Rich Stripper, Poor Stripper

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.

32 thoughts on “Rich Stripper, Poor Stripper”

  1. You’ve missed one … the ex-waitress stripper.

    Ex-Waitress Stripper

    The ex-waitress stripper is very similar to the subsistence stripper, and may be a subset thereof. The ex-waitress stripper starts off, obviously, as a waitress in a strip club. She flirts with the losers .. eh hem .. customers in the club, and they flirt back, boosting her most likely damaged ego. She sees the dancers that make money, and wishes she could get a piece of the action. She gets the nerve up one night, and the manager, apparently begrudgingly, puts her up. She has not idea the manager has played this game before, and that a good half dozen or so of the girls there started as waitresses. She makes a ton of cash her first time up as her loyal customers who have been dying to see her boobs throw cash at the new hotness. She’s hooked, and stops waitressing. Eventually, the new hotness wears off, and her cash slows down, and she ends up the typical subsistence stripper.

    You’ve inspired me … I should write a companion article describing the typical males who work in strip clubs. I worked in some of the worst clubs in Dallas for about 2 years, met my first wife (a subsistence stripper with borderline personality disorder), got married, and quit the business.

    I ended up a DJ after I was laid off for the third time, and became frustrated with the tech industry. I had a friend who was a manager at a club on Harry Heines blvd. in Dallas who got me a job as a valet. Much like the author of this article, I was always finding other angles to make legit cash, and I ended up doing some training/consulting for one of the DJ’s. In trade, he taught me how to DJ, and I ended up a DJ. I ended up doing that for two years until I met my first wife, and went back to the tech industry, where I remain today.

  2. When I had HBO, I used to watch a show called G-String Divas. Most of the featured strippers in the episodes that I saw were lesbian or at least bi-sexual. What percentage of the strippers you work with are? Or have you seen any statistics on this?

  3. To Brad: In reality, about the same percentage of strippers are lesbian or bi as in the general population. The “bi-curious” stats may be higher, but not the actually bisexual. However, the vast majority of us do claim to be bisexual for customers. This is a huge fantasy for many men. I’m always bisexual when I dance for guys’ girlfriends. Bisexuality is also convenient when guys asked if we’re attached. “Oh, I’m dating a really hot girl right now, but I like both,” works great because having a girlfriend is a turn-on to many customers, whereas having a boyfriend or husband is usually a turn-off, yet it’s also a great excuse not to go out with customers. I’ve become lesbian for a few very persistent cases.

    In the entire time I’ve been dancing I’ve only encountered one woman who identified herself as exclusively lesbian.

  4. To DJFelix: Just to clarify, I was only classifying dancers based on attitudes towards money. But you’re right about how many waitresses – not to mention shot girls, door girls, and massage girls – eventually make the transition to strippers.

    I would be interested in reading your take on males who work in strip clubs if you end up writing about it because, honestly, I pretty much ignore all of them. Too busy to talk, sorry!

  5. What percentage of strippers supplement their income with “prostitutional” activities? I assume that subsistence/drug-addicted strippers would be the most likely to engage in such behavior while advanced-degree/investment strippers the least.

  6. Probably your best idea. I was quite different from every other male I worked with … or observed.

    I’ll write that article and give you a trackback once it’s up.

  7. Alcibiades: It’s incredibly difficult to give a percentage because it varies so much from club to club and most girls who do that are pretty discrete about it. In some clubs it’s impossible to get away with performing sex acts in the club. Other clubs seem made for such activities. Of course, in any club there is always the possibility for exchanging contact info and meeting a customer outside the club. You’re right that a Subsistence Stripper is most likely to end up performing “extras” as we call activities that are outside club norms, often when she comes in needing to make a certain amount of money and isn’t making it doing normal, “clean” dances. Investment Strippers never face this problem because we always have money put away. However, the biggest reason you won’t find Investment Strippers offering outcall or extras is because if they’re open to prostitution they’ll leave stripping and escort. Classy, clean escorts have significantly higher earning potential than strippers for a lot less work. The amounts I’ve been offered for sex by club customers is ridiculously low – never more than a good day’s take. If I wanted to prostitute I would go to a legal Nevada brothel and make more than I do stripping in a safe environment. But I don’t choose to do it for more money legally, so I’m certainly not going to do it for less money illegally.

  8. Hi all,
    If we are looking for stereotypes,
    In Dallas it seem the minimum requirements for a dancer are: Single Mom, Boyfriend that is in a band (drummer usually) or a cop, Ex-hubby or boyfriend that beats them, and a Borrowed car that was just totaled or need major repairs and A co-worker that just stole money or a dress from them.


