Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master's House" - Audre Lorde

I am seething with rage.

I'm listening to that Justin Bieber song that's been slowed down 800% so I can remain at least relatively calm, because inside I am screaming.  Here, it sounds like mermaids underwater:,97218/

I thought I worked at a club that for only the second time in my 7 years in this industry actually gave one fuck about its dancers.  They don't.  It's money.  Profit.  Off us.  Point blank.

How disappointing.

The owners of my club had the AUDACITY tonight to tell me the reason to stay off the ledge of the tip rail was because THE GRANITE IS CRACKING.  (The stage itself is recessed, like a pool, and the ledge is about 8" higher.)
I dance on a stage made of granite.  I wear knee pads covered with thick, long leg warmers and socks, hoping customers don't notice.  It's embarrassing.

No, don't tell me to stay off that edge because it's closer to the customers and gives ample opportunity to be sexually assaulted (as if the risk isn't already there,) STAY OFF THE LEDGE BECAUSE THE SURFACE YOU'RE DANCING ON IS CRACKING.



My club has 2 stages and on weekend nights (they count Thursday as a weekend night too, because... why not?!) they run both.  You do your stage set on the "low stage" first, and then the "high stage." This means if there aren't a lot of girls working, you're doing a 3 song set, followed by a 3 song set. ON MOTHERFUCKING GRANITE. 6 songs= roughly 18 minutes. Multiple times a night. Sure, you can ease the burden by doing some pole tricks, but our ceilings are so low, most girls can touch the ceiling in their heels.  This isn't super conducive to lots of pole work.  A lot of work is done on the floor of the stage.

Dancer friends of mine and I have fantasized, in vain, for years, about opening our own club and running it right:

  • The best decor (lots of red velvet, in my humble opinion,)
  • A good stage set up with a surface that is as least taxing on the body as possible
  • 2 poles: one spinning, one stationary
  • High ceilings
  • No house fee or "rent"- just a mandatory tip out to the DJ and bouncers
  • The bouncers are there to protect you solely, and nothing else.  They will be heavily vetted and easily fired for a misstep.
  • VIP area run by women
  • Actually, the entire staff would be women, except for the door and floor guys
  • Cameras everywhere, including the dressing room (it makes theft a non-issue)
  • Good music: Nickelback and anything similar to that is banned. Stripper butt rock is banned.  Motley Cruë, you're not invited to this party.  (I might make a few certain exceptions to this rule, but you will never once hear "Cherry Pie." Not happening.)

Luckily, some of these stipulations already exist where I work, and play a large role in why I stay.  I'm just so exasperated that it's like twisting an arm to get an owner and/or manager to actually GIVE A FUCK about their girls. HI HELLO NEWSFLASH: WE ARE THE SOLE REASON THE ESTABLISHMENT EXISTS.  At my fantasy club described above, the dancers would be on a pedestal, not thought of as more income for the club (by way of house fees and taking a cut of VIP dance prices.)  They could be let go easily, for things like fighting or consistently creating drama.  Or hooking.
I think of prostitutes as public servants.  They do some of the hardest emotional labor there is.  I love them.  But stay out of my club, undercutting other dancers.  If prostitution was legal (as it should be,) I would have no problem running a brothel.  
If a strip club ("gentlemen's" would be nowhere in the title;) like I described existed, women would be running, driving, flying from all over the country to work there.  

Where I work comes up with the most idiotic, harebrained schemes to "get people in the door."  Today, for example, we hosted a meet-and-greet send off for some terrible no-name local act as they prepare to go to Germany to open for Papa Roach. Who. Even. Cares.  I complained about it to a bouncer who is also some kind of manager and he said "there's 25 more people in the building that wouldn't otherwise be here." Me: "But they're not spending. They're not getting dances." Him: "So what? That's on you girls to make that happen." Fuck. You.

