Recently, someone asked me why I started writing.
While being a writer was always a dream of mine, it didn’t feel like an attainable goal. More like the silly pipe dream of a nerdy seventh-grader.
But after I started dancing, the idea of writing a memoir began to lurk in the shadows of my mind.
Telling a stripper anecdote at a party (an adult party, of course), usually leads to someone saying, “Hey you should write a book.“
But after working tirelessly to convince people that I wasn’t a loser or a drug addict, or my personal favorite—a complete airhead—I started to get annoyed. The more annoyed I became, the more I noticed the unrelenting negative stereotypes in the media. Annoyance morphed into anger.
So rather than stew in it, I started writing. I wanted to tell my story, which largely contradicts most of what is portrayed on TV and in movies.
I have a happy marriage. I wasn’t abused as a child or adult, and barely drank let alone abused drugs, beyond the occasional party every now and then.
And unlike some, I found stripping to be empowering and mostly lucrative.
Stripping and other forms of adult entertainment have the very real potential to be exploitive and harmful. There are times that you can feel unappreciated, undervalued, and even underpaid. Exactly like every other job, just a little more naked.
But the stigmas and stereotypes that surround it can be unfair.
The women, who were working their way through college and didn’t drink or do drugs, or otherwise lived completely happy and normal lives, weren’t making it into the media narrative about my job. And can you really blame them? It’s definitely not something they’re in a hurry to put on their resumes. It’s certainly not on mine. The general reaction to such a revelation is unlikely to be positive.
The portrayal of the staff, customers, and entertainers in the media is biased and one-sided. I felt like I had the chance to set the record straight. Not just for myself, but for the many other current and former dancers as well as staff and customers who have had experiences like mine. Because there are a lot of us.
And the men? Let’s talk about them for a moment.
Recently, I caught up with a friend and manager at the last club I worked for. And he talked about how often he was judged for simply working at the club.
Shortly before I quit in 2019, a customer I danced for was unable to come up with the last of the money he owed me. He was being deployed the next day but promised he would come back to pay me when he had the chance. I was skeptical, to say the least, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it.
Many months later, I get a text from my old manager saying that a serviceman had come in to pay what he owed. The manager held the money so that I could get it from him. Had he not texted me, I would have never known. Ever.
As a cash business, especially one that operates on the fringe of polite society, it invites and practically begs for financial improprieties. That’s one of the things that can make it dangerous. As with all businesses that operate this way, unsavory people use it to their illicit advantages. So, my manager could have easily pocketed my money, but he didn’t.
Here’s the thing, he doesn’t deserve to be stigmatized either. But who will speak up for a supposedly sleazy strip club manager?
And he simply isn’t an anomaly. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of awful people that linger in and around strip clubs. But the very stigmas and stereotypes that exist only encourage them.
The persistent conflation between stripping and prostitution doesn’t help either, and provides a convenient excuse for religious groups to use strippers as pawns in their proselyting and fundraising.
Just as I’ve witnessed bad and unethical behavior, I’ve also witnessed how people who are largely stigmatized come together for each other. I’ve seen staff at the strip club donate goods and money multiple times for various humanitarian causes as well as help each other.
At the end of the day, we are all human. That humanity doesn’t cease to exist simply because you work in an industry that is outside the mainstream.
Ultimately, I hope that by sharing my story and experiences, I can begin to change the narrative around the profession. Not so much to glamorize it, because it can suck and has to some extent earned its reputation. But to humanize it, and those who choose to work in it.