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This blog contains NUDITY, discussion of SEX and SEXUALITY, discussion of VIOLENCE (including sexual violence), discussion of DRUGS, discussion of EATING DISORDERS (including behaviors and thoughts), and discussion of ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES (including prostitution and drug use).

People on Sniffers' Row

 I continue to get at least two questions per week about whether or not a specific person should dance. I don’t have the time to give each one of you thoughtful answers. Thoughtfully written answers to questions often take me quite a bit of time.

I’m happy you’re asking for input, which shows you’re already off to an excellent start in making an informed decision. And I’m appreciative that you think enough of me, to ask me, specifically.

But since I can’t answer every one of the questions presented to me, I’m going to condense the advice I’ve given to others here. This is a good place to start, but it’s by no means complete. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, feel free to ask. And ask as many questions, of as many people you can, as it takes for you to feel like you’re making a well-informed decision.

Here goes.

Right off the bat, we need to get one thing straightened out. I am not a crystal ball, I haven’t worked in every club, and I’m not entirely sure I’m qualified to give more than the most general advice.

·         Every single club is different. I can’t give you specific advice. I can’t tell you exactly what is going to be required of you at the club in order to start dancing. This means, I can’t tell you whether an audition is required, whether you’ll be required to be seen naked first, whether you’ll have to fill out an application or simply verbally interview, how many songs you’ll dance to, what you’ll be required to wear and/or take off, what your schedule (or lack thereof) will be like, or what height/weight is acceptable for any given club. I simply don’t know. Every club has it’s own set of hiring policies.

That said, you’ve probably given this at least a moment’s thought. You’ve probably been wondering whether you can really strip, whether you really want to, and whether you really have to strip in order to make ends meet.

·         This is not a decision that you should enter into lightly. Allow yourself a few days (or more) to consider the different aspects of the job and how it will affect your personal life. Are you willing (and mentally prepared) to give private dances? If you have a boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/etc, how will this affect your relationship? If/When your family finds out, what will happen? Are you willing to be naked, or nearly so, in front of large crowds? Are you willing to spend lots of time outside of work taking care of yourself? Are you willing and able to work a physically demanding job? Are you willing to alter your sleep schedule (and the many other inconveniences that come with sleeping during the day)?

·         If someone is making you strip, or you feel forced into stripping by your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse, know that there is help, and that the decision is YOURS to make—not anyone elses. Read here and here.

·         Before you get started, you need to know more about the particular club(s) you’re considering. This is only a place to start with general information, and you still need more specific information. Visit the clubs you’re considering. It’s expensive to pay cover, but in the long run, it can be very unsettling to work in a place where you’re fully nude if you’re not willing to be, or to find out that the club doesn’t have many customers on weekends, and it could wind up costing you money (see below, for related information on house fees). You need to know just how much you’ll have to take off. Is the club bikini only (your top and bottoms stay on), topless (and is it required that you cover your nipples?), or fully nude (you remove your top and bottoms)? If you’re able, buy a private dance (usually around $20-40 for the most basic dance). Private dances (as well as some clubs’ VIP or Champagne Room) will become one way for you to earn money, and in some clubs, the majority or what you earn. What is the club’s policy on touch? Some clubs do not allow contact between dancers and customers; some allow only dancers to touch customers (but not the other way around), and some allow touch both ways. The policies on nudity and touch may very much affect your decision to work at that club.

·         If, somewhere in learning about stripping, you know it isn’t the right fit for you, that’s okay. It isn’t an easy job, and it isn’t a job for everyone. If you’re still unsure, try one night. You can leave right away if you decide you really don’t want to do it.

What does a stripper DO? (Read past the bolded part, because the juicy stuff isn’t in the first sentence.)

·         She spends time on stage. She’s on stage, lights flashing, music blaring, with a crowd of people expecting to see her dance, and expecting to see her take her clothes off. She’s dancing, which is a lot of work! She might be starting to sweat, her feet are crammed into her heels with her toes contorted and her foot flexed at an unhealthy angle, and she’s entertaining customers with moves that have been worked on and worked on and worked on over months (or years). She might be doing pole tricks, which take strength and balance to perform. She’s pausing here and there to pick up tips from customers and do “dollar dances” (which might be anything from putting her boobies in a customers face to shaking her butt to flashing her pussy, depending on the club and the tip!). She may be dancing for five minutes before getting off of the stage you’re watching, or she may be in front of you for twenty minutes. After she leaves that stage, she may go on to dance on yet another stage (some clubs have many stages, and dancers are expected to rotate through them). She may not always be dancing to “her” music, and she may not be dancing to music that she likes at the moment. She might make $5 in tips for one stage set, or $100, or anywhere in between.

