So… I have been doing a university assignment about strippers for my creative non-fiction writing class, because for some reason I find it a fascinating subject, and I figure that if you’re going to spend many hours working on an assignment, the topic might as well be interesting, right?
I had to admit that I was curious about strippers. After four years of dealing with Centrelink as a full time university student, and subsequently four years of praying that I’d have enough money in the bank to eat most weeks, the idea of becoming a stripper entered my mind more than once.
My excuse not to go ahead with it, was always the same-
“I’m too much of a prude”
“I have to close the bathroom blinds when I have a shower for christ sakes”
“Icky, unattractive guys watching me” (If they were all cute, young, well-mannered men I may have considered it further).
Notice that my major concerns didn’t include any ethical objections… when you’ve been scrounging for food vouchers for four years you start not caring as much about ethics.
While doing background research, I came across a woman named Bernadette Barton. Bernadette is an American university professor of sociology and women’s studies, who, in the last few years has gone undercover in strip bars across America, for research purposes. In her recently published book, Stripped; Inside the Lives of Exotic Dancers, Barton confirmed the most popular reasons for becoming an exotic dancer.
“Many women began dancing after struggling to support themselves through more conventional means and after exhausting other employment options. Finding work that supports oneself without a bachelor’s degree- and, unfortunately, sometimes with one- is increasingly difficult… the number of jobs that pay a living wage is decreasing”.
Barton says that independent students and individuals in low-paid service sector jobs face increasing difficulties in meeting their daily expenses, finding affordable housing, transportation expenses, as well as a lack of time to look for better paying alternatives.
“A woman who needs to make fast cash can avoid most of these problems through exotic dancing… In fact, exotic dancing offers women more opportunities to find a job outside the sex industry than many low-paying retail, fast food, or factory jobs because sex workers have more time to job hunt, a higher income, and potentially greater savings to tide them over between jobs… Furthermore-feminists take note- sex work is the only occupation in which women make more money than men”.
I originally planned to interview some burlesque dancers but they were all busy touring (ok, I left it to the last minute to contact them) so I interviewed a close friend from uni (J) who stripped when she was younger.
Now, bear in mind that up until this point I had never actually been to a strip club.
I asked J about the types of people who frequented such establishments…
“There was a good mix of guys there. Generally you had your dodgy old guys, your dodgy young guys, then you had the guys who were so pathetic and sad that you felt kind of sorry for them. We also had a lot of army boys.
Generally the boys that came in there weren’t all that shy. They’d walk in and go ‘wow- breasts. I’m just going to call out as many obscene things as I can and see what I can get away with.
Saturday night was bachelor party night, which I actually ended up refusing to work at after a year because I couldn’t handle drunken yobbos, who were quite rude, just out for whatever really”.
Days later, the article was drafted and submitted for peer-review. However, I still felt there was something missing to this assignment. I had still never actually been inside a strip club.
This was remedied on a spur-of-the-moment decision a couple of weeks ago, after the usual Friday night dinner at the pub with friends.
“Ooh, Showgirls has been renovated” I exclaimed to a girlfriend, upon passing the sign (I often make random observations out loud just for the pure sake of expression). Before I could blink, she had taken me by the arm and was leading me toward he door. One of our male friends seemed a bit uncomfortable. He was like “Well, I might go home and leave you girls to it then”… which he promptly did.
So, oh-my-god I was sitting in a strip club drinking, and watching naked women pole-dance. I felt like I had accidentally snuck into some secret underground realm where only men were allowed, and I might be kicked out at any moment if discovered. The dancers were mesmerising. Part of me was afraid to stare; yet I couldn’t look away. I’ll tell you- those girls have talent.
After the first dancer had left, a guy in a white tank top, upon which was scribbled numerous profanities, introduced himself at our table and asked if we wouldn’t mind signing his shirt. He was, he explained, here for a bachelor’s party.
Guy: What’s your favourite body part on the dancer?
Me: Her shoes.
Somehow- god knows how- we ended up chatting about Star Trek. I’m guessing that Star Trek isn’t a usual discussion point in many Strip Clubs. I happened to enjoy it.
It was soon time to leave, so we bid each other farewell before he sneakily managed to get my phone number.
Later that night I was siting at home alone, when text- messaging revealed that we were in adjoining suburbs. Brilliant. The night is young, it’s a full moon, and there’s a bar down the street… the adventure continues!