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  • Writer's pictureAlex Sim-Wise

The Brain Edit - E&F



So I am sat at the big computer ready to do a Big Blog (TM) because I am a massive millennial and I realise that I have been putting off E for oh… over two years now because it covers Emetophobia and that is something that I still don’t feel ready to talk about as it is currently the worst it has ever been and completely controlling my life. SO, here is the list of what I was going to cover in E with the thought that I may go back to it again someday:


Evey

Emetophobia

Executive Function

Empathy

Enya

Eggs

EMDR

Euphoric House


Some day but NOT RIGHT NOW, because today we are here to talk about FANS which is F.


FANS


Where to begin? I would imagine most of you are here because of stories I’ve shared on Instagram of late where it seems like I am completely losing the plot. I’m not. Well, maybe I am… but I’d feel like I’d be weird if I wasn’t. So I want to reiterate IN BLOG FORM why my relationship with “having fans” has degraded so much and why it is something that I have started to resent.


Fans are a hard thing to talk about honestly without seeming ungrateful, especially as fan sites are my livelihood. I know that by writing this blog I will take a hit financially, but I also know that my growing unease towards fans is shared by a lot of other creators and maybe by writing about it I might help others who are in the same boat process their own complicated feelings. Hell, it may even stop a few fans from being twats (one can hope). Still, I have put off writing about fans for so long because firstly, I can’t really afford to lose fans, and secondly, it is so nuanced and I don’t want to embolden any anti-SW sentiment and have my views be misconstrued by incels or feminists as me being against what I do, which I am not. I think it’s these financial and growing societal forces that stop a lot of the SW community from being more open about the struggles that we face. We are already so maligned that we don’t want to add any extra fuel to the fire.


Because of fan sites, social media, and our entertainment media before that we are ALL sold this dream that having lots of fans and followers is the ultimate sign of winning at life, and while there is no doubt that having lots of them can provide many benefits and opportunities, we are never fully told about the downsides and how scary having any kind of following can be. As someone who has experienced a small amount of online fame for coming up to twenty years now, I feel like the downsides are something that I can fully comment on because I have survived through many phases of fandom but have yet to reach the tipping point where the positives of having a fan base outweigh the negative. I will talk about what that tipping point is later on, but for now let’s go back to the beginning and assess what a fan actually IS by looking at the etymology. 


Fan is defined in the Cambridge dictionary as:


someone who admires and supports a person, sport, sports team, etc.:

More than 15,000 Liverpool fans attended Saturday's game.

fan of He's a great fan of country music.

I'm pleased to meet you - I'm a big fan of your work.”


So far, so normal. However the word fan is commonly thought to be derived from the word “fanatic”, which is informally defined as:


a person who is extremely interested in something, to a degree that some people find unreasonable:

a fitness/film fanatic”


Or negatively:


“a person who has very extreme beliefs that may lead them to behave in unreasonable or violent ways:

religious fanatics”


So far, so… not normal. I would posit that while fan sites and social media claim to be cultivating the former, they are actually encouraging the latter. Add to the mix the use of the word “follow” or “following” to describe how people interact with each other on social media, it’s hard not to see the cult-like stalker-ish connotations when you really think about it.


But let’s not beat around the bush, there is something UP with fans of late and they are not okay. The fact is fans (across all media) are getting progressively worse. They are becoming increasingly more hostile, entitled, manipulative, threatening, and difficult to manage and as SWers we are on the front line plugging our fingers in the dam, (the fandam?) essentially shielding the world at large, with little to no support for the daily abuse that we face. And while there have always been difficult fans, I can trace the source of this increased hostility to the creation of the fan platforms, because I have witnessed fans before and after and these platforms have changed them. The fan sites have changed all of us into transactional beings while literally doing NOTHING to stop the rising hostility on both sides, because ultimately it is the fan platforms that financially benefit from things being exactly as they are, and as always with capitalism - people are the collateral damage.


