Facing down the tracks, I see my path to my girls: it is hard like iron, long like rope, and above it, hovers a grey air. The train is seven minutes away, which is an odd amount of time. While eating, making love, or seeing a film, thinking of a lover, that amount of time would pass like nothing. But while waiting for a lover, waiting for a job interview, for an exam, or for your first journey to a queer sex club to begin, it is a vast chasm. This void of time is such a daunting space because it is not strictly empty as one would expect of a vacuum, but rather it is filled with feelings that give a sensation of vertigo and stomach spasms. Such emotions, or affects, might be the anticipation of arrival at the door of a space where you know you will have to remove all your clothes before entering a space full of women you have never met. There is also a feeling of how you perceive others to be judging you, like the people who will be on the train, going about their ordinary lives; perhaps on their return journey from work (it was rush hour after all), or perhaps they are on their way to the shops or some other every-day task that has nothing to do with sex clubs and pussy. There was also the feeling of being an imposter, or a feeling of discomfort and inadequacy, that maybe the sex club was not a space for me, or that my ‘kinky’ outfit might not look right on me. I was wearing a plain black bra, over which was a mesh body suit, with tight high-waisted jeans and heavy black boots. It was early springtime in London, which meant it was cold, so I needed a coat too. I considered this to be a stroke of luck, since I thought what I was wearing was quite exposing; perhaps not of by body, but certainly my identity. My long under-cut hair was tied back and I was wearing hoops in all my piercings: I felt like I looked ‘peak queer.’ I thought to myself at the time that the outfit was kind of pointless too, since I would have to take it all off, pretty much immediately and certainly before anyone would see me. There was something about the clothes though, that felt like an armor. I needed protection of some kind, for the train journey, where I would very likely encounter non-queers.
I looked up at the time: still four minutes. Still enough of an abyss. I imagined how it would be, meeting a girl in the club, while we are both naked. She will have checked me out already, before she came to talk to me, already she might have imagined what she might want to do to me. I thought of how soft her mouth would be, and the feel of her breasts. I thought of all the breasts, maybe many, that I might be allowed to touch, I thought of my free-flowing desire, which would normally be frustrated and halted by what I was meant to desire, and where I was meant to go. This felt like my big chance. Standing there, these thoughts filling my body, my clitoris swelled and almost hurt, it felt like it was stretching out in front of me, against its own structure, my underwear feeling wet already; which was a strange contrast to the dry cold stone of the platform beneath my feet. The swell eased in the instant that the train arrived, which felt now too early. It does not have to be thoughts of ‘a’ lover which can cause time to pass quickly, but any lovers, as yet nameless and faceless, possible lovers, n lovers.
The train was not packed, but it was not empty; an awkward capacity where there were not the free front-facing pair of seats that I had hoped for, but only seats next to other passengers, mostly rear-facing. This meant I had to sit next to someone, which felt indecent. It was inappropriate, I felt, for them to intrude on my world at this point in time. This might seem a strange thing to think, given that I was about to exhibit not only my body, but some very private desires of the flesh quite publicly, to potentially hundreds of people. The feeling was as if I were in my study, or my living room, and I had not quite closed the curtains. It was as though someone then looked through that tiny gap that I had unintentionally left, and looked inside to catch me masturbating. This would be something that no one was meant to see, that showed my desires, but which I had chosen to keep to myself. Or they had caught me making love to a partner, a man or a woman. This journey was the same. It was not as though I was masturbating or making love, but I was undertaking a very private and exposing ritual; a journey through unchartered space on a maiden mission, to act on desires that I often kept to myself, that I did not disclose to the world and yet I wanted to expose. This is an experience of queerness, while you want to be recognized by other queers, it is often a matter of survival that you are not recognized by those who are not. At the same time, I am scared that I am not queer enough. My choice of seat on that train had high stakes. Maybe the person won’t even notice or care. This is preferred. Perhaps the person might feel disgusted, and