The Glamorous Life of the Stripper
Excerpted from a 1999 study by Kelly Holsopple.
Kelly, a former stripper, investigated violence in strip clubs, typical strip club activities and interactions, working conditions, and women’s thoughts on stripping.
Her study had two parts. In phase one, she interviewed 41 women for 1 to 4 hours each. The interviews were qualitative and open-ended. The phase one subjects ranged in age from 19-40, and had been working as strippers anywhere from 3 months to 18 years.
They worked in both urban and rural clubs which, collectively, featured the following activities: topless dancing, nude dancing, table dancing, couch dancing, lap dancing, wall dancing, shower dancing, and bed dancing, peepshows, female boxing and wrestling with customers. Some of the clubs also sold photographs of the dancers, or hired porn models and actresses as headliners.
After analyzing the phase one results, Kelly found that two most pronounced themes were low-self esteem and violence.
In phase two, Kelly interviewed a smaller group of women using a 26-question survey. It focused on the rules and work conditions at clubs, and incidents of verbal harassment, physical and sexual violence, and sexual exploitation experienced by the strippers.
These surveys and consequent discussions lasted from one to four hours.
The phase two subjects ranged in age from eighteen to thirty-five years old, and entered into stripping between the ages of 15 and 23 years old, with an average entry age of 18 years, 10 months.
In phase two, the women were asked to describe the various circumstances of their recruitment into stripping.
One woman recounted her recruitment as an eighteen-year-old. She went to a ‘gentlemen’s club’ to pick up her friend, waited at the bar, was served alcohol, and was asked for her ID by the owner. Instead of kicking her out, he told her she could make $1000 per week working for him and pressured her to enter the amateur contest that night. She won the $300 contest, and worked there three weeks before being recruited into an escort service by a patron pimp.
This kind of story is not uncommon. Typically, a strip club manager asks a potential applicant to audition on amateur night or bikini night, popular with customers who hope to see girl-next-door types rather than seasoned strippers. If the manager is pleased and there is an opening in the schedule, he may make a job offer.
Applicants are told working as a stripper is flexible, lucrative, and that they will not be forced to do anything they do not want to do. Later, strippers discover that managers overbook them so they are forced to compete with each other, often gradually engaging in more explicit activities in order to earn tips.
It’s important to understand that strippers are typically hired as ‘independent contractors’ rather than ‘employees.’ They have no fixed wage, and their income depends on pleasing customers in order to earn tips. They are not entitled to any of the following privileges: workers’ compensation, health insurance, unemployment benefits, or filing discrimination claims. Club owners save money by paying no Social Security, no health insurance, and no sick pay. (see Joe’s Strip-o-Rama Employee Handbook)
Other club income collected by the management can include: door cover charges, beverage sales, sale of promotional novelty items, kickbacks, prostitution, and fines imposed on the women.
When not on stage, strippers are also encouraged to perform private dances for bigger tips. These are usually performed in areas shielded from the larger club view. As a rule, these transactions involve one female dancer and one male customer. These situations skirt the definition of prostitution because of the contact involved.
In the second phase of her survey, Kelly found that:
Customers committed the overwhelming majority of violent acts.
Club owners, managers, assistant managers, bartenders, music programmers or DJs, bouncers, security guards, floorwalkers, doormen, and valets were guilty to a lesser extent.
The women in the survey reported that customers have
Some strippers worked on elevated runways so narrow that they could not get away from customers on either side touching them, especially when they were kneeling down to accept a tip in the side of their g-strings/t-bars, or when they had their backs turned.
Despite claims from management that customers are prohibited from touching the strippers, this rule is consistently violated.
Strippers reported having these thoughts while on stage:
Strippers engaged in private dances reported these reactions:
Notice none reported thinking, “Gee, this guy is so hot, I wonder if he’ll let me take him home.”
Reprinted by permission of www.escapeprostitution.com
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