Hugh Crothers
03.09.21
Conversation

Melbourne’s hardest art project: Emil lets us into his glory hole

When I found out there was an art project that involved a glory hole in Melbourne I naturally had to know more. You don’t have to be a gay man to be intrigued by the concept of art that involves 200 dicks (and counting). When I finally met Emil we had an instant rapport, they reminded me of a cool aunt or uncle, the kind that not only keeps your naughty secrets safe from your parents but encourages you to do more bad things. Their work sits in a delicate intersection of race, gender, desire, sexuality and art, while they elegantly balance their gentle side with a shameless passion for cock. Emil makes it feel natural to have a conversation about meat that’s simultaneously inspiring, thought-provoking and hilarious.

As an artist, Emil uses their body and social media account to explore different themes surrounding human sexuality, queer relations, and as a diary of someone who is a HIV-positive person of colour living in ‘post-AIDS’ Australia. We sat down with them to find out about their latest project – the glory hole.


Let’s start with an intro.


My name is Emil, I’m a gender-fluid Filipino-Australian. My pronouns are he, she and they. I work in sexual health. I am an HIV positive person and work with, and alongside HIV positive folks.


Can you tell us a bit about your art practice?  


In essence, I try and explore sexual politics by going beyond the idea of just two people having sex. I highlight the intimacy, the warmth, the positive aspects about sex that are not always talked about, or barely acknowledged.


The foundation of my work came about when I started seeing a psychologist. He asked me one day, “write out your thoughts and try and find a way to be very comfortable with your own mind.” I was at a point during my sessions where I was starting to unpack a lot of sexual baggage and trauma that I’ve experienced growing up. I’ve learned that by extending my journaling to include my sexual interactions, and by asking myself honest questions about how I felt about each person, I’ve been able to rewrite my relationship with sex and heal.

I just had these terrible vivid dreams for a whole week, and at the end of it, I had this dream about running a gloryhole and I woke up with this uncontrollable urge to own one.

So, it’s about self-reflection and self-exploration? Which was originally in a photographic format, but over the last few months or a few weeks, that’s changed? 


Yes. Although my relationship with sex has constantly changed over the years, the past couple of years I just stopped having sex. I mean, no, I never stopped having sex, but I wasn’t having as much sex as I used to or as much as I’d like.


It changed a lot for me when I was started to finally deal with my memory of being raped as a kid, and part of process of going through has made sex quite off-putting for me – and it’s made me feel so sexually stunted. I was like, “I just don’t feel desirable, I don’t feel sexy, I don’t feel like I can have sex,” and when did try and have sex, it wasn’t good!


I finally took the time three months ago to actually work through this with my psych through this treatment called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), which is normally used for people like me who have developed C-PTSD (Chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). After the treatment, I just had these terrible vivid dreams for a whole week, and at the end of it, I had this dream about running a gloryhole and I woke up with this uncontrollable urge to own one.


Were you watching a lot of glory hole porn?  


Oh yeah! I was watching it almost religiously. I guess for me, when I think about glory hole sex, it’s the exact contrast to the type of sex that I normally go for which is tactile, emotionally intimate and something that goes beyond reducing someone into a piece of meat.

They made me it for me in less than a day and I was like okay, the world wants me to have a glory hole!

And what did you do after this epiphany moment?  

It was like 7am, I am literally having breakfast and I called two of my good friends, Chris and Cameron and was like, “hi umm would you be open to making a glory hole for me this weekend?” They wrote back and were like, “yeah, sure babes, can it be after breaky?” So, then there was just this flow, and they made it for me in less than a day and I was like okay. . . the world wants me to have a glory hole!

Did you have a vision around how you were going to market the glory hole?  

I sort of did, one of the benefits of working in the sexual health space is you get to learn a lot about how people navigate and access sex. So essentially, I just applied what my clients would tell me about where they get this sort of fun. I’m like cool, where’s the dirtiest and horniest place that I could possibly post something like this, and I placed my ads on these sites and apps. So not long after my vivid dream, on Saturday we built the gloryhole and then I had someone over for the first time that Sunday evening.

Wait so, you had the dream on Saturday and by Sunday it was a reality?

Totally, so turbo. I am such a go-getter. Put a dick at the end of the line and I’m like a greyhound [laughs].

Wow. And then the first experience, tell us about that. Were you nervous? Was it kind of how you expected?  

Have you ever had a big surgery before? For me, it felt exactly like that. When I first had my big surgery, I had so much anxiety leading up to it and on the day, I was like, really calm. So I put the ad up and then this 27 year old tradie who was just working in the corner of the street saw it. He was like, “Oh, can I come over now?” And I’m like, “yeah, sure.”

