Photo Thurstan Redding

Photo Thurstan Redding

"I don't feel sexy as a man, but I feel sexy as Glamrou."

I am curious to know how Chrystal, Shirley, Aphrodite and Glamrou affect the way the Denims have sex. Have the girls ever made an appearance in the boys’ real-life bedrooms? Charlie Parham (Aphrodite Jones) tells me that while he would never actually have sex as Aphrodite, he finds the experience of dragging up a turn on. “When I’m putting on feminine clothes it weirdly accentuates masculine aspects of me, because I’m not a woman and therefore no matter how hard you try to hide it that shows. That sense of things becoming more extreme is arousing.”

“Through Shirley I discovered my sexuality,” says Hugh. For him, drag has been a sexual awakening. During our conversation he refers to both Hugh and Shirley in the third person. There is a sense that he sees his identity as dual, with Hugh and Shirley as interdependent personalities, continually redefining one another. He tells me that before Shirley he could hardly talk about sex: “It’s helped me a lot. Hugh is quite reserved. Drag has liberated me. Shirley meant I could explore a completely different side of my sexuality”.

Photo Thurstan Redding 

Photo Thurstan Redding 

And sadomasochism? At times during the interview, the studio resounds with screams. When I ask Amrou whether there is any sexual thrill involved in all the taping up and nipping in he is candid: “I think there is something really castrative going on when you are dragging up in terms of literally taping up your penis. You are actually castrating something, and that involves a bit of sadomasochism. I would even say that if you can get to that transition without some sort of castrative process, then maybe you haven’t done it right. For me initially, the pain of it was a kind of fetishisation of the fact of my being ‘other’, which was really deep rooted in some gay shame. But I no longer have that shame.”

While the Denims each have a different take on how Aphrodite, Chrystal, Glamrou and Shirley have affected their sex lives, drag has moved them all into a more sexually liberated place. At one point during the shoot Chrystal writhes around on the floor to ‘Drunk in Love’ moaning that she is “Beyoncé and will Jay Z please come down and fuck [her] in the ass”. It’s tongue in cheek, but the process of dragging up does seem to push them all toward extremes – exorcising shames and passions that might otherwise have remained hidden. 

Words Kitty Drake and photography Thurstan Redding
Read the full interview in The Sex Issue.