I love how the media portrays strippers. By that I mean I love it and hate it at the same time. There is such a stigma that comes with the job title. We are stereotyped as being promiscuous, money hungry, and irresponsible. Drug addiction and alcoholism are often thrown into that mix as well. You may wonder, what are we really like?
I love the Olivia Wilde stripper scene in the 2012 movie, “Butter”. Olivia Wilde plays a stripper who goes by the name “Tokyo Rose”. She walks onto the stage holding what is obviously an outdated trac-phone, tapping the keys as they make loud beeps against the seductive rock music that blasts through the speakers. She puts the phone down at the sight of a dollar being thrown at her. She has spotted her target.
She finishes her song and makes her way over to the man sitting in front of the stage. She tells him, “Nobody cares about me. I need someone to love me.”
He tells her that he is sure lots of people love her. “Your father loves you, I’m sure.”
She replies, “My father raped me,” And proceeds to tell him how much her rent costs her each month.
I don’t watch a lot of television but every now and then I catch a glimpse of a show here and there. I was folding laundry to “How I Met Your Mother” one afternoon. In this particular episode, the characters go to a strip club.
The strip club is recreated in an over-the-top cheesy way. There are neon lights and little round chairs all over. Men sit around a stage drinking beer and whistling. A girl gyrates on a man’s lap and pulls his tie while asking, “Would you like another dance?” in a seductive tone of voice.
At the end of the scene, two of the men are sitting next to each other in chairs. A curly haired girl dances on the lap of one of them while drinking a bottle of cheap vodka. The men continue their conversation while the stripper inattentively continues to dance in his lap while taking sporadic gulps of clear spirit. I’m pretty sure that no strip club anywhere would allow this to actually happen.
Strippers as a whole are a complicated group of individuals. In some ways we are just like every other woman, but in other ways, we’re like no one you’ve ever met before. We are a whole different breed of woman. Rawr.
What do you think we’re like? When you hear the term “stripper” what image comes to mind? Do you picture a bodacious blonde with a perfect figure, round silicone breasts, and body glitter? Or do you imagine me as a beautiful young woman with jail house tattoos and city accent? College age with pink lip gloss and shiny hair? Or pretty with a little mileage, a stretch mark or two, but a great sense of humor?
The truth is, we are all of those women at the same time. Every time you walk into a strip club, you will find a mix of various definitions of beauty. We are individuals. No two of us are alike. But who are we, really?
The stereotypes characterize us as individuals who are damaged, materialistic, irresponsible, and lacking in self-respect and morals.
It’s been said that stereotypes exist for a reason. I won’t deny that. However, I will shine some light on who we really are.
Are we all damaged goods?
Not necessarily… but perhaps we are. We aren’t all rape victims, runaways, or girls with Daddy issues. We just come from a tougher walk of life.
I can’t speak for everyone when I say this but there is often a very good reason why we enter this business. Student loans can definitely put us there but it’s more often a series of events or poor life decisions that gets us to walk through those double doors in the first place.
Maybe it’s a bad upbringing, a bad family situation, an abusive parent or spouse. Maybe it is some otherwise unfulfilled need within us that makes us seek out the attention of strange men and the thrill of being in the spot light barely clothed. It is rarely student loans alone.
Are we all single moms?
Usually. It’s a given that most strippers are Mothers. While there are women who enter the profession just for the love of doing it or to make extra cash, it is often young motherhood or single motherhood that thrusts us into this business in the first place.
But just because we’re strippers that doesn’t mean we aren’t good moms. In fact, stripping is a way that lots of women provide for their children and are able to be there with them when it counts.
We’re not all sluts.
We dress like sluts. We talk like sluts. We flaunt our sexuality and show our bodies off for anyone who can afford the $5.00 cover charge. But does that mean we’re all sluts on the outside?
Not necessarily. If anything we are just open minded and we accept the presence of sex and sexuality in the work place and everyday life. We are comfortable with our own sexuality as well as that of others. This is not the same thing as being a slut or being promiscuous.
One of the best things about being a stripper is the fact that I get to dress and act like the slut I never was in high school. I was too shy to even approach a cute guy, let alone walk up and whisper naughty words into his ear. The strip club is a place for me to enjoy being a woman and embrace my sexuality in a healthy way.
Sex in the Champagne Room?
