spanked by a very feisty Bobette (in sky high stilettos. V. jealous of them actually must make more effort to wear stilettos in clubs rather than my Camden boots which are so comfy.)
Weaving my way through pirates I bump into Madame Caramel who is looking like a voluptuous Alice in Wonderland in a Fortnum&Mason coloured latex dress. She takes me to the dance floor squeezing me through the rubbery bodies and the glorious frou-frou of Phoebie the Rubber Doll.
The evening ends with a goodnight kiss from Mistress Absolute and my favourite place of all in fetish clubs. No, you dirty-minded people not there, the changing room: where the metamorphosis happens; where latex clothes are swapped for your daytime costume and you’re back in the real world, fumbling for your oyster card to catch the night bus home.
Tessa Ditner for Skin Two Magazine Issue 64.