Saturday, March 14, 2009

Work with me, now...

Gripe: Relationship between club staff and dancers are so complex, undefined, sexualized, and dependent.

Example #1: When I had first started working at the club, the DJ at the time was obsessed with me. He kept telling me I had a really exotic face (if I had a penny for every time the word exotic was used...) and a nice ass. He'd also intently watch me whenever I did my stage set. Also, the DJ tipout at the end of the night seems kind of low, so I always tip above and beyond that (unless I've had a really shitty day) so I think he started appreciating my generosity. Anyway, one night he stayed past his shift and was drinking, and then started hitting on me, telling me how much I turn him on. He asked if he could buy some lapdances from me, and I agreed. What he didn't tell me was that, as a club employee, he wanted to get his lapdances in the champagne room (i.e. complete privacy) and pay lapdance rates! That's like paying for McDonald's and eating filet mignon...My hands were tied! DJ revenge in a strip club sucks, and DJ friendship is really important. DJ revenge? Well, when a DJ hates a dancer, he might never put her on stage, or play really awful hard-to-dance-to music when she is on stage. Once this DJ didn't like this dancer and whenever she took a nasty-looking pervy guy for a lapdance he'd play really really long songs! On the flipside, there was this one S&M sweaty a-hole who used to come in for me and as a courtesy (probably because of my generous tipping), the Deej would play really really short songs. So I could make $80 in like ten minutes. Anyway, I didn't want to create a tense DJ-dancer relationship with the DJ that night, so I didn' t bother pointing out to him that it wasn't exactly fair to me that he pays me for a lapdance when what he's really getting is a champagne room. Back there, he ended up whipping it out and trying to jerk off (as I gingerly inched away from him, wanting nothing near it, and eventually making him put it away). And after that night, our relationship went back to "normal" in the club.

Example #2: The relationship between the busboy and dancers is ridiculous. The dancers make way more money than the busboy, who happens to be an undocumented immigrant. They send him out for smokes and dinners and pay him only for what he buys, and never bother tipping. It's fucked up. One day he had a few drinks, and started telling me that he really liked me. He told me he watched me on the cameras sometimes and that he knew I was one of the few girls who didn't "do sex" and that he really liked that about me. Could he get a few lapdances? Sure. The lapdances were nice - i.e. he kept his pants on and his hands, generally, to himself. Then he paid me the next day. Since then, I think we have a really nice friendship going. He's attracted to me, but he also respects me as a person (and he says that "Pakistanis are generally very nice and don't cheat on their wives" and he really respects my culture...). But then he has these wierd days where he'll be really horny and will talk to me really dirty - our (or should I say, HIS) running joke is now "you coming home with me?" at the end of my shift. And I say "you can't afford me" and we laugh. It's all very harmless and jovial, but it still occupies this strange gray area. The power dynamics are evident: he is male; he is responsible for my security in many instances. At the same time, I'm a dancer, a US citizen, well-off (certainly when compared to him). So there was this time when he took the joke a bit too far ("Wanna come home with me?" "You can't afford me." "Well I'm gonna wait outside and kidnap you.") and I threw my stiletto at him, laughing, but still pissed.

Example #3: Management! I have dealt with four managers so far, and only one of them wasn't fucking around with dancers. The others? One of them, Eric, was a serial monogamist when it came to the dancers. He would have a long, intense relationship with a dancer, then there'd inevitably be some drama, and then she'd "get fired because she missed a shift" or something ridiculous, and then he'd start a new relationship with another dancer. Eric, FYI, was also a retired cop. The current manager, Larry, has also found himself infatuated with me. Mind you, he hangs out with other dancers, having sex, doing blow, etc. But with me, "he finds himself thinking about me all the time." I think it started because he realized we share some politics (we ended up having a really engaged conversation about Che Guevara once), and then he realized I don't turn tricks (which always gets the guy to think of you 'respectfully' instead of as a ho, which is fucked up in its own way), and the rest was history. I've found out that he actually asks other dancers in the club for personal information about me, like, do I have a boyfriend? would I ever date him? etc. etc. Luckily the only dancer I actually share personal information with is an absolutely loyal friend to me, and would never trade info about me.

Conclusion? There is something really strange about the relationship with male staff at the club. I've had many a customer throw $40 or $50 at the lapdance bouncer so we can have more "privacy" (i.e. "Don't interrupt me when you see me grabbing her tits") during our dances. I know that money talks in a club, and dancers should never have any illusions that the bouncers are truly there to ensure our safety. Not only can they be tipped to turn a blind eye, often times, they want to break rules with the dancer too. I was reading a great article about the sex work industry and how feminists would never try to protect sex workers they way they try to protect women who are looking for abortion services. It's true, the dancers, tricks, and whores - especially those of us who don't fulfill the image of the downtrodden, oppressed, rape/trafficking victim - are hardly worthy of energies of "the feminist movement" to make sure we get home safe, to make sure that even a joking threat ("I'm gonna kidnap you!") is seen as profoundly offensive. And so we've turned to hiring males to do the work in the club of ensuring our safety. This option, it turns out, has been largely problematic as well.


  1. I really enjoyed this piece. I think the complicated dynamics and issues it speaks to are really brilliantly and clearly discussed. Definitely appreciate the critique of a lot of feminism, and the need to really think about what justice for or caring about what happens to women really means and too often doesn't

  2. Djoser from StripperwebApril 25, 2009 at 2:20 PM

    I am a male in the industry, and have seen other males behave exactly as you describe it here enough to make me want to vomit. What's really bad is, it makes my job harder--even if I stopped fooling around with dancers several years ago after seeing he inevitable ensuing drama. But a lot of the dancers in a club with guys like this will confuse me with some scumbag pervert, until they get to know me better.

    Now I despise these guys, especially the ones who behave without any honor or even any self-respect (like the fucking guy whipping it out during the dance).

    My advice would be never to give any male co-worker a lapdance for any amount of money. I figured out that was a bad idea even before I figured out playing at work was bad.