“I can sell my body if I wanna, God knows you already sold your mind.”
Thus sang Kathleen Hanna, a former stripper and member of band Bikini Kill. That’s the truth of it really; we all sell ourselves.
Some people sell their intellect to publishing companies, others give up their time for an hourly wage, and some people sell their bodies. The difference between stripping and other professions is that the dancers know they’re being exploited, and the man in the cubicle deludes himself into thinking he’s not.
Yet a stereotype persists in the media: stripping is an industry of underage, drugged up, sexually abused girls working in a brothel with semen covered walls and in desperate need of rescuing. Society assumes these are “fallen” women who have no other options or are not capable/smart enough to get a real job.
I decided to investigate this claim. I went to the strip club.
This will be disappointing to some moralists, but stripping is a real job. In fact, it’s one of the few professions where women actually make more money than men.
Some women prefer to be called dancers because of the negative association with the word stripper. There are varying personalities, looks, sexual preferences and body types among dancers. The patrons range in gender and sexuality, as well as age and wage. I first noticed the overwhelming confidence exuding from the performers, and then I noticed their heels. They are much braver than I. You couldn’t get me to sit-down in 7 inch heels, let alone dance in them!
I watched girls hike up 15 foot poles, doing ballet and aerial acrobatic moves, and then plunge towards the floor only to stop at the last moment and writhe seamlessly back onto the floor. These women are fit and their job is to entertain. The upper body strength alone was fascinating. Some dancers only work the stage and others the private rooms. Sometimes they can leave with over $600 a night. One dancer told me she works only twice a week to pay her months bills.
There are bad clubs, where managers will look the other way for a few hundred dollars from a patron, but not all are like that. The one I visited, PT’s in Portland, was very girl friendly. I have seen more ass-grabbing and sexual assault or harassment around the Old Port.
The dancers I talked with were self-confident and loved their jobs. These are intelligent women who choose to strip. People get into the business for many reasons, and some of these girls use this as a platform to move on into other careers.
On the web, I’ve found quite a few blogs by women in the business. Ashlynn Bast of St. Louis, Missouri is one such feminist stripper who keeps a tumblr.
“I think my favorite part is being able to say that my job is to make people happy,” says Bast. “When I do my job well, customers and I both leave feeling good about ourselves. I think that’s a pretty amazing gig to have.”
Brittany Goldych is a sophomore history major.
Bonus — Some unofficial rules of the strip club
- A dollar bill is not an “All Access Pass” to grope. Read the dancer for consent and some idea as to where to place your money.
- Your stripper is not your girlfriend. Dancing is evanescent entertainment, strictly business. They don’t actually like you or want to date you. Don’t plan on falling in love with a dancer. Flirt, tip, have a great time and leave — at which time the ‘relationship’ is over.
- There is nothing more irritating than non-tipping schmucks who expect a free dance. This is their job. You wouldn’t walk into a restaurant and expect food based on your charm.
- All of the above is gender-neutral. These rules apply to all. Just because you are a woman doesn’t mean you have a right to molest a dancer. It isn’t your show, and its not cute or acceptable.
Uh, I think you’re missing the point…women being sexual objectified. Making that work for you isn’t “feminist.” And also, on a separate point, the term feminism is sexist and defeats its own purpose of sexual equality.
Great article, though. I just want the sun, moon, and stars from everything I read. I know this isn’t a 20 page article on the matter…I am stuck in scholar mode. My apologies if it seemed I was hating on your article. I enjoyed it.
Actually stripping can be feminist if it’s done as a conscious means of sexual liberation. If it’s done because it’s the only way a woman (or man, or whoever else) can afford to pay their bills, then that is not feminist as much as unfortunate. And when that is the case, there is oppression at work in many other ways, such as women are statistically more likely to be living under the poverty line, often as single mothers, and even as single mothers who did not have society’s support to choose to NOT have a baby. But that is another issue. I’ve talked to some strippers who love the experience and use it to gain their own sexual power, and other strippers who have to get drunk before work because they hate it so much, but don’t have the access to education that would lead them to better career choices. Also, sex workers in general have hardly any rights and hardly any political support, and there is nothing feminist about that.
And to “Derp”… the fact that the term “feminism” sounds sexist to you tells me that you don’t know much about women’s history and probably shouldn’t be talking about things you don’t know about.
