Disclaimer: I would like to state that in no way do I shame or have right to judge any individual in the sex industry. This article is based off of research I found (primarily focused around the academic journal published in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 2008, vol. 34, no. 1 by Sheila Jeffreys titled “Keeping Women Down and Out: The Strip Club Boom and the Reinforcement of Male Dominance”) and discussions I have attended within college lectures.
Before I continue on, I want to remind every Wallah Bro and anyone with a similar mindset of the following parable told to us by the Prophet (PBUH): “While a dog was going round a well and was about to die of thirst, an Israeli prostitute saw it and took off her shoe and watered it. So Allah forgave her because of that good deed.”
With that said, please refrain from judging any individual and let me get started, because we have a lot to discuss.
As most of us know, it is that time of year again where finals are over and GPA results are driving students frantic. *cue anxiety attack and temper tantrum*
At this point, many of us are most likely sitting around refreshing our academic portals because surely, the professor must’ve made a mistake when grading our averages. And while some of you are waiting for the curve to play in your favor, you’re regretting not saying one of these Duas while studying. All in all, our generation has mastered using jokes to illustrate just how on-edge we are during hardships.
We, as millennials, thrive off of memes. Sometimes, however, we normalize phrases without understanding the depth and reality behind them. An example of this is the following:
First, I would like to explain this phrase to those of you that have never heard it before. Through several media platforms stripping has been viewed as a means to get “quick and easy” money. Admit it, we have all seen at least one music video where rappers throw money on the dancers and the dancers are rolling in wads of bills, while their bodies are being
praised sexualized. From these images, many individuals come to the conclusion that while studying in school and working one, two, maybe even three jobs on the side, they still seem to be working harder to make less money than strip dancers. With that idea in mind, students began using the phrase “dropping out of school to become a stripper” to express just how tired they are of being diligent, reading textbooks for hours and receiving no direct evidence of success.
From these images, many individuals come to the conclusion that while studying in school and working one, two, maybe even three jobs on the side, they still seem to be working harder to make less money than strip dancers.
While I understand that this specific phrase has been used to demonstrate our frustration with the stress school brings us, I want to take the time to inform y’all on some information regarding the truth behind the strip club industry. So without further ado, here are some facts that will hopefully raise awareness on some real issues within the industry in order to allow us to possibly think before joking about a situation.
1. Stripping is not easy.
Hardship comes with every endeavor.
I’m talking strength. Not only must you have physical strength to strut on stage, dance on a pole, and possibly even fight off perpetrators, you should also be mentally and emotionally strong for this line of work. As a stripper, you will be fighting with yourself to keep a balance between expectation and obligation. Because this line of work is voluntary, meaning women are able to choose to become strippers, individuals interpret this as full consent to whatever happens.
Thus, several visitors begin to believe that they should get whatever they ask for because they paid and the dancer is obliged to entertain. This expectation derives from the pressure club owners place upon the dancers to ensure the costumer’s happiness in order to secure tip money. In order to secure their position in the work place, dancers feel obliged to allow this debt bondage to continue.
Because most strippers are paid through tip, every night holds a mystery as to how many clients they will tend to.
And while individuals may have no other option other than to remain in the industry, they should take the boost of confidence to empower themselves, right? Wrong. Many believe that’s how women can and should insert their dominance to reclaim their bodies — dismantle the hierarchy by working in an industry where a man is most vulnerable. Yes, women can be empowered, have control over their bodies and be total badasses while stripping. The problem, however, is how stripping is received by an audience.
In other words, even if the dancer believes she is stripping to reclaim and empower herself, if the audience and/or client doesn’t get that message, then it is not helping her feminist agenda. “It [stripping] encourages men to view women as commodities, and to judge and value women solely for their looks, sexuality and ability to please,” argues Alexandra M. on Ravishly. With that said, dealing with a client who’s only after personal gratification is not easy and requires several areas of strength.
2. Strippers don’t actually get to keep as much money as you think.
This point seems to be the most shocking. Let me start by saying that, like many other lines of work, income in the stripping industry is unpredictable. Because most strippers are paid through tip, every night holds a mystery as to how many clients they will tend to.
