Janus’ legendary illustrator and model Paula Meadows reflects on her time with the long running spanking magazine and beyond to a life after CP.
Interview by Jon Rayworth
Jon Rayworth: It’s great to meet you Paula. Thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview.
Paula Meadows: My pleasure.
JR: We know quite a lot about how you discovered CP (see Janus 29) but we don’t know how you came to be involved with Janus. Can you tell us how that came about?
PM: I had done some modeling for soft-core magazines in the early 80s… to explain why I did that would take far too long – it was one of those peculiar shots in the dark that propelled me into a different mode. Anyway, through this I met photographers, and one of them was Vic Barnes. He told me he was also doing photo-shoots for Janus and was always on the lookout for new locations. I said he could use my flat in Ladbroke Grove, which had quite a large living room/kitchen area. Vic was someone I immediately trusted. He was friendly and very careful to ensure that his female models felt comfortable. (In the context of a Janus shoot this has to be interpreted slightly differently!)
I knew very little about Janus at this point but had a sudden inkling that I might enjoy that sort of modeling. When I told Vic that I would be quite happy to take a spanking myself on camera he arranged to include me in the next shoot at my own home.
JR: Was this the one where you modeled as Lesley?
PM: Yes, that’s right. The very first shoot was the one that appeared in Janus 13 with that lovely dark haired dominant lady, who later became a close friend.
JR: So, when did you start as Janus illustrator?
PM: After we had finished that shoot and Vic was packing up his equipment he mentioned that Janus had recently taken on a new editor and they were now looking for an illustrator. He knew I was an artist so suggested I went along to meet Peter.
JR: What was your interview with Peter like?
PM: Here I must mention that back in 1981 a woman going alone into a sex shop in Old Compton Street was almost unheard of! I had never been in one and I thought the men inside would have been extremely embarrassed if I had – such was the general shame that surrounded us then, and the uncomfortable separation between men and women where any sort of erotica was concerned. That discomfort was even more pronounced in the world of CP. It was generally believed that this was a male driven activity and women only consented to be on the receiving end if they were coerced, intimidated or paid large sums of money. Now, here I was proving that this was not the case.
It felt very exciting, and a little strange, to be going to the Janus shop – well, not actually going in but better still, going back stage, so to speak. Penetrating into the workings of the minds that created it and seeing how it functioned. I entered the side door, next to the shop, climbed the stairs gingerly and found Peter in his office.
The thing I remember about him was his exacting attention to detail. Only the very best would be tolerated for Janus! Do you know, he had such a bearing about him that you automatically pictured him with a cane in his hand. The cane was a sort of extension of his arm, and personality. The moment I went into his office, I had a strong intuition that he would cane me sometime.
JR: And did he?
PM: As a matter of fact, yes. It was something that happened because I had a naughty twinkle in my eye in those days and wanted to push things as far as they would go. I am not sure how I would describe those canings now. It was all very controlled and proper. He was a great expert. Most people might assume that he was taking advantage of his position as editor, but nothing could be further from the truth. I really think that I expected it of him. I would deliver the drawings and receive a short sharp six of the best. I daresay he thought he was keeping his staff in order – but I used to joke about it being my reward!
JR: What were your first impressions once you started illustrating for Janus?
PM: Well, to begin with, the Janus themes of naughty schoolgirls and discipline didn’t gel with me at all. It simply wasn’t my world. Up until then I had experienced spanking as a means of stimulation and helping me override inhibitions. My fascination was the idea of submitting to a man by choice to see what would happen. The one thing I never thought about was punishment and discipline. I hate to disappoint fans of Janus but since I am now retired from it all I would like to speak out and say that I never felt turned on by the idea of a fault-finding headmaster giving me a ticking off! Neither did I relish the humiliation of being spread-eagled across someone’s knee.
JR: But you managed to draw all those things with relish.