Yes. There is. It’s just not necessarily with you. The management has a tiny camera which they rotate from room to room. It’s so small, you would never see it. It’s there to monitor what’s going on in the private rooms. Girls are frequently fired for doing “extras” as this is something that clubs cannot tolerate due to the fact that it’s illegal.
But that doesn’t mean sex doesn’t happen in there. A couple years ago, a girl asked me if she could borrow my duct tape. I thought she needed it to repair an outfit on the spot or something. After all, that’s what I keep it in my locker for.
But instead of taking it over to her bag of dancewear, she walked out of the room with it and headed toward the private area. Word got around later that my duct tape had been used to facilitate a kinky lesbian adventure during down time on a slow summer day. Well, gee. I sure wish I’d gotten that memo.
Are we all drug addicts?
Some of us are. Drug addiction used to be something that happened to people who lived in a bad part of the city, people who had nothing and knew no better. But today, the average heroin addict is young, white, and lives in the suburbs.
There are people who hold fulltime jobs, good jobs even, that are addicted to heroin. Unfortunately, it is a problem of our time. Stripping is certainly a job that attracts addicts more than other jobs. The fast cash is probably the most desirable factor.
The use of drugs is not encouraged or even permitted in most strip clubs. Club owners and managers don’t want their girls to be shooting up in the bathroom or passing out in the champagne room because they’re high on drugs. A girl was caught sniffing a line of heroin off the back of the toilet one night. The manager fired her and took the tops off of all the toilets so now when you flush you can see the whole mechanism in the tank doing its job. He told me that back in the 90’s when coke was the big thing, he used to use Vaseline to grease the backs of the toilets and the top of the toilet paper dispensers. He said the minute you heard someone walk in and yell, “Fuck!” you knew what happened.
But not everyone is an addict and it is quite common to meet someone who is in recovery. Drug addiction is a life long struggle that takes work to overcome. No one woke up one day and said, “I want to be a drug addict”. So if you meet someone who struggles with addiction, be kind. It’s not an easy battle.
Now that the sensitive subjects are out of the way, here are a few more things that you might not know about strippers.
We come to work with NO MONEY.
I don’t know why we do this. But almost ALL OF US do it. We have to pay a nightly fee to work and also tip the DJ and in some cases other members of the staff. We know this going in, yet we come to work broke.
It could be that some of us don’t manage money well. Either we’ve already spent it all or we know that we will if the costume lady is there selling outfits, or if it’s a slow night we’ll spend it at the bar. So we leave it home.
However, I think the number one reason we do this is because we count our earnings on a nightly basis and we simply feel that yesterday’s cash should never have to cover today’s expenses.
Now, I’m pretty responsible. I have a bank account and I have bills that get paid on time. Yet I still do this. I go to work with a mere $5 in my bag, enough for a seltzer water and a tip for the bartender. I once had to borrow ten bucks from one the DJs to order food.
Maybe it’s irresponsible, but at least it gives me a reason to keep working. If I can’t afford to tip out, I guess I can’t leave early or get lazy. The hustle is on.
We fight over flat irons.
Do you know what this is? Yes, it’s a flat iron for straightening our hair. It is also the root cause for lots of dressing room drama and stripper cat fights.
These things can range in price value of anywhere from fifteen dollars to hundreds of dollars. I wouldn’t know for sure since I almost always wear my hair curly or wavy, but I hear that the expensive ones are better. How much better? I have no idea. All I know is that whether it cost you $15 or $200, it serves the same purpose, to get those long shiny locks of hair elegantly straight.
This device is one that should be stashed away in a locker given its high value in a dressing room full of strippers. But it almost never is.
It’s left on the counter top, plugged in for easy touch ups throughout the night, in open suitcases, or unlocked lockers.
Time after time I hear arguments. Someone will yell, “WHO STOLE MY FLAT IRON?!” Girls will go as far as to write their names on their flat irons and still be surprised when they go missing. “My name was on it!”
Often, there is a dispute as to whom a specific leopard print flat iron belonged to and who mistakenly decided it was theirs and took it home with them.
It’s a silly thing, yet it is a recurring theme in the dressing rooms of strip clubs everywhere. That’s why I usually bring a flat iron in for the stripper Christmas Pollyanna.
We are pack animals.
Aside from our ongoing battles over missing, lost, and/or stolen flat irons, we do generally look out for each other.
Once, many a pole dances ago, when I was just a baby stripper, there was a pair of new girls who had just been hired.
