- Anti-Porn and Anti-Prostitution Writer, Speaker, and Activist. AntiPornography.org Volunteer
A young woman in need of earning money thinks to herself: "OK. So porn is a bad idea. But what about working in a strip club? I could just do it for a few months, make enough to pay for school, or my debts or whatever, and then quit. It's just dancing, no sex. And it's empowering! Men will be giving their money to me for practically nothing!"
Yeah, I've heard this many times before. All of these statements are misguided assumptions that many women make when they decide to strip. I made the same assumptions, and started "dancing" at 18. I thought I was going to make hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a night with little effort, and finally get the power over men that I had always craved. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Let's start with one of the most common statements that I've heard throughout the years -- that women just want to work at a club for "a few months," just make some money, and then quit.
Guess what? Every woman I know that only intended on being there for a few months ended up working in strip clubs for years. One of my very first roommates was only going to strip for six months to pay off some credit card debt. Three years later, she was still doing it. Another one of my roommates was just going to waitress in a club for a little while to pay off school. Then she decided to do topless dancing to make money faster. As far as I know, she is now dancing at a fully nude bar and quit school years ago.
It's never "just a few months." Stripping is like a trap. It gets women used to a certain type of lifestyle and makes it extremely hard to go back to a regular 9 to 5 job. Women get used to the money quickly and spend more than they save. The money can be really up and down too. One night you could leave with $500, the next night you might leave owing the club money for house fees. Yup, you have to PAY to work at these places! That was a rude awakening to me when I first started.
I remember when I first started stripping. I ran into a woman that I used to work with at a grocery store. She gave me a sad look and said, "Don't get stuck!" I had no idea what she meant back then. Now I understand. I did get stuck. I got stuck for about 5 years!
Another assumption: "It's just dancing, no touching and no sex!" Many times, that is simply not true. These days, if you want to make money, you have to allow touching at the very least. The myth of the "dancer" that just flirts and smiles on stage and makes thousands of dollars is just that -- a myth!
Clubs will say that they have a "no touching" or "no sex" policy, but most of the time that's not how it works. The club only says that because they legally have to. In reality, the majority of these clubs don't care about what the strippers do, as long as they don't get busted by an undercover officer. And by the way, if a woman does get busted, it's HER that gets in trouble, not the club. She gets humiliated, acquires a police record, and gets fired. The club continues on as usual. All they want is the house fees and tips from the women that work there. They don't care at all about the women's well-being.
And what about sex at strip clubs? I honestly can't think of any woman I know that worked at a strip club that has never had sex either in the club or outside of the club for money. Not one. Even the best "hustlers" that could make any man give them money still engaged in prostitution. Even when I worked at a supposedly "clean" bikini bar, the women regularly gave their phone numbers to customers and met them outside of the club for paid sex. That was the only way to keep consistent money coming in. Many times, the sex or sex acts go on right inside of the club. In some clubs, it was so bad that I could not get a "customer" to go to the VIP room with me unless I promised to do something sexual with him.
You could be the most gorgeous woman in the world, and the fact is is that most men are going to expect more then just stripping or lap dancing in a $500 per hour VIP room. Why do you think so many clubs have private VIP areas? It's not just to talk and drink.
Even the women that avoid selling sex still have to put up with being sexually assaulted on a nightly basis. I've seen so many women come into the dressing room who were disgusted because a man they just did a lap dance for ejaculated, licked them, or tried to stick his fingers inside of them. The dressing room was constantly full of women complaining about how annoying and gross the men were. We all bonded over how much we hated the so-called "customers."
Of course, the men had no idea. Many of them thought that they "weren't like the other guys." Well guess what? To us (the "dancers"), they were all the same. Some more annoying than others, some nicer than others, some spent more money on us than others... but ultimately they were all just irritating guys we had to deal with to make money.
Many women I knew started dating other women because the club had ruined their image of men. After stripping for awhile, it's hard to look at men with respect. All you see is the negative side of them. I didn't date men at all for most of my stripping "career," because I was just so sick of them.
The money, by the way, is not always great either. Every ex-stripper I know now has no money to show for the years of working in clubs. When I finally left working in strip clubs, there were women selling sex acts for as little as $50. The lack of customers and surplus of women working in the clubs made it so competitive that women were doing whatever they could to get the men to spend.
Maybe in the 80's and 90's women were making unreal amounts of money stripping, but that's not the case anymore. Any money you do make is not easy money. It comes with a huge emotional tax.
There are plenty more negative aspects to stripping, but I will save them for future articles. I truly hope that what I've shared opens some eyes and lets both the men that patronize these clubs, and the women that want to work in them, see what they're really all about. Stripping is not fun, easy or harmless. It's emotionally draining. And just like porn, it's not worth it.
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Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexualitytakes an unflinching look at today’s porn industry: the stories woven into the images, the impact on our culture, the effects on us as men and women, the business machine that creates and markets porn, and the growing legitimacy of porn in mainstream media. Above all, PORNLAND examines the way porn shapes and limits sexual imaginations and behaviors.
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