PM: Oh yes, I did. The scenes of punishment offered me great opportunities to create exciting dramatic situations with intense emotions, and facial expressions to go with it. I used to be an actress, remember! I really got involved with illustrating those scenes and began to understand how being punished in school (particularly during an era when sex was kept well hidden) could become a really erotic experience because you were so exposed. I used to identify with the dominant and the submissive while I was drawing.
JR: You mentioned in an earlier interview that you got to know Richard Manton who created the character of Lesley and wrote many classic stories for the magazine over the years. What can you tell us about him and what do you remember about your first appearance as Lesley?
PM: I believe two Lesley stories appeared in the magazine and it was the photoshoot for the second one that stands out most vividly in my memory. I particularly remember that Lesley had to be attired exactly as described in the text– flesh-coloured tights and a little white singlet. This made me feel strangely vulnerable. Come to think of it, Peter was rather partial to girls being chastised in innocent white vests – he had me wearing one again for a much later shoot in a flat with some very busy red flock wallpaper… honestly, it really was overpowering. Ha… it’s coming to something when you have to compete with the wallpaper for attention! At one point Peter made me run on the spot and I remember thinking, ‘Oh dear, I’m getting too old for wearing little girl undies and being put through these sorts of indignities!’ But of course, that was the whole point of the exercise.
Oh sorry, I’m digressing. You were asking about RM – I first met him during that second Lesley shoot. He looked in to give some guidance, if I remember correctly. We tried hard to reconstruct his story to perfection, but no one was willing to show their face for the camera on that occasion, so we just had a mysterious hand appearing out of the corner of the shot, holding a cane. This made me realize that the male dominants were in an invidious position… I was willing to reveal myself because being the passive submissive was not as difficult to admit to – unless, of course, you happened to be talking to militant feminists! Strangely enough, that question never bothered me. I was just following my own instincts and this was what I needed to do at the time.
JR: What was RM like?
PM: He was a very shy and restrained man, extremely charming and respectful. We got on very well and I still value his friendship and appreciate his wit and humour. You have to admit… even in an extreme punishment scenario there is still a funny side. He was very fond of researching the Victorians and digging up stories of stern disciplinarians who took their duties terribly seriously. Nowadays we might think of them as hypocritical old windbags – or worse still –insane! But those stories were all based on fact. Ha ha… to our sensibilities today all those houses of discipline were a lot more bizarre than any fiction we might dream up… and yet these were run by very respectable people who were pillars of Victorian society.
JR: We can see some of your artwork on the wall in the photos from Janus 13. Was it shot at your house?
PM: Yes that was shot in the flat we lived in at the time. That painting on the wall was part of a series called ‘Bodyscapes’.
JR: So, how did your career as an artist begin?
PM: Well, I went to art school in Canterbury during the late 60s, which gives my age away! I studied graphics, but when the time came to leave and go out to work I chose to go into the theatre and become an actress instead. I had a great love for the theatre and for five or six years I managed to get work in rep and TV, but my beginners luck did not last and I began to be aware of my limitations as an actress. When my partner and I got together he was writing a book for children, which I illustrated. That was my first professional illustration job.
As theatre work on-stage tailed off, I began to work back-stage in London theatres instead. From that vantage point I managed to get commissions for painting portraits of the performers in the shows. It was only when I started to explore my sexuality that a more erotic sort of art began to emerge. That was like a big breakthrough. It felt as if I had found my subject… the thing I really wanted to devote myself to!
JR: You were the only member of the Janus team to have a public face. Whose idea was it to unmask Lesley as Paula Meadows the Janus artist?
PM: I deliberately chose to ‘come out’ and reveal myself because it seemed right. I was in a position to do that because I had no children to worry about and in a way, since I had elected to be honest and straightforward, it was no good me veiling myself and remaining anonymous. Someone has to speak out and say, ‘I do this and I like it!’ Sometimes we have to go beyond what the world thinks of as ‘perverted’ and admit to it so we can understand it as a need. I don’t really care what the world in general thinks any more.
The year before I started at Janus my family found out that I had appeared in an X rated video so the worst had already happened! Once I had weathered that, there were no more reasons for covering up.