·         She’s talking to customers. She’s talking to all kinds of people—young, old, fat, skinny, broke, wealthy, polite, douchebags, conservatives, liberals, construction workers, CEOs, engineers, housekeepers, golfers, fathers, sons, brothers, and even women. She’s talking about all kinds of things—the weather, a sports team or event, politics, local events, national news, international news, music, someone’s drinking problem, porn, someone’s child’s favorite stuffed animal, her own personal goals or a childhood memory, beer and liquor, favorite books or movies…[Recently, I’ve discussed (as a sample): goat farming, Alaskan tourism, card games, the smell of leather, taco pizza, the Civil War, gemology, and an upcoming lawnmower purchase. ] She’s trying to convince customers to buy drinks (if applicable—some places do not allow alcohol, or some only allow BYO beer). She’s trying to convince customers to buy private dances, or VIP dances, or access to a Champagne room—it’s definitely a “sales” position!

·         She’s probably dealing with douchebags on and off, all night. She’ll have to deal with people who have wasted her time, who are trying to touch her in ways that aren’t acceptable (or wanted!), who are drunk beyond recognizing their surroundings, who sometimes swear at her or make fun of her, who argue with her, who underpay her, who accidentally elbow her in the ribs, who push past her and knock her off balance…and that’s just the customers! She might also have to deal with some variety of ‘drama’ between the other girls—like theft, drug use, prostitution, who’s stealing regulars from whom, and other topics to fight over.

·         She’s doing private dances, going to a VIP room, or going elsewhere with customers for a little alone time. She’s convinced someone to buy the time to spend with her. It might be as simple as dancing in front of a customer, without touching. Or it could be topless, with the dancer occasionally grinding on a clothed customer. It could be a fully nude dance, in which the customer is allowed to (and the dancer may encourage customers to) touch her breasts and butt. It could be anywhere in between! The rules vary between clubs, in different cities, and in different states and countries. But nevertheless, the customers are always trying to talk her into more, and it’s getting annoying (but she’s still smiling, right?). She might have “man rash” from men’s scratchy faces on her chest, or be sore from grinding on someone in jeans for a half hour. She’s trying to make the experience sensual and sexy and flirty and fun.

If you’re thinking about stripping, you need to know that you’re likely to have to PAY to go to work (not get paid, like with most employers). This is something you will have to ask when you apply, audition, or interview.

·         Some clubs still pay their dancers a minimal wage on top of their tips, but most operate with dancers as independent contractors. The “house fee” for clubs is a fee paid from the dancer to the “house” (the club itself) in order for the dancer to work. It might be as low as $5 or be over $100. It might vary, depending on the day (with higher house fees on weekends), or it might be the same for each day.  It might even vary depending on the shift you work (night or day?) or what time you go into work (7pm might be different from 10pm). It might include the DJ and bouncer fees, or those might be separate and on top of what you’ve paid to the house. You may not have a house fee at all, but you still may not get paid in anything you haven’t gotten from the customers yourself. You might pay a portion of what you collect from selling dances to the house (ie: $5 from every $25 dance, which is specific to my club).

The club, the city, the state, and the country you are located in will have a set of rules about what kind of touch and attire is acceptable.

·         You still need to draw your own boundaries. If your club and location allow customers to touch you, but you have an aversion to being touched in the neck area (as my club does allow, and as I do have an aversion to this), then you need to set down the rules from day one, with all of your customers. Doing things that make you very, very uncomfortable or scared only makes you look uncomfortable (which doesn’t sell dances, anyway!),  and it only tortures your own psyche. You don’t need the money so badly that you have to break your own rules. There are other customers, and there will be other days, or there are other jobs that you can do and feel just as much control over your own body. I know many a dancer who won’t do X, Y, or Z that still make significantly more money than dancers who will do X, Y, or Z in the same club.

·         Attire is set by the club (as guided by laws). If it’s a topless club, they’ll expect you to be topless at some point. If it’s a fully nude club, they’ll expect you’ll be fully nude at some point. If you’re not comfortable with the level of attire that you’re required to strip to, I suggest not working for that particular club. You won’t get to “draw the line” at being topless and remain only in a bikini. Some clubs, as with mine, will “fine” you for refusing to strip down on stage. If I “forget” or refuse to do so, I get fined $25 for each occurrance. Some clubs will simply fire you for not understanding the requirements of the job. Be sure that you’re comfortable with whatever level of stripping down is required and that you understand fully (is a thong okay in a bikini club, or do the buttcheeks have to be covered?).

I can’t tell you how much you will make, because I don’t know. It varies widely.

·         Some dancers boast earnings of into the thousands per night. And some are happy to make a hundred in one night. It varies from dancer to dancer, and usually depends on their personalities, their looks, their conversational skills, andwhether they have many regulars. I know dancers who make over a  thousand nearly every time they work, and I know dancers who regularly make fifty bucks.

·         It varies from club to club, too. Some smaller or rural clubs have girls who make about a hundred bucks a night. Some larger, or more upscale, or more metropolitan clubs have girls who typically make well over a thousand in a night. Of the three clubs I’ve worked in personally, the “typical night” for a “typical dancer” was: (1) $80, (2) $200, and (3) $300-400.

·         Some clubs will allow you to make your own schedule, giving you the freedom to work when you need or want to be paid, and some will not. It’s another one of those questions to ask when interviewing/auditioning.

