Prinx Silver, a drag king and burlesque trans non-binary artist from East London, performs on stages across the capital and said they are often inappropriately touched without their consent. Since venues reopened following the pandemic, the commercialisation of drag has made a drastic change to the UK drag scene.
For Prinx, alcohol-fueled drag brunches are the events that place them within a space where members of the audience, primarily cis straight people, feel entitled to grab, touch and slap them in an often sexual manner. Prinx’s performances consist of a mixture of lip-syncing, burlesque dance routines and outfit reveals with a strip element.
Prinx said: “I’m not their figurine or their pet that they can touch whenever they think is acceptable. I strip and I play with sexiness and my performances are sensual, usually with a touch of comedy. It’s the type of performance in which some people could think that they are entitled to touch or approach me just because I am taking clothes off or being sensual on stage.
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“I’ve had many different intense experiences where my consent has been breached and if you add alcohol-fueled events to the mix it creates situations where I’ve had to have a word with people to tell them it is not ok to touch me. I wouldn’t go to their work and touch them without their consent, so why do they think they are entitled to do that to me?”
Prinx was born in Spain and they now live in Hackney, East London. They are known for their political messages seasoned with a hint of comedy, high-energy performances, and for getting naked on stage. Prinx has been touring stages like Mighty Hoopla with Sink the Pink, the Ginimini Tour with RuPaul’s Drag Race UK stars Bimini Bon Boulash and Ginny Lemon.
Prinx has opened up to MyLondon about their experience with inappropriate touching and sexual harassment on stage from members of the audience and has offered solutions to eradicate the constant fear of the line being crossed.
They said: “I get grabbed and touched physically whilst I am topless with a harness on – it’s not in a funny way either, it’s usually sexual. It comes from both genders and a lot of it comes from straight women who come to queer space and want to get loose and have a drink and they feel that with a queer group of performers they can touch us inappropriately.”
They explained that performers are often grabbed, touched, prodded and treated as an object whilst on stage, which Prinx puts down to the increased exposure of drag on TV in shows such as RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. Prinx performs in venues across London and began their career as a drag king back in 2019. They have seen a change in the types of audience and demand for performers since the lockdowns have ended and venues have returned to normality.
They said: “When drag race came to the UK it changed the whole scene as the queens who appeared on the show had been local performers like me and I had worked with a lot of the London-based queens. Following the show, there was more demand and opportunity for gigs, but also commercialisation of local drag.
“Before the pandemic, there weren’t all these crazy brunches on the weekend and local drag has become a sort of machine, a product for people to consume and with that comes not appreciating the work we do.
“These newer audiences expect what they see on TV and that’s not the reality of the UK scene, it often doesn’t include the whole spectrum of performers that exist within London’s queer spaces. People just see this product from TV and when they see it in real life they think ‘i want it, it’s mine, I’m going to touch it.'”
On the whole London’s queer venues have noticed the difficulty many performers are facing and have taken action to ensure the acts are safe. Hosts of the drag brunches or events in LGBT+ spaces will announce to the audience that it’s imperative they do not touch the performers without their consent, they said.
Hosts have also been known to kick people out of the events when they have crossed the line and breached the performer’s consent. Prinx’s act often includes some form of audience participation, often this comes in the form of a lap dance, and they are mindful of the fact that they must seek consent from those they involve in the show.
They said: “Performers can often overstep the mark as well and I agree with that, consent goes both ways, I get touched a lot without consent but if I am going to interact with someone in the audience during the show I will ask them beforehand and let them know what the show will involve.”
Despite efforts of the hosts to deter audience members from inappropriately touching performers, Prinx has found that the main group which still feel exempt from those rules are straight cis women. Prinx said: “Particularly straight cis women, they feel entitled, in the same way they would in say a zoo, where we would be their entertainment and they think they can touch us because they’ve paid their money.
“It’s a massive issue, I’ve been in brunches where the host say don’t touch performers and there’s an announcement made and still people do not listen, they think it doesn’t apply to them because they are not seen as a threat.
“Maybe they think that because they are women and we are queer people that them touching us isn’t sexual harassment and so they feel entitled to touch us.”
Whilst performers are not attempting to deter straight people from attending their shows as drag is, after all, for everyone, Prinx wants the straight cis demographic of their audience to be aware they are coming into a queer space and ‘there are rules they need to subscribe to and follow.’
During one encounter at an event, Prinx claims he was touched by a woman in the audience when they weren’t even performing. Prinx had finished their set and was watching the other artists perform on the stage when a woman came up and inappropriately touched them.
When Prinx explained why the woman’s behaviour had crossed the line she could not see why it would be a problem. This is a common occurrence for Prinx who feels they have to consistently make people aware that just because their act is sensual and they remove clothing, that is not a free pass to invade their personal space.
Some performers that Prinx knows and has worked with have had to take breaks from their career or stop attending gigs altogether due to the consistent fear that just by going to work they could be subjected to sexual harassment.
Prinx spoke about what they believe could be done to improve the workplace in which they and many other performers occupy. Another real concern for performers is that they don’t want to create a fuss at the events they work at in case they are not booked for future performances, putting their career on the line.
They said: “There definitely needs to be more specific announcements at the beginning of the events that touching performers is not acceptable, I think it’s just common sense. One venue I’ve been to in London had huge signs saying ‘don’t touch performers’ and it made me feel safer.
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“Performers need to be the venue’s top priority, not the customers just because they are paying to be there. Artists don’t always want to make a fuss as they could potentially not be booked there again.”
Prinx has never been told by event organisers or hosts that they have to put up with the inappropriate behaviour from audience members and they said that venues across London do have their back. However, as demand increases and audiences change, performers need more protection.
Prinx added: “With drag in London today there two worlds are colliding – more and more straight people are consuming queer culture and what came from an underground minory. They are guests in our space and our world – it’s not their space they should be mindful of that.”
You can see more of Prinx’s work and keep up to date with their performances here.
Trainee Reporter – LGBT+ Specialist. Previously worked for Daily Star, The Sun, Brixton Blog and South West Londoner.
Three stories written this month include a in depth interview with LGBTQ+ activist Peter Tatchell ahead of the 50th anniversary of Gay Pride in the UK, an interview with an ex-Lieutenant Commander who had to keep his sexuality a secret in the Armed Forces for 20 years who lost his partner to AIDS two days before he left the Navy and a chat with the founder of The Gay Men’s Dance Company who offer professional training, pole dancing and a dance class in heels.
Got a story? You can reach me at [email protected] or DM me on Twitter @mattlspivey.