JR: You eventually left Janus to work on a new spanking magazine – Fessée. I was wondering how that came about and what you enjoyed most about your time working on those eleven excellent issues?
PM: Oh, was it only 11? It certainly seemed like a lot more at the time.
Yes, Janus came to an end because I spent rather a long time in the USA and another illustrator had to be found. I think Peter probably felt I let him down.
I can remember clearly meeting St. John and Michael for the first time – I was very surprised by them… their attitude towards me seemed almost reverential! Because of this I realized that my work was starting to acquire something of a reputation. They were quite young men, late twenties early thirties, while I was in my late thirties by that time. They were relatively inexperienced at publishing, but their enthusiasm was enormous.
PCs were not in use then so magazines had to be typeset and pasted up… a process that now seems impossibly laborious. I had several years experience doing paste-up so we agreed that The Boys – I always called them that – would take care of photo-shoots and financial matters and I would do all the rest. We were a good team. When Fessée number 1 finally came out there was a real sense of achievement! It had been such hard work.
JR: Eventually the call came to return to the Janus fold and the opportunity for creative control of your own magazine – Februs. Can you tell us how that happened?
PM: This was a great opportunity! The invitation to create a new magazine came completely out of the blue, from the publisher. This time St.John and I would be putting it together. We did have computers now and we found a designer who would take care of the technical stuff. This lady became a friend and although she wasn’t a devotee of CP at all, she began to learn about it and became quite intrigued. We used to discuss the stories over the phone sometimes and I used to hear her chortling.
It dawned on me that Februs could be a wonderful means of making contact with all those aficionados – the lonely, frustrated ones as well as the fulfilled ones… and both male and female this time. No longer was this the preserve of men only! This new magazine would hopefully appeal to women too. I longed to talk for real about my own experiences and hear what readers had to say… and I could choose stories and do most of the drawings myself – how many other artist have this privilege?
JR: What did you enjoy most about your time editing Februs?
PM: Hm… let me see… I think, looking back, that one of the most enjoyable parts of it was being able to write up my own thoughts on the subject. I know the readers wanted genuine comments from real women. When you look back to sex magazines of the 70s there were often female editors (like Fiona Richmond) who supposedly wrote columns but it was obvious that a man had written it… so readers were naturally suspicious. Now here I was being given the freedom to express my own point of view and I had to make sure it was genuine. In the background I was having a lot of erotic adventures at the time, most of which featured a bit of s/m role-play, and experimenting with different implements and situations. It was very satisfying to be able to describe them and mull over in my mind what was happening. To write something is to make it more understandable and lots of things occurred to me while I was doing it. At one time I thought I could cure all the world’s psychological ills with a dose of CP, if administered in the right way. I’m not kidding… such was my idealistic zeal! I thought I had stumbled on a great secret.
Obviously I enjoyed doing the drawings more than anything else, for the same reason. Although they illustrated a specific story, they were also a personal expression of what was happening for real in my life. I always imagined myself and my friends in the pictures… each one came alive while I was doing it… well, usually it did. If it didn’t then it wasn’t much good!
JR: I wonder if we could talk a little about how the magazine was put together. How long did it take to prepare each issue and how ‘hands-on’ were you with regard to the photography, fiction etc?
PM: Oh, I was very ‘hands-on!’ St.John organized the shoot but I frequently came along to help him direct the storyline. The photos would then be sent to me and I would choose the ones I wanted to use. A pile of manuscripts had to be read and I would select the ones that appealed and forward them to our designer to type up. I wasn’t very computer literate in those days… just about managed to type my column but couldn’t do the clever stuff with design programmes. I would get copies of the text and lay it out with the photos and drawings… did a quick paste-up job and then sent it all back to the designer to finalize and send to the printer. An important part was editing and doing last minute corrections. The printer was a very nice, friendly fellow. He often used to drop the latest issue in to me, hot off the press, so we could look through it together.
JR: I counted 13 original pieces of artwork in just one issue of Februs – how long would it take you to produce this content?
