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Howard Hardiman:

The Lengths

Births, burials or ejaculations can be premature, but how about cohabitation? Howard Hardiman knows something of London’s gay escorts, having done a bit of sex work himself. Fascinated by their world and worldview, he began interviewing his friends and developing a play about them, which he eventually realised as The Lengths, a self-published comic, revised and compiled into a graphic novel by Soaring Penguin Press. “Through the interviews, their moments of doubt or fear were never related to conflict, addiction or danger, but hinged on all-too-familiar anxieties about self-worth, attractiveness and missing out. Small, mundane fears. Glimpses of tenderness. These are the stories I’d much rather tell.”

To respect his sources’ anonymity, Hardiman quickly abandoned drawing them with human faces and instead gave them dogs’ heads. It’s a somehow appropriate metaphor, as, to quote from the story, “In a city full of temptation, you’ve got to measure love affairs in dog years.” Rather than having to respond to specific male features which may or may not be attractive, the reader soon adjusts to the different breeds and how they suit different types and temperaments. The book’s lead Eddie is living two lives and struggling to keep them separate. To most, he’s a loveable graduate looking for that hard-to-find steady relationship, but Eddie also calls himself Ford (as in Ford Escort), a sex worker, tempted by thrills and money.

The title The Lengths not only refers to the ‘lengths’ these male gay prostitutes will go to, but also to their body fetishism. With an insider’s empathy, Hardiman confronts their conflicted desires: “It’s hard being someone’s Mister Right when for a hundred pounds an hour, you’re anyone’s Mister Right Now.”

In his new coda created for ArtReview magazine (below), ‘Premature Cohabitation’, Hardiman explains, “Eddie has run out of money and is falling into the trap when London rents get far too high to manage (unless you’re doing lots of sex work) and someone has the dire idea, ‘It’d be so much cheaper if you moved in…’” The Lengths takes us inside the hearts, minds and bodies of the world’s oldest profession with a rare understanding and frankness.

‘Premature Cohabitation’
Click images to enlarge.

Posted: November 25, 2013

This Article originally appeared in the December issue of ArtReview magazine.


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Howard Hardiman
Soaring Penguin Press

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The Lengths
by Howard Hardiman
(Soaring Penguin Press)