Extract: Down & Out In Shoreditch & Hoxton by Stewart Home

To begin with transformations. I decided to throw away my own rules. I planned crimes against grammar by immersing myself in the grammar of crime. Around Bishopsgate. North and east. The area was changing. I’d read my Robert Greene. A Notable Discovery of Cozenage. The Second Part Of Cony-Catching. The Third And Last Part Of Cony-Catching. The Black Book’s Messenger. A Disputation. Greene provided evidence that common prostitutes had plied their trade here for at least 400 years. Now things were changing. Warehouses converted to loft apartments. Kwik Save gone. Hoxton, Shoreditch, Spitalfields, would never be the same.
I wanted to bring back the image of the dell, the doxie, the bawdy basket, to an area that gentrification was trying to sweep clean. The working girls were being hemmed in. It was risky to work the traditional corners. Hanbury and Commercial Streets. The new middle class residents were adept at getting the cops to clamp down on vice, and this a victimless crime. Strapped in, strapped on, stepping out. I charge extra for sex at Jack The Ripper murder sites. Prostitution documented as one of the fine arts. There were precedents. Crime is the highest form of sensuality.
My economic position was every bit as precarious as any other prostitute. My work as an artist brought in little money. Rents were sky-rocketing in Shoreditch and Hoxton. I’d moved to the Boundary Estate because it was cheap. That wasn’t the case any more. I longed for my own council tenancy but had to get by sub-letting. I liked Shoreditch. Unlike Brixton and Hackney, where anarchists rebelling against their middle class backgrounds had been the first to spot the opportunities for cheap and free housing, my area had become desirable thanks to a genuine community feeling among artists.
However, while economic necessity was a motivating factor in my desire to bring traditional bawdy-basketing back onto the streets, other issues were involved too. A lot of ground had been covered by feminist artists in the 1970s. Mary Kelly had explored motherhood, while Cosey Fanni Tutti examined the world of pornography and stripping. The diversity of positions taken by Kelly and Tutti showed the strength of feminism as a movement way back when. I wanted to do more than follow in Tutti’s footsteps. I was determined to push back the boundaries with my art. I would document commercial sex.
Just as a philosopher produces ideas and a poet verses, a prostitute produces crime. But if the relationships between this latter branch of production and the edges of society is examined closely, one is forced to abandon a number of prejudices. The prostitute produces not only crime but also the vice laws. She produces the professor who delivers lectures on these laws, and even the inevitable text-book in which the professor casts his lectures onto the market as a commodity. The result is an increase in national wealth, quite apart from the pleasure which is derived from the crime.
Further, prostitution as the oldest criminal profession produces the whole apparatus of the police and criminal justice, bailiffs, judges, jurors etc., and all these different occupations, which constitute so many categories of the social division of labour, develop diverse aspects of the human spirit, create new needs and new ways of satisfying them. Sadism itself has provided occasion for the most ingenious mechanical inventions, employing a host of honest workers in the production of sex toys. The prostitute arms herself with whips, chains and condoms. When arrested she is charged with soliciting, never with being equipped to commit a crime.
The prostitute produces an impression, now moral, now tragic, and renders a service by arousing the moral and aesthetic sentiments of the public. She produces not only text-books on vice, not only law books and thus the legislators, but also art, literature, novels and even tragic drama – the tart with a heart of gold whose carnal nature is her fatal flaw. The prostitute interrupts the monotony and day-to-day security of bourgeois life. She protects it from stagnation and brings forth that restless tension, that nobility of spirit without which the stimulus of competition would itself become blunted.
The prostitute gives a new impulse to productive forces. Prostitution releases from the employment market a portion of excess labour power, diminishes competition amongst workers, and to some extent stops wages falling below the minimum. The war against vice absorbs another part of the same population. The prostitute therefore appears as one of those natural equalising forces which establish a just balance and open up a whole field of related occupations. The influence of the prostitute upon the productive forces can be shown in detail. Call girl scandals sell newspapers. Think of Hugh Grant and Divine Brown. Keeler and Profumo.
I needed a new name. A brassy attitude. I called myself Eve. The punters swallowed it. I swallowed the punters. Mechanical sex and a name that in many countries is associated with the first human crime. I worked in the dark, by instinct. Kerb crawlers and pedestrians. Policemen paid off with a blow job. Lonely men buying friendship and wanting everything both ways. Three way fucking. Half the work and twice money. I planned to be a cripple when I got older. Charging extra for perversions. Less is more. Only three limbs and the price quadruples. Suck my left one.