When I started dancing, I was shy, awkward, and didn’t know how to dress. Some of the girls made fun of me but most of them, even the ones who giggled behind my back, took me under their wings and showed me the ropes. That was just how they were at the time. “Those shoes look like shit on stage. I can’t let you go out there looking like that” a girl said to me, early on. “Wear the other ones. If you want to borrow a pair of mine, you can.”
When these two new girls came aboard, they tried to take them in the same way. One of them didn’t have shoes and someone lent her a pair. We were all nice to them.
Then they turned on us and started throwing pennies at us on stage when we were up. They immediately started putting down girls who had been dancing longer than they had even been thinking about dancing. They picked the top two girls of our stripper pecking order at the time, singled them out, and ridiculed them.
Later in the night, a fight broke out. One of the girls said something to provoke one of the penny throwers and once the first punch was thrown, a big group of girls followed from behind and threw them outside in their underwear.
It’s pretty rare for someone to get tossed outside in stripper clothes but it happened that night because strippers stick together. Usually.
We’ll say anything.
The first couple months of working with strippers I was floored by how different they were than the other women I had known and worked with before. They were very much like them but possessed this openness that took me by surprise.
“My man always knows when my period’s about to come on. He can taste it three days ahead of time.”
We take our clothes off for a living. We are used to bearing parts of us that must be covered at normal jobs. We have become comfortable in a room full of people, with little clothing on. This nakedness seems to transfer into our hearts as well.
We have no reason to be discreet about our personal lives. We talk about everything from yeast infections, to athlete’s foot, our favorite sex positions and how many times we’ve been pregnant. We discuss birth control, politics, and that one time we got arrested. We see one another naked on a regular basis. What’s there to hide?
We think the rules don’t apply to us.
We are most often, free spirited women who don’t like boundaries. This could be due to the rebellious nature of the kind of women who choose this profession. Or it could just be that we test our limits because we are used to getting what we want for being beautiful and charismatic. We like it when the boss lets us leave early or cuts us a break on a no call-no show. We are queens. We want to be treated that way.
We sure do. One might think that strippers are a bunch of unholy sinners and heathens but we aren’t. We are a body of women who come from various religious backgrounds. Some of us are of no religious background at all but most of us pray fairly often.
“Lord, thank you so much for that champagne room! Now I can afford to throw my daughter a nice birthday party!”
Sometimes we pray for a better night. Sometimes we give thanks. Sometimes we just pray for a night that no stray fingers end up near our cracks.
I usually pray for a foot fetish customer. They are my favorite because I love having my feet touched.
When I worked on Sundays one of the girls would say, “You can pray to God every other day for good business but not on Sunday. Sunday is a Holy day and you should be in Church or home with your family. You’re on your own if you work on Sunday.”
Girls who are of no particular religious background simply pray to the Stripper Gods. “If you’re havin’ a bad night, you pray to the stripper Gods for help”.
Who are the Stripper Gods? The Stripper Gods are less of a deity and more of an ever present force that oversees all activity that takes place in the strip club. This force is a combination of wishful thinking, luck, and a general sense of spirituality.
“I prayed to the Stripper Gods and they came through!” It’s not something that will work every night. That’s just not how it works. You ask the Stripper Gods for help when you really, really need it. But dancers, beware: Always maintain a positive attitude and treat your fellow dancers with kindness and fairness. Karma is also a big part of stripper life and if you are a cut throat kind of stripper and you fuck your girls over, that shit will come back to you.
We dance in the mirror.
No matter what drives us into this business in the first place, we are generally women who do like to dance. We find ourselves standing in the mirror, admiring the doe-eyed reflection staring back at us, and moving to the music. We lean over the counter top and shake our asses while we apply eyeliner. Even when there is no music, our bodies still remember the rhythm. We catch ourselves dancing around our houses, often without even knowing it.
One night, someone wrote on the mirror in lipstick, “It takes an athlete to dance but it takes an artist to be a dancer.”
We’ll hang your dirty underwear up.
Whenever an abandoned G-string is found, someone will hang it up on the mirror, in hopes of its owner discovering it and taking it. It never happens this way though. It hangs up for days for everyone to glance at, notice the fact that it’s obviously been worn, and comment on it. The girls will laugh and giggle and point fingers at one another. “That ain’t my nasty underwear, it’s yours!” The person who lost it will be far too embarrassed to ever retrieve it.