The reality of the situation was: none of us started making money until these coked out idiots ("I just wanna do a line off your pussy") and their broke-ass groupies left.  They even tried to hustle US their merchandise.  To add further insult to injury, the club forced us to have one out of our three song sets be something by them. Taking away a creative freedom like that is a big fucking deal to me.  I don't know how to dance to bullshit, generic modern rock.  Maybe that shows I'm not a good stripper, that I can't just plaster on the smile and shake it even though the music makes my ears bleed and my soul cry. I don't care.  Don't tell me I am REQUIRED to dance to something for the entire time these douchenozzles are in the building.
Strip club: "Independent contractor? What? No, you're gonna be signed on as that so that you pay us, not the other way around.  But we'll damn well treat you like employees, and you'll do as we say."

Every other time my work has come up with ideas that they swear up and down will result in piles of money for all, it's pretty much the opposite.  A car show, a "lip lock contest," none of that shit made my wallet any fatter.  At all.  In fact, on days where there's some promotional BS 9 times out of 10 I made less than I normally would, and so did everyone else.

I feel trapped, because the conditions at all the other clubs in the area are exponentially worse.  Do I choose the shit sandwich or the shit burrito? Like, what do I even do?  Leaving the industry isn't an option right now because my rent and bills are too high to support it any other way.  Also, I love what I do, and until I go back to teaching ESL in another country, this is what I'm doing.  This is my life.  And it should be better, nationwide, for all of us.

I want to look into the business model of The Lusty Lady.  The country's only dancer owned and operated cooperative strip club and peep show went under a few months ago, after being open for decades.  I never got a chance to visit. RIP.

What my friend affectionately called "Bieber Rós" has just ended, and I'm still pretty angry, but I do feel a little better.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Eraser

My biggest fear these day is that I'm just as lonely as they are.
But instead of the strip club as my reprieve, no, my solution to my loneliness, the strip club is my cause.  It's isolating working when your peers socialize: nights and weekends.
Upon further thought, I'm realizing there's no possible way I could be as lonely as some of the customers, and it's insulting to their plight to even insinuate it.
Their loneliness is raw like a stench.
The way their work-hardened or age-weathered hands fumble to hold your hand, even for the briefest moment during a dance.
The way they blatantly put their face into your hair and deeply inhale your scent.
These men are starved for female attention.
Most of the time it grosses me out, or makes me sad, but only for a moment.

This is the perfect segue into something that's been on my mind for a long time now, and a big part of why I don't write.  I brought this up with my two best stripper friends on the car ride home after Saturday night's shift, and they confirmed it happens to them, too.  I'm going to call this "thing" a defense mechanism.  Much like from Men in Black, our brains wipe themselves clean after pretty much every interaction.  As I put it, "It's like, 'BOOP! That didn't just happen!'" Oh that guy I just danced for that smelled like urine, diesel and whiskey, but still had the gall to ask me out for dinner?  Nope, didn't happen.

Notable things happen every night, but I forget.  The mechanism gets in the way.

The next night, I set out to fight the mechanism.
It wasn't difficult at a certain point.
There I was, resting my back on the pole and sliding down in front of my audience, one leg already going into the air before I was seated, and the other leg came up.
I looked beyond the men, and up to the TV screen.
Where I work somewhat resembles a sports bar, in that there are flat-screen TVs littering the place, playing everything from golf to UFC.
Tonight it was UFC.
There I am, about to engage in my stage routine, the careful balance I've struck between '50s "I'm really such a lady" coquettishness and straight-up twerking.
I can't stop visibly cringing and wincing as I look beyond the tip rail and see a man's bloodied face spraying blood all over the mat.  It was the most blood I have ever seen in a fight.  His face and bald head were literally COVERED in blood.
This grotesque mashup of extreme violence and selling sex appeal is something I want to be as far away as possible from, and I wanted to ask after I got off stage that they change the channel, but it would fall on deaf ears, as I'm sure almost no one would understand my distress.

