From: Lee Lady
The topic of nude dancing is one that is close to my heart, since I have spent quite a bit of time in strip clubs and become friends with quite a few nude dancers. This has definitely been one of several things that have made a big difference in my life in helping me resolve many of my own problems and issues about sexuality and interacting with women.
At the same time that I am profoundly grateful for the opportunities that strip clubs have given me, though, I also have moments when I wonder how fair this is -- I wonder whether I am using women in an exploitative way as a way of getting help with my own personal growth.
This is still an issue I'm not completely comfortable about. However I know that if were to tell any of my nude dancer friends that I was no longer going to come to her club because I didn't want to exploit her, she would look at me as if I were out of my mind. ``If you want to help me,'' she'd say, ``come here more often and buy me more drinks and give me more tips on stage.''
In fact, when one thinks about the amount of money that changes hands (and I don't spend anywhere near as much as many customers, although by my standards it's sometimes a lot), one has to wonder exactly who it is that's exploiting who.
A lot of my friends, in fact, both male and female, are quite caustic and cynical about my use of the term ``friends'' in referring to dancers. ``Strippers aren't interested in your friendship,'' they say, ``they're only interested in your money.''
Just like Gene Douglas, these people are totally convinced that I am naive and that they, who have seldom actually gone to strip clubs themselves, know the truth about clubs and dancers.
But in my opinion, anyone who makes any sort of universal statement about nude dancers, whether positive or negative, is the one who is naive.
I would recommend in particular that anyone who wants to know more about the reality of the world of nude dancing get hold of the book Dancing Naked in the Material World by Marilyn Suriani Futterman (Prometheus Books, 1992, ISBN 0-87975-737-X). Ms. Futterman is a photographer, and her book contains numerous photographs of nude and topless dancers: both clothed and unclothed, at their clubs, in their dressing rooms, and in their homes. The more interesting part, though, is that there are statements by the dancers about their work and their life, as well as an afterword by Jacqueline Boles (Ph.D., Sociology, Georgia State University) called ``Stripping for a Living.''
One dancer writes, for instance, ``Dancing is true anarchy. I don't have to do anything I don't feel like doing. I get paid anyway. Anybody with self-discipline doesn't need to dance. There are a lot of women for whom dancing is not an option -- and that's not based on their physical appearance.... I am not ashamed in the least of what I do.''
This dancer's husband says, ``It's an off-and-on wrestle with myself to have a wife who is a stripper. Sometimes I feel real cocky because my wife is pretty enough to dance and take people's money. She does it really well.... And it bothers me the amount of money she can make doing it. When we were first together, it scared me, but I was intrigued by her. She was brighter than most of the women I've met, and that's what kept me chasing after her. Now I worry for the future sometimes and I wish we could find other ways to go.''
Aother writes, ``I began stripping for extra income. I am an apartment manager full time and the mother of two teenage kids. I really enjoy what I do. I really don't think of myself as a stripper, but as a person entertaining men, doing something I love to do, and that's dance.... Although I only dance part time, it's allowed me to grow and be able to see things from other angles.''
Another dancer says, ``I never found my own niche until I became a dancer. I was always too dippy, too bubbly, never serious. Now I don't have to be! So many people think of it as a dreadful waste of potential, being a 'career bimbo,' but it's been very gratifying and, oddly enough, stabilizing for me psychologically. It's a real hoot, although I do sometimes worry about not worrying about my future.''
In the preface to the book, Dennis Carlyle Darling writes, ``The cover of this book should carry a warning label similar to those printed on cigarette packs: People about to encounter what is contained on these pages should be made aware that their assumptions may be at risk. Those who frequent topless clubs should be warned that the rituals and relationships behind the windowless facades of these strip joints will never quite seem the same after a trip through this book. They will realize that they too have been watched and rated, and not by the 'blonde bimbos' they imagine, but by intelligent and streetwise women driven to their profession by reason and the survival instinct -- not by their hormones.''
In article <338A5570.2D91@prodigy.net> Gene Douglas <GeneDoug@prodigy.net> wrote about nude dancing:
One thing it's important to remember is that no woman is forced to become a nude dancer. One might argue that many women go into dancing as a matter of desperation, because of the lack of good employment opportunities otherwise. But to the extent that this is true, it would hardly be helpful to take away the one means of survival such women have left in the world.
