Really, it’s more the norm than the exception now: women, intelligent and educated women, choosing the sex industry as a means of income and navigating it’s (often) shadier side with a feminist slant. These women are mindful. They are aware. And…they are NOT out to “take your man.”
As Antonia Crane (former sex worker and now author of Spent, 2014) explains (in a CNN interview):
That I make more money stripping at 42 than I ever have teaching, writing, counseling homeless youth, waiting tables or tending bar is a problem of sexism and living in a sexist culture, not a problem of the sex industry.
Will there be a backlash from academia due to my detour in the sex industry? I hope not. Many writers I admire — including William Burroughs, Kathy Acker, Michelle Tea, and Stephen Elliott — have written about and lived alternative lifestyles and have been respected academics.
I trust that with hard work and tenacity, I can support myself doing what I truly love the most: teaching literature, creative writing and composition.
Some say the sex industry exists because of misogyny and sexism. Some feminists think that men have dominion over women because they have money in the clubs and use that power to manipulate and subjugate women, but it’s more complex than that. I’ve held men who cry during lap dances, bewildered by their failures as fathers, sons, lovers and husbands.
I have, many times, felt like the more powerful and needed one in that context.
I’ve also been exhausted by my own compliance when it has meant more money, which I desperately needed at the time. Although it’s rare to find love in a strip club, what is found there is a more simple intimacy: human connection, compassion, desire and touch.
Strip clubs exist because people are acutely lonesome. We walk around with these giant knots in our hearts, like a cramp that can’t stretch out. It tugs and pulls at us all day while at our jobs, surrounded by people and gadgets and family members who don’t listen to us like they used to, highlighting our own failures to connect to people easily in a meaningful way.
What I’ve learned about humanity in my protracted tenure as a dancer is that we are a culture dying of loneliness in a frenzy to feel less so. Sex workers offer a reprieve from that loneliness. I’ve learned that everyone may be fighting a great battle, caring for a sick spouse, worried about their meth-addicted daughter or struggling with a medical condition.
I’ve learned that timing and kindness are more important than big boobs.
Men wander into strip clubs not to cheat on their spouses (statistically, cheating happens in the mainstream workplace. I’ve met thousands of men who have affairs with their co-workers, secretaries and assistants), but to nurse a beer and pay a person to listen to them—a woman who does not require anything from them emotionally.
I’m not going to tell you about the nights I was rejected and insulted, stolen from and threatened, nights I didn’t make the money or the nights I wasted time with guys who did not pay off. Like many other jobs, those sketchy elements come with the territory and I’m no victim.
The more I segue into my freelance writing and teaching career, the happier I am. I hope to build a life so huge outside the strip club that I won’t need to dance anymore because I am too busy writing and teaching; creating other moments of joy and human connection in the classroom and on the page; to rise so far in that field that I won’t need to land into laps again, but until that happens, I will strip.
Women who engage in sex work and who also embrace a feminist stance (I am one), are consistently asked to create and re-create a complex and sometimes difficult dialectic…at once, they are caught between exploitation and empowerment, between prostration and power…and yet they find meaning…they simultaneously own the evolution of their choices and…while easily stripping them off…to begin again…naked…but not vulnerable…no, these women are thriving.
(the phenomenal images are by Robert Williams, please explore his work further)