Writing this now reminds me of why I can't work at Hooters.  I'm very specific about the kinds of environments I prefer to sell the idea of sex with me in.  Hooters to me is the apex of patriarchy.  Sexed up women serving you food (as they should, being women and all, wink wink;) while you sit back and watch the game.  Vomit.  I began my unexpected "career" dancing at a very traumatizing establishment that mandated a lot of my behavior, and as a bonus, served an all-night free hot dog buffet!!!!! (The consumption of said hot dogs by dancers was strictly forbidden.)  I work now in a place that's jokingly been referred to as the "place where strippers go to retire."  Fuck yeah.  So down with that.  Women run the VIP, the bar, and the full-time DJ is a woman.  Generally, I give my current place of employment a round of applause.  Let's kick our 6-8" stilettos up, and fucking sell (the idea of) sex the way we want to.  No face punching allowed.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Anecdotal Existence

She's beaming and she's sweaty.  She's tan, and she's holding a fistful of dollars in one hand, and her wadded up outfit in the other.  The kneepads I picked up at the store for her are now slung around her ankles.  I'm walking into my shift, no makeup, and she just got done with her stage set.  I'll never forget her smile.  Her warmth, every time she greets me with that grin.  "Hi, mama!"  It's always the same.  She's 18, and she's one of my favorites.  She calls all of her fellow dancers "mama," it's not just me.  She's sweet, but very tough.  She's been through some especially hard times she once told me, but her facade of Young Bubbly Stripper  hasn't cracked yet.  I want to keep her just like she is.  She's funny and charismatic, and customers eat it up as she makes faces at them onstage while "Gangnam Style" or "Thrift Shop" is blaring through the speakers.  I'm happy for her.  She practically jumped on me when I came back to work after being in Los Angeles for 2 weeks, and it's experiences like these, the women I work with, the things that happen BEHIND the curtain, that have driven me to do this for so long.

"What do you like most about being sober?" my dear friend asks me, while swilling some dark beer at nice restaurant in Northeast Minneapolis.
I was spaced out, I take a moment to consider, and deliver this response:
"Oh, I was just thinking about how I don't like it."
"What, why??"
"Because now I have to feel things."
My friend laughs, and tells me I have a good point.
I don't have some terrible, looming, undealt-with past that only copious amounts of benzos and booze can alleviate.  I just prefer to be in that spinny, blurry state of being instead of reality.  It's more fun, and it's what I'm used to.  

That guy.  That fucking guy.  I'll probably never forget him, but probably only because I jotted a note about him so I could write about it here.  He had short blond hair.  Told me he liked my haircut and that it reminded him of someone.  When I said who, he mouthed "meeeee."  (Uh... what????)  He wore a runner's shirt, with a race name emblazoned across it that reminded me of my father, the marathon runner.  His breath smelled like tuna pasta salad, and his body smelled like that almost sweet kind of sweat that exists on places like the top of your arms after working out.  He was ridiculously effeminate.  I was so confused about his mannerisms, and the way he presented himself contradicting the bulge in his pants.  He complimented my press-on nails in a way that I can only describe as "gay."  He mentioned a girlfriend.  Later, in VIP, when I couldn't name who originally did the song that was being played he said (with an index finger in the air): "Paula Abdul. Straight up."  I analyzed my analysis of his sexuality as closely as I could, trying to tap into my gender and sexuality studies background.... why did I even have to make it a thing?  Why does the behavior of individuals have to fall into a tightly prescribed set of norms fitting the binary, and opposing gender system we've been prescribed? ... etc.  Whatever.  Maybe he was bisexual.  Who cares.  He also seemed like he was on ecstasy, or at the very least drunk, but he swore up and down he doesn't like to get drunk.  (I didn't bring up ecstasy.)