In fact, though, women become dancers for a lot of reasons. Sordid though the strip club may often be, many women still prefer it to working at the Seven-Eleven or in somebody's office. Some dancers don't have the discipline to hold a regular job for very long. Many are attracted by the amount of money they can make dancing (although most agree that it's a hard way to earn a living).
Some like dancing because it gives them freedom and enables them to travel. One dancer I knew would take off for months at a time and go sailing around the Pacific. Dancing allowed her to do this (and enabled her to meet the men who had the sailboats). Most ``straight'' jobs would not.
I met a dancer who had an MBA. She said that she could make more money dancing. (I had a suspicion, though, that there were other considerations involved that she wasn't willing to talk about. I didn't know her very well.) Another friend of mine who used to be a dancer until she got into an auto accident has a MA in psychology.
One dancer I became friends with had previously had a quite well paying job laying floor tile. But she found dealing with the customers in strip clubs less unpleasant than dealing with her male co-workers laying tile.
Another dancer I knew has (or at least used to have -- I haven't listened recently) a weekly call-in radio show.
A dancer I'm friends with now speaks several Asian languages reasonably well, has done technical work on films and has had a number of other jobs that involved specialized skills and which sound to me quite interesting. Her teen-age son and daughter are quite aware of the way she earns a living.
One of the dancers I have known had been in the Army and another, at the time I met her, was waiting to be accepted into the Air Force.
On the other hand, a lot of women use dancing, especially in the smaller clubs, as an opportunity for prostitution, either within the club itself or outside in customer's cars in the parking lot. I've had the experience of having a dancer or hostess walk up to me and ask if I wanted a blow job the moment I walked through the door of a club, before I even had a chance to sit down and order a drink.
(In this respect, the situation varies a whole lot depending on the club. In some clubs here, especially many of the larger ones, dancers normally have little interaction with customers off-stage and a dancer who offers a customers explicit sex for money will be fired. Clubs that allow prostitution are putting their license at risk.)
The dancers I have known and in some cases been friends with are certainly not a representative sample, any more than the ones Gene Douglas sees as clients are. For one thing, I almost never take the initiative in approaching a dancer; she's the one who makes the approach. Thus the dancers I meet are the ones who find something about me that they like, or at least feel somewhat comfortable about. (Certainly some dancers will approach every customer in the club, asking him to buy her a drink. But I will not buy a dancer a drink unless she spends some time talking to me first, seems interesting as a person, and also expresses at least a little interest in me as a person.)
In fact, the more one gets to know the strips clubs, the more one realizes that there as many different kinds of women dancing as they are people in general.
It can be argued that although no one forces women to become dancers, the strip clubs are what the law refers to as an ``attractive nuisance.'' Namely, young women with little experience in the world are lured by the prospects of making a lot of money into a life which certainly does have many sordid aspects, where drug usage and heavy drinking and promiscuity are common, and where workers have no security, no pension plan, and no long-term future.
It's certainly the accepted wisdom in this society that young people need to get on track as soon as possible for a permanent career and become part of the system. For those who have this point of view, nude dancing looks like a hopeless dead end. Dancers live outside of the system.
Why would a woman want to be a dancer, one might wonder, when she could learn secretarial skills and get a more respectable job? But for some women, the prospect of spending one's whole life working in an office does not seem all that attractive. They'd rather have the freedom that dancing gives them.
Women who dance for very long do learn quite remarkable interpersonal skills. The fact that a dancer has to deal with so many obnoxious customers is one of the main drawbacks of the job, and yet at the same time, learning to deal resourcefully with these customers is extremely empowering for women. I've seen women on stage exert remarkable personal power in dealing with drunk and obnoxious customers in a situation where the dancer is intrinsically extremely vulnerable. (This is especially true in the smaller clubs here in Honolulu where there are no bouncers, and the owner (always female) and bartender usually offer very little assistance.)
As far as money goes, not all dancers earn a whole lot, by any means. Many of them are single mothers with very young children and have to pay baby sitters while they work. Not all of them can count on steady work. They may be fired from a club somewhat capriciously, or sent home if the club is having a slow night.
And even when dancers do earn a fair amount of money, in most cases little of it usually sticks to their fingers. In many cases, dancers live in a hotel, paying at a daily rate at least twice the rent that they would pay for an apartment, because they are not able to accumulate enough money for first and last month's rent plus security deposit.
On the other hand, I know of at least a couple of cases where, when a dancer was especially reliable, a club owner lent her the moving-in money so she could get her own apartment.