And I feel the strain, I really do. It’s been 8 years since I set up my first Patreon, 6 years since I started my OF, and I feel like each of those years works like dog years as I am just so fucking burned out and tired. The price of always being “on” is vast and I honestly don’t think I can do it anymore.


When I think of being a fan of something I think of the days when I was 14 or 15 and would cry in my room yearning over Roger from Sister Sister (eww) or Paul Walker. I think I grew out of being a fan of people (other than film directors) by the time I was 20 or 21. I associate being a fan as a teenage thing, an association that was quickly questioned when I became a model and found that most of my fans were middle-aged men. Living the dream!


I can’t remember exactly when I got my first fan, but it would have been relatively early on when I first started out modelling. Back in those days we would receive physical fan mail delivered to our agents, which we then had the choice to open or throw in the bin. That choice was important because a lot of the time those letters were completely fucking mental. I would read them for a laugh, and sometimes I would respond, but mostly I was encouraged by my agent not to. A big trend at the time was laminating, where fans would “laminate” your picture by jizzing on it and sending it to you, so I always got my agent to open the letters first, to check it for jizz.


I also had forum fans on my website and elsewhere, and generally I was pretty open and friendly towards them. Then one turned up at my house so I became a bit more reserved. This was all during the early days when all I had done was FHM and a few amateur shoots. By the time that I got to FRONT magazine (via Myspace) I was pretty fan hardened, for want of a better phrase. At FRONT most of the fan mail was made up, although I did get a few letters from lads in prison. Oh, and an 18-page typewritten manuscript from a nonce.


Being more of a niche delight rather than a mainstream face, I found I would rarely get recognised in real life. When I did I found there was a difference between being recognised “knowingly” (when I had put myself in a situation where I anticipated being recognised), and “unknowingly” (where I was going about my life and would be surprised). One was a lot more manageable than the other.


The first time I got knowingly recognised IRL was probably at a car show, which was fine as I had gone there to (hopefully) be recognised and found it flattering, but the first time I got unknowingly recognised IRL was at my first hardcore gig in Brighton. I had gone to see The Architects with a new friend that I had met on Myspace, and found upon entering the venue that everyone seemed to know who I was. At that point I had been writing for FRONT for a year and had mainly been hanging out with indie boys, who if they knew who I was they would never let on. This gig was different and I really did not know how to handle it. The attention reminded me of the small fame I’d had in my uni days (not a positive association) so I defaulted to my uni persona and acted really outrageously, despite being absolutely terrified. I drank too much and kissed a lot of girls before waking up the next day full of shame and regret.


Everyone has an alchemy of what makes them whole which is unique to them. Some people thrive on attention and other people hate it and I feel like I fall somewhere in-between. It really depends on what mood I am in and how safe or familiar I feel. At that gig I did not feel safe, I felt like prey. And as I mentioned, modelling wasn’t my first fame rodeo - I’d experienced mini versions of it both at university where I experienced overnight popularity, and as a stripper (which is a whole other ballgame). What was constant was my need for outside approval - for people to look at me and SEE me as sexy - “see” being the operative word as I didn’t want them to touch or do any more than that as my sexiness has always been superficial. I don’t feel like a very sexy person inside, and I HATE talking about it, but it was important to me that I was seen as such. For me it is a core need, same as how feminists DON’T want to be seen as sexy (sorry, had to throw a dig in somewhere), but over time the need has shrunk. 


I like to imagine people as slowly-evolving pie charts, and for some people their need for attention or external approval is really high, and for others it is the exact opposite.


