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Growing Your Edges with ESMÉ ELLIOT

Updated: Jan 12

INTERVIEW BY MOLLY SIMMONS


Permaculture, plants, photography and community—it’s all covered in this feature of Esme Elliot. They opened up to Petit Mort about their upcoming move to the woods, building community across sex working and queer communities, and erotic and creative expression through plants and photography.


PETIT MORT (MOLLY SIMMONS)

Why don’t you begin by telling me a little bit about yourself and your trajectory and history as a worker?


ESMÉ ELLIOT

Well, I’m a double Capricorn, Cancer rising. Very earthy, grounded. I’m also an herbalist, total plant freak, nerd, dog parent, self-proclaimed foodie... and kind of an aspiring chef. I grew up in New York City, and I also lived rurally at times. So I’ve been moving in between rural spaces and more urban spaces for my whole life. I started out doing vanilla massage work - licensed massage therapist bodywork. Throughout my history I had a lot of stripper friends in New York, so I got a taste of the lifestyle. I didn’t think that it would ever be for me because I was alternative. My friend who was doing it was this very gorgeous French girl, and she’d be like, just lose 10 pounds and shave your pits. You can strip in Williamsburg at the weirdo club.


But I just didn’t get into it. Didn’t think it was for me. I went down a whole other journey of learning how to grow food and studying permaculture design and social systems. Then I started to get curious about it. I met a lot of sex workers when I moved to Philly and had some people who were willing to just show me the ropes. I was very fortunate in that I had a lot of community support and people handing me clients and showing me ad sites and taking photos and stuff, so then I just naturally transitioned. I started out doing some sensual full body massage, but quickly realized that full service was for me.


PM

I love the diverse array of interests. Do you find that massage and plant work has made its way into your full-service practice?


EE

I would say a bit. It’s fallen off as time has gone on. What I take with me is intuitive touch, knowing the body really well, and being in that sort of physical dance with someone, because everything I had already been doing was very physical and sensual. It just became a little rougher. A little more dominant.


PM

Do you find that plants make their way into your session?


EE

A little bit. Some clients are very curious about what that means. I don’t know that it comes in that much, although I do use herbal oils that I make. There’s this one plants spilanthes...


PM

Love spilanthes.


EE

If someone wants a drooling spit session, I’ll just secretly take spilanthes and I’m drooling all over the place, but it’s more of a behind-the-scenes thing. I’m not really going to explain that I’m doing that. I have utilized that plant and additional plants and blends for my own energetic protection, post session grounding and immune support. I also find that genital steams with pungent, clearing plants can be so therapeutic for cleansing and reconnecting to that part of my body. It’s like you’re being fucked by the plant.


PM

Have you ever flogged someone with stinging nettles?


I FIND THE NATURAL WORLD TO BE INHERENTLY VERY EROTIC.


EE

Oh my god, I love urtification. That is one of my favorite activities for myself. I don’t know that I’ve ever brought it into a session. I get people who want to be dominated, but it’s more mental than impact and pain infliction. I would love to urticate people. I’ve done it in my personal life for sure, and I do it to myself for my shoulders. One of my clients and I were talking about it, in my very early days. Somehow nettles came up, and I showed up for the session and he had found all of this nettle porn and was so excited to show me. He had done his research.


And then I learned that there’s this whole section on Pornhub of people fucking in nettles and people getting flogged by nettles. I would welcome any submissive who would want to be tied up and full body stung and whipped with nettles.


PM

That’s so amazing. I’m also an herbalist and I grow nettles and have been stung, and I’ve wondered if we’ve got some eco-BDSM perverts that are looking to get beaten down with nettles.


EE

Oh, absolutely.


PM

How does your relationship with the natural world affect your practice as a sex worker, but also your own personal relationship to sexuality?


EE

I find the natural world to be inherently very erotic. I find that there are certain natural spaces that I go to just to recharge and come back to myself and feel really embodied. I can get very caught up in the hustle of things and lose sight of what my passions are and what environments I feel the best in. So I definitely find nature a place to be with myself. I think that ties into sexuality and sensuality for me, feeling more in my body, rested and expansive. I find that also influences my work in the way I bring that energy into a session. I’m at my best after I’ve been in the natural world.

I can’t always take the client to those places, but it comes up in session and I think it’s a point of connection where people will be like, “Oh, I love hiking too.” It’s a nice thing to connect through. I also draw inspiration for a lot of my shoots out in the wild. Both video and photography.


PM

You also spend time in the South, are you a part of an intentional community down there?


EE

I move in and out of communities down there. The South is a place that’s very special to me, I am in the process of moving down there, and I’m going to base myself out of Tennessee.


PM

Wow, that’s so exciting. When is this move happening for you?


EE

It’s kind of in the works right now. I have my place here in Philly and I’m renting a little cabin, and then I’m going to be officially more fully down there on July 1st.


PM

So will you get to have a farm and do permaculture and everything down there?