I totally agree with you Taryn. It sickens me to constantly hear people praising the wonders of stripping. What is “sexual power”? Is it “choosing” to take your clothes off for money? Or creating new and creative ways of expressing your sexuality outside of the narrow and confining box of catering to male desire.
Isn’t of attacking me for being ignorant (which I largely am on the subject of feminism and its history)…why not point me in the right direction? Would an introductory WGS course be of order? Everyone should probably take one actually. This article brings a different perspective than usually explored. The stereotype is often true, like you said. I don’t know statistics on the matter, but I don’t doubt that they are depressing. I actually agree with you. The name “Derp” was just used instead of anonymous, I’m sorry it’s so stupid. I hate using my actual name. It’s what I say when I am frustrated. :/ It was meant more as a subject of some sort. Sorry. The only feminism I hear about is people hating on it (and me getting mad at them) or it being used to model respectful behavior in research. But honestly can any of you recommend the best course to take?
Oops, it won’t let me change my name to Frustrated so I am stuck with this embarrassingly stupid one. Mistake learned from. I am not saying feminism is sexist I was talking about the term. A better term by far would be gendered. But our society ties them both together (sex and gender) and the latter term doesn’t get across the bias of the root for me. Or maybe it does and I don’t know it? I was told feminism is about equality, and women gaining that equality. I always thought it was funny, curious that the term wasn’t about that equality. But of course it makes sense considering the equality hasn’t happened, I guess? I’m just so lost on this subject, I always feel like I am out of the loop. Again sorry for the stupid Derp thing. I just am so frustrated and I like brushing it off by being like Liz Lemon. Okay, I’ll stop writing now. :/ I’m just so afraid to actually go to a woman and gender studies course because as you can tell I’m not a good feminist at all. It’s embarrassing to get so ashamed about it.
Any course in Women and Gender studies is excellent and will blow your mind. We have a fantastic department. Does anyone really think that stripping is great? I think deep down even the strippers that were interviewed would admit to hating their jobs. They just have to convince themselves that they are happy and in control of their decision to strip.
Thank you very much, Drivemehomenow.
I’ve already taken an EYE course, so I will have to take Intro to Women and Gender Studies to start. I have wanted to take Women, Knowledge and Power, ever since an amazing English teacher my freshman year recommended it to us. I’ve always been so afraid to actually go and do it. I signed up for the Intro class this semester but switched out of it. I got so nervous. I guess it just seems like its so much to take on your shoulders and try to deal with for yourself, let alone others.
It’s like I know it’s going to open up Pandora’s box. (What a perfect myth to reference, huh?)
I’m not upset with you in any way Derp. I am just angry at this column. I think it was written with haste and totally overlooking true feminist structural analysis. Embracing sex work and claiming it is “sexual liberation” is akin to declaring that the Spice Girls are legitimate feminists.
I had a student at USM tell me that feminists are women who want to be men. Ridiculous, right? My knowledge may be lacking and I must have a million misconceptions about feminism because of it, but at least I know what she said was ridiculous. But she believed it and so did most people in the room! This was on campus!
Just because Kathleen Hanna thinks its ok does NOT make it cool, or immediately feminist! I am deeply offended that stripping is touted as “liberation” or something other than the capitalist exploitation of the human body. The reason we should rail against stripping is not for all of the feminist critiques of the exploitation of women, it is the exploitation of the human body for profit. It is dehumanizing and the majority of strippers are poor and uneducated women with no other recourse for gaining a wage than by writhing around naked so that men will give them money. YUCK!!!!! It should not be a source of pride that a stripper is the only job where a woman makes more money than a man! It should be a source of SHAME for our society! This column is embarrassing!
I detest anyone writing an article about strippers when they’ve never stripped themselves. This article is a big lie. Coming from a stripper who knows it is an industry that should and will be abolished!
Yay ‘drivemehomenow’ – finally – some words of wisdom! These yo yo women think that it’s OK to act and be a slut…. NOT! Pole dancing does NOT ‘liberate’ women – it further sinks them into that horrible void of slut-dom.
maybe we ought to stop slut shaming in order to realize that every woman has the right to choose what she wants to do.
“I-I’m smart! I j-just choose to sell my body because it’s liberating!”