Where did you advertise? 


Doublelist, which is sort of like a Craigslist. I also have like an account on Feeld, which is a kink-friendly app, but very buggy.


Did you use a picture of yourself or the hole?  


I actually just typed out a gloryhole photo on Google images. Found one that was like, okay cool, this is nice looking, it doesn’t look like someone’s gonna get murdered there. Because if you do look up gloryhole photos, some of them are a bit nefarious. So just to change up the archetype of your typical gloryhole, I grabbed an image of it that was coloured like burnt orange. Okay, cinnamon, it was a cinnamon-coloured glory hole.


Does yours have a paint finish on it?  


No, it doesn’t. The reason why I actually kept it quite minimalist is because I thought it should echo the genre, about reducing someone to a piece of cock or a piece of whatever. I think the material needs to reflect that, which is why it’s literally just a plank in the hole – it feels more powerful that way for me.


How did you feel after the first guest came and left? 


Yeah, my first one was rough only because I didn’t know he was into throat fucking. And I wasn’t expecting that at all, cos I’m like, cool! I’m just gonna suck some dick, and then when he came over, he really went to town on my throat and it felt like such a workout after being throat-fucked for a good half-hour.

After the first week, my back was fucked, my knees were fucked, and I had to stop and think to myself, “why do people do this!?”

Did you have any lube or porn to help things along?


No! It was literally just a plank, and that’s where I really had to think about that logistical aspects of running a gloryhole. Like OH&S for example. Because after the first week, my back was fucked, my knees were fucked, and I had to stop and think to myself, “why do people do this!?”


What happened after that? Was it daily visitors? Weekly? Monthly? Depending on your mood? 


So, the first week, I had it like every day. I didn’t realise how easy it was to just suck cock and I love sucking cock! You know what I mean? It’s like, if someone said to you, you can suck as much cock as you can suck. . . and I’m like, “okay, yeah! Thank you!”


[laughing] So there’s really no limit?


The limit does not exist! It’s very much a Cady Heron Mean Girls moment. That was the thing I really need to be in control of because I wasn’t expecting how popular the gloryhole was going to be. To put into perspective, in the first three days I had 437 queries.

I wasn’t expecting how popular the gloryhole was going to be. To put it into perspective, in the first three days I had 437 queries.

Sounds like a lot of admin!


Well, that’s why I didn’t even bother, like I’m still going through those messages! But I have my good regulars now. And then every now and again if I get bored, I’m like, “let’s get a wild card!”


How has the project evolved since you started?


So, the first week was turbo. I realized how much I loved cock, and because I’m a trained social scientist, I took this as opportunity to collect some Big Data [laughs].


What else have you learned?


The first two days were the most euphoric moments I’ve had with the glory hole. Only because I realized that it was the first time in my life where I didn’t have to navigate sexual racism. I didn’t have to talk about HIV, none of that mattered, you know, so I genuinely had a moment, where I was like, “oh my god! Is this how it feels like to be white and negative?” Not only that, I don’t have to think about my body. I don’t have to negotiate myself to be like, how does my body position itself compared to all of these Instagram hotties.

You’re out of that game?


I’ve never wanted to be in that game but it’s part of my culture, I’m subjected to it, and pressured by it. And to now be at a point in in my sexual journey, to not have to subscribe is so liberating. I’m doing something I enjoy, and I don’t have to think about all of these other things about me. And I think especially with my art practice being so connected to emotional intimacy, to then engage with sex without that emotional intimacy was great. I’m learning that intimacy is not just what someone is able to share with me psychologically, but that it’s their behaviour, you know, the vulnerability, the trust – intimacy can actually look like these things without needing to go into your life story.

I’m learning that intimacy is not just what someone is able to share with me psychologically, but that it’s their behaviour, you know, the vulnerability, the trust.

That’s so beautiful Emil. Now, walk me through the glory hole experience. 


So step-by-step they usually find the ad, and then say, hello and after that, I’m just like, “hi, I have a glory hole based here, this is what I want to do, when you get here blah blah blah…”


And then they would come to your apartment. Do you meet them at the door? 


Once they, you know, agree to the conditions, Then I ask for a cock pic. If I like it, I’m like cool, here’s my address. Normally these interactions are quite on the spot. Like as we’re messaging, we’re planning to have it happen in the next 15-30 minutes.


I then tell them to message me when they’re parked. Then I have my instructions about what number you need to buzz, what floor I am, which door, to take off their shoes as soon as they’re in. That I have a cock ring there if they want to use it, if you want to be verbal, please you’re more than welcome to! Before they come through my door, I’d like to know that I’ve already set the tone. Once they go in there, I usually have porn playing. And as soon as they come in, they put themselves through the hole.


