April 23, 2009

SC: Why a Woman Becomes a Stripper

Stripping Chronicles - I will occasionally write on my life and times when I was dancer and what I learned and got out of it. I have found that all types of people are always asking me questions in particular about this time in my life. Although the industry likes to emphasize the occupation as a dancer, for ease of communication I usually just go with stripper.

First two notes:

1) I am writing this from my recollection of an old term paper I once did dominating my thoughts. I will try to be brief (and fail) and to avoid psychological terms but I also reserve the right to have big holes in this as well.

2) All of this is based on women who strip successfully as a profession whether short or long time. This excludes all the women who test drive it for a rebellious kick, social science/psychological case study and/or book material fodder and those who tried but could not handle it in some way. This includes many who state to others false reasons they got out who just could not really handle it.

One note reasons

I have probably heard enough shallow one note reasons as to why women take off their clothes and dance and grind on men for a living. Many have truth in them from small to a big amount but none can serve as an all encompassing reason. Here are some just off the top of my head:

1) The money and hours are great. - I mean we all cannot be doctors or lawyers. Most people including strippers are not all just about the Benjamins. Also, I will not pretend the money is not real good but the rumors and guesses tend to be quite over inflated. Some super featured stripper in some big city club is not the average stripper nor is every night some jam packed night full of men wanting to loose twenties. 

2) They need more money then they can make elsewhere. – Most have that as part of a reason but many people fall into this definition and do not take their clothes off.

3) Childhood abuse and neglect, low self esteem and just being dumb. – I grouped all these together for my answer. Strippers go into their high school career fair or meet their guidance counselor and they suggest this occupation once they find out we have at least one of these things. Many people have these issues and obstacles and choose not to do anything like this to even going far off in the other direction.

4) They are proud of their bodies and being a woman and feel empowered to show them off. – Feminists going too far the other way then their normal it is degrading to women thoughts. (This by the way is ironic since the people who most degrade strippers are women who think of themselves as feminists.) I never have seen this as a reason at all for a stripper. Is their some attraction and proud exhibitionist for some, sure, but women power is not a reason.

5) Poor morals – Some people do not live such a luxurious lifestyle where life choices are as simple as moral judgments or not. For those who think they have it tough and it still comes down to it then I suggest you are not aware of many other levels of tough.

6) Addicts – Rarely did I ever see a hardcore user. Casual to hardcore party players’ sure but not addicts. The reasons being fairly obvious, our bodies are our livelihood and addicts are not reliable. The affects of hardcore drug use is not going to get covered up in makeup and missing shifts is one of the automatic get your ass fired things. Now alcoholics we had more then our fair share of those but again far from all.

Why then?

The best way is for you first to get in the proper mindset. Most are not really asking why but are really why we were able to become strippers. It is a job just like everyone else’s. We show up do something that if we were not getting paid would probably not do. An accountant chooses his profession out of being good at numbers and being comfortable working with them. A salesman likes dealing with people and does not take comfort sitting at a desk all day long.

The fact is like all other people who do something not all dancers are built the same. We have many similar characteristics to a wide vary of degree that overall make us who we are and what we are capable of doing. If you hate numbers and are bad at them you are not going to hack it being an accountant even if tomorrow accountants got paid like movie stars.

The following are factors to a varying degree most dancers were motivated and helped them deal with being dancers. They need not have all or it to be a huge factor but overall they have many of these to a varying degree and at least a few in a big way that lets them cross that line. Many of these factors overlap and compound each other but I am listing them separate for ease of reading and for trying to convey a real life snap shot.

1) The need for significantly more money then they can earn elsewhere. – Low paying jobs cannot pay the rent, food, transportations costs and medical bills. Whether completely on their own, going or trying to go to college all on their own with no support or having others depend on them, many a dancer has had the financial math come back that did not allow a job at a fast food place. I cannot begin to tell you just how many dancers started out or still are caretakers and main or only income producers for abnormal family couplings. I am not just talking about children of their own but siblings, screwed up or sick parents, nieces and nephews and grandparents. It is the college coed who has no financial support and has to decide going to a legit school or dropping out and working full time and at best a community college. Partial scholarships, grants and student loans do not pay as much as one thinks. 

Now you might be thinking to yourself I know some strippers they seem to be tripping over the money. Sure, but remember younger siblings grow up, maturity comes and they realize they cannot save their drunk mother. Plus there is for many who do work hard no middle ground. Regular jobs will pay very little and dancing can pay a lot. There is no middle option for most.

2) Distance either emotionally and/or physically from their older family members. – To take off one’s clothes for a living means being stereotyped and marginalized in society. Most know a little about that going in but will certainly learn it soon after. One close with their parents to where this will get thrown into their faces is a big thing to overcome. Many strippers do not stay in contact with their family, their family is not near the city they work or they just flat out do not care what the family thinks. 

This is one of those things you can never get by just talking to a dancer. Like everyone else there is a combination of biological connection and what society wants us to project. Most people will automatically say they love their family. Heck I probably have never said a good thing about my parents what little I now remember of them but even to this day if someone, including Rock, says something negative about them my first reaction is to become defensive.

Everyone acts like they love their family and being around them but of course that is not the case. The next time some big family holiday comes up see how many people where you work look like they are happy to be seeing their family or wishing they could and how many make light of it or talk about cannot wait for them to leave.

3) Feel like an outsider already – There have been few head cheerleaders and homecoming queens that go on to take their clothes off for a living and those who do I would bet they would tell you that what they were back in school felt more like an act then anything else. As I wrote above to strip for a living means being stereotyped and marginalized and people who care how cool or popular they are and who they hang out with cannot do it. That is not to say women who were popular in school do not become strippers but again it is about FEELING like an outsider. 

