Press Pass

LONDON, England — “Hi, I’m doing some research for The Financial Times on the pink pound: how the recession has affected the gay community…”

“We’re nothing to do with pink pound, love, we’re spanking.”

Ah. I belatedly noted the masochistic schoolgirl posters on the wall, and made my way across the road to a gay sex shop, where I struck up a conversation with the manager.

“Now, are customers buying sex toys in bulk, or less so since the recession?” I asked.

“Oh, much less so. Sex toys are a luxury item, so we’ve had far less business. It’s the same with porn—why buy a DVD when you can download it for free online, like I do?” replied the sexually open manager.

I nodded sympathetically, and noted the details he gave me. Having uncovered the erotic-toy purchasing habits of the gay community in the area, I set out through the rest of Soho, armed with my fetish map.

As I walked through the crowds of flamboyant males, I was somewhat self-conscious of my formal work attire (and gender), which marked me as a clear outsider. Customers in gay bars eyed me with bemused curiosity, but after a brief chat with the manager I was granted a seat amongst the regular clientele, and felt unusually safe as a lone girl at a pub. My status as a reporter provided a credible reason for admittance, and it was exhilarating to infiltrate the generally closed-off community.

I’ve never pondered the contents of gay fetish shops before, let alone yearned to enter, but once inside it was intriguing to explore such a foreign world. This was my first taste of the access a reporter’s badge can grant. True, it wasn’t quite as high profile as a fashionable gig or exclusive interview, but I thoroughly enjoyed my glimpse into the restricted areas of London’s gay district.

Olivia M. Goldhill ’11, a Crimson editorial writer, is a government concentrator in Kirkland House.