PM: The magazine came out every two months and I remember feeling very pressurized to get it done. We were only a small team, you see. It was great to see it in print – when it all looked good, that is. When something was wrong – like a drawing not printed properly, or an error of some sort… I was usually infuriated and a bit obsessed about it for a while. Yes, I did work hard on the drawings for each issue. I wanted it to be the best we could make it and stand out from the rest.
Will Scarlet’s interview was usually genuine, believe it or not, although there were times when girls decided to disguise themselves. He used to be in touch with me all the time discussing his ideas, but I must admit that I worried about the whole concept of him spanking each girl he interviewed. One of those days I feared he would get into trouble. I’m glad to say he didn’t. Well, he was such a fun person to be with and had a lovely sense of humour. I’m sure no one ever felt threatened by him.
I remember in the early days we tried various photographers and St.John managed to find some wonderfully photogenic models… some of them were good actresses too. Later on we decided to ask Vic to help us with his expertise, which he did. His photos were excellent. He had the ability to find just the right angle for a bottom, to light it and show off its plumpness to perfection! But in later editions of Februs it became more and more difficult to find models who resembled normal girls with some individuality… and normal bushy pubic hair. All the models seemed to have become homogenized with the same glamorous blond hair and Brazilian wax.
JR: What was the funniest thing that occurred during your time on the magazines?
PM: Hm… it all seems amusing to me now… particularly the way I strove to get myself into the most extreme and uncomfortable positions for my readers. What a driven person I was in those days.
JR: What do you miss most about your time working on Janus and Februs?
PM: Miss? I don’t miss any of it now. When the time came to call it a day it was just the right thing to happen. I had been thinking, breathing, experiencing, writing and drawing CP for many years and it was time to say goodbye to it.
JR: It’s 11 years since Februs ceased publication. The era of spanking magazines has given way to online content and forums. What do you think have been the most significant changes the Internet has brought about for the spanking community?
PM: The reason for Februs’ demise was exactly as you have just suggested. In a word – Internet! People could find whatever they wanted, for nothing and they didn’t even have to go into a shop to ask for it. One person could buy a copy of a magazine and then post it up for all his friends! Why should they pay for it? Everyone wants things for nothing nowadays, whether it is music or images – they think they have a right to it, but this attitude is very short sighted. If the Janus publisher had not paid us in the first place to do that work, it would not have been done. Who is going to pay for the creations of the future?
That is just a general observation from my own point of view. As regards the spanking community, I cannot really comment because I have not been part of it for some time. I think any sort of interactive site carries its own risks, but may also open up avenues and prevent people feeling cut off and isolated. We can all make contact so quickly nowadays and build up huge networks in a jiffy. That’s rather daunting.
JR: Do you think Februs was ahead of its time? How do you think it would be received today?
PM: I would guess that Februs was in the forefront of something that was coming. I was just one of many women who were beginning to explore and talk about sexuality, CP and otherwise. Men could not properly be themselves until we did. I think, on the whole, women are more honest then men, now that they are out of the closet at last. It was time for this new freedom to happen.
Interest in erotic CP has been with us a long time but it changes its emphasis. In earlier times when women had an obligation to obey their husbands I can’t imagine them getting much pleasure from fantasizing about being dominated. In the 70s and 80s, many men were getting uneasy with the way females were beginning to gain confidence and this led to interesting power struggles that come out in sex play.
Nowadays young couples enter relationships with the expectation of being equals, and if they desire to explore CP together it is for the sake of extending the parameters of their relationship and getting to know each other more thoroughly. This is a healthy thing. Februs was all for this, but I am not sure that all its readers approved. I remember a few letters from members of the old school who expressed the view that some of our female authors were getting a bit too uppity for their liking! When it comes to the submissive dictating her own punishment, then that is going too far!
JR: Quite right too! Now Paula, you appeared in many issues of Janus and Februs but you only starred in a couple of spanking films. Do you have any classics hidden away in your loft that you might be tempted to release one day?! Was there any reason why you didn’t appear in more spanking films?
