"You're an erotic empowerment coach? How on earth did you get into that?!"
This is the most common reaction I get when I answer "what do you do for a living?" Read on for how I ended up happily here.
The first steps on my career journey in erotic empowerment came in 2001, when I signed up for classes at London School Of Striptease. I’d had a fantasy of being a striptease artist for years and the new School gave me my first chance to explore this. At the time I was in my mid-20s with a successful career in fashion journalism, but wasn’t fulfilled. I fell in love with the empowerment, creativity, freedom and fun I found in striptease – I felt at home and realised I had found my calling. I became the first of the school’s students to work in the industry, starting out at The White Horse striptease pub near the financial district in London, UK.
This was the start of 12 exciting years which saw me dancing in a wide variety of venues, performing internationally, modelling, running events, teaching striptease and pole dancing, and campaigning for the rights of workers in adult entertainment.
I also became involved with a charity campaigning for the erotic rights of people with disabilities, The Outsiders Trust, and was alternately a performer, judge and a presenter in their annual Erotic Awards show. In addition I teamed up with a worker from DeafBlind UK in bringing striptease to a deaf-and-blind audience (he was shortly after sacked by the charity, which didn’t approve of this initiative, and continued his work independently). I gained press coverage for all the above as well as occasions such as dancing at a care home for the disabled, and performing at a Royal College of Nurses conference on sex work and disability. I was a regular on TV programmes and in articles about erotic rights and I spoke in the UK Houses Of Parliament and the European Union headquarters in Brussels. In 2012 I won a special Erotic Award in recognition of this work.
The lessons I learnt about erotic empowerment through being a stripper came from some unexpected angles. I felt hugely empowered myself - adoring my body for the first time in my life, in charge of my erotic expression, confident around men, admiring the physical and emotional strength of my fellow dancers, and most crucially, understanding that erotic power came from within, not through being a certain dress size or hair colour or wearing a certain style of clothes.
As a striptease teacher I saw my students blossom into confident, empowered women who seemed to be learning how to stand up for themselves in relationships, ask for promotions at work, take brave life steps and shed limiting beliefs as they were learning to shed their clothes.
I also came to understand the empowerment of being ‘seen’ erotically. My audiences were diverse – the stereotype of a typical striptease consumer being an entitled, arrogant City Boy in a lapdance club doesn’t reflect the huge diversity. Yes, I sometimes worked in clubs and encountered those types of people, but I also danced for builders in East End pubs, for vegetable traders at London’s biggest catering market, for printworkers in Docklands, for women at a lesbian bar, for tourists at an historic venue in Soho, for squaddies at a pub near an army base… My ‘regulars’ included a priest, a wealthy City worker whose estranged wife lived in a separate wing of the house, a divorced University lecturer who couldn’t imagine ever having another relationship, a widower in his 80s, a scientist whose beloved wife had a debilitating condition which had put a stop to an erotic life, a deaf-blind man who hadn’t been told anything about sex until his 30s…
What I saw in these and so many others, and was told many times, was that regular erotic recognition allowed people to step into the rest of their lives more confident, energised and happier than before. They knew I was a dancer and no sex was on offer – that wasn’t what they were looking for. Just the power of a woman in full erotic flow, holding eye contact, behaving flirtatiously towards them, recognising them as an erotic being, was what they needed. Along with the dancing came many hours of talking. I was told “you keep me going”, “I feel safe to be myself around you”, “I can tell you things I’ve never told anyone”, “you’ve saved my marriage”, even “you’ve saved my life”.
I left the industry after meeting my soulmate – to be with him meant moving to a tiny village and becoming a stepmum. For several years my focus was on building a happy stepfamily, while in the background I grieved for the dancing, very occasionally still performing at charity and fundraising events. I worked as a personal trainer – a job I enjoyed but didn’t feel was a calling in the way dancing had been. When my stepkids left for university, I allowed myself to acknowledge that I wanted more – but returning to dancing wasn’t practical (being in my 40s, outside of a city) and didn’t feel right for me anyway. I heard of transformational life coaching and felt drawn to it, studying for nine months for a diploma, but it hadn’t occurred to me to return to the erotic arena with my coaching. That happened when an acquaintance, who had heard me talking about my dancing past and knew I had just graduated from a coaching diploma, asked me to coach her around her sexual happiness and identity. “I can’t think of anyone else I’d be comfortable talking to… but I feel so safe with you and I know you won’t judge me”. That was my lightbulb moment and the start of passion8coaching.
Now I combine my decade-plus of lived experience of erotic empowerment with transformational coaching skills. Coaching is a process of asking the right questions and providing a safe supported space for the client to deeply explore their wants and needs, where these come from and how to fit them into their life going forward. Everything I encountered in my dancing years, including 50,000-plus of hours of very frank conversations (both sides of the stage curtain), has left me unshockable and utterly non-judgemental. Seeing how an individual can blossom through coaching not just in their erotic life but in all areas of their life, and how sex can be transformed from something to be dreaded, tolerated or is absent, into a source of intense joy and inspiration, brings me the same happiness dancing did.
Once again I am living my calling.