The goddess Kali by Ravi Varma, courtesy of Wellcome Library, London

Mistress Kali is a professional dominatrix who lives and works in Devon. She takes her name from the Hindu goddess of Time and Change, a many-armed blue woman often depicted standing on the corpse of her male consort Shiva. She is the perfect avatar for a mistress of BDSM (Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, Sadism & Masochism), empowered and fierce. According to her website, Kali’s ‘talents excel in the dynamic interplay of pain and pleasure; of tension and release; of teasing, withholding; using and playing’. She is ‘passionate, sensual, cruel; and with a wicked wit and utter authority which compels you to obey or suffer the consequences’.

While many dominatrixes receive clients in ‘dungeons’, Mistress Kali works in a space she calls her ‘Temple’, ‘a Sanctuary of Kink where fantasies find reality’. It is decorated tastefully and frangranced with incense, setting the stage for a ‘transformative’ erotic experience. She tells me that she’s madly busy at the moment; however, despite a punishing schedule, kindly agreed to answer my questions via email:

How did you originally get into BDSM practices?

It was sparked off by meeting my boyfriend (now husband of 20 years); we both explored many areas of sexual activity, including swinging, exhibitionism, voyeurism, threesomes, foursomes & moresomes, fetish parties and clubs.

You were a lifestyle dominatrix before you went professional; why did you make the change?

My friend began to work as a ‘massage girl’ and kept getting calls for domination, which wasn’t her scene. She thought I would be good at it… the rest is history 😉

Do you find sexual pleasure in your work?

I find a great deal of sexual pleasure in my work, and would like to ensure that continues!

It is often rumoured that subs hold powerful jobs in the “real world”. Does this ring true?

That is a fable. People of all ages and all walks of life visit me. Obviously, a few conform to that stereotype.

How much do you find out about your clients’ lives outside of the temple?

Usually very little. I do not like to pry, but regular clients who I have got to know over the years may tell me more. I often ask them their profession, the area where they live and perhaps their marital status.

Is there a divide between your work and out-of-work personas?

I have so many facets to the fore of my character that it is a hard question to answer. I am a creative person in various media, and a performer and am very gregarious… but I also like quiet and solitude…

You say that you believe in the supremacy of the female. Can it be found outside of your temple?

The patriarchal culture in which we live and have lived in for thousands of years has suppressed the feminine, women and the earth, to the entire planet’s detriment… I like to think I am helping to get a little of the balance back.. 😉

What would you say to those who are frightened by the idea of Kink and BDSM practices?

It’s OK to be cautious about something of which you know little, but there is a great deal of fun to be had with the right people/person.. and ultimately it is about love… love comes in various guises.

And finally, what advice would you give to an aspiring dominatrix?

Do it for more reasons than just the money. Be genuine. Have an open heart. Be true to yourself. Respect your clients.


As you probably know, Pantone’s official colour of 2014 is 18-3224 TPX, a.k.a. Radiant Orchid, which strikes a sickly, diamante-encrusted-tweenage-diary middle ground between pale fuchsia and violet. Duh.

According to the Pantone website, the Color of the Year serves to ‘express in color what is taking place in the global zeitgeist’. Unless the current zeitgeist is led by Taylor Swift’s prepubescent fan base, I’m not sure Radiant Orchid is quite the correct choice.

The Pantone Color Institute’s Executive Director, Leatrice Eiseman, describes the colour as ‘magical’, one which ‘encourages us to innovate’. She says, ‘it kind of embraces you; it pulls you into it. Think about that if you’re wearing the colour’.

Although I can’t imagine purchasing any kind of outfit in Radiant Orchid, I must admit that I’m a little hooked by Eiseman’s borderline-nonsensical spiel. Besides, how could I dismiss the official words of Pantone? I often drink coffee from a Pantone mug in 3273 C.

In an attempt to embrace Radiant Orchid, I thought I’d find out whether the first four months of 2014 have offered us any treasures in its hue. Looking around me, I’m unconvinced that the colour has caught on: the only Radiant Orchid I see adorns the lid and label of the Highland Spring water bottle I just bought at Costa. With enough time spent on Google, however, I found a whole different story. And it is Radiant Orchid.