  9. Ha! My ex is the waitress stripper…started as a cocktail girl at the Ritz in Baltimore, got talked into dancing, made a bunch of money, but now has seen the club go downhill and the money dry up.

    She’s also supporting a deadbeat fat coke head idiot who apparently finds me rather intimidating as he’s made a huge show of trying to keep me away from her.

    It makes me sad that I can’t be her friend or help her, but I’m A) married and B) really done trying to help people like that by saving them from themselves…it’s her decision, she’ll have to live with it.

    Anyway, my point is just that many of these categories make sense and I’ve seen people fall into many of them.

    Christina, a stripper with financial sense…I like it. :)

  10. Steve,

    We’re not looking for stereotypes, but thanks for playing anyway. That’s not what the post was about. If you read the third paragraph you will see that my post was about the different ways strippers approach the money aspect of the business. A couple of people chimed in with an ironic classification from personal experience, but I got the impression from them that they at least understood the point of the post. I’m not sure you did. Did you read it?

    If you actually believe that every stripper with a sob story is telling you the truth about her reality, I’m not going to tell you otherwise and mess up their money.

  11. Sebastian-PGP,

    I’m curious – were you dating her while she was dancing or before? Money is worse everywhere now than it was in the late 90’s from what I hear, but I don’t know from personal experience since I was way too young to dance back then.

    I’ll never understand how people can tolerate and even support people with addictions since I find any form of addiction a sign of weakness that makes a person utterly revolting to me. I’m sure you’re better off leaving her alone – she won’t change unless she wants to and she may never want to.

  12. Hey there. I am also a stripper, i follow under the student stripper category. (gotta pay my tuition). I live on my own and I support myself. Lots of people judge me cuz of what i do and i was wondering if u could give me some advice on how to handle the hataz! Thanks

  13. Hey. . .just found this post, and love it! I’ve only been stripping for about four months, but I agree with your classifications. I’m continually amazed at the amount of cash some of the girls are blowing on a regular basis. I’ve been putting 95% of my earnings in MMAs and index funds but have yet to meet another dancer thinking long term (or at least thinking beyond a checking account!) Apparently there are more than a couple out there. :) Good luck with everything!!

  14. This truly inspired me. I definately agree with everything that is written in this passage. I fall into the “INVESTOR STRIPPER” category. I believe that with hard work and savings, investments and stocks, you can become a millionaire!

  15. Excellant, reading, all the way through. I came across this and had to read it. Every word you said was interesting. For years this kind of profession was always in the back of my mind. And I wanted to come across and read the experiences of those who actually been there and done that in that field.

  16. I agree with you. You forget the club’s crackhead whore! There’s a least one in every club. At least in Texas. I used to dance, and realized that no matter how much money I make, it will never be enough. Ever. I starting dancing making an $100/ night and then got good at it as was making $600+ a night and still complaining. I wish I would have managed my money much better.

  17. This was an interesting post. I have been dancing since I was 18. I was a “subsentence” Stripper for my first three years. I got wasted every night, blew tons of cash, never paid my taxes ran rampant all over the world and eventually ended up with nothing. Stranded on a tropical island in the south pacific. I finally made it back to the states and tried to get a real job. and your right. I was so used to being my own boss and making a ton of money that I couldnt deal with it. I finally decided to reevaluate myself and take control. I have spent the last year cleaning up my huge mess, and hopefully by the end of the year I will have finished paying my backed taxes and have something to show for myself. I just started taking some investment classes because I believe it it key in continuing to be your own boss and maximizing your income. I feel lucky because I have got myself out of that stage. The majority are not so lucky. Beware girls!!!

  18. googled “stripper income” and your page was on the first page of results. enjoyed it thoroughly and must confess i will soon classify myself as “waitress-turned-dancer.” the club that’s benefitted from my superb waitressing skills for the past year or so has several nasty little habits when it comes to the waitresses; we’re responsible for the majority of the money and tabs yet receive the least tips (it’s a VERY complicated setup), we’re expected to tip anyone and everyone for *doing their job for them*, not to mention working for free in several regards. i’ve had about all i can stand of running my @$$ off for 9 hours straight with no lunchbreak or even A chance to breathe fresh air for a few moments then walking out the door with, after tip-out, an average of about $25/hour most times. sure there are better nights and worse nights but a very bad night for a stripper is generally what a very good night for a waitress is. i’m tired of being responsible to EVERYONE else (managers, floormen, bartenders, doorgirls, credit-card-money girls, dancers and customers) and i’m ready to only look out for ME and make TWICE as much money doing it!!