Before I sat down to write this, (dreading it as I always do, for I'm afraid of feelings remember,) I got excited at the prospect of taking the whole weekend off.  I skipped last night, even though I paid to work.  My cousin is getting married Saturday, and I entertained the idea of saying "fuck tomorrow as well."  Then I realized I left my makeup at work.  Stripping lately has been a fucking roller coaster, monetarily, and mentally.  Saturday night I broke my record of Best $ Night of All Time.  I made $1122.  Tuesday, I worked a shorter shift, but nonetheless then made my other record: Worst $ Night of All Time: $18.  FUCK. THAT.  After tipping out, and paying to work, etc. I lost money to work.  Luckily I've been hardened, so I didn't cry like I did on the back steps of Deja Vu years ago after making $33.  Instead, something amazing happened.  We in the dressing room collectively devolved into mayhem, giddiness, and outright absurd displays of behavior.  Luckily the dancer with the scorpion tattoo that takes up her entire breast got most of it on someone's phone camera.  A friend was doing somersaults one after another, across the length of the dressing room.  I *finally* nailed a pole trick I've taken years to learn, then screaming "THIS IS THE FIRST TIME I HAVE EVER DONE THIS!!!" in what was later described as an "Exorcist" voice.  There was tit bouncing (more like flailing, because these things aren't small;) running, and screaming.  One friend tried to act out the meaning of the term "turnt up" to another.

Times like that, when faced with the fact that you didn't make minimum wage to strip for hours, you actually lost money to strip for hours, would normally be an unbearably painful reality, possibly one that would make a fragile newbie want to hang up her stilettos forever.  Everyone in the aforementioned scenario was sober, I must add.  But thanks to the bonds of the women, and the ability (and necessity, that night,) to make each other literally scream with laughter on the ground, sides splitting, it just wasn't so bad.

I'm listening to Philip Glass, trying not to sound like a privileged "Everyone Look at Me, I'm an Educated, Sane Stripper- Don't Believe the Stereotypes!" bitch hole.  Engaging with the sex worker community recently online, and for the first time ever, has been amazing, but it has made me more sensitive about how I come across when I tell my stories, and I'm glad for that.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Sleepy Eye

The last thing I want to be doing is writing a blog on no sleep at 7 AM.  This is a slight exaggeration, but pretty much.  I've been wondering why, despite my promise to myself to make up for the years of dancing and not writing about it, I almost always refuse to do just that.  I wonder if it's because I've begun to dissociate.  I wonder if that can be reversed.  I wonder if it's because I'm afraid to awaken the parts of me that have become deadened inside as I make idiotic banter with customers so far below my intelligence level that it's literally unbelievable sometimes.

I'm awake because I made a bad decision to tune into the raging debate that is occurring on my now possibly favorite website: re: "extras girls," or girls who engage in varying levels of prostitution in strip clubs where that is illegal.  A word that is thrown around a lot in the comment threads, almost to a comedic degree, is "whorephobic."  "Slut-shaming," too.  I just rubbed my face for a split second out of exasperation.  Someone told me recently (no clue who, probably a customer;) that as our bodies develop in the womb, the hands actually come out of the brain, and thus is why we touch our heads with our hands in times of distress.  Man, I love how customers come up with crazy shit like that.  Who knows, it could be true, I simply don't care to Google it yet.  Customers (I like seeing it abbreviated as custys on Twitter;) seriously say the craziest of all crazy things.  I remember one guy telling me there were caves in South America wherein people live to be 600+ years old, but of course it's being carefully covered up by the government as part of a massive conspiracy.

Let's talk more about customers.  Wait- back to disassociating for a second.  I stopped taking notes at work, and I wonder if that's because I don't want to feel things?  I work in one of the least mentally taxing of all environments I've ever worked in.  The club is, by all standards of decorum, ASTONISHINGLY clean.  I no longer work at Deja Vu, where I was repeatedly groped/bitten, etc. and in constant competition with aforementioned "extras girls," who therefore brought in custys that absolutely constantly solicited me for sex.  I can't really figure out then, why, I can't/don't want to write about it.  I've got strip club fatigue.  I have literal fatigue, as well.  After being diagnosed with two concurrent sleep disorders, I now understand why I constantly operate at a level of functioning that is just slightly above "constant exhaustion."  I no longer bound out of the backstage, a shiny young 19-21 year old, dazzling the crowd with my genuine giddiness.  Well that, and I was also on drugs, but that's for another time.  I adapt to how tired I am, and I play up the "bedroom eyes" (LOL, what a stupid term,) and sultry sensuality.  It works for me.  I feel I've grown into my sexuality to a place where I'm very comfortable, and I love that.

