Hey Slut, Help a Rookie Stripper

Hey Slut,

WITHOUT REALLY EVEN looking for it, I got this weird opportunity. I never have enough money. I don’t have insurance. One of my girlfriends works at a strip club. She told me how much money she makes and she told me she could get me a job.  She’s not really a great friend, and she’s a little flaky, but she can totally get me in the door.  I want the advice of someone who isn’t flaky, and who is a seasoned professional, about how I can make lots of money as a stripper and possibly part-time escort, and not lose my soul. If you were giving advice to someone who is just starting to become a stripper, and you like her, and you really wanted to help her make money and still be safe, what advice would you give her? Also, how much does a stripper pay to work per shift? Do they tip DJ? What other expenses should I anticipate?

Sincerely, Rookie Stripper

Dear Rookie Stripper,

I remember how scared I was when I started stripping— how broke, frustrated and out of options. I hadn’t paid my rent. I had no costumes and no idea what to expect. I also had a friend who was pretty flaky tell me about the money and get me in the door. I was hired and signed the paperwork but the atmosphere of the club intimidated me: all that beautiful seediness and the mesmerizing women on stage who knew everything while I knew nothing. I remember dancing on my baby stripper Bambi legs, moving too fast and feeling ridiculous. I had the same worries that you have now about losing something because of doing sex work. The hard truth is yeah, you risk losing something by doing sex work. I would not describe it as losing soul, but I would describe it as a struggle to keep my heart pried open on the job. When I worked as a receptionist in a high profile entertainment law firm, I lost things: a measure of independence and agency, privacy and time. I did things I didn’t want to do and did things I didn’t care about for people I didn’t necessarily like. In stripping, I lost vulnerability. I became discerning, coarse and strategic. I sized men up and determined what they wanted and became skilled at being compliant. I learned the art of sexual seduction, which is a powerful drug. I became that drug for men. The strategy can be fun; similar to an actress playing a role and diving in completely for a time. Only unlike actors, sex workers are confronted with blatant negative stigma and epic slut shaming.

On the topic of losing something, here is what I wish someone told me: Sex work sheds an unflattering light on your actual lovers. There it is. It’s hard to get around this funny little dynamic: wildly playful sexual attention flung from your customers and all that effusive flattery?  It’s neither real nor lasting. A real relationship involves driving your boyfriend to the dentist for another root canal and being there when your best friend is diagnosed with breast cancer. A real relationship is paying bills together and taking your dog to the Vet. You may conclude that your GF or BF is a loser because they don’t have money take you shopping or to fancy dinners, but you are making a grave mistake. The men in the clubs shower you with adoration and affection because they have no responsibility to you outside the club. They will tell you all of their secrets because they don’t care what you think of them. This doesn’t make them bad people. It just makes them people. I challenge you to keep your heart pried open while you dance nude and hold fast to your other ambitions. Play the long game. Learn all you can about love and longing and that aching desire that rules our impulses. Since your mind is made up already, use stripping to obtain your goals and save your money and take good care of yourself. Here are more nuts and bolts facts I wished I had known when I walked into the strip clubs as baby stripper many years ago:

1. Make sure you know your physical and emotional boundaries before you walk through the door at any strip club where you plan to work. For example, I have a friend who cannot deal with having her breasts touched. She doesn’t mind guys touching other parts of her body during a dance, but for some reason, her breasts are off limits. Know what makes you cringe before you sit on a stranger’s dick.

2. Stage fees vary from club to club and are known to be arbitrary. Ask the girls you work with what the deal is. They will tell you. They will say: It’s $80 for 4 hours or they will say, “It changes every night.” This is their business to know so ask them. They have no reason to lie or make shit up.

3. Watch and Learn: Watch how the girls conduct themselves with clients. Watch the ones who get lots of dances. See where they go. Find out what they do. Ask them what they say to the guys to get them into the private room or VIP.  Be VERY nice to the other girls at work. This is the biggest mistake I see girls make. You will make so much more money if you work WITH the women than working against the women.

4. Be very nice to people. Be nice to men you speak to. Be nice to the girls at work, in case I did not stress that enough. You are the new face on the block. You are directly impacting the Veterans’ (older, more experienced dancers) income just by being there. Watch and learn and be fucking nice. Leave your shitty mood at the door and be nice. You will make so much more money if you do this one simple thing.

5. Carry antibacterial wipes in your bag. Drink water. Bring stripper snacks to work: protein bars, almonds, and an apple. You want snacks that will not make your breath stink or sweat out of you. Don’t eat spicy food or garlic before work.  Stay hydrated, laser focused and rested. These small self-care steps will change your night and your life.

4. Tip the DJ approximately 10%.  Be nice to him. Don’t fuck him. Don’t date him. Treat him with respect and kindness.  Don’t let him grab your ass. You never know where your big spenders will come from and they may come from your stage set that is orchestrated by your savvy, talented, intuitive DJ who knows the crowd and may even direct you to his baller friend who likes girls exactly like you and is carrying a wad of 10K cash at all times. With the DJ and your co-workers, Err on the side of generosity.

5. Last and most important: Save your motherfucking money. Go directly to the ATM after work and put your money in a savings account immediately. If you must, enlist the help of a financial advisor to do this. The mistake you will make is thinking that the money will always come tomorrow, but this is a lie. Set specific financial goals for yourself so that when you reach them, you can take a much-needed break from sex work or change your professional course completely. Save your motherfucking money, girl. I cannot stress this enough. Do not waste your money on bullshit. You need only 1 pair of stripper shoes and a couple costumes. The shoes will cost you about $80 and will last you for a year. Now get your Rookie butt to work.

Godspeed,

Slut.

 

Antonia Crane

About Antonia Crane

Antonia Crane is a writer and performer in Los Angeles. She teaches Media Writing at UCSD to students who know more about Tumblr than she does. Her memoir “Spent” is forthcoming on Barnacle Books March 18th, 2014. Her other work can be found in The Rumpus, Dame Magazine, Salon, PANK magazine, Black Clock, The Believer, Frequencies, Slake, The Los Angeles Review The New Black, and lots other places. She can be found running up the mountain in Griffith Park. She blogs and tweets and all of that :http://antoniacrane.com.
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