I got into stripping because I like money. This is one of the few stripper stereotypes that actually applies to me. I really, really like money. I don’t just like having it; I like reading about it, thinking about it, studying modern and historical economics, and discovering how other people think about and handle it. I don’t even mind losing it that much because I learn more about it that way.
I started my first business when I was thirteen (it wasn’t exactly a lemonade stand, either. I made more running that business than I did when I was eighteen and finally got my first “real” job as a loan processor). At fifteen I had an E*Trade account and various DRIPs. At sixteen I was an eBay Powerseller. I’ve never been highly creative or skilled in any specific area. The one thing I’ve always considered myself really good at is finding ways of turning some money into more money. The only thing missing for me was a decent source of income in the first place. That’s why I started stripping.
Very, very few strippers do this job for the sheer love of it. A few do. They tend to be frustrated burlesque performers or ex-ballerinas who never quite made it to the big leagues. The vast majority of us do it for the money. The attitudes towards the money is what differentiates us from each other. I classify dancers into five categories:
The Subsistence Stripper
In most clubs, dancers set their own schedules. In some places this means signing up for shifts a week or a month in advance. Where I am this means that whenever I feel like working I show up at one of the several clubs I am hired at and say I’m working that night. A Subsistence Stripper shows up the day before rent is due or the day after her car breaks down. She only works when she needs money. If she needs $400 to pay her rent she will stay at work until she has $450, and then pack her bags and go home, happy that she has an “extra” $50 to buy groceries the next day. These are girls who do this job because they can’t handle a job with schedules and responsibilities. If they were forced to get a “normal” job they would fall into the broader category of “people who can’t hold down a steady job.” Subsistence Strippers don’t generally pay taxes, and may even collect government benefits. Their tax evasion is unlikely to ever be detected since they don’t actually make (or spend) very much on an annual basis. This group is a small minority, but they stand out because the nature of the business allows them to continue their bad habits unchecked. Drug users are most likely to fall into this category.
The Student Stripper
Student strippers fall into two categories: students who strip and strippers who go to school. The superficial difference is which activity a dancer was doing first, but the bigger difference is in her attitude towards stripping. I greatly prefer to work with strippers who go to school. Students who strip have other income sources to fall back on, whether that is parental support or student loans. Some of them just do it for fun – a rebellious lark. Most do it for spending cash or to offset school expenses not covered by loans. Either way, they don’t have a real, pressing need for money and a lot of them don’t take the job seriously. These are the girls who are most likely to treat the job like a big party and get drunk at work or spend their money on drugs.
Strippers who go to school tend to be more serious about work, since the reason they are going to school is because they’ve been stripping awhile and want to get out of it. They are women who support themselves and are paying their tuition with the cash they earn stripping. They’re usually balancing pretty heavy schedules and want to maximize their time at work.
Students who strip can have all sorts of career aspirations, but I’ve noticed that a few professions seem to be very popular among strippers who go to school: nursing, cosmetology, massage therapy, and real estate. This makes sense, as these careers require certifications that can be achieved in much less time than a B.A.
Either way, The Student Stripper views stripping as her job for the moment – a means to an end – with the end being some sort of professional career.
The Job Stripper
The vast majority of women who strip fall into this category. For that matter, most workers in any industry in any part of the world fall into this category (that is say, the broader category of Job Workers.) The Job Stripper works 4-5 shifts a week, just like she would at any other job. Depending on the particular town and club where she works, and her own skills, she is likely to bring in anywhere from what your average college graduate working in a professional field would make to what your average doctor or lawyer makes. In other words, the Job Stripper makes enough to at least comfortably support herself. Like most people, however, she spends virtually every dollar she earns and then some. Like most people, she has anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars in the bank, but never enough to withstand any real financial hardship. On the plus side, a lot of strippers don’t even bother with credit cards, so she may not have any credit card debt. On the negative side, she’s also unlikely to have bothered with health insurance or even the most basic retirement savings, since Americans are trained to think these things are the responsibility of the employer first, the government second, and the individual last.
A Job Stripper may think that since she makes as much as a doctor does she should live at the same level a doctor does. The flaw in this thinking is that while a doctor can easily practice medicine well into her sixties or later, strippers have a relatively short shelf life. Stripping is incredibly physically demanding work. It takes a definite toll on the body. Even if a woman exercises, eats well, and avoids excessive drinking and smoking, age still shows on the face. The older one gets, the more important it is to have money set aside for plastic surgery, laser treatments, Botox, etc. to keep her looking as good as possible and maximize her earning potential. Even in a best-case scenario, most women have to retire from dancing by the time they hit their mid-forties at the very latest. In all honesty, the Job Stripper who faces retirement isn’t really much worse off than your average American who is downsized and faces a forced career change at midlife. Most Americans are woefully unprepared for retirement and saddled with massive debt to boot. The biggest disadvantage the retiring Job Stripper faces is that she may never have learned how to deal with petty, demanding bosses, boorish, judgmental coworkers with whom she’s expected to cooperate (not compete), get up at 7 AM, AND she’s going to have to take a pay cut and downgrade her lifestyle. This is the eventual unglamorous fate that awaits most strippers.
The Supplemental Stripper
A decent number of women with professional jobs strip one or two nights a week for extra money. Some of them are former Student Strippers. I have encountered women with a variety of day jobs (including multiple women with Masters degrees) who dance for extra money on the side. It’s interesting to note that most strippers who do have day jobs have a job they went to school for. You don’t meet many strippers who also work at McDonald’s because those girls realize very quickly that their day job isn’t worth keeping. Women in professional jobs tend to keep them because it’s hard to explain to your loved ones that after four years of college and another five years of building your resume you’ve decided to quit to take your clothes off full-time, even if it does mean doubling your income. Some keep their day job for the benefits, like health insurance, stock options, 401(k) contribution-matching, etc. Some eventually just quit their day job because it’s kind of depressing to work in a stuffy office all week for what you can make in one or two nights of stripping. Many of those who do find themselves moving to the next category:
The Investor Stripper
This is the category I fall into. We’re a small minority, but more numerous than most people would expect. We work as much as or more than Job Strippers. I work 4-5 days a week. Some very ambitious Investor Strippers work 6-7 days a week. We giggle and flip our hair while telling customers we like to go out to bars dressed in skimpy clothes and pick up hot guys, but we really just go home and read The Street. Investor Strippers treat stripping like a business, not a job or a party. We declare our income on our taxes and take all the deductions we can. We have health insurance, 401(k)s, and a variety of goals. I know one girl who has the goal of having a million dollars in savings and her mortgage paid off by the time she retires. Another has the more modest goal of simply amassing $100,000 and deciding from there what she wants to do with it. I simply plan on dancing until I have enough passive income to replace my income from stripping, or until I find a business that is more interesting and lucrative to me.
In my opinion, dancing as an investment is the best reason to dance, and the only reason for me. Given the social stigma and the judgment I have faced from my own family, I don’t think I would make the choice to dance for just a little extra spending money, nor would I be happy sinking it all into material possessions and a comfortable (but temporary) lifestyle. I have to make sure it pays off for me in a big way. Of course, for someone with a more open-minded family than my own this wouldn’t be as much of a consideration. Still, given the stereotyping and judgment that anyone working in the sex industry in America faces, I think all strippers should take the attitude that “the best revenge is living well.” That’s what I do.