Let's all listen to "Glory Box" by Portishead and hold hands while she sings "I just wanna be a woman," ok???

Portishead - "Glory Box"

"For this is the beginning of forever... and ever... ohhh"

Sunday, April 7, 2013


I say "YOLO" sometimes because people hate it, but mostly because it's fucking true.
You do only live once that we know of, and that sentiment is no more profoundly felt than at a strip club.
That ultra-cliché of "live like you're going to die tomorrow" or whatever... It's almost palpable backstage.  Girls getting shitty tattoos and eating fast food daily, because consequences for any and all of this seems so abstract and nebulous.
The very act of wearing 6-8" stilettos and contorting our bodies onstage and during dances defines this. Eventually, there will be a price to pay.  Not in a creepy, religious doomsday way, but physiologically, our bodies won't come out of this unscathed after years of doing it.  All of the torquing of spines, the shortening of achilles tendons... not all the yoga in the world can save us.

I don't have a savings account, and I have almost nothing to show for years of dancing except lots of stories and some likely permanent damage to parts of my body.
Some strippers are smart and have retirement funds, own real estate, etc., but they are the minority.
We share this feeling, that even though we make (usually,) a lot of money quickly, it's never enough.
I've posited that stripping, being like gambling, is my replacement addiction for drugs and alcohol.
I try sometimes to explain to customers that this income is very hit or miss.
Last night I left with hardly anything, and tonight I made a lot.
I love the thrill of the uncertainty.

My back and my feet kill, but I don't want to stop.
Even though I spend the majority of my shift waiting for things to end (stage sets when no one's tipping, dances for creeps, long VIP sets for creeps, etc.), I don't want to leave this work.
I love the women.
I love the freedom.
This is who I am.  Sexual.  Open.

I don't have a significant other, but I find solace in the money I take home.  The cash that *I* earned.  Just me.  Knowing I don't need anyone to provide for me.  I swear I could go to sleep cuddling my money.  I think that's a matter that deserves some future psychoanalysis, but not at the moment.

I deal with people trying to touch me without my permission.  I deal with breath that almost makes me gag.  I deal with comments that range from obscenely offensive to wildly inappropriate.  I'm proud of all the skills I've honed that all work harmoniously to make me better at this.

Today a guy was looking at my ass while I was giving him a table dance.  "I love that butt floss you have going on," he said of my standard-issue black stripper thong, that in all fairness is probably not much thicker than floss.  He had on some shitty 80s hair metal shirt, and had just finished telling me about the high rate of suicide at his high school.  He graduated in 1986.  "This one girl.. she had only been there a few months... she came up from Iowa..."  Why he told me all this, I don't know.  Stories like that are easily forgotten, strangely, but those like which follows are what stick.

Last week, I was giddily telling my manager about my new Hello Kitty press-on nails (that came in a pack that said "for ages 6+") and my HK earrings, and I suddenly voiced my self-consciousness at the childishness of it all.  He replied with a toothy grin in utmost seriousness: "It's OK sweetie!  Don't worry!  My house is literally COVERED in Legos.  Covered."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


I'm wearing my feetie pajamas from the boys' section of Target and listening to Ginuwine's "Pony."

This blog has been years in the making.  I've started and stopped with its creation like a car stalling and starting when you first learn to drive stick.

I guess that's what this is all about then, learning to "drive stick."  Metaphorically learning to hop out of the passenger's, (or back)seat of patriarchy as a woman.  The "stick" in my metaphor is of course a penis, and what I'm saying is it feels fucking good to harness your sexuality, and use it to your benefit, monetarily, and otherwise.  Any bronzed trophy wife will agree with my sentiments.