Are they usually hard before arriving? 


No, they start soft. I like the growth. And I love watching someone undress themselves in front of the hole. I also quite enjoy watching a man deconstruct himself. The erotica that comes from these objects and things they leave behind: their fluro workwear, their heavy and dusty boots, the Monday-Friday Bonds underwear, the scent of Lynx body spray.


For someone who mostly only exists and engages in queer spaces, it’s been a very insightful experience for me to see the architecture of these straight-identifying men present and unwrap themselves in front of me. It’s like, oh, someone’s unwrapping a gift, and some people are just so meticulous about it.

It’s been a very insightful experience for me to see the architecture of these straight-identifying men present and unwrap themselves in front of me. It’s like, oh, someone’s unwrapping a gift, and some people are just so meticulous about it.

And what are you wearing?


Usually naked, and then I then have my lace mask. Only because I love taking the videos of it sometimes and want to protect my identity. I normally have lube and now I’ve introduced having poppers on their side. Just because, you know, like, have fun babes, have a good time. Then once they’re done, they just zip up and then leave.


What happens after that?


Very commonly as soon as they’re finished, they say, ‘Oh, thank you’ and ‘that was great’. Sometimes they’ll have a little chat I had some guys who would like suddenly sit down on the couch and start chatting with me, or asking me stuff.


I guess people are really curious about it. I’ve had some guys who’d be like, “Thank you so much! That’s been on my bucket list this whole time.” I feel extremely privileged to be in a position where I can provide a safe space for these men to liberate themselves from societal expectations and let them lean into the playful and hedonistic aspect of sex.


It’s also just nice to get a good review for my blow jobs and to give someone that sense of relief. I also know that a lot of the men who do see my ad are generally just intrigued, and they’d be like, “I haven’t done this before. I haven’t been presented with this idea. But now that I have had this idea presented, why not?”

How else has the project validated and affirmed in your own sexuality?


Especially since during COVID last year it’s made me really lean in on to the idea of being gender fluid. It’s interesting when we theoretically talk about gender. Back then, I was like, “Oh, yes, gender is fluid!”, but then to genuinely embody that philosophy? If gender is fluid, why can’t my gender be fluid then? And that’s where I started to adapt he/she and they pronouns. Gender is never fixed, it’s always in context.


The gloryhole has been the first time with my sexuality where I felt more comfortable about being femme, because before it I was mostly just having ‘masculine sex’. And I felt this expectation to perform in a very masculine way when I also know deep inside that I have this feminine spirit that I’ve always wanted to lean into even more. Through the gloryhole, I was able to make space for this.


When I’m on it, I’d put some really slutty red lipstick on, and then a friend of mine from Meanjin [Brisbane], sent me some bra and some laces, and it felt so nice feeling sexy for myself. Even though no one’s gonna see it but me, it was just like, “Whoa! Is this what means to have a trans experience?”


It was such a liberating feeling for me because I didn’t have to think about passing, I didn’t think I didn’t have to prescribe to a gender based on other people’s expectations of me. I based it on how I want to feel it. And I have another person on the other side, not seeing me, but acknowledging me through their words and actions that affirms my existence as a trans person.


Through it, I learned that my gender can still be affirmed without my visibility and that is so powerful. For example, I have recordings of some guys calling me their “baby girl”, like “you like that baby girl?,” they’d ask me as they feel the edges of my lips with their cock. Sometimes they’d also call my my ass their pussy and my cock my clit. It was like, whoa, this is a really interesting way of exploring my identity without me necessarily needing to perform for anyone else except me and this person I’m with.

I didn’t have to think about passing, I didn’t think I didn’t have to prescribe to a gender based on other people’s expectations of me. I based it on how I want to feel it.

[=]

What’s the best feedback you’ve ever gotten?  


A few men that have said that how liberating the experience was, some of them who said that I’ve given them the best blowjob of their life. It’s a sense of relief and fun, like I think it’s really important, especially during these times. When things are so difficult, to just have that small space where you can escape to, where we can both escape to. It has been so liberating.


It sounds like a mini theme park. 


Totally 100%. Wet and Wild. [laughs]


How many visitors would you have come over in one day?


I usually get four to five. I like to line them up, with 15 minutes each, right, so for me in my head I’m like cool I had sex for an hour. Which is basically what a hookup feels like.


Do you cum?


Not really. I am mostly just psychologically aroused. My relationship with sex has always been quite psychological. I am so narrative based: I want to know what is it about this person, you know, what’s their story? How many kids do they have? Are they recently divorced? How has work been like on the work site? Seeing fragments of them in the home, I find that so fascinating. It’s just as much about their identity as it is about if they have a really nice cock. Who is this person that’s trying to get released right now?

