to a much sexier website!
A million years ago, Tina Fey said something about strippers:
“I love to play strippers and to imitate them,” says Tina Fey. “I love using that idea for comedy, but the idea of actually going there? I feel like we all need to be better than that. That industry needs to die, by all of us being a little bit better than that.”
And here I am, fashionably late, with a YES AND.
The whole industry of consenting adults having a good time without the social constraints of marriage, children and all that other unreasonable, responsible-grown-up shit like monogamy has to DIE? But Tina! The Entertainment Industry can and will not ever die!
Tina Fey also said,
“BOOBS FEED BABIES.”
Every woman knows men are babies.
I can imagine that Tina’s experience with getting naked for money may not be as comedically thrilling as mine. In fact it’s quite possible that Tina’s never actually been a stripper! And that’s totally ok. Tina can hate what I stand for and I will always love her. I’m really into the whole unrequited-love-from-our-idols kind of masochism, anyway.
In an effort to become more like her, this one time I took an improv course. It was really fun, but mostly I was terrible and found that for the first time ever I felt like I was trying too hard in front of an audience. Which is totally weird, because improv