It’s a weird old world we live in these days. The Mail on Sunday magazine runs articles suggesting we tie our partners up and whip them in order to improve our sex lives. Clubs like Torture Garden, once only frequented by the most hardened fetishists are now seen as a bit of a giggle and are visited by hen parties. Fetish images are well established in today’s mainstream culture, from burlesque fashion, to risqué ice cream adverts, to Ann Summers ubiquitous dildos. But for some people fetish is a way of life; a means to express their creativity and escape from the mind numbing boredom of the everyday grind. It’s also a darn good way to make money, as any dominatrix will tell you. Marcus Scarr, as he is known, left his job in the motorbike industry to making a living out of fetish modeling, acting and general horseplay. I met him at the pub to see what makes him tick.
When Marcus arrives our introductions are delayed by Butch, his Staffordshire hound and the pub dog, Morris, getting acquainted. After a couple of minutes patiently watching the enthusiastic pair sniff each others’ arseholes we opt for a more civilized handshake and a ‘how do you do?’ So far, so British. Marcus’ look is less traditional; it encompasses a curious mixture of masculine and feminine styles, he has a precisely shaved head, large metal spikes protruding from each nostril. Yet one of his eyes is smudged with black eyeliner and he’s wearing mascara and perhaps even false eyelashes. He also has a disarmingly direct gaze that somehow gives the impression that he is aware of being looked at, rather than looking at you.
Marcus does artist nude and Fem/Dom fetish modelling, which means he dresses as a female dominatrix. Although not particularly feminine Marcus prefers wearing women’s clothing when he’s being photographed; ‘even early on when I’d go to Fetish clubs I’d always wear a ripped wonder woman skirt or something like that; I’d never wear trousers.’ Fetish modeling is overwhelmingly dominated by women and there are even fewer male models modeling female clothing but Marcus feels that there is a market for it; ‘a lot of men find men’s clothes boring and if you’re into fetish you want to push boundaries; I don’t look like a woman when I dress up- I’ve got an androgynous appeal.’
He is keen to tell me about a night he is promoting; ‘Are you being served?’ at Casablanca’s in Bristol. ‘There aren’t any proper fetish nights in Bristol, it lacks glamour, hopefully we’ll be filling a gap in the market.’ My friends and I considered going to Torture Garden once but the only costume we could find was a monkey suit, so I ask Marcus to describe the fetish club atmosphere; ‘There are two sides to the scene -you’ve got clubs which involve lots of play and you get swingers there and a lot of sexual activity going on, but other nights like Torture Garden are more about the fashion and dressing up.’
When asked the most outrageous thing he’s done he says; ‘well pony plays pretty extreme- someone pushed a butt pug up my arse and rode me around- with reins and everything. Also I took a really full on beating by the house mistress in Subversion in London over an old 18th century rack.’ Ouch! Does he enjoy the painful stuff? ‘Its all about controlling pain and learning to switch it to a more pleasurable experience where you can enjoy the endorphins. If the body tries to resist the pain it’ll hurt more – one of the mistresses sat on my face so I couldn’t move, which helped.’ Apparently.
Is there anything he’s refused to do? ‘I got offered to go to Belgium and make a kidnap rubberist film but that involved fisting which isn’t my cup of tea so…’ Has he ever felt exploited? ‘I think everyone whores them self to some extent- ok, what I do could be seen as more obviously whoring yourself.’ Could you compare yourself to a glamour model? Do you feel you have anything in common with Jordan? ‘No the whole thing that interests me about fetish is the depth of images, the subtext of the situation, eye contact, its not just about naked bodies. – it’s about capturing an essence and simmering sexuality.’
Still, the majority of fetish photography consists of beautiful women posing provocatively with not many clothes on. It’s designed for men to wank over; not such a far cry from regular pornography. There seems to be a sense that Marcus is talking himself out of this; when I ask him why he does fetish modeling he says cheekily; ‘Cos I’m a perv.’ He quickly changes tack; ‘I studied a degree for communications studies and media culture and I looked at aspects about sexuality in that – I think sex and sexuality encompass so much of what the world is about and anyone who doesn’t recognise that is stupid.’ So fetish modeling is porn with a degree?
People seem to be able to do more outrageous things when they’re dressed up because they can forget it’s them doing it. I asked Marcus if he feels that this aspect of his work provides a sort of mask to hide behind; ‘Well yeah you could say that because the only time I did feel a bit raped is when I was doing artist nude work which had nothing to do with fetish. It feels a bit weird having someone taking hundreds of photos of your cock. With fetish images its often quite tongue in cheek – you feel more relaxed.’
So how does he feel about the fetish industry becoming more mainstream? ‘There’s a certain element of that popularization that I really don’t like, in London you’ve got a load of rich people that really aren’t into fetish but it’s very fashionable to say- oh yeah we went to Torture Garden and they’ll all spend a grand on a couture outfit and look really snazzy for the night but that’s it – that sort of bastardizes the whole thing really. But then it is enabling designers to make a living and it helps finance certain nights, you can’t be a Luddite – you have to accept that these things are going to be consumed.’ Still Marcus can see positives in the fact that people are becoming more open about sex; ‘it did make me laugh actually… I was having a threesome with a couple; I went to the shop to buy some cigarettes and the front cover of Venue Magazine said ‘Three’s allowed!’ that made me chuckle.’
Marcus meets most of the couples he has threesomes with at fetish clubs and enjoys the scene although he says that as a twenty six year old he finds that there is a lack of young people- ‘people tend to be thirty plus, people come to it later in life when they have less issues and are more relaxed within themselves, I’ve seen eighty year old men in nappies.’
The first night that Marcus went to a fetish club he instantly felt at home and felt that it fulfilled an aspect of his life that had always been missing. Fetish seems to offer people an escape from reality and their own limitations. This can place a pressure on relationships though; ‘I meet people who four years ago would have been the perfect partner but if they’re not really into the scene I know it’s not going to work.’ There’s also the danger of becoming too involved with the scene; ‘It’s quite weird if you go away for the weekend to do some work and come back – it’s a buzzed up surreal sort of world and then to go back into reality, which is pretty boring sometimes, is hard.’ To soften the blow Marcus intends to move from his house in central Bristol to a posh suburb; ‘I can get away with being more of loon up there, poke fun at every day life, you can dress up and be a bit more outrageous whereas it feels a bit stupid doing it in town- you’d get your head kicked in anyway.’ It’s certainly a full-on lifestyle, but Marcus really seems to enjoy it.