EE

At first I’m just renting a cabin and it’s more wooded. The intention is to see how I like living there and plug in with people in the area. Eventually, I’d like to move towards that sort of homestead, intentional community lifestyle with other people. I’ve been wanting to transition out of Philly for a while now and be based more rurally. I’ve been here for five years. Which is a long time for me. I’ve been pretty nomadic my whole life. I’ve never stayed in a place for more than five years.


PM

Wow. Are you going to keep any residence in Philly?


EE

Eventually, but I’m having a hard time letting go of it altogether. I have the most friends and community and clients here. So I’ll be coming back at least once a month or once every other month.


PM

I think that freedom as a sex worker and someone who’s independently employed is that you can really live wherever you want. Especially a sex worker, you’re like, “Well, I can just go stay a week, every month or two in Philadelphia and make the money that I need to make go back to my cabin in the woods.”


EE

I know. I’ve been really afraid to do it, because I feel like I need to be in the city full time so I can be available whenever someone wants me. But I think I lost sight of the fact that I can do the dual life and get my needs met and still be in demand.


PM

It’s a huge leap of faith to trust that if you leave the city permanently and come back for a week or two that you’re going to make the money that you need to make, or figure it out some other way.


EE

We all know the touring circuit can be rough. It can be such a mess. But I do love to travel and I’m seeing it as a way to tour to make money, and also to connect with friends and people in various cities all over the country and around the world. I think moving to the woods can feel like it’s going to be really isolating, but I’m trying to see it as expansive, and that I’ll be drawn to the cities where I want to mix and mingle. We’ll see.


PM

One thing I’d love to also touch on, which we haven’t talked about yet, is your work as a photographer. How did you get into photography?


EE

I worked with the high school yearbook, and I had a DSLR camera very early on. I was super into doing photography in my earlier years and thought that I would even go into fashion photography or nature photography or something. I was always super into it. And I feel like I’ve reconnected with it just through doing sex work and needing to produce content and wanting it to be very visually pleasing at the same time. I guess it’s been a slow reemerging passion that has occurred a lot through my friendship with Cat - I’ve jumped in to do shoots with her and they’ve gone really well. So we’ve been trading off doing shoots of each other and I’ve learned a lot from her. She’s very particular about her shoots and so am I. I feel, more often than not, I’m super disappointed with other people’s photos of me—even pros. But it’s an intimate thing to be photographed. We’re both really picky and I feel like working together and trading has been really helpful and also made me realize that I’m actually really good at it.


PM

Do you currently have a professional photography practice?


EE

I am starting to introduce it, but I’ve mostly just done photoshoots for Cat as a trade. I’ve taken some photos of other workers more casually and I do have a photography Twitter. I have all the equipment and stuff, I’ve just been moving around and traveling. I would like to build a portfolio first. I’m not going to ever gouge people for a shoot—I want it to be a way to give back to my community and also practice something that feels artistically enriching to my life. But I am definitely amping it up.


PM

I found that’s one thing—a lot of sex work photography can be so similar. And that’s not the fault of photographers or anything, they are marketing photographs after all. Personally, I like a good mix of marketable plus artistic. I always want more shoots in nature. I don’t want to be in a bedroom.


EE

And both are important! Sometimes I’ll realize that all my shots are outside and that I need to get some in a bedroom. I definitely think on both sides of the camera I’m aiming to get really unique shots that are beautiful and also mysterious. Even the subtle difference with angles and mood. I’ve gone to the extremes where it’s weird and over the top, and sometimes that doesn’t always land on client facing platforms, so I tend to try to go somewhere in the middle of something that’s very beautiful, alluring, but also a little bit unique and sometimes edgy and avant garde. It makes you stand out and not just being like everyone else.


PM

So I know that you mentioned that you were an exhibitionist. I would love to talk about how being a photographer plays with that, going from the person being seen to the person observing the person behind the camera, which is almost like being a voyeur.


EE

I think voyeurism can be really sexy when it’s consensual. I am a self-proclaimed exhibitionist and I’ve always been very comfortable being naked in places that I’m not always supposed to be. I feel like sex work has almost made me rein that in a little bit because I’m like, “Well not everyone gets to see this for free.”


I think as the voyeur I just go with what I think is really hot. I am embodying a bit of a creepy boyfriend photographer vibe on a shoot, although I’m never actually going to make a move or be creepy. I’m able to move and shoot and direct as someone who can see someone’s beauty and mystery and then get a good shot. I like being in that role. And I think I’m good at it. It also helps having really gorgeous models like Cat who already bring an incredible look and know how to move, but I do feel like direction is so key—bringing the mood, because it’s not just the shot, it’s what’s behind it. What was the feeling in your eyes, what are you embodying in the shot? I feel like my goal is to get someone to that point.


PM

You specifically use the identifier of a queer androgynous person. What has it been like navigating a very often cishet-normative gaze in the sex work industry?


EE

It’s been a journey and sometimes a challenge. But it’s also something I’ve really embraced because it is a monetary exchange. I feel like I probably have less tolerance for it when it’s not a monetary exchange. I feel like I definitely am openly androgynous and I think that that comes through, although I am femme-ing it up, I know, it’s hard to believe, I am still femme-ing it up. (laughter) But I find it really interesting that the people who are drawn to me can kind of like see that essence even if I’m not openly saying I’m queer and androgynous, they can kind of feel it. I’ve had people come to me who are queer and nonbinary but who are living their day-to-day life as a cis man, but they can never reveal that identity to anyone in their lives. And they feel safe and comfortable to do that with me.

