“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.