It’s just as much about their identity as it is about if they have a really nice cock. Who is this person that’s trying to get released right now?

What’s your clientele like?


Through my data-collection, I found that more than 50-51% of them are tradies. In the first six weeks of setting up the gloryhole, I’ve already connected with 124 men, and it’s been interesting to find out that only seven of them identified as gay, bi or pan. Some people also referred to themselves as heteroflexible, which I found translates to being open-minded. About 25% of the 124 have now also come back for seconds.


You said it’s been going on for six weeks, how much more life do you think it has? 


I don’t know, because every week I meet someone who gives me the best sex of my life. So just before lockdown, it was a Thursday… I met this guy. And he just came in there, had a fucking 12 inch dick, all tatted up and is this bodybuilder type. And then, he was just like, oh can I fuck you without the hole? and I’m like, well I have a blindfold or a mask, and he just basically agreed to every condition that I’ve asked for to make myself feel safe. And once he was in the bedroom with me, we ended fucking for a good two hours. He felt like an absolute porn star! Since I’ve opened the gloryhole, every week I meet someone who surprises me and I have total fun with!


What do you have planned for the future of your art and the glory hole? Franchise? Public art piece?


Take it on a European tour. Apply for residencies [laughs]. I honestly don’t know. I would love to explore kind of what I call l portable gloryhole, where I get these men who were interested in not using the hole but still using a mask or blindfold. Basically, ways where I can still appropriate the qualities of a gloryhole, but just a bit more tactile.


I wish I was able to also share more of the stories that I’ve capture through the hole, but the issue always comes down to finding men who are open enough. Even though I have enough in terms of qualitative data through quotes and voice recordings, there’s only really a few, you know, probably 15 to 20 who feel safe enough to share their story. So that’s like 10% of my whole sample. It’s not a lot, so there’s a lot of untold stories, stories that will never be shared.


Other than the data do you document in any other way? 


I’ve taken a few Polaroids. As I mentioned earlier, I also have some voice memos on my phone. And I have case notes in my head and the different archetypes of men who’ve been through the hole. Like I said earlier, I get the classic tradie, I get a corporate type with a really high stress job, then the body builder type and a lot of people who work in very much monotonous roles.

When I was reflecting about this with my psych the other day, he said that a good theory to why a lot of these men see me is because they’re generally in very confined gendered roles in their work, and they tend to act in a particular way, talk a particular way and like do things very much monotonously. And a gloryhole in so many ways provides a space for them to escape this reality.


I’ve learned by liberating myself, I’m also able to liberate the other person that I’m sharing the hole with. Who knew queer liberation could literally start from a hole in a wall? Move over Marsha P Johnson’s brick!


The symmetry is beautiful, you both get something out of it.


Totally. This is real, and whoever came up with this word is brilliant, because it is a glory hole. There’s something so powerful about it and I guess for me, it’s like, what does that mean for us? What does it mean about human desire, what are you able to provide for yourself when you have the safe space?


Having the gloryhole also changed my perception of straight men. Through it, I’ve been able to see and experience their vulnerability, their anxieties, their softness and it just reminded me how fragile we all truly are as people. It’s been so beautiful to experience their humanity up close in ways that I initially felt quite excluded from because I predominantly existed and worked in queer spaces.


How do people get in touch or support you or for any of our audience who want to engage with this further or learn more? 


Follow me on Instagram @babydilf. I’ve added a PayPal link recently so you can support me. I’m hoping to have my first solo show next year, and then compile some of these stories together and create something more tangible from this series that other people can also experience.

[=]

Do you have an ultimate sex hack Emil?


I think penises have their own personalities. And I don’t think people a lot of people know that. Once you suck enough cock, you’ve actually learned to know how to play with it by just genuinely communicating with it. It sounds very esoteric, but like there’s a sense of playfulness about it. When you are caressing or trying to give someone pleasure, know that whatever part that is, it has its own life, and to be able to give it the same care and attention as you would the person, even though it’s a part of them, try to treat this as another person and you could really have fun with it.


And what do you see as the biggest friction point to pleasure?


Trauma. I think, especially when I haven’t been able to deal with a number of sexually traumatic experiences it tainted and defined how I was wanting to have sex. And the moment I actually acknowledged it and made space for it, I just flourished.


Now that I’ve made space for it, I feel like I’m being rewarded with all of these sexually gratifying and fulfilling experiences. There’s so many gifts and gems that it’s giving me as a person, and I’ve learned so much about other people at the same time.

You can follow Emil and their glory hole project here.