From: Lee Lady
Subject: Nude Dancing (Part 2)
Date: 1 Jun 1997 02:43:02 GMT
Organization: University of Hawaii (Mathematics Dept)
In article <337781ED.5D6A@prodigy.net>, Gene Douglas <GeneDoug@prodigy.net> wrote:
The idea of the drunk and obnoxious military guy causing problems in a strip bar is a stereotype which is in fact sometimes true, especially when a large group of guys come in together. On the other hand, a lot of young military guys are quite polite, respectful, and in fact rather shy. I think that a lot of dancers here in Honolulu would rather dance for soldiers and sailors than for middle-aged Japanese tourists, because at least the military guys are fun, and a dancer who knows what she's doing can usually keep them from getting out of hand, whereas a lot of the rich tourists (but certainly not all) are arrogant, boring, and stingy.
As to the the bit about hands in the panties, I'm sure that I'm not the first to notice that when Gene Douglas writes about sex, his choice of words often reveals a horrified fascination with the very things he condemns. It is clear that images such as ``pulling a little boy's pants down,'' or ``slipping his hand into a 13 year old's bra,'' or ``sticking their hand into your panties'' are very highly charged for him.
In this respect, he is a lot like those crusaders against pornography who see it as their duty to look at an enormous quantity of pornographic magazines and films, and give lectures where they show their audiences the most extreme examples of such pornography, all the time deploring it.
Gene Douglas doesn't seem to realize that his own intense emotions on these issues will sometimes result in his compounding his client's problems more than resolving them, and in fact sometimes even create problems where there was almost no problem to start with.
As far as customers ``sticking their hands ... into [the] panties'' of dancers, the image created by these words is quite inaccurate. Dancers don't wear panties, they wear G-strings (or, here in Honolulu at least, for part of their set they will have nothing at all covering their crotch). This is not a mere quibble, because it means that a customer is not putting his whole hand into a dancer's panties but, at worst, slipping a dollar bill into the edge of the crotch. But here in Honolulu, even this would be unusual. The dancers control where customers put tips. Usually customers do not put tips in the G-string, and when they do, it is almost always under one of the straps where they cross the hips rather than in the actual crotch.
The ``correct'' place to put a tip is in the garter worn on the thigh, and almost every club has a large sign saying, ``Tipping in garter only.'' In the larger clubs, this is pretty well enforced, both by the owners and by the dancers. The large clubs all have at least one extremely big bouncer (weighing between 400 and 500 pounds) who will instantly evict a customer at a dancer's signal. The bouncers like kicking customers out, because they get a $20 tip from the dancer who asks them to do it.
In the smaller clubs, behavior can be much freer. Even if the owner tries to enforce strict compliance with the law (tipping in garter only), many dancers will try to circumvent her, both because they get better tips and, in a lot of cases, simply because they find it more fun to get tipped in more titillating ways. I've had dancers wave my hand away, for instance, when I tried putting my tip in their garter and instead insist on my holding it up to their chest so they could grab it by squeezing my hand between their breasts. Or they'd tell me to put the bill in my mouth so they could squeeze my face between their breasts. (Other dancers will never let their breasts be touched while on stage -- or off stage either, for that matter.)
Some dancers are in fact married. Some dancers marry one of their customers, although in a lot of cases they stop dancing once they get married. (One woman I know married a customer who was a police officer. She no longer dances in clubs, but now has her own strip-o-gram service.)
>Now, you may think this is admirable work, Silke, and it may even be
>more fun than teaching in a dusty old classroom. You might even want to
>try it some time.
>But I have had clients whose symptoms arose from doing work like that.
>One of them had to get drunk just to go to work.
One of the things I most wanted to know when I first started going to strip clubs was how dancers felt about performing naked.
Some of them, even after years of dancing, are still not completely comfortable about earning a living by having their naked body looked at. Many others, on the other hand, have no concern at all with nudity. Some will sometimes walk naked off the stage back to the dressing room (very much illegal), and wear as little as possible when not dancing.
The big deal in Honolulu clubs is for the dancer to give customers a really good, close-up look at her vulva. Some dancers resent the fact that many customers are pretty much exclusively interested in that. They want to seen as more than just a vagina. Others find the whole business rather amusing and think that men are rather stupid for having so much interest in something that, to them, is no big deal.
