On a regular day, during a lunch break from their day job, Emil starts lining guys up to come visit their glory hole.
The Melbourne-based artist, also known by the Instagram moniker @babydilfx [formerly @babydilf prior to an Instagram ban], spent the end years of the 2010s chronicling encounters with the men they shared a bed with – anonymised polaroids of half-naked bodies in sheets, captions encapsulating the quiet moments of pillow-talk intimacy – murmured exchanges of vulnerability, softness, compassion, fear.
In 2021, Emil’s online notoriety grew with the addition of a glory hole to their home. He’d post videos of the view from his side of the glory hole – the belt coming off, the pants coming down – and snippets of conversation with the hole’s visitors. Treating it like a social experiment, Emil shared loose data, answered prying questions, and shared thoughts on the hole with their followers.
Two years later, Emil told VICE the glory hole has evolved into a self-sustaining system – in addition to their part-time day job, the money generated from shooting content with the glory hole goes straight back into funding the glory hole.
“I start arranging my visitors at the glory hole,” she said. “I normally line up all the guys within an hour or so, after work from six to seven, or six to eight. So I have all these guys lining up for videos that I sell as pornography, but then that money then supports me and funds me to pursue my practice.”
“I'm really quite grateful that it's created for me a point where I now get paid more during my practice than I do my day job.”
The thing that is striking about Emil’s work is its honesty. Their intimate portraits reveal the basic human emotions and fears we all share. The glory hole reveals hidden truths about masculinity, openness, and the sexuality spectrum.
For Emil, the glory hole was one step on the road to healing from trauma. On a quiet, cold morning, VICE spoke with Emil over Zoom, in an attempt to find out exactly what wisdom was revealed through the hole.
This article mentions rape and sexual trauma.
VICE: I usually like to start by asking a loaded question, which is, who are you?
Emil: My name is Emil, my pronouns are he, she, they. I'm a trans Filipino artist and sex worker. I was born in the Philippines. But I grew up in Brisbane and moved to Melbourne in 2020. Because 2020 was a good time for change, apparently.
The time when everything changed….
How would you describe your artistic practice, or practices, to someone who has never heard of it before?
Good question. More recently, a lot of people learn about my practice through my glory hole. But at the essence of it, it's really just about being able to showcase what it means to find sex and intimacy as a trans person in this day and age. And focusing more on the narrative of the stories that happen between those interactions.
As much as it is about sex, most of it is really just about being able to show what it's like – creating a portrait of what I think Australian male sexuality looks like at the moment.
Especially with a lot of my portraits revolving around straight men being able to talk about their sexuality, particularly tradies, married men and all of this…. I guess, for me, I really want to try and be as close to the truth as possible when we portray our sexuality.
There's a lot of beauty, especially with the Polaroids on your Instagram, this stillness in the moments of intimacy between two people. I'm really interested in whether you have had any big takeaways about this Australian male sexuality. The straight tradies…
One hundred per cent. The glory hole, for me, has been a product of therapy. I'm going to share some trauma, so I hope you don't mind. But in 2020, because we had so much time and we had so much extra therapy available to us, I used that opportunity to deal with sexual trauma that I had as a kid, when I was raped as a kid. I developed PTSD from it.
Towards the end of the treatment I had this really vivid dream about owning a glory hole.
It came to you in a dream?
What a dream! So I woke up on a Saturday, and I'm like, oh my God, why is there a glory– You know when you've dreamt of something, and then the next day you want it? Like this needs to happen, I need to manifest. So I messaged a couple of friends of mine who were tradies and told them at seven in the morning on a Saturday: Hi, can you help build me a glory hole
And magically, you know, when the universe gives its giving, because the following day I had a glory hole at home.
When I talked to my psychologist about it – because I was like, what the fuck? Like, why do I have a glory hole at home? I’m not involved, someone put this in my life – and he put a really good reflection to me. He's like, for the first time, you're actually being playful with your sexuality, you're being experimental about it. Because prior to this, I was really anxious when I had sex. I was really scared.
“We've just been taught to frame straightness as being literally straight, but ‘straight’, in a lot of ways, can have different iterations the same way a lot of queer, gay men have sex with women, and trans folks and non binary folks.”
A lot of things that I didn't even realise my body was experiencing were because of the trauma that I experienced. But because I was able to process and really start healing from what happened to me, my brain was like, well, let's have fun now, let's experiment, let's explore things. And the glory hole, for me, was a great avenue for me to also, I guess, explore my gender, explore my sexuality, because so much of my identity is attached to the body. And in this context, the body is not the body, it's a plywood. With a hole.