I landed on stripping within the realm of sex work for so many reasons that I've already written about, that I'd rather now explain why/how I didn't end up in other roles.  I decided not to sell sex because I didn't know that I could enjoy it in my personal life anymore if I went this route.  Definitely still consider it sometimes, if the price and circumstance was absolutely right. (Read: $$$$$$$$$$$)  I don't do porn, because I don't want those acts to outlive me on this earth in the form of video.  (Though I must add, I am a voracious and enthusiastic supporter and consumer of pornography.)  I can't pro-Domme, because I am the opposite sexually, and I believe for that work it needs to be "in" you, and not something that, despite the fact that it's roleplay, can be faked.  I'm not a webcam girl, nor a peep show artist, nor a phone sex operator, because the only memories I've found particularly grotesque and unshakeable were things I've heard or been told by customers.  I strip, and stay stripping, because, to be brief: I love dancing; I'm an exhibitionist; I enjoy teasing men; and finally, I've found having a relatively petite frame with DDs to be very profitable, and a way to gain agency over a body that has garnered so much unwanted male attention since I was too young to even know what to do with it, or for it to be appropriate in any way.

I'm onto "Ignition (Remix)" now, because I'm a classicist, obviously.  I'm actually just incredibly nostalgic, and that spreads to all aspects of my life, including looking back to my time as a "baby stripper."  Also, I'm going to see R. Kelly for the first time ever at Pitchfork this summer.  I started reading compilations of strip club anthems, and this song always ranks way up there.

Clearly my ADD is in full swing, and I have no idea where to start.  I started stripping in August 2006, which was a long time ago.  I've done a LOT of thinking about sex work and the sex industry.  My most thorough research project in college was about the schism within feminism about sex work.  My final project to attain my art degree was a photo essay about stripping and strip clubs.  I'm not here just for the money.  I, like the customers, am also here for the women.  I'm here to hear their stories, and I'm here gathering my own experiences a la Jessa and Hannah of "Girls," and pretty much my entire generation that seems to "come of age" in our mid-twenties, slowly "developing into fully-formed humans."  Whatever the fuck that looks like.

I'm a procrastinator, and I've most recently justified putting off starting this because, a) my keyboard was broken, (after over a year of being computer-less,) and then b) since I have so much time/knowledge/stuff to cover, I figure once I open the floodgates, I won't be able to stop or sleep.

My mind is swimming with stories and stripper jargon.  I'm thinking about glitter (don't wear that shit- none of us want to take it home on our bodies, and it's impossible to get off;) colored lights, Lucite, butt pimples from laps and general uncleanliness, pole bruises, and thongs that have straps of a legally-enforced thickness.  (One inch at the two topless bars I worked at.)

I'm thinking about Love Spell and Paris Hilton perfumes.  About weaves.  (What are ACTUAL weaves, vs. the fact that white girls think that, and call, any hair that is not yours and attached to your own hair, a weave.)

I'm thinking about men's vulnerability that is sometimes so present, and so raw.  I've read sex work referred to recently as "emotional labor."  Choose to do with that what you like.  I'm thinking about regulars, and how I've never been very successful at cultivating that relationship.  I'm wondering seriously how extensively and permanently damaged parts of my body are and/or will be by the time that I'm done, which hopefully won't be soon.  I love what I do, and I'll do it until I can't, or somehow decide I've finally had enough.

My psyche has been affected by this work, just as drastically and irreversably as my knees and instep.  I don't consider myself to be damaged by it, however.  It simply shaped the way I grew, and how I now conceive of: men, women, sexuality, power dynamics, capitalism, patriarchy, etc.

I have to stop now, and continue when I can better streamline my thoughts.  I dedicate this first entry to the man I sold my pantyhose to on Craigslist, who, though we've never even touched or hugged, bought me the laptop that I'm currently typing on, that enabled me to finally begin.