PM: Yes, there was! The two I did were quite enough to convince me that this was not the direction for me. In both cases I was hit much too hard and quite indiscriminately by actors who hadn’t a clue what they were doing. I know they didn’t mean to hurt me – they just lacked the skill and understanding… but why on earth would anyone in their right mind volunteer for more of that?
JR: Yes, I see. I’m guessing you never enjoyed watching those films?
PM: No, I didn’t want to watch them… but I think a lot of girls would say the same – if they’ve had experiences with people they didn’t trust.
JR: Let’s leave that behind now. Tell us about your career since Februs came to an end.
PM: I did a lot of work in France, when Februs was still going, and some of my strip cartoons are still being reissued today, by a publisher in Paris called La Musardine. For the last few years I have mainly been doing commissions for private collectors, so none of that will show up in books or magazines, unfortunately.
Have to admit, after my husband died I have been taking things at a more leisurely pace… still inspired by sensual erotic subjects, of course, and the female bottom still features in a lot of my work – but not bottoms bent over covered in stripes! Visitors to my website will see that I have also been exploring the spiritual meanings of Tarot and designing a new deck, which of course is highly erotic. How could it not be?
A few years ago an American man emailed me to find out how I was doing. He knew of me only as someone who had worked in ‘porn’ (a word I detest). After receiving my positive reply, he said, ‘Paula, I am so pleased to know that there is life after porn!’ This shocked me – he had been assuming that because I had entered this dangerous and corrupt way of life, I must necessarily be suffering from drug overdoses, attempted suicide and goodness knows what else. The fact that I was drifting happily towards my sixties, still living with the same man after 30 years, never having taken a drug in my life, seemed quite astonishing to him!
It’s true, though, that there are many casualties of the porn industry, many women – and some men! – who feel undervalued and desired only for their bodies. This is why so many of them go off to look after animals, or work for charities protecting animals. I suppose I too have felt the need to go off in a different direction since Februs came to an end. I decided that, from now on, I wanted to protect my body from any more painful whippings and canings, because it really had had enough over the years. It was time to find out why I had so passionately looked for those experiences. It’s been an interesting journey and these days my interests take me more towards the healing arts.
JR: It sounds like you’ve been doing quite a bit of reflecting?
PM: Yes, I have. I’ve been doing some writing too, trying to make sense of all my adventures… but I doubt that any of it is suitable for publication – far too personal and analytical, not written for titillation at all.
JR: Paula I think it would be fair to describe your contribution to the CP scene as a model, illustrator and editor as immense. I know this part of your life has come to a close but on behalf of the many people who continue to appreciate and enjoy your work, thank you for all you have done and for giving up your time to do this interview.
PM: Oh, that’s very kind of you, Jon. Actually…I have to admit that when you suggested interviewing me I imagined it would be difficult going back over all this, but in fact it wasn’t. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you. It’s made me realize how fortunate I have been. That whole period working for Janus allowed me the rare chance to safely experience what I wanted to experience. The work gave me the opportunity to extend myself and really delve in deep to find out about the CP world – a world that had been completely hidden before… and it allowed me to be an editor and develop my writing and my art in complete freedom. I can’t imagine having the chance to do that anywhere else.
And that seems like a good note to end on. These are probably my last words as Paula Meadows – she is now consigned to history! Come to think of it, she was first ‘invented’ in 1980, for that infamous video I made. I used the name Paula because that is my second name… and I still answer to that today, but I don’t think of myself as Paula Meadows any more.
JR: For the last time then, Paula Meadows, thank you very much. We wish you well.
The Artist Formerly Known As Paula Meadows
Paula illustrated every issue of Fessée and Februs and appeared as a model in Janus 13, Janus 21, Janus 29 and Janus 38. She also modelled in Februs 18, Februs 22 and Februs 25. A Janus Collection celebrating her favourite illustrations for the magazine is also available along with Encore Janus 9 which brings together all the surviving images from Paula’s appearances in Janus. All these magazines can be downloaded by clicking on the highlighted links.