Check out some other stripper blogs and get a feel for what their clubs, job duties, and customers are like for them.

·         See Ava Adore’s list of Tumblr-hosted stripper blogs. That should keep you busy for awhile, ey?

·         Also check out some non-Tumblr stripper blogs: Tits And Sass, Story, Confessions of a Feminist Stripper, and Diary of an Angry Stripper.

So let’s pretend you’ve read through this whole page already, you’ve visited the clubs you’re interested in, you’ve picked one that you want to try to work at, you’ve read some more blogs, you’ve probably talked to a dancer somwhere along the line, you’ve discussed it with your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse, and you’ve really given it some thought. Now what?

·         Call the club, or visit in person, and ask about how to get a job. Some clubs hold amateur nights, some ask you to fill out an application, some states or localities require a license to dance,  some managers require a personal interview, and some require you to do a stage set or work a night before they make their decision. There are tons of different approaches that clubs use. Ask when you can apply (only on the last Friday of the month, during amateur night? Right now? Tomorrow at 2pm?), ask for the name of the person you need to talk to (is it John, the manager? Bob, the owner? “Bear”, the bouncer, when you show up for amateur night?), ask what you need to bring (for amateur night, you’ll need at least an outfit and shoes, whereas for an interview, you might just need to show up in nice street clothes), and ask what kind of ID to bring (just a driver’s license or state ID? Two forms of ID?)

A few notes on your first night:

  • I was asked for a list of what goes in my stripper bag, and here’s my answer. Your first night, at minimum, you need: an outfit, a pair of heels (usually, a pair of heels you last wore to a wedding is fine, but check with the club), an extra thong, makeup, and anything you need to keep your hair done as you like it. You don’t need all of the listed things at first (some of them are just creature-comforts and the ability to repair things quickly), but you should probably acquire a few outfits, a sturdy pair of platform shoes made for working in, a sizeable collection of makeup, your choice of painkiller, and baby wipes as soon as possible. At bare minimum. Dancing isn’t cheap—know that now.

·         Don’t expect the girls to be nice or helpful to you, but thank them and be polite when they do offer help. Girls are sometimes surprised to find out when they begin work that none of the girls will talk to them or help them. Remember that you are new competition, and not yet trustworthy. It takes time. Keep being polite, work hard, and stick with the rules of the club. Avoid stepping on toes, and when you inevitably do in those first awkward weeks, apologize sincerely and politely and then move on immediately. In time, you’ll find a few pals you can work comfortably with and talk to…but you’ll have to earn it.

·         Expect to feel confused about the rules. Not all girls obey all of the rules that were told to you, and you’ll see that from time to time. Stick with the rules that were given to you. In time, you’ll know whether the rules are firm or fluid, and what the true expectations are from you at the club.

·         A good dressing-room rule of thumb? Listen. That’s it. Listen. You’ll learn a lot from simply listening. And after you’ve listened and heard some questionable things? Keep your mouth closed. In the long run, you’ll earn trust. In the short run, you won’t have girls trying to chase you out of their club and make your life hell for being a “snitch.”

·         Expect to work on dancing. It’s not easy. Even with a background in dance or gymnastics or excessive clubbing, stripping isn’t like any kind of dancing you’ve done before. Give yourself time. If you can, go in a few minutes early or stay a few minutes late to try things you’re not sure about. The best advice given to me was “to take one move you like—just ONE, one that you think you can do—from every dancer that you see on stage, and try to work it into your set. In time, you’ll have your own unique set that makes you stand out.”

·         Expect that the first times you talk to customers will be awkward.

·         Rejection happens. Customers say “No.” Get used to it.

·         Don’t get drunk or high. Drinking helps. It does. And it might help you to have a drink before you go on stage the first time. But there’s a line between “had a couple of drinks and feel like dancing!” and “falling out of shoes, puking, and slurring.” No one likes a dancer they’re afraid is going to puke on them (and many clubs will send you home over this). As far as getting high? Here’s where I get to tell you not to do drugs at work, and how it could get you fired, and how it’s not legal, and spout the good stuff. But the truth is, drugs exist in strip clubs (just like every other job, to be fair!), and you’re just going to have to navigate that whole mess for yourself. My advice is keep out of it (it will only take all of the money you just worked hard for, anyway, right?).

·         Expect to be extremely sore at first. Your legs, back, butt, arms, and feet (okay, pretty much EVERYTHING) will hurt at first. You’re going to need time to sleep, and time to soak in a good bath. I joke with new dancers on their second day, asking them how trying to go up and down stairs for the past few days had been—because it’s not easy, and I do remember.  The bruises are intense, and massive, and in places that make you wonder what the fuck you did to get that one. The pain doesn’t go away for quite some time, and even then, you’re still likely to be a little sore or acquire some bruises after a night or more of work. Treat yourself well.

Updated to add:

Sometimes there are other people who can just say things better than I can. So here…don’t be these girls. Or these girls.

Any other questions, hit my ask box.

(Updated 09/28/2011. Previously on 08/06/11 and 05/15/11. Expect more updates as this morphs from time to time.)