I was a stripper for seven years. I am only speaking from my own personal experiences here. Everyone has a different story to tell, this is just mine and should not be taken as the authority on all exotic dancers or sex-workers.
I retired from dancing in 2018. The career that I once loved had ran its course for me. I no longer looked forward to going into work, so I moved on to other ventures. (Maybe I’ll write a book about the whole thing one day) for now, let’s get into the seven things I learned from being a stripper for seven years!
1. What seems bizarre to you, may be normality for others. The women that I worked with -myself included- weren’t anything like society, (and maybe even you) perceive sex-workers to be. There was nothing “degenerate” about the majority of women I worked with, and you may be surprised to find out that many of them held “normal” 9-5 jobs such as realtors, nurses, PSW’s, etc, during the day and worked part time as dancers during the evenings. Many of the women I worked with were married (myself included at the time), some danced fulltime hours, some had children, and very stable home lives. It was rarely like the movies and television make it out to be… but sometimes it was, which brings me to number 2.
2. Drugs were easily found and some dancers were addicts. Just as any person from any walk of life can have issues with substances and addiction – the same can be said for strippers. The difference between your regular office job environment and the strip club environment is that alcohol pours freely, and where there’s alcohol the chance of there being drugs is higher. A lot of the women I worked with did not do drugs and some didn’t even drink alcohol, but on the contrary there were many who did.
3. Sex trafficking is a very real and very bad thing that happens in our society, however I don’t recall ever meeting a fellow dancer who wasn’t there of her own accord and who wasn’t freely choosing to be a stripper. (That does not mean that sex trafficking doesn’t happen with strippers. I was just privileged enough to work in higher-class establishments where that generally did not occur).
4. Strippers don’t statistically come from broken homes. I know more people in “regular jobs” who grew up without father figures than I know to be true of strippers or sex-workers. Believe it or not, some women are just comfortable with their bodies and sexuality and have different views than those who perceive sexuality in a prude or repressed light. Some people don’t view nudity or sexuality to be inherently “bad”. For me and the women I worked with, being a stripper was a normal job, and outside of the club, we had normal lives and came from normal families.
5. The money is good, but it’s not consistent. You have to pay a “house fee” to work (which varies at different establishments) and you’re considered self-employed as clubs don’t generally employ dancers but rather accept girls on a freelance basis. You hustle for your money. If you’re not willing to approach every table, you’re not going to leave work with money. Some busy nights I could leave with over $1000, and other slow nights I would leave with $100. It’s inconsistent and that alone can be stressful. It’s not easy money. Its competitive, and exhausting work.
6. Strippers do indeed have respect for themselves. It’s such a common thing to hear that “women like that have no self-respect” or “strippers must be so insecure to do that kind of job.” First off, I relate my entire body positivity and confidence to me being a stripper. I fell in love with my own body and the way I moved, spoke, and danced. It takes a lot of confidence to parade around a stage fully nude, and it takes a lot of self respect to own up to it.
7. And finally, It’s not for everybody. It’s hard work. It involves physical fitness, self-discipline, social stigma, and isolation from family and friends with negative views on the industry. It’s also not a place for people who easily fall victim to peer-pressure, or people without strong personal convictions. The industry can chew you up and spit you out. It’s competitive, stigmatized and not at all as glamorous as certain celebrities and entertainment make it seem.