Monday, April 27, 2009

Pigs, Swine Flu, and Normal Flirtation

I was already paranoid about this swine flu epidemic and working at the club in close proximity to people. But the fear was amplified when I got to work! Coworkers were talking about it, and the bartender was coughing, so I refused to drink anything she dropped a straw into. I must have washed my hands ten times! The hypochondriac in me gingerly stepped out today. What made it worse was two nasty customers, one who wanted to kiss me and the other who wanted to put his hands near my mouth. Man, did I fight them off! I should have epidemic-mindset at work every day - I'll show customers to challenge my personal boundaries! Anyway, some funny shit came up with a coworker who was even more paranoid than I was. Key quotes? "These whores are probably all carriers of the flu anyway. They give a guy a lapdance, then we give him a lapdance, boom, we're dead." "I don't want to get the flu! If I do, the CDC will be all over me asking where I work, and then boom, the next thing you know there's a front page story about me, the stripper, who spread the swine flu all over NYC."

Flu fears aside, I got to thinking about flirtation. Strippers always say they don't know how to dance like a normal person (not a stripper) when they go out dancing. But I was thinking, I don't think I know how to flirt like a normal person anymore! There are times when subtly stroking your breast or the guys' thigh just isn't appropriate or fun. Like, when the guy is not a strip club customer at all but someone you know outside. in the real world, and you're trying to charm him. How does one make the transition from trying to score a lapdance to trying to score a soft kiss, a date, or a relationship?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Discursively Dissed and Cursed

An experienced stripper warns a newbie about the dangers of telling everyone what kind of work she does. The newbie naively casts aside the caveat; she knows not to tell people a) dangerously close to family and b) those whose gender politics are questionable*. Other than that, she’s proud of herself as a dancer, and cavalierly lets people around her know it.

The decision is regrettable.

The experienced stripper was onto something. Be very, very selective in who you tell about what kind of work you do. Newbie is sad that this adage holds true; she was hoping that people who are in the sex industry would find comfort in progressive allies and use their tales (the flippant, the funny, and the frightening) from work to illuminate the realities of sex work and bring it into discourse. Not to say this hasn’t happened – indeed, Newbie has opened up a lot of dialogic spaces about sexuality, labor rights, health, and rape in personal relationships where they weren’t there before. But Newbie regretfully looks back at the brazen decision to tell anyone and everyone who didn’t easily fall into groups a and b about her decision to start stripping and provide consequent updates about titillating tales from work.

Experienced stripper thought it was a bad idea to openly declare what we do for a few reasons.

  • · People will think you’re really rich and have all kinds of opinions about what you should do with your money.
  • · Guys will think you’re easy and their relationships with you will become hypersexualized.
  • · Word about your true identity might spread and reach your customers, blowing confidentiality.

But there’s more, Newbie learns…

Because strippers are considered performers in the entertainment industry, the performative aspect of the work may be thought to exist outside of the bounds of the shift itself. In other words, she’s a stripper to prove something to the world. Her stripper identity is as much an act off-stage as it is on…

Whore sexuality is threatening. It’s threatening to non-sex-positive women and men; it’s threatening to people who talk about progressive sexual politics but in practice that’s defined simply by promiscuous fucking.

Well, words are boomerangs, and Newbie’s na├»ve openness and excitement about her work are hitting her in the head. Can’t take ‘em back, but she can critically reevaluate spaces where she does talk about work, critically assess which allies are truly allies, and think more about the systematic ways sex work is excluded (again and again) from discourse at all levels.

That said, she’s damn proud of herself and the work she does. It takes something to deal with a cop begging for oral sex and flashing a badge; to fight off a 200 lb. guy who’s too aggressive in the champagne room and then be accused of hurting his wrist; to overcome discomfort with being outside of conventional standards of attractiveness and be ok with brownness and curviness; to handle jealousy or concern from intimate partners outside of work related to the job; to reevaluate her relationship to money, men, and her body on a daily basis. It’s a sense of empowerment that may cause discomfort or seem self-congratulatory, but she’s thrilled to embody it.

* Newbie incorrectly assumes that she can easily identify group (b)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin's Buttons

It's taken me a while to get around to this post, likely because I was suffering from PTSD after this incident. A few months back, a stout young chap* came into the club when there were no customers there. He wasted no time; grabbed me, and took me to the champagne room. There, he asked if I would have sex with him. I said no. He told me all the other girls do. I told him I'd be happy to give him his money back and he could spend it on another girl, in that case.** He declined, said he wanted me. Asked me if I'd blow him. I said no. Asked if I'd jerk him off. I said no. Asked if he could "jerk off near my mouth." I said no. He congratulated me for not selling sex, telling me that perhaps the reason he liked me more than the other girls was that I didn't do it. He tried to shake my hand as he left -- I politely waved instead. There was something really gross about him. I was actually disappointed when he reappeared a week later, and I was getting myself all prepared to decline the champagne room. Instead, he suggested we go for lapdances instead. I agreed, but gave him "airdances" - he smelled better this time, but I still didn't feel like making real contact with him. At some point during the fourth or fifth song, he pulled out his junk. And I mean, all of his junk. The frank and the beans. And there was something seriously wrong. I tried describing it to a friend of mine who's in public health; I thought she might be able to tell me what the condition was. But to date, we haven't been able to pin down exactly what STI he has. The best way to describe it is this: it seems his balls were covered with what looked like those fabric-covered buttons. I was too traumatized and too busy staying far far far away to get a proper look, but any medical experts out there, feel free to weigh in. What might this have been? Flesh-colored moles? Smooth*** warts? Molluscum contagiosum? (That's the one my public health friend guessed.)

1) If your junk was covered in buttons, wouldn't you warn a girl before you whipped it out and traumatized her with the sight?
2) Why whip out your balls at all?

*I should also mention foul-smelling.
** Classic/brilliant response we use, if I may say so myself.
*** The only thing smooth about this guy.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Nice guys get blogged about last...

I was chomping down on a lamb kabob after my shift last night and it dawned on me that I only* write about the guys who show up without underwear, who turn into semi-stalkers, who are cheap and grabby, etc. This a) perpetuates the idea that strippers work in demeaning environments, hustling assholes for a buck and b) is completely inaccurate! Maybe this is just part of the whole, using a blog to process stuff thing, so talking about the regrettable shit seems more worthwhile. Or, maybe I just want to make people chuckle with titillating/disgusting tales from work. Today's post goes out to the nice guys, a sizeable minority among strip club attendees! Thanks for tipping well, not insisting on getting my real name/phone number, asking if you can touch, offering good money for my used g-string (I still haven't sold it to the poor bastard), being up front about how much you expect to spend, not getting jealous (often times, even getting excited!) when I go make money off of other guys, bringing presents that are not ugly earrings or redundant bottles of perfume, wearing underwear, not wearing sweatpants, not crying during lapdances**, not asking my friend/the bartender where I live or if I have a boyfriend, and liking sounds other than your own voice.

*Asian gambling man is the exception
** This blog post has been a long time coming