Aside from nudity, though, a lot of dancers do have a certain level of performance anxiety and sometimes appreciate a shot of tequila before going on stage. It's not so much their skill at dancing as such that they worry about, because few customers give a damn about how well a woman dances. But a dancer needs to put out an energy that will attract customers, help them have fun, and encourage them to tip. This is not a negligible skill.
Dancers on stage also have a hard time dealing with rejection. When customers sit at the edge of the stage and don't tip, or when almost all the customers move away from the stage to a booth or to the bar, what dancers resent even more than the loss of tips is the implied insult.
As far as drinking is concerned, it's illegal for dancers to drink alcohol while working. At some clubs, this is enforced. At others, when a customer buys a dancer a drink she may get a very small shot along with her Seven-up. But at still other clubs, dancers may be given almost a standard size shot of whiskey or, most often, tequila. Some owners and some bartenders like to see dancers drink. For one thing, it tends to make them more affectionate toward customers. And for another, many customers are more willing to spend $20 to buy a dancer a drink if she's getting something more than a soft drink.
The enforcement of the liquor laws in Honolulu strip clubs is quite bizarre. Agents of the liquor commission visit the clubs regularly, but seldom manage to find dancers drinking. Every club has bottles of champaigne, often fairly prominently displayed. If asked, the owner would explain to the authorities that when a customer buys a dancer or hostess champaigne, he drinks the champaigne himself while the dancer drinks her Seven-up. In fact, though, it's quite obvious that a customer would never pay $50 or $100 for a bottle of champaigne if he had to drink it alone. (Face it, many customers don't even like champaigne. It's not very good champaigne, either.)
For all that, though, dancers don't usually drink all that much while working. On a couple of occasions, I've actually seen dancers so drunk that they fell off the stage, but that's exceptional. Dancers who get that drunk more than a few times will get fired.
>And if a woman is a mother, that doesn't make it any easier to explain
>issues or right and wrong to their children. Of course, the table
>dancing is oftentimes more than a job, it's a way of life. That may
>include a parade of boyfriends coming home for a few weeks at a time,
>children seeing their mother having sex, children being molested (oh,
>excuse me, brought into a loving relationship) with some of those
>boyfriends, alcoholism, drunken scenes at home and all that entails,
>boyfriends beating up mom, etc.
This is certainly true of a lot of dancers. There is indeed a large correlation between dancing and such things as excessive drinking (especially when not working), use of illegal drugs, and promiscuity. To some extent, this correlation undoubtedly does indicate that being a dancer tends to foster such vices. On the other hand, it's also true that women who are already into heavy drinking and drug use are drawn to work as dancers because their problems make it difficult for them to hold a regular job and they can make enough money dancing to feed their drug habit.
As far as the abusive boy friends go, I think that most of these women would manage to hook up with these kinds of men in any case, but being a nude dancer certainly makes it easier.
On the other hand, there are also many dancers who do not drink much, never use illegal drugs, and are not promiscuous. One dancer I knew in her late twenties told me, ``I don't go to bed with any man unless I'm in love with him. I can count the number of relationships I've had on the fingers of one hand.'' This woman was a vegetarian and seldom drank alcohol. (In fact, the club kept bottles of vegetable juice in the refrigerator for her when customers would buy her drinks.) Eventually she went on several tours (as a dancer) to Japan, managed to accumulate a fair amount of money, and now, after having been a dancer for at least five or six years, has returned to her home town in California in order to go to college.
One dancer I'm friends with lives with her mother. Her mother has come to the club and watched her dance.
>If the woman has no children, then there might be issues of
>psychological harm done to her, in being treated like a commodity
>(highly perishable, though if the audience is drunk enough, she might be
>good for an extra 5 years) the type of husband she might eventually end
>up with, the type of boyfriends she finds and the expectations they have
>of her (including supporting them) the general disrespect of the
>community, and the potentials for her future life.
A number of the dancers I've known have been in their thirties. I used to be friends with one dancer who was fifty years old, but she was certainly an exception. Even though she danced in small clubs, she had a very well organized show, including fairly elaborate costumes, magic tricks, and fire-eating.
Customers in strip clubs will find that not every woman has her price. Furthermore, customers who actually take the trouble to get to know some of the dancers will discover that women who take their clothes off in public, and for that matter even those who engage in prostitution, are still very real human beings and in most respects are not all that different from you and me.
The Exotic Dancer Web Page
Words from a Call Girl