The Reality of Stripping
Written in 2001
I'm guilty of it too. The almost natural way many strippers refer to life outside of the industry as "real life". "In my real life, I have a 2 year old daughter and a few close friends...blah, blah, blah." We talk as if being a stripper is not real life. And it's easy to believe that. Well, I don't know if we really believe that. I don't think we really examine it. It's just the way it is. Understandable, actually. Our jobs aren't recognized as jobs by the rest of society.
It's funny how your perception of reality changes once you've crossed that line into sex work. I'm sure it's the same for erotic writers and prostitutes. I remember when I started to get into erotic literature, my general speech became littered with sexual innuendos and dirty words rolled off my tongue as if it was the most natural thing in the world to say cock and cunt instead of dick and pussy. You can't help but look at the world from a different perspective. When I got into stripping, I was confident that I knew how others looked at it. The boys in the audience, the feminists protesting it, the families of the dancers. All very different points of view, but I comprehended each one easily. It changes once you're on the other side. I don't know when it happens or how, but you become unable to read what your audience is thinking. Like when a group of boys bursts into laughter while you're on stage, whereas you used to think, 'someone just told a good joke', you now can't help but wonder if they are laughing at you. Was that move unflattering? Do I have something in my teeth? Is my tampon showing?
By no means do I want to convey that strippers are insecure and degraded. That is not my reality. But somewhere along the line, we lose our ability to relate to "the others", those who are not involved in the industry. Those who feel entitled to judge and condemn us or idolize and worship us, whichever the case. "What do you dancers do between shows?" I've been asked. I could have said, "Well, like anyone else, we read, watch tv, do crosswords, eat, workout, you know, what people do in their free time." But instead, I felt moved to not even acknowledge this boys stupidity. "We masturbate" I replied.
When our boyfriends become jealous and come to the bar and humiliate us, we are dumbstruck. "What is wrong with him? Doesn't he realize how hard this job is when there's so much negativity." I'm sure it's the same for any entertainer, how can you perform when you're significant other is mouthing angry words and casting dirty glances in your direction? The other dancers are very supportive when this happens. "I don't let my boyfriend come to my work." And, "What a fucking prick, you tell him.......!" Meanwhile, Juicy Fruit is crying and doesn't want to go down to the bar to face the 'fucking prick'. The DJ is offering to have him kicked out, and the change room phone is ringing off the hook. The boyfriend is calling and verbally abusing any dancer who picks up the phone. And we just can't relate. We know all his friends are saying to him, "How can you let her do that, man?" It's silly to say that, because either he met her as a dancer or he agreed to her getting into it in the first place. He really has no basis for his bastard behavior. At least from my point of view, he doesn't.
I'm getting off topic.
As a stripper, my reality is different from yours. And somehow, you and the rest of the "others" have convinced me that my experience is not reality. My real life is what I do outside of sex work that coincides with what you do. Having babies, cleaning house, going for coffee, working out, banking, budgeting etc. That's my real life. Stripping? That's the fantasy I create for you or your husband or son or brother. The fantasy I create for me, because if I, God forbid, believe that there is nothing wrong with what I am doing, then I must be deceiving myself. And even I subconsciously believe that.
But you know what? I challenge it here and now. My reality may be warped to your way of thinking, but it is my reality none-the-less. And my reality is no less worthy than yours. Sorry honey, but you really aren't any better than me just because you don't do sex work.