My pie chart looks like this:


30% FRIENDS AND FAMILY

20% BEING SEEN AS SEXY

20% BEING SEEN AS INTELLIGENT

10% SPECIAL INTERESTS 10% SILLINESS

5% UNKNOWABLE VACUUM

3% RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS

2% CUPS OF TEA


[SORRY, CANNOT ADD MY CUTE PIE CHART BECAUSE WIX ARE THIEVING CUNTS]


It can be roughly divided into private and public needs, with the need for love from family and friends being the biggest part of my private side and my need to be recognised as sexy or intelligent equal parts of my public side. I feel like if any of the portions fall out of whack, or if the emphasis falls too much on any one segment, I suffer. With fans, I determine how I interact with them based on what part of the pie chart they notice or emphasise, and prefer that it is from the public side of the wheel.


In my early days as a model I was seen predominantly as “sexy” and nothing more and while it was what I wanted, over time it really wore me down. I started writing blogs about my frustration and discomfort with the state of glamour modelling, and it was these (silly AND smart) blogs that got me noticed for my column at Front magazine. At Front, finally I was being treated as a whole person - that could be sexy AND silly AND smart - and initially I was over the moon that I had found the sweet spot. I enjoyed sharing my interests and interacting with fans online, as they treated me as a whole person, which is always what I had wanted.


But then I feel like at Front I got pushed too far on my silly side and became a caricature of that, and it left me unable to progress as a model OR a writer - which made me depressed. So I went into TV where my mental health suffered massively and in 2011 I found myself at a crossroads where I could either push myself more and be famous or quit and have a normal life… and I chose the latter. Years of courting attention had fucked me up and I wanted to be anonymous again.


And you know, marriage has changed me. I am a lot more settled and happier than I used to be. I reckon in my heyday my private needs were only 25% of the whole, and my need to be seen as sexy was bigger than anything else. I’m sure there is some emotional or psychological reason for it, but I’m not a psychiatrist so who knows. All I know is that ALL models, actors, musicians, and performers have it, this need to be seen as the opposite of how they feel, as if to prove to the world that their default is wrong.


When I think back to when I was 14 or 15 I felt small and weak and invisible. I wanted to do whatever it would take to be seen and I really believe in manifestation because I felt like I willed myself to be sexy and attractive. At the time it was the surest way to achieve what I wanted. It certainly came with it’s own pitfalls, such as sexual assault, and I remember by the time I was 16 being stalked by middle-aged men who would wait for me in the mornings and silently follow me home from school. Scary shit.


By the time I reached university I was ready to invest all in on my sexy persona. It felt like the only way to combat the absolute inadequacy I sensed in myself, and the deep down belief I held that I was completely unlovable. I became a stripper and actually look back on that part of my life with fondness. It gave me confidence and the camaraderie of fellow SWers who made me feel like life was limitless. I found myself in those days, but it was hard won. At university people didn’t understand that I was more than rumours or how I looked and they would shout and spit on me as I walked onto campus. I stopped attending lectures and retreated back to Paris with my stripper friends, where we would hang out with cool graffiti artists and Daft Punk far far away from the shrill tones of the small-minded middle class boys and girls of UEA.


But I digress, this is becoming not so much about fans but why people seek fame, and by association fans, in the first place. I think a lot of it is to do with the unknowable vacuum, which is way above my pay grade… and as you can tell, having to deal with the spoils of even minor fame can be A LOT so the way most of us cope is by disassociation, compartmentalisation, and depersonalisation. A lot of big words.


In my early days I was very far removed from the worst of my fans, they very rarely directly interacted with me, so it was easy to disassociate what I was doing from the end result. To me I was just posing for sexy pictures that made me feel good about myself. Occasionally I would be asked how it felt to know guys were jerking off over me, but I didn’t ever think about it so I didn’t know how to respond. As far as I was concerned what a guy did was up to them and wasn’t any of my business. I had zero interest in what happened to my pictures after I had shot them.


But then my life has always been compartmentalised. It has to be else I don’t think I would have survived this long. I think if I were to list the many negative sexual experiences I have had, you would be surprised, but not as surprised as you would be to learn that I have never met a woman who does not have her own long list. SWers are held up as being responsible for this violence when we merely realised early on that this violence will happen with or without us so we may as well take power and profit from it. In times like now when fascism is on the rise and women’s rights are being decimated, our power can not be underestimated and this is why conservatives have come for us first. They come for us because they know we are strong.