We have banned the use of body lotion and glitter.
Glitter on strippers is a thing of the past. We call it “divorce dust” because it’s very difficult to get off clothes and men who come in contact with it run the risk of being in trouble with their wives later.
As for lotion, if someone goes on stage with freshly lotioned skin, it leaves a thin, slippery film on the pole. Our rule of thumb is that lotion must be put on no later than two hours before your shift starts.
If we go on stage and discover that the pole is slippery, we might speculate as to who had on lotion. “That greasy bitch!”
We size up our customers.
Guys come in and immediately size us up. They look at our bodies and judge us by the number of tattoos we have, whether our stomachs are flat and muscular or soft and puffy, the size of our tits and whether they’re real or fake. We are examined from top to bottom like a shopper examines an item at the grocery store before buying it.
Well, guess what, we do it as well.
We look at the customers who fill up the club and we size them up. We make assumptions about who you are before we even meet you. We look at how you’re dressed and the way you carry yourself. We try to gauge from a distance whether you’re a two lap dance sort of guy or a champagne room. We try to predict whether you will be a gentlemen or the kind of guy who gives us an extra smack on the ass and sends us on our way without a tip.
All this happens in our minds in a matter of seconds, probably while you’re trying to guess our bra size or how many kids we’ve had.
We’ve already heard that line.
“Why would I spend money on a lap dance? I’d rather take you out to dinner.” Or “Why should I give the club half the money when you could come give me a lap dance in my car and keep it all.”
First of all, every guy who brings this up seems to think that he is a brilliant savior of some sort for realizing this and offering us this genuine opportunity to keep all of our profit. But here’s the thing: We’ve already heard it. And we’ve heard it many, many times since we were wee baby strippers.
Here’s the deal. We would love to go out to dinner with you and we are sure that you might even treat us better than some of the jack ass boyfriends that we strippers have been known to date. However, none of us came here looking for someone to take us to dinner.
We have bills to pay and children to feed just like you do. It’s nothing personal, just that this is our job and we are here to earn a living. Besides, you’re still a stranger as of now.
As for the “Come give me a lap dance in my car so you don’t have to split the money with the club” thing. Just the fact that you brought this offer to the table makes us think you are a creep. And second, whatever the club gets out of the money we earn on a lap dance is money they deserve for providing us a safe place to do lap dances so that we don’t have to jump in Mr. Random Guy’s creepy minivan to get paid.
We eat a lot of food.
We might be trim and look great in a teeny bikini but we certainly don’t starve ourselves. We order hoagies, cheese steaks, and man sized platters of chicken wings. Most clubs discourage dancers from eating on the floor, so we have food delivered and eat it in the dressing room. Eating in between lap dances and stage sets can be hard so sometimes we gobble up our food in record time and end up with a “food baby”. A “food baby” is the puffiness we get in our stomachs after eating a big meal.
“Damn! Now I gotta go on stage with a food baby!”
As glamorous and feminine as we are, one might be led to believe that strippers do no such thing as fart. But we do.
We try not to, but the average person farts twenty times a day. Once in a while, one of those farts is going to arise when we are at work. Lucky for us, you usually can’t hear a fart over the music so as long as they don’t smell, we are A-Ok.
If I’m holding onto one, I try to let it go on the way to the couch room so I’m not uncomfortable while I’m grinding in a guy’s lap. I’ll let it go and start speed walking toward the couch room, in hopes that it doesn’t get caught in my lace underwear and follow us.
One night, I was pulling my gear out of my locker when a girl came up beside me and started rummaging through hers. She was joyfully drunk and she smiled from ear to ear when she spoke to me. After a few short minutes of conversation, she got up and left, leaving me in a massive cloud of fart smell.
I’d been crop dusted by a woman in platform heels and pink spandex.
We are women.
We are just like all of the other women you know, but we’re nothing like them. We might be a little rougher around the edges, a little less polished, and have a little more hard knock in our hearts than the average woman does. But we are still women. Just because we take our clothes off for a living doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to be treated with respect and kindness.
If you want to make a stripper smile, give her a bouquet of flowers and watch her face light up. The last gift she got was probably a surprise dick-pic.
In case you were wondering what to get for a birthday or Christmas gift for the stripper in your life, I can help you with that. She wants money. Money will help her afford the things she needs for herself and her family. But what gift should you give her? I have the perfect suggestion.
A flat iron. She wants a flat iron.