This Michael Kors jumper is actually something I wouldn’t mind wearing. I like it because it looks as if it’s been infected with a suppurating rash of Radiant Orchid, which is exactly what Pantone are hoping to do to 2014.


femail radiant orchid

And if we’ve learnt anything, it’s that the Daily Mail is always right, right?


In her hair. This may be a slightly washed out version of Radiant Orchid, but the Pantone website teaches us that its colour of the year may be subject to small alterations. How would we cope otherwise!?


Adorning the laps of Strictly Come Dancing viewers nationwide, Quality Street chocolate tins continue to sport Radiant Orchid. This is a timeless and effective use of the colour because it perfectly reflects the repulsive sickliness of the confectionary inside.


Lavender beginning to bloom across the globe has been seen to match the dulcet tones of Radiant Orchid. Crazy!



I recently finished my undergraduate degree. I handed in my dissertation, listened to Amanda Lear in the sun for a while, and indulged in a cold glass of wine. Then, none of my friends being free from university work, I was bored out of my mind. Reworking my CV in the hopes of securing some kind of future, I added a mention of The Zemblan, and realised that I really missed writing it. Accordingly, here I am writing it once again.

You can expect round-ups of my favourite recent releases/events/experiences, and, of course, narcissistic ramblings on the subject of my totally fascinating life. Fortunately, people seem to enjoy those. So buckle your seat-belt and fasten your lace-front, because I’m back from academic limbo.


Original post here

PullQuoteMarkFashion has been given a bad name. All too easily it can bring to mind unemployed rich kids, jewel-bedecked magazine editors with botoxed foreheads, exploited models living off almonds and cigarettes, hordes of sycophantic bloggers and freakish clothes which cost more than a five star trip to Dubai. Despite popular misconceptions, however, there’s more to the industry than trust funds, vanity and Devil-Wears-Prada archetypes.

I don’t need to tell you about the transformative power of clothing; you know that what you wear to a Friday morning lecture is going to differ from what you wear to a job interview, and you wouldn’t take the President so seriously if he delivered his speeches in a Juicy Couture tracksuit.

The word ‘fashion’ itself means to mould, to form, to shape. Just think of that overused metaphor which likens clothing to armour and makeup to war paint; it’s overused because it makes sense. Clothing can distinguish us, conform us, even change our shape and height. The effect which our clothing has on our mindset and behaviour is immeasurable. By dressing in any given way, we wield the power to change how we feel, how we are perceived and how we are treated.

In 1975, John T. Molloy published an instructive book titled ‘The Women’s Dress for Success Book’, and the concept of ‘power dressing’ was born. Towering shoulder pads and angular tailoring took over the womenswear scene into the ‘80s, with influential figures such as Princess Diana, Grace Jones, and the cast of the bitchiest television show of all time, Dynasty, leading the way. Masculine silhouettes expressed a sort of sartorial feminism, setting out to assert the authority of high-achieving women in a man’s world. In a time when women were paid considerably less than men (a pay gap which is yet to close entirely) it was important for women to be taken seriously in the workplace. By appropriating masculine imagery traditionally synonymous with authority, women exploited the patriarchal hierarchy in order to empower themselves and demand respect.


Love her or hate her, we might see the late Margaret Thatcher as the mascot of ‘80s power dressing. As she climbed the career ladder, she acquired an exhaustive selection of suits and an increasingly voluminous helmet of hair. Like the colouring of a poisonous insect, her new look seemed to say ‘don’t mess with me,’ and put a firm middle finger up to the men who would sooner have her elbow-deep in Fairy liquid than running the country. Defence and attack were important in an environment as fiercely patriarchal as British Government. Thatcher once described her handbag as the only safe place in Downing Street, and to her credit, she fought her way right into its top seat.

While feminism became increasingly prevalent throughout the twentieth century, the power dressing phenomenon wasn’t limited to women. Its other proponents came from the world of popular music, with artists such as Boy George and David Bowie adopting drastically androgynous new styles, taking influence from previously underground trends and bringing them into the popular sphere, forging identities beyond the conventional.