But that’s not to say that our jobs are easy. Fan pages are a business that take a lot of skills to work successfully: time management, marketing, editing, creative skills, acting… the list goes on. Yet we are seeing in real time the growing hatred and disregard that men and women hold towards us, and it is something we are confronted with on a daily basis. It’s also hard being known only for that 20% of ourselves when really we are multifaceted people with hopes and dreams far removed from sex work. So we depersonalise. We remove ourselves from the equation by creating sexy personas that carry most of the emotional work and allow us to carry on with the job at hand without too much emotional trauma. It’s not perfect, but it works.


To me, the sexy side of my life is completely separate from my private side. They are like chalk and cheese and I don’t like them mixing. The problem with fan platforms is they are sold on both - of getting to know someone public, privately, and it is this mixing of segments that I have the most problem with. I don’t want someone who sees me purely as sexual to know me privately, and vice versa. As a mother, I don’t want those things to mix because it is NOT SAFE for me or my family, and I have found this out the hard way. My family support and take priority in EVERYTHING that I do, the whole reason I do this is so that I can be at home and present for my daughter growing up, so she can have the kind of childhood that I always wanted. But even that has been used to try and exploit me.


After I left modelling the first time I mostly shunned attention and spent a lot of time telling my old fans to fuck off. If there was anything I learned from my five year absence its that fans don’t actually go anywhere. You can tell them to fuck off ad infinitum but they will always come back. They’re like boomerangs in that way. So I continued (via blogs and socials) to interact with my residual fanbase - many of whom were going through parenthood themselves. I had a few that I added on to my private, personal pages and would interact with them regularly. 


In 2016, feeling confident, I bought a boudoir shoot and the results were good so it spurred me to explore my sexy side again, which at the time had been totally neglected. I started a Patreon and continued to share bits of my life and things that I was into, writing blogs and stories and sharing silly pics. I made a calendar and fulfilled a few dreams that I feel like I missed out on the first time round. 


Then there seemed to be a big worldwide shift in how fans and subjects interacted and my fandom changed.


Slowly but surely my Patreon fans started getting more derogatory and explicit in their language and grew more pushy for “more” which became this ongoing, constant thing. “More” became always just that little bit more than I was willing to offer, and I could tell that some fans got a thrill out of pushing my boundaries, because the goalposts would always move.


I dealt with the change by mentally dividing my fans into groups of “good” fans and “bad” fans.  Bad fans only saw me as sexual and were aggressive, spoke down to me, slagged me off on fan forums and shared my content. Good fans still saw me as a whole person, they seemed to be kind and thoughtful and asked about my day.


I started an OnlyFans and found that the list of bad fans grew larger and larger, emboldened by their newfound anonymity. Unlike on Patreon, they were numbers not names and I had no idea who they were. I started to get unsolicited cock pictures in my DMs, which at first really shocked me.


Then the “good” fans changed. My fans that I had added to my private socials started asking me for sexual requests, despite our chats never going that way and them having access to pictures of my child and very personal information. Other “good” fans started sharing incredibly detailed pedo-adjacent fantasies and became just as pushy as the bad fans; sharing content, sending me dick pics and disrespecting my boundaries. They used information garnered from my blogs to try and curry favour and manipulate me.


Then the bad fans got worse. One reported my Instagram because I posted a story about my wedding anniversary and I lost a page that I’d had for 10 years. I still can’t get it back.


Fearful for my family and the strange turn my fan interactions had taken I started sharing less and less about my real life, because if I’m honest I was scared to. 


I still am.