shuffle in their seat to turn toward the window so as to be angled as far away from me as possible. Maybe they will just give me a look that causes my insides to wither and shatters my already fragile confidence; it will be subtle, whatever they do, but it will be an earthquake to me. The train I am on is familiar to me. It is the same train from the same train company that I catch most days into the centre of London, and it takes around 20 minutes. I have often caught this train, even at this time, with my husband, and the experience is very different to the experience I am having now. If we were together, his love would be sheltering me, or rather, I would slot perfectly into heteronormativity. We could sit anywhere we liked and I would not give a thought about being in any danger. I might feel like that with a girlfriend too; the shelter perhaps, but not so much the protection. I had recently heard the story about the lesbian couple asked to kiss for a group of straight guys, who beat them up when they refused. Danger is not just about discomfort as a lesbian couple, but about really getting hurt. My dangers are often about awkwardness and psychological trauma. I have come out, later in life, meaning the violence of assuming I am straight, or even of treating me as straight, since I have a husband, hurts. The hurt is about doubt, and it is also about a fear of missing out on queer experience. It is also about the exclusion from both the straight and the queer communities, because as much as I fear telling my straight friends and family about my love of women, I also fear telling my queer friends and lovers about my husband. Something about my bisexuality, and my being married, seems to make some people think that I am not entitled to be treated kindly. It can be hard. But, at least I have this journey. This journey right now, I don’t mean my life, I mean this train, on this day, to this club.
It always makes me hot thinking about how girls make me hot. It feels like such a base desire, one that belongs to the earth. I am in love with it. Head over heels. When I realized I was obsessively just watching pornography of girls stripping, and when I was installing (and almost instantly deleting) lesbian dating apps on my phone, I knew I had to do something concrete with my feelings. I had never felt like this before. Only when I was a teenager and I was desperate to lose my virginity, maybe. Or when I got my first boyfriend. This desire was more powerful though, like what I imagined a teenage boy might feel before he had even touched a girl. See, I’d had sex with women before, in threesomes mainly, which were for men. I had kissed other girls though. But this was the first time I had acknowledged and realized that I had a desire just for women, with no part played by men. It was one of the most powerful things I had ever felt. I still desire and love men, though my desire and love seems to just be for my husband.
My love for women though is more prolific, multiple, and lustful than I ever imagined abstract love to be. It is abstract, since I don’t have a woman or women to focus it upon right now, and yet it feels strong, sheltering and stable. My abstract love of men never felt like that; in fact, I remember when a friend said, ‘you’ll never be a lesbian, since you love men too much.’ I was promiscuous at school for sure, but I never thought of myself as particularly ‘loving’ men. The thought of touching a woman sends my vagina into secretion overdrive and my vulva instantly swells. Even a woman having her body close to me, with her attention on me, while I feel her desire coming at me, makes me wet. This never happened with men. Maybe with specific men, certainly my husband, but then I love him, like I love women.
I sat next to a woman on the train. She didn’t react at all when I sat down. I didn’t notice much about her, since I was much too wrapped up in what I was doing and what I was trying to avoid. My next thing to be nervous about was exiting from Vauxhall station and finding my way to the club. It wasn’t far, but I could still get lost. I knew I had a startling capacity for getting lost, even in places I had been accustomed to inhabiting for years. I was going to arrive early. I always did arrive early when I was nervous and this time I would be arriving a full half an hour early. I wanted to arrive at the start, rather than later, since I wanted to also be there before the other women had a drink and were still stone cold sober, nervous and new. I needed to share that, and overcome it gradually and find allies, who would be as inadequate as I, and keen to undergo the same awkward initiation process.
‘Good evening and welcome aboard this service. I have just been informed that this train will NOT be stopping at Vauxhall and will be calling at Waterloo only. Again, Waterloo ONLY. Apologies for that but we have been informed of an incident at the station. Once again, no Vauxhall stop for this service.’