On a good night, a stripper will end the night with a good sum of money. What many of us don’t consider is the reality behind earning versus profit. According to Shiela Jeffreys’ article, “The myth [about high income] is in fact a story repeated frequently by club owners, who find it hard to attract dancers if they told the truth.”
So, in truth, unfortunately, many clubs enforce fees every night upon the strippers. One example of this may be that after each one-on-one interaction with a client, the dancers are obliged to pay a percentage to the club. Several primary confessions and sources admit that the percentage can range anywhere between 20 to 50 percent.
To add insult to the injury, strippers are socially mandated to tip-out club employees, including DJs, bouncers, bartenders, and locker room/VIP hosts. With all these fees and expenses to consider when making an earning, one might question why this occurs. This brings me to my next fact.
3. According to club owners, strippers are considered individual contractors, not employees.
Whats the difference? Employees are, well, employees with full benefits and the law to back them up on it. On the other hand, individual contractors are free agents that rent spaces in public areas like, say, a club, to do their work. Because they are individual agencies, there are no labor laws to support their rights.
Memes within media don’t highlight this risk when romanticizing the sex industry. Thus, its not just easy and quick money after all.
We all remember the recent court ruling of Hart vs. Rick’s Cabaret, right? In that case, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York declared that strip dancers are employees and not independent agents after considering several factors. But even so, many club employers are still misclassifying their strippers as independent contractors simply to avoid employee labor and discrimination laws. As independent contractors, dancers not only must pay a stage fee to dance in the club — but also miss out on worker’s benefits (i.e. minimum wage, overtime, unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation). These are things they don’t tell you in the media through memes.
4. Your every action is regulated as a stripper.
I’m saying everything is regulated — when you use the bathroom, your interaction with other women, calling in sick, being late, using your cell phone, your appearance, and even talking back to a client and/or staff. Because the club owner is making money off of your tips, they want you, as the stripper, to use your entire time earning that money. Any personal breaks throughout your shift result in consequences such as a fine from the club and/or being fired. So while you’re being regulated, who’s regulating the clients? Look at my next fact to find out.
5. The stripping industry has clear correlation to organized crime and exposure to violence.
We’ve all seen this on television, where a club is ran and controlled by mafia and/or gangs. It turns out, however, that it is true in real life as well. According the Sheila Jeffreys’ book, “The Industrial Vagina: The Political Economy of the Global Sex Trade,” she states that, “Organized crime employers and managers are men who bully, threaten and kill to gain their profits.” Jeffreys then goes on to inform us on various investigations that have found ties between organized crime and club owners.
The irony in this is when a gentlemen’s club doesn’t attract gentle men.
While many clubs thrive off of political and criminal connections to remain functioning, I want to illuminate to you a bit on how the clubs function. The irony in this is when a gentlemen’s club doesn’t attract gentle men. We’ve already discussed how the conditions of labor for the strippers are highly exploitive. We haven’t, however, discussed the exploitive violence introduced whilst the labor is being performed.
Violence within the stripping industry may include, but not limit to, sexual, physical, verbal, and even emotional abuse. According to The Freedom and Justice Center for Prostitution Resources, 100 percent of the women they surveyed in their study reported sexual abuse in the strip club. Of them, 61 percent reported that someone associated with the club had attempted to sexually assault them. Even more, according to those same women, the perpetrators suffered no consequences for their actions.
Now imagine, as a stripper, being exposed to such violence by a client and forced to deal with individuals attempting to make contact with you against your wishes, be that by stalking and/or repeated visits. Memes within media don’t highlight this risk when romanticizing the sex industry. Thus, its not just easy and quick money after all.
While this article focused predominately on females as strippers and males as clients, I am certain there are several resources for similar truths for strippers of all genders and sexes. After all, that is what this listicle was meant to do, illuminate truth. But since we’re being honest, I know you will continue to quote “drop out of school to become a stripper” simply to illuminate how much you “can’t even” right now. I just hope that the next time you do, you remember at least one of these facts before you simplify someone’s line of work. Hardship comes with every endeavor.