And a mouth….
And a mouth. So literally, all of these things about identity, gender, sexuality, becomes quite irrelevant, because it’s just… a hole now. I realised through COVID – and sitting more on my gender, how fluid – in so many ways it embodies transness because of that. It's been a really good way for me to lean in on these different energies that I have. And then, I guess, experience what energies attract that.
When I started to lean in more to my femininity, I was just inundated with men, straight men, particularly tradies who were really resonating with that a lot. At first, very often a lot of people were very dismissive about their sexualities. They’re like, well, they’re not straight men if they’re having sex with you. But I think what people fail to understand when they do make those statements, is that, one, it rejects my transness. It denies me of my femininity. But also, it frames straightness as a fixed, static thing. Where I’ve actually learned straightness is just as fluid and exploratory and curious as any other sexuality.
We've just been taught to frame straightness as being literally straight, but “straight”, in a lot of ways, can have different iterations the same way a lot of queer, gay men have sex with women, and trans folks and non binary folks. A lot of these identities we have don't always really define how we behave.
Very often, when I ask these men, what is it about me that they're attracted to, they're like, oh, it's the femininity. It's expanding this idea of straightness, they're like, yeah, we're men, we're very masculine, but as masculine men, we're attracted to the opposite energy, which is femininity. Which again, opened my eyes up. That makes a lot of sense. It's not really about just your gender, how you present, but a lot of it is actually this energy that a lot of us emit, which is going beyond face value.
“We’ve got to be really mindful about how we keep framing genders. Because on the flip side, it is sexist.”
“VERBAL PLUMBER” [SUPPLIED]
The hole, in a lot of ways, has given them a lot of safety. Being affected by patriarchy in itself, and expectations they have about men and masculinity, particularly with Australian masculinity being so seen as this immovable, and irrefutable kind of concept. A lot of these men are challenging that through [the hole]. And it's been great because for me, my relationship with straight men prior to this was almost non-existent, because I've just seen them as that. Like, I can't even talk to you, this is another world, I need a translator to even speak to you. And then I’ve let them into my life through this medium.
And oh, my god, I've had more trans-affirming experiences with straight tradies than I have from the queer community.
In saying this, I wouldn’t have the confidence to be who I am to the world if it weren’t for the countless trans and gender diverse folks who’ve paved the way for people like me to feel valid in my existence. It’s important that we remind ourselves that we stand on the shoulder of giants.
I experienced such intimacy, playfulness, romance, love and sex in ways that have satisfied me and have made me feel so connected with myself through those experiences. And with a lot of these men I have had an ongoing, romantic, sexual, playful relationship since I've started the glory hole, two years ago, which is why I've been able to now show their bodies on the internet and really build that trust for them to have confidence that I do care about their safety as well.
“If you told me two years ago, ‘girl, if you start sucking cock at home, all of these things will happen….’”
But for them to also recognise that what they're doing is actually showing leadership, really challenging a lot of stigma, not only about straight men being with trans people, but straight men also being exploratory, being curious by being open and being intimate. Our portraits of straight men are usually of violence, of destruction, of emotional inadequacy. And I'd love to share a bit more of a nuance around that. We’ve got to be really mindful about how we keep framing genders. Because on the flip side, it is sexist. We need to really acknowledge everyone's emotional capacity and nuance, and bring a richness and understanding of gender and sexuality from wherever they may be, as long as we provide a safe space for them to do that. And I'd like to think that I'm doing that with my practice.
It’s just so cool. You’re so beautifully spoken about these topics. Do you have a favourite particular experience or connection that you have found through the glory hole?
I have more than a handful. I'm writing a book at the moment.
The title is, At First I Was Afraid.
It’s so good.
I came across this country boy who was 19. Finding out that he and his girlfriend are in a very open relationship, and they're just so supportive of one another, it's a lot of fun, allowing him to just have sex with anyone. They just have such a great quality of relationship, with how they communicate with one another. It was just so inspiring for someone so young, so emotionally mature, and they're both so open about it. He shows her the videos and the photos we take and she's into it, and she's supportive. It's so nice to see that.
