[TW: Sexual assault, rape, drugs, and other stuff that isn’t pretty.]
Lately, I’ve been finding a lot of blogs that follow me or reblog my posts that seem to think that either STRIPPING IS SO FUCKING COOL!~!~! or THE BLOGGER **CAN’T WAIT** TO BE A STRIPPER WHEN SHE TURNS 18~!!!! I’ve been finding a lot of the same stuff under the “stripper” tag.
Here’s the deal, kids — and I call you kids, because you are, mostly, under the age of majority — stripping is not just a glamorous, money-filled free-for-all void of responsibility and Other Things Teenagers Hate. Stripping is not an “easy job,” nor is it “easy money.” Stripping isn’t always the best path to getting what you want from life.
It’s offensive to me when you say that all you want is to grow up to be a stripper. I love stripping and I’m fiercely protective of most of my coworkers and my choice to dance, but now that I’ve been in this awhile, I see both sides of the coin. I see the inside of the rabbit hole that dancing is.
Before I get into the rabbit hole, I am going to say this (and bold it, because it’s important, you see): I choose to dance, I value the benefits it gives me, and I have high job satisfaction. But I am not discussing the perks and glitter and pretty things about the job in this post. I’m talking about all the shit you haven’t fucking thought of, kids. The things I’m including here may or may not have happened to me, or may or may not be my own experience, but having sat in the dressing room for awhile now, I’ve seen and heard a lot that was added to this post.
Stripping isn’t forever. You want to dance, but have you figured out what the fuck you’re going to do when you get your first wrinkle, break your foot, or you get knocked up? And even if you have a plan, you’re still too young yet to understand that even the best laid plans can fail or force you into making shitty decisions. “I’ll buy health insurance!,” you say (because you now know that the job doesn’t come with that benefit). But what happens if you catch swine flu before you can really get on your feet with the money you’re making? These things happen all the time to dancers — especially new dancers (that actually happened to me, and set me back weeks of hard work).
Have you realized that you must, while dancing, lay a plan for what you’ll do later? This includes going to (and paying for) college or trade school or certification program, because any relevant work experience you would have had, you’ll being trying to hide by the time you’re done dancing (unless the world drastically changes its attitude towards sex workers).
Have you considered what you’ll tell your family and close friends, who may surprise you (or not) with their emphatic and relentless disapproval? “Fuck off and deal with it,” usually doesn’t cut it. Mommies and daddies may cry and tell you that they never want to see you again. Your friends will gossip about you behind your back. Old classmates might show up to see you dance. If you think it’s going to stay a secret, I suggest you dance far, far away from where you live and pray to imaginary fairies and knock on wood that it stays that way.
Speaking of which, you WILL run into people that you know, unless you move several states away and never leave your house/apartment. You are no exception to this rule, even if you don’t think you know anyone who goes to strip clubs. Your old teachers, friends’ parents, weird uncle, childhood babysitter — yeah, they might find out while you’re butt ass naked on stage under a spotlight. I guarantee that if you dance long enough, this will happen.
And by being naked, I mean, in whatever state of undress your club demands. Yes, demands. Most will require you to strip down to whatever they advertise. Full nude? Yes, you will be fully nude. You’re okay with nudity, you say? My guess is, you haven’t been spread-eagle in front of a crowd of 100-1000+ people before. Re-evaluate. Sounds like fun? Don’t let me stop you. Don’t forget about that fucked up scar you have or working on your period or how one of your tits is smaller than the other or the extra ten pounds you’re carrying or your tan-lines or the stupid heart/butterfly/lucky clover/dolphin/etc tattoo that will be one of the first Very Bad Ideas you have when you turn 18.
Speaking of bodies: remember how I said this wasn’t an “easy job” for “easy money?” You love to post a bazillion pictures of stilettos you’ve never worn, and I sigh, every. fucking. time. I see you do this. You’ve probably worn a cutie pair of 2” heels to a wedding or for prom, a few times. Maybe you dared to wear a 3” pair once and felt like a total badass. The thing about wearing 7” heels for days on end is, it hurts. You have no idea. You have no idea that they pinch your toes and give you weird callouses and “claw foot.” You have no idea that they force your posture to be unnatural, causing back pain. You have baby-bird calves and have no idea how to balance on stilts — and you have no idea how much, physically, dancing will require of you.
This isn’t a fun night out, “clubbing.” It’s work. It’s hard fucking work. And while you’re working, everyone in the room is going to be trying to fuck you, whether literally or metaphorically. There’s no “sexual harassment” HR department in strip clubs. Get fucked out of money? Well, you shouldn’t have stacked your dances, they’ll say. Girls are being mean to you? Quit being a crybaby, they’ll say. This is not a Polite Office Job with HR and Concerned Managers. Get tired of being asked over and over and over by customers whether you’ll give a blowjob or fuck them? Too bad. There’s a dozen more that will ask you in the next hour. Every day that you work.