I will never forget my freshman year dorm experience with all the looks and snide comments I received by my floor mates, the guys not knowing what the hell to say or act in front of me especially when other women were around or washing my outfits in the laundry facilities. Make no mistake you are treated different by everyone.

4) Minimal to no emotional boundaries – The lure of money is always tempting. The thought of dancing and a little exhibitionist type fun can sound like fun to a young woman who has never been in a strip club but the reality of actually doing it is quite different. At some point you are dancing in a lewd and naked way in front of strange men who when drunk can be mean. You have to do private lap “dances” and none of these are like what you like doing at the bar with your friends. 

Strangers will act in a variety of out there ways. A dancer will be exposed constantly to bad and often offending things and victim feeling like actions and there is no running to mommy or daddy. Security is going to get the man to leave, maybe, but that is it. Too much of a fuss or retaliating gets your ass fired and if that eats away at you there is no way to last in the business. Most with boundaries already destroyed call it business as usual. 

Think of it this way a dancer at the minimal shows up to work wearing a barely there bikini while everyone else is dressed normally and then proceeds to take that off every hour and so for a few minutes. A dancer can do that without even blinking and that is not a normal behavior.

5) Childhood abuse or neglect, usually ongoing for a significant period. – This is always a very touchy subject for many. Strippers are well aware of the stereotype and hate being diminished by who they are by being defined by past abuse whether true or not. At the same time many childhood abuse victims who never stripped state the sad statistics of just how high this number is and therefore claim it must have no bearing because they have such a low opinion of strippers and despise their issues being in the same conversation.

The truth is most of the factors that I will have listed hear can easily come from a dysfunctional and abusive childhood. A child grows up as an outsider, no family support financially or emotionally and normal boundaries are just guesses. The fact is if you get past initial defenses of a dancer and they open up a very high percentage suffered abuse of some type often emotional or sexual at the minimum and it was more of the ongoing type then one or a few traumatic experiences. 

6) Low self esteem. - One of the go to one note excuses and most dancers have it. But I would like to point out self esteem is not a one note thing. Often people have self esteem in some aspects of their lives and might be missing in others. To think low self esteem is all consuming a person and therefore a dancer is misleading. One might think they are crap as a significant other but think highly of themselves in their profession for example. 

I found most dancers are not getting self esteem boosts because they think of themselves as physically unattractive and like the applause and money that says otherwise or they think of themselves as dumb and can do nothing better. Most though that suffer from low self esteem think society does not think much of them or care before they ever take off their clothes. Of course more times then not caused by a life with #5.

The unfortunate part for many dancers who will not depart the life better then when they came in it is that a strip club really can feel nice to many of us that are feeling me against the world that does not give a damn and just uses me up. A club is in a way a safe place where we are with other people like us or like being around us and treat us in both a way that is nice but still in a way we are comfortable with that is less then regular people do let alone grasp. For many coming from crappy pasts normal is scary as life gave us skills sets to handle non normal and people are afraid of the unknown not the known.

7) Fight part of fight or flight – Dancing is not for the timid. Women who are timid just will not make enough money, cannot handle it or get played and used up quickly. The ones who make it tend to choose fight when the fight or flight response gets engaged. In fact the whole dancer friendships and working together relationships can be the strangest thing to see or try to figure out because most are of the fight instinct.

8) Sex is not all romantic – Not really a specific factor but important to discuss but not make like it is separate. Dancing requires leaving romantic connections to one’s body either buried somewhere deep or thrown out all together. Stripping can be a good short term boost to self esteem, it can feel empowering being the center of attention and having the ability to control men of all types and be a way to make some great money that can make a dancer independent for the first time in her life. But it is a man’s world inside that club and the lifestyle around it. It means sex is not tied into romance and being sexually objectified. To paraphrase a song, “I know what boys like. Boys like looking at my body and using my holes”.

Sex is everywhere in a club even when very little is talked directly about sex. It is a commodity that is being packaged and sold and it is deeply devalued compared to the more romantic notions some have of sex. I am sure it is possible but I never personally saw a dancer that had been around long enough that deeply attached romantic notions to sex.

In the end

Women who become strippers and stay in it longer then a moment make a choice to accept being different and looked down on by society as a whole. This and the actual ability to take off our clothes in front of strangers and be reduced by people as mostly about sex requires personality traits and life experiences that are far from one note or strict type paths.

Most dancer are not man hating greedy bitches or timid, dumb, weak and poor decision making drug addicts that come from a life of being a victim of abuse that could not figure out how to just say no and that would have fixed everything.

They are often women just like all others that are complicated with a mixture of nurture and nature leaving them with tough no win options and try to do the best they can. Some do great and some do badly and everything else in between. Just like other people.

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  3. This is really sad, why a woman becomes stripper. And the reason behind that are also sad.

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  5. I am a late middle-aged man who started out in life with very poor ability to deal with people but I have over the years taught myself to be quite functional - still different but I get along with people well. I'm sure not all of them are great people but I have liked the strippers I have known and very much enjoyed my time with them. I am somewhat fascinated by the idea of women stripping for a living and with WHAT they are - the human phenomena that they are seem beautiful to me. Everyone has flaws. I do not look down on anybody. I do not look down on strippers. What they do is often hard and it is only right for them to charge a lot of money. I wish I had more money to spend happily - to spend time with them and make that time easy money for them.

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