I value my privacy more than anyone reading this could ever know. It’s part of the reason why I don’t write as much anymore, because I want my family to be safe. I don’t want to be followed around my local supermarket by the general manager telling me he was “a big fan back in the day” while not telling me what of and making me feel scared and uncomfortable in my own neighbourhood. I feel like my safety bubble has burst and it is terrifying.


Fans don’t realise that by telling me you are a “big fan”, it’s not the same as telling a musician you like their songs, or an actor you liked their movie… you are telling me you jerked it to my pictures and that’s it. I don’t know anyone who wants to be told that in public, or ever really.


Fans have gone from being people I could maybe be friends with to becoming the kinds of people that I never would speak to by choice, and the more I speak to other creators, the more I see we are all going through the same thing. We have gone from enjoying fan interactions to hating them with every bone in our bodies and it is the NICE fans that have done this because they are the most entitled. The fans who were polite, asked us about our day, told us they were one of the good ones… gained our trust and then one day out of the blue sent us a massively boundary-pushing derogatory request, or worse: nonce shit. I think the average person would be staggered by the amount of fans who are just straight up nonces and because I always want to see the best in people it took me a long time to realise until relatively recently.


As creators over time we have seen the mask of the “nice” fans slip to see the creep within and remain forever traumatised. We feel betrayed and like we can’t trust anyone. Not even our friends!


Now I am at a point where every fan interaction has to be paid because they ALL make me feel so deeply uncomfortable. Because over time I’ve just had enough of being constantly objectified 24/7, 365 days a year. Every day I have to post or interact or I lose income. I don’t even have a break for Christmas. In 6 years!! I’ve realised there are NO good or bad fans, just a homogeneous poisonous mass.


And maybe there is a part of me that feels uncomfortable about what I do, a part of myself that I can barely acknowledge because I am in a situation where I’m stuck in the wheel and don’t have a choice but to carry on. I know I could quit tomorrow and would still have to deal with these people. I would still have people creep up and recognise me when I least expect it so in my eyes I might as well monetise it, even if it absolutely hurts my soul every day to do so.


My way to deal with it has been to take everything personal out of my work - but it was those personal touches that brought me notoriety in the first place. It was my vulnerability that made me someone everyone could relate to. But what I found with fans is that they would use that vulnerability to try and exploit me, so I’ve had to shut it away and share less. But the trade off for sharing less is that I become less of a whole person and my job becomes less enjoyable. I become sexy and only that and the interactions get worse because this sexy shell is all that I offer.


And I know that my story won’t garner a lot of sympathy because not everyone has fans, and it is perceived as a privileged position to be in. But I honestly don’t think fans are a good thing, I think all kinds of fandom are a form of collective mental illness and that the attention economy is a massive lie. I can’t think of anyone that I would consider myself a fan of and it is certainly not something I would EVER admit to someone. I would literally pay good money to have all mine go away.


So that is where I am at. Reading it back it seems bleak as fuck and I am nervous for the inevitable backlash I will get from the “nice guys” on my page. They will probably make a song and dance of leaving and then come back a few months later, like they always do - after all their cock is far more important than the wellbeing of the creator who creates. I know that some of them get off on the fact that I hate what I do, and that should tell you everything you need to know. I don’t have an answer on how to fix this other than to encourage fan sites to PROTECT THEIR CREATORS and encourage fans to STOP BEING CREEPY ASSHOLES, but I know that is a big ask.


Sim xx


P.S. I mentioned earlier the tipping point, and that is the point where the positives of having fans outweighs the negatives AKA when you can set yourself up for life and/or afford private security. Even then I think if you questioned a lot of well known celebrities, if they could give all the fans up I think they would.


P.P.S. I will be looking at migrating my website away from Wix as this was a complete ballache to upload and in the two years since I last posted their website has become basically unusable.


P.P.P.S. I was also going to talk about the following things but ran out of time:


FAILURE

FASCISM

FARTS

FEAR

FERRERO ROCHER

FHM

FIGHTING

FORTNUM & MASON

FRONT

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