Then there was this couple that I met. Through their relationship, they found that the woman was more I was asexual, and the guy has a really high sex drive. So, they said they started to look for couples’ therapy. And through that experience, he said, to me, this really beautiful quality, it didn't teach us anything new about one another, but it did teach us how to communicate with one another. And that's really helped our relationship a lot. And then some days, she would be the one driving him off to drop him off to my place, before she goes on her errands. Just little things like that, where you just see these beautiful ways of relationships existing. Consensual and open.
“In so many ways, the reflection of my subjects in my practice is an exact correlation of how I feel about it. The more and more that they're becoming more visible, the more and more that I'm becoming more present, and part of the practice.”
A lot of the stories that I hear about men who cheat on their partners, and most of the men who see me have partners and girlfriends who aren't aware of what's happening, I ask them about what's motivating them to do that. I find it really, really fascinating. With my principles around sex work, I don't really like to moralise it, I don't want to be like a right or wrong person. For me, it's just really going back to what I said earlier on, providing a space where someone feel safe to access intimacy, sex, pleasure and experimentation, which I find for a lot of these men don't get have get to have access to, or may not necessarily feel safe expressing to their partners, because of homophobia, or homophobic tendencies or transphobic tendencies.
It's cool, seeing the potential that human relationships can have, if there is that empathy and safety and understanding and communication. It’s very inspiring.
It sounds so radical, because it is, but in so many ways, it's also so painfully obvious. Like, yes, if we communicate and talk about our needs, we can have a very successful relationship. One thing that I think needs to be acknowledged when we do enter that space is having the right support. And being in a safe space. It’s like Maslow's hierarchy of needs, you’ve got to make sure everything is ticked first, before you can even start exploring that really hard shit.
This all started in 2021. How has the hole evolved or changed over time?
I think with my involvement with the hole, I’ve become more and more present in a sense that I've now evolved to not even using the hole as often. So much of the hole has been a physical barrier for me, because of that fear I have. Over time I’ve become more and more acclimated to just being present and sexual with another person. I've learned to have sex without the hole and I've learned to just trust men more into my life.
“DADDY BUILDER” [SUPPLIED]
The videos even in my practice have changed because back then, it was just videos of them undressing. Like, you could only see the belt unbuckling, the pants going down, that's it. And now it's evolved to even having parts of their body showing. Now you can see their whole body, even their face in the camera, undressing themselves. In so many ways, the reflection of my subjects in my practice is an exact correlation of how I feel about it. The more and more that they're becoming more visible, the more and more that I'm becoming more present, and part of the practice. Back then it was more of a documentation. But more now, it's also including my own narrative and story, and my own perspective, really, of having the glory hole.
You've transcended the hole.
Yeah, I've transcended the hole. You gotta start somewhere.
Could you please share some wisdom that has revealed itself through the hole?
I think once you embrace your sexuality, and explore your own sexual desires, the world will embrace you back. It's one thing I've learned so much from this glory hole. It's so wild. I’ve built this glory hole, I've decided to share it among my friends, and it's just grown to this intensity that even I'm a bit like, what…what's going on? Because I've just embraced, I'm like, this is me. And I'm gonna just lay it out there.
I've realised how contagious it is to share your sexuality to the world, because the moment that you’re like, look at me openly sharing myself and opening up my sexuality to you, other people can start to explore themselves as well. Having the glory hole I wouldn't have [expected] being interviewed by ABC Radio National, performing at the Queensland Art Gallery – all of these doors have suddenly opened up from a little hole that I've created at home.
How does it feel?
Bizarre, really bizarre. If you told me two years ago, girl, if you start sucking cock at home, all of these things will happen…. if you start sucking cock through a hole, all of these things will happen in the next few years. I’d be like, LIES, you know? Like, what? That's not– that's not real.
But yeah, I guess now I've just learned to really acknowledge the art in sex. There's so much artistry in it. You know, I think there's so much creativity in sex, and I love that I've been able to carve a space for myself where I do get to highlight that. And I hope it resonates.
Glory Hole Fun Facts Round From Babydilf
In 2020, the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control recommended glory holes as a safe sex barrier to COVID-19. New York kinda did as well, even if they didn’t explicitly say glory hole.
In 2018, the Western Australian Museum acquired a glory hole as part of their collection.
Lastly – “There is evidence glory holes existed in ancient Greece, Egypt and Japan, before being exported to Europe in 1700s. Given their history of concealment, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Vatican City has one of the largest numbers of glory hole per capita” – via Becuming, 2022.
You can see more of Emil’s work here.
Read more from VICE Australia.