I had no idea why the driver needed to confirm it so many times. The news landed perfectly badly the first time. So now I would need to find my way from Waterloo, which would probably mean walking, or an inefficient tube journey that would amount to the same time, meaning I would probably be 15 minutes late. Not too bad, but not relaxing. ‘Fuck’, I whispered.
‘Cunts, aren’t they?!’ said a voice next to me. I smiled at the woman next to me. ‘Yeah, they are.’ I replied, ‘fucking ridiculous.’
‘Where are you headed?’ She asked me the question I was dreading, though there was something about her ease in the way she said ‘cunt’ that made me relax.
‘Party in Vauxhall’.
‘Pussy Palace?’ She asked, naming the only well-known club night for women only that was happening in the queerest part of town, where we were obviously both heading.
I blushed. I grew shaky. I looked down at my own knees, then back into her face. ‘Yep.’
‘Ha. Same. We can go together if you like. I’ve never been before. Heard a lot about it though. I just want to fuck girls, you know? All the clubs are for the gays, gay men I mean. And some hetero ones. Don’t they know that girls just wanna fuck, too?
‘It’s so true. I spent months searching out this place. I was about to give up.’ I laughed, though it was true, and it wasn’t funny. I was about to give up.
‘You’re married’ she said, glancing at my left hand. My body tightened – it was a question that horrified me. I understood why men lied. But I reminded myself that it was not a man asking the question, but a woman heading to the same space as me, on the same journey as me.
‘Yes, I am married – to a man.’ I added.
‘We’re here, Waterloo! Let’s hurry.’ She didn’t react to my answer to her question. I don’t think she thought it was important, not to her, not at that time.
Arriving at the doorway of the club, I was scared, and I was with someone who was sharing in that first-time fear. I don’t know how I would have felt if I were alone or if I would even have gone in. The only way I could walk through the door was by repeating to myself that I would die one day and I would regret it if I didn’t do it. The two women just inside the door had a clip board and were dressed the same as me and the woman from the train. The same queer uniform, though both were ravishing and sent a rush of blood to my vulva; while heat rushed to my face wondering if my boner was as obvious and immature as it felt. The women directed us to the locker rooms and told us in a matter of fact way that we must undress (all clothes must come off and be placed in the locker) and we must keep the key with us at all times hanging from a small piece of pink wool around our wrist. Before we enter the main ‘play-space’ we needed to read the rules which were on the left of the door to the space.
We both were next to each other and placed our bags on a bench in front of the lockers. The room was dimly lit, too hot, and smelled of perfume and sweat. I took off my coat and shoved it into the locker and felt the woman next to me glance at my enmeshed body. I took off my jeans, pretending not to notice and desperately trying to avoid staring back at her while she undressed. I felt like I was not entitled to look. I felt shy, like I should not want to be desperate to touch her. She was stunning. I had noticed that most women are, when they take off their clothes, which was something all the men I’d been with had said was not the case. It was a terrible lie. A dangerous lie. I wanted to hold this woman’s breasts, I wanted to feel my clit against her thigh, or any of her steep curves. The contrast between the hard, anterior feeling of the steel lockers and the softness of her body was so outrageous, and produced such a pulse in my womb, I thought I might blow apart, into a thousand tiny women. My vagina was already entering its contradictory state: that of between stiff engorged flesh and walls that neared liquidity. Once I was fully naked, I felt aroused at the exposure of my body, and the feeling of the drying damp traces on my thighs brought on by this beautiful undressing woman. I wanted her to part my legs. She was the most precious thing I had ever seen, she was my abstract concrete girl, and I never knew her name. We never introduced ourselves to one another. We never knew one another’s names. I call her n, and I love her.
Victoria Brooks is a writer and researcher on sexual ethics. She writes both philosophy and fiction and is intent on combining the two. She is also interested in ethics and sex generally, but particularly women's desire and identity, reconceptualising consent, sexbotics and making philosophy sexier. Her book Fucking Law: the search for her sexual ethics is out in June 2019 for Zero Books.