And if you won’t do it, someone will, taking the money. What are you going to do about it? Don’t like the rules? Want to fight for what’s fair in the club? Go fuck yourself and get back to work, because chances are, no one’s listening and no one cares. Status quo, and all.
How much time and money are you willing to spend on your body? Between acrylic nails, dying and cutting and styling your hair, buying and applying a literal fuckton of makeup, working out at the gym and trying not to gain weight and simultaneously trying not to lose your tits, trying on and buying and putting on new outfits and accessories and shoes for work (from specialty stores that may be difficult to locate), spray-tanning or cooking in a tanning bed, covering up or finding ways to erase skin imperfections, trying to avoid tan-lines when you go anywhere outdoors, shaving literally half your body on a daily basis, maybe undergoing elective surgery for fake tits, doctor’s appointments for and remembering to take/use your birth control so you don’t get knocked up and fired from the job you think is SOOOOOO KEWL…you’ll be a little busy, don’t you think? Don’t forget — you not only have to pay for all of these things out of pocket (no health insurance, no employer-provided work supplies), but you also don’t get paid for the time you spend doing them. They’re just a part of the job. And that’s before the therapeutic stuff, like massages for those aching muscles that never heal or quit hurting.
Oh. It sounds like work now?
That’s before work, kiddos.
When you get to work, you’ll probably work nights. Need to schedule a doctor’s appointment? Ha. You get off work in the middle of the night. Hope you wake up in time, or can find a late enough appointment! Want to hang out with a daydwelling friend? Good luck. They go to bed when you’re most awake, and you’ll be working most weekends.
Dancing sounds so sexy, doesn’t it? Writhing all over men — the cute ones, of course — maybe letting out a breathy little noise here and there, using your body, grinding on dicks? Just the cute ones, though (yeah, I’ve actually seen a Tumblr user who thinks she’s just going to dance for the “cute” ones). Until you realize that the majority of your customers are overweight/obese, or your grandpa’s age, or they smell like shit and day-three socks and swampy balls, or they have nasty dirty hands that they rub all over you, or are so drunk they think boobs are funny, or maybe they spill beer all over you (but you LOVE doing that pre-work routine twice, don’t you?), or tell you fucked up stories, or keep talking about their adolescent daughter/granddaughter, or try to slobber all over you, or tell you they don’t like you because you have saggy tits or that weird fucking tattoo you mistakenly got when you were 18. After all of this, once in awhile, a few will refuse to pay you, and everyone will have a good laugh over the old “sexual assault or theft?” joke that isn’t funny and makes you cry. Still sound sexy?
And they’ll all ask you, day in and day out: What’s your REAL NAME? Can I have your phone number? What ELSE do you do? What’s your REAL NAME? What’s your REAL NAME? Give me a blowjob. What’s your REAL NAME? Come to my hotel room. What’s your REAL NAME? Can I have your number? It all blends together after awhile.
Speaking of sexual assault — it’s an on-the-job occurrence. By most people’s definitions, nightly. Nightly, people will grab you and touch you in ways that you aren’t comfortable with, but since it’s only a boob-grab and you smacked him for it, it wasn’t a big deal. Not really even worth bringing to the attention of lazy security. Now, rape, that’s a thing. I mean, where I work, it doesn’t happen that often, but it’s a possibility. Being pinned to the booth and fingered and screaming? Maybe no one can hear you over the bass, maybe your coworker doesn’t want to jeopardize her money to help you. Usually, they’ll kick the guy out after that, but most clubs don’t want cops hanging around. And before they kick him out, they might not remember to get your money for you. And, wait, what was that? You have to go on stage in one minute?
So then you learn to punch guys and break their hands and stomp on their balls and feel quite confident doing so, right? You’re sick of the little assaults. You’re scared of the big assaults. You can do something about it. But then management scolds you for it. Let security deal with it. You can’t just run around hitting people, you know.
Oh! And drugs and drinking. Clubs will sometimes give you incentives to drink, customers will insist you take a beer. Pretty soon a 12-pack and a half-dozen shots is no big deal. Except, then you’re doing it in your off time. Or, you had a bump one night, no big deal. And then it was only Saturdays. And then it was only every night you worked. And then it was every night, oh fuck, and lots of the girls around you are doing coke or meth or pills or heroin, so why not. Or let’s say, like me, you don’t do drugs and you only drink once in a while (there are girls that don’t/won’t, yes); how will you feel when you keep watching the same fucking thing happen to girls you like? When you have to sit back and watch people destroy themselves, because there’s nothing you can do about it?
But you, you’re a special snowflake. You’re only going to dance for a month or a year, or only going to dance while you’re in college. Yeah, *snort.* We were all there once. Go ahead and buy health insurance and sign the contract for the gym membership. You’ll need them.
This is why you offend me when you say that stripping is so KEWL. You have no idea what goes on there (you’re not even old enough to go, and this ain’t Pretty fuckin’ Woman), and you have yet to accept the harsher realities of the job. I’m asking you to consider your options and your future carefully before you decide that dancing is for you, and to not turn my job into a pretty, glittered little thing without knowing the whole story.