I am a dancer, of the naked kind. A less eloquent way of saying it is that I’m a stripper. I take off my clothes and get paid for it. I told my friends, and of course, they were curious and a few were excited and intrigued; fascinated by it, even. I have to answer many questions about what I “actually” do, and what it’s like. I get asked these questions so often that I’ve grown tired of answering them. I know, though, that if it were my friend who had chosen to be a stripper, I would want to know everything!
But, what people who are not in the industry don’t understand is that some of the things they say and ask are invasive, intimidating, offensive, and patronizing. Do you want to piss off or make your friend uncomfortable? I doubt it. Although, there a lot of people who really don’t give a fuck about an adult worker’s feelings, let alone at what they have to say.
As a dancer, I am a part of the adult industry, and I am well aware of the dangers. It’s the same dangers every woman faces every day, just blown up and magnified by the nature of the work that we do. Yet, there are so many misconceptions about the industry and those who work in it. We do not support human trafficking, slavery or child abuse. We are not “bad people”. So hopefully, I can help you see adult work in a new light, and if you come across someone who is an adult worker, you will avoid the deep-rooted misogyny that has been wired within you.
1. “You’re selling your body!”
Okay, so this is the dumbest thing you could ever say to an adult worker. When someone pays someone for a dance, for example, does ownership of their body transfer to someone else? No. Then, in fact, you have not sold your body.
When you work as a waitress or any other job, you are paid for your work, in both time and ability. When someone gives me cash for a lap dance, they are paying for the experience. They want to experience my body visually. When someone pays for sex, they are paying for the experience. They experience that person’s body, physically. You are never paying for that person’s body. That concept doesn’t even make sense.
As a dancer, you are usually self-employed, which means it is up to you to make a profit. This works the same for many other adult workers. Just like promotional/fashion/catwalk/glamour/fitness models, you get paid for your time. However, on top of that, you get paid for your experience and talent. Do you have the nerve to say to Tyra Banks’ face that she doesn’t own her body? I don’t!
2. “That’s really degrading.”
The definition of “degrading” is having no “self-respect” and one who is “humiliated”. Women are always taught to be ashamed of their sexuality, so naturally, in such a misogynistic society, you would come to believe that getting paid to get naked (or natural) means you don’t respect yourself… But in reality, self-respect has nothing to do with whether you are naked or not; whether you have sex or not; whether you get paid for it or not. Since self-respect comes from within the individual, who are you to decide who has self-respect and who doesn’t?
“Nope, this person has NO SELF RESPECT: I have decided that because you are different than me, and do something outside of my values, you have no self-respect… and even if you did have self-respect, I wouldn’t be able to see it anyway so…”
As a dancer, I would like you to know that I love myself. If I can get naked and get paid to dance, then I will! Why the fuck not? I’m not humiliated by my nudity and I’m not humiliated by being paid to perform. There is nothing wrong with a naked body, especially not mine. Mine is great.
3. “You must earn so much money!” (or) “How much do you earn?”
Just stop. As a dancer, I’ve started work at 8pm on a Saturday night with maybe twenty or so other dancers, had twelve customers come in throughout the whole night, and left at 6am on a Sunday morning owing the club money. It’s neither amazing nor fruitless. Earnings fluctuate with the seasons.
Actually asking how much anyone else earns, ever, is rude. Just like you and other people in ‘vanilla’ jobs can be reluctant to state your annual income, I don’t want to tell you mine.
4. “Do your parents know?”
Umm. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. It’s none of your business. It isn’t theirs, either. There are plenty of adult workers with supportive parents, and there are plenty who have parents that don’t support them. There are also parents who don’t know. By asking this, you are delving into territory beyond what you’re entitled to know (which is nothing). Plus, you’re usually implying that someone should keep their job a secret, or that they should be ashamed of their work.
5. “You don’t look like a stripper/cam girl/adult worker.”
Oh wow, so you think strippers wear a full face of harsh lighting makeup, for a dark room filled with red lights, in the day time? You think I’d wear my pleasers to the corner shop? What do you mean I “don’t look like a stripper”? Is there a universal appearance all adult workers must have, that means you can identify them anywhere? No? I didn’t think so either…
6. “Fuck this shit. I’ll be a stripper!”
This statement is one that is generally said around sex workers, rather than directly to them, and it’s something that people seem to think makes a great post on social media as well.
Adult work shouldn’t automatically be assumed as someone’s last resort. It was something I’d always been fascinated with. I admired adult workers and wanted to be with them, not separate. These are women who use their own agency to make decisions about what they do with their bodies.
You must know that being a dancer is hard work. When it’s good, it’s good. But when it gets bad, it can get really bad. I don’t want adult workers’ struggles to be a joke. I also don’t want anyone to insult their intelligence, because a lot of adult workers are studying while paying their own tuition without the help from mommy and daddy…
How to Show Support
If you want to show your support or start a conversation in a positive way, try the following:
- “Get me an audition?!”
- “That’s so awesome!”
- “That fascinates me, I’d love to know more!”
Full-time adult workers are some of the strongest people I know. It isn’t easy working unsociable hours for weeks on end while supporting kids, their own life, and dealing with the physical, mental, and emotional strain of the work, not to mention all the abuse you receive from people outside of adult work. Adult workers work fucking hard. Fuck anyone who doesn’t support adult workers.
And if you are going condemn adult workers, yet still accept your own, a friend’s, family member’s, or even stranger’s encounter with an adult worker, you need to re-evaluate your life.