I’ve had people across the spectrum and I’ve been really pleasantly surprised with how much people are drawn to my differences and this gender play that they might not quite understand, but they think is super hot. I’m down for it. Like, I love it. It’s also really sweet when someone can open up and be themselves and express their queerness to me.


PM

It seems like it’s really bringing you the type of clients that actually make your experiences more positive and affirming.


PEOPLE ARE DRAWN TO MY DIFFERENCES AND THIS GENDER PLAY THAT THEY MIGHT NOT QUITE UNDERSTAND, BUT THEY THINK IS SUPER HOT.


EE

Totally. Even if they aren’t themselves queer, trans or nonbinary, they are often very curious and open to that whole world. I feel like that’s what they’re getting with me and I also just really love that admiration.


PM

Do you find a lot of overlap between the queer community and your sex work community? How do those two identities inform how you build community with other people, especially since you mentioned wanting to build intentional community earlier on?


EE

I feel like there’s so much overlap, it’s hard to even know where the lines are. I have a more difficult time thinking about who my civilian friends are versus my sex working friends. There’s a huge overlap, which I think is so great and I’m very fortunate to have that. I think it can also be challenging to know where the boundaries are. I don’t want my work life to bleed over into everything or all relationships. I know so many amazing sex workers who are such dear friends to me and I feel so much support and camaraderie. We’re navigating the whole industry together and I think that’s really special and not everyone has that. I have also needed to realize it’s good for me to have friends who are doing something completely different. Even in my queer identity, I don’t just want to be hanging out with a homogenous group of people. I like to expand and get varying perspectives. There’s so much reverence for and almost idealizing of sex workers within queer community that I think it’s important to me to also be seen for my interests and goals outside of work and my curated social media work presence. That being said, I’d love to collaborate with fellow hookers who I share interests with and have deep personal relationships with outside of work with, on building off grid, queer, sustainable community and sanctuary space.


PM

I think that that’s a really important balance of making sure that we’re not stuck in an echo chamber, where it’s just us sharing the same ideas and thoughts all the time, but also knowing that we do have a safe space where we don’t have to explain anything to anyone. They get it.


EE

I’ve also done so many duos with my friends and I love bringing friends into sessions and lovers into my work. That’s also so fun and hot.


PM

Oh wow. Really? That’s taking me by surprise. Do they tend to be cucking or forced bi sessions? I don’t know the genders of your partners.


EE

I would love some more cucking and forced bi in my life, honestly. I find that a lot of clients, because they’re so drawn to my queer androgynous identity, are also drawn to an authentic experience with someone who I’m authentically into or in love with, because that can be a really special and intimate experience assuming all parties are enthusiastically into it and boundaries within my personal relationships are established. I find it to be a way to get multiple life needs met for multiple people. This work can be so lonely so getting to share it with other people is enlivening.


IT’S LIKE BEING POLY WITH MONEY.


PM

I love that it seems to be really positive for you and that it’s a fun new space to explore. Especially since I find that often, our partners can be confused or not understand what we do, so how beautiful it is to be able to share that experience with someone in a positive way.


EE

That’s exactly it. I’ve been super fortunate with having most of my partners and sweeties either be sex workers themselves to some degree or have dated other sex workers. They get it, they’re super supportive. They’ve even helped me prepare for sessions, or let me borrow their car. One of my partners even let me work out of their house for years. Not a jealous bone in their body. Although obviously jealousy comes up, and that can be a whole thing to navigate . A sex worker friend of mine once said it’s like being poly with money. And it can have that vibe, you know, even though I don’t consider myself in a polyamorous relationship with clients. It does have an element of sharing.


PM

And negotiation, right? If you have a date night planned with your partner, but then you get a client inquiry for four hours, who takes precedence?


EE

Exactly. Who’s taking priority? And sometimes you need to take the client, you know? And that can get really messy and uncomfortable.


PM

Is there anything else you want to share or anything you felt like we didn’t cover?


EE

I did have some additional thoughts about nature influencing me and helping us grow. I definitely draw a lot of metaphors from the natural world. One of those things that I think is interesting food for thought, and I’m going to be doing a little bit of a writing piece around is looking at edges in nature and how the edges defining various ecosystems are often the most abundant, fertile zones, which is also a principle of permaculture design.

Looking at that – in my own life and other people’s lives, and in a sexual context of when we push ourselves to our edges, hopefully without going over them, because that could be harmful, I feel like those are the points of the most growth and juicy content. At least for myself. I think about edging too, as a a potent and sexually charged ecosystem of it’s own. I draw a lot of my sensual dominance inspiration from observing the natural world and how nature can be the most brutal Domme imaginable, and can also be very nurturing and life giving in the same breath..


PM

Amazing! Well thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me.


EE

Thank you!





ESMÉ ELLIOT INTERVIEWED BY MOLLY SIMMONS

PHOTOS BY CAT GOLD

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