  19. Yea I find your article very interesting. I’ve been thinking about stripping to make some extra cash and live a better lifestyle. I probably fall into the student category since I’m in school taking real estate courses and I also do massages part time and have a part time job. My goal is to do all three! I think I would really enjoy stripping, running my massage business and selling properties. And the money, for the most part I’m good at handling money.I have always wanted to dance and I think I should just do it.

  20. i really like your page its very intersting, and i have some questions as well about stripping, so if you could write back or email me, its mostly about the avergae income and stuff to d with money

  21. Thank you, Christina, for posting this blog. I’ve found it very interesting and informational. You are definately one of the ‘rare’ strippers. I actually never met any strippers who were ‘Investor Strippers.’ Fascinating!

    I’m an x-stripper who started as a waitress stripper and then switched into the job stripper and went on to become the subsistent stripper. I became the subsistent stripper because I really couldn’t bare to be in the club anymore but I had no other skills because I worked in the stripping business for around 6 years. Too bad there aren’t manditory classes that strippers take to learn how to finance their money better. Most strippers are like me and very few go on to have millions or even a large amount of money from stripping. Even though I do not strip today, I talk with strippers, porn stars and escorts on a regular basis. For those strippers (which are many) who never make the money really count, I help them change direction in their lives today. If they see that stripping isn’t getting them anywhere except into trouble then they come and talk to me. I help them to reevaluate their lives and help them to strive for another profession if that’s what they desire. I love doing this for them if it’s what they want.

    Some of us are not as smart or wise as yourself, Christina, and we eventually end up with ‘not much’ or ‘nothing.’ I’m honored to have spoken with some who can manage this lifestyle and to make it count. You are a rare bird indeed.

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  23. Listen, you are placing each type in a category explaining what their reasons are behind stripping. Regardless, the common personality is what it takes to accept the job they have chosen. I don’t agree with the idea one group has better intentions than the other. The fact is, we all have jobs and do jobs for different reasons to get to a better place, and we all spend it differently as it comes down to how we value money and are own desires. The fact is, stripping isn’t something any person should do unless they are desparate. It’s a kissing cousin of prostitution. No matter how one polishes the image, it is what it is. And, it is the opposite of classy. So be real. It’s a tacky job, and most of them end up with cops, musicians, etc… Of course, a truly hot sexy gal gets a job as a model. Strippers relate to sexy casue you can’t see them well in the dark bars and they move their bodies in a sexy manner infront of drunk men that are blind from booze. Reality, when you see them during the day in bright light, most look hard and washed-up or soon to be than the average gal, and they commonly dress to reveal. Sorry, but it is the truth. I think you are trying to put an intelligent spin by sub typing, It doesn’t fly.

  24. It is so nice to read something that is so true and honest. Despite the truth in your article there are always closeminded and sometimes stupid folks..such as Kenn….
    However, not all clubs are dark and nasty, and not all dancers are trashy and cheap. Plain and simple. I have been dancing for a few years and fall into the “strippers who go to school” and also the “Investor Stripper” categories…. Many of the girls I work with are in the same categories as well. College, law school, getting masters and doctorates, investing in their futures and staying clean and yes, CLASSY while doing so.

    The entire last paragraph is great, especially this: “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.”

    If you are smart in the business, you will be set for life, that is worth some people thinking you are something you know you are not.
    Thank you for putting this article out there for the world to see, and for girls in the business doing it the right way, to know that they are not the only ones. The world is full of judgement no matter what business you are in. As long as you are sure that what you do is right for you, and you feel good about yourself, who cares what anyone else has to say about it.
    And please let me know if you continue writing, I enjoyed it!!

  25. Love your blog. I was a door girl that ended up dancing. However, I graduated from school and don’t need that extra income anymore :)

  26. I love your blog, and agree with each category… I started of as a student striper (was a student first) finished…but never fully got rid of the taste of dancing, it was the funnest job ever, i try not to go back primarily because of the stereotype…but often imagine beinga “The Supplemental Stripper” in the future, and not tell anyone,lol…. I admire the fact that you are an “investment stripper”, that is very impressive. I just hate the strippers who have cheap sex and carry the hoe persona…. Thanks for enlightning us all!!!

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