However, fashion had political significance long before Ziggy Stardust descended from Mars. When Coco Chanel rid the world of the suffocating corset in the early 20th century, loose clothing became a symbol of the emancipation of women. They were no longer trussed up in whale-bone and dripping with heavy jewellery; they were free to move, to work, to think, and to possess a new, understated chic. Later on, in the ‘60s and ‘70s, clothing became an agent for the liberation of teenagers, with designers like Mary Quant bringing in the revolutionary mini-skirt, and far more drastically, with the opening of ‘SEX’, the avant-garde punk boutique conceived by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood in 1974. The punk movement expressed an anarchist belligerence and appropriated fetish clothing, bringing it out of sex clubs and into the public eye.

Although they only gained exposure over recent decades, underground styles such as fetish-wear had existed long before they were brought to the fore. Drag culture, perhaps harnessing the power of clothing and make-up more potently than any other discipline, is an example of another such subculture, finding increasing popularity with the majority.

Jennie Livingston’s 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning, filmed during the 1980s, explores the rich culture of drag balls in Harlem, New York. A drag ball is a competition in which contestants ‘walk’ a runway in outfits corresponding to a number of categories, such as ‘Parisian high fashion’, ‘butch queen, first time in drag at a ball’, and ‘vogue femme’. Participating drag queens often belong to collectives called ‘houses’, becoming ‘children’ to a ‘drag mother’ after whom the house is named. By walking in balls, they could win trophies and highly regarded accolades such as the ‘legendary’ title, and eventually the chance to become house mothers themselves.

The legendary queens of Paris is Burning

The drag lexicon, which was popularised by the documentary and, more recently, by the televised talent show RuPaul’s Drag Race, is particularly colourful. The best queens are ‘fierce’; the art of delivering scathing, witty insults is ‘reading’; to ‘beat one’s face’ is to apply immaculate make-up; to look good is to look ‘sickening’. A ‘kiki’ is a party, and a ‘kai kai’ is sexual encounter between drag queens – try not to confuse those two.

For a group of people who found it difficult to fit in with popular society and were often disowned by their families for their sexuality or transgender status, drag ball culture was an opportunity to be accepted, adored and rewarded. Still, it has never been without its perils.

Venus Xtravaganza, a regular on the ball circuit and one of Paris is Burning’s most celebrated subjects, was a transgendered woman saving up for sex-reassignment surgery. Like many drag queens, she resorted to prostitution as a means of income, devoid of other options due to the prejudice which had affected her upbringing. In 1988, her strangled body was discovered under the bed of a New York hotel room. The tragedy is relayed by Venus’ house mother in Paris is Burning, providing a startling reminder that, beyond the underground community which accepted people like her with open arms, the world isn’t always kind to those who refuse to conform to convention.

In her seminal 1990 work Gender Trouble, influential theorist Judith Butler wrote: “In imitating gender, drag implicitly reveals the imitative structure of gender itself – as well as its contingency”. She argues that the performance of drag exposes gender for just that; a performance. It calls into question the relationship between sex and gender, a relationship ‘regularly assumed to be natural and necessary’, a ‘fabricated unity’. Typical transphobic polemic condemns cross-dressing as ‘unnatural’; Butler replies by asserting that no gendered behaviour is natural at all. It is, in fact, performance. In drag culture, a successful imitation is given the accolade of ‘realness’. It might at first seem paradoxical to call imitation ‘real’; however, the notion suggests that displaying an awareness of the construction of our outward façades – and the affectations which comprise them – is in fact more authentic than believing such façades to be natural.

Furthermore, drag can be seen to transcend the realm of gender. In the competitions documented by Paris is Burning, categories such as ‘executive realness’ entail dressing as successful, straight men, fulfilling a fantasy of acceptance, conformity and respect of the sort the LGBTQ population were rarely granted in the wider world.

Drag queen superstar RuPaul has said: ‘we’re born naked, and the rest is drag’, perhaps unwittingly recalling Simone de Beauvoir, who wrote: ‘One is not born a woman, but rather becomes one’. The same is true for all of us; our identities are constructed by experience, as well as prescribed by society. Although biological sex has become entangled with gendered behaviour, theorists such as Butler unsettle the bonds between them.


When we dress, we are making a plethora of references to every sartorial decision which has been made before us, all of which influence how we are perceived. Team a pair of jeans with a white t-shirt and a cigarette and you’re channelling James Dean macho; don a white halter-neck sundress and you’re referencing the voluptuous femininity of Marilyn Monroe; kitten heels with a circle skirt will take you straight to Stepford; a black dress and a cigarette holder will take you to Tiffany’s for breakfast. The lofty, glass-walled skyscrapers of the financial district will smile upon a Savile Row suit, and a glittering drag club in the centre of Harlem will have you however you are, sequins or not. Just be sure to keep it real.

All dressing is power dressing; clothing not only sits on our skin, but changes us from the inside out, shaping us into something beyond the corporeal – into signifiers of a long socio-political history and carriers of infinite connotations. So, if you’re ever tempted to disregard fashion as a shallow industry, remember that every sartorial decision you make is quietly monumental, entering you into an age-old cultural dialogue which is lodged into the very fabric of your Versace bomber jacket, or, more realistically, your cotton-blend t-shirt. You are standing on the shoulder pads of giants.


So, I haven’t posted in a while, but I’d like to assure you that I’m still breathing. I know you were worried sick.

I find myself at a loss for blogging topics — probably because I’m drowning in exam revision and any sentence which doesn’t include confusing words like ‘phenomenology’, ‘narratology’ and all those other ‘ologies’ are alien to me right now — so I thought I’d just deliver a brief and characteristically narcissistic account of my life right now.  I hope for your sake that it goes somewhere. Otherwise, your money back.

If you can't work out the relevance of this image, you aren't worthy of reading The Zemblan. JKZZZ IT'S TOTALLY IRRELEVANT, MAN!

If you can’t work out the relevance of this image, you aren’t worthy of reading The Zemblan. JKZZZ IT’S TOTALLY IRRELEVANT, MAN!

In short, I’m spending a month’s holiday at home from university, which involves a daily caffeine overdose, a classic case of suburbian big-fish-small-pond anxiety, a beautiful reunion with my dog, and hours listening to my mum’s interior design plans, despairing at her indecision. “Yes, the grey’s nice. Go for the grey. No, it won’t look clinical. Yes, it’s a nice warm grey. No, don’t go for the yellow just go for the grey like you wanted to before. No, it won’t clash with the carpet. Yes, it will match the curtains. Yes, I agree, yes, yes, go for the grey. I like the grey”.

She went for cream.

Anyway, being at home means I can blast scandinavian music really loud in my scandinavian-inspired room (which actually is painted grey) wearing scandinavian-inspired outfits and imagining what it’s like to date an actual scandinavian. Something tells me I’ve set my hopes too high. Never meet your heroes. Or fantasy lovers.


I had postmodern cocktails with Cindy Sherman


Mark wears coat Topshop, eyebrows Frida Kahlo (plucked) and tan Natural. Cindy wears vampiric fashion smile, four different models’ bodies.

I pretended to eat food for Instagram (lol plebs eat food¬!!1)


I took an #edgy photograph of my friend with a newly acquired Pentax MV. When I made it square for the sake of my blog layout I realised it just looks like an Instagram photo, and my delusions of being the next Sally Mann quickly evaporated.


I changed my Facebook profile picture (below) and it didn’t get a satisfying amount of likes. Isn’t it just heartbreaking when you can’t rely on the affirmation of a few hundred people scrolling absent-mindedly through their newsfeeds, most of whom you haven’t spoken to in two years, and some of whom you don’t remember meeting? I think so 😦


Wait a minute… I was being sarcastic, but I write a blog for the affirmation of internet strangers who reach my blog via  such dubious google searches as ‘sex fuck’ and ‘fuck sex’. My stats don’t lie, unfortunately.

Oh well.


The more you look at this picture, the more Beyonce’s arm does not look like an arm, but like a miscellaneous piece of flesh imposed on a perfectly normal image of her smiling. Just a thought.


First he was Calvin Cordozar Broadus Junior, then Snoop Doggy Dog, and eventually just Snoop Dogg. But now the Dogg has decided on a new spirit animal and released his first single as Snoop Lion. To celebrate his new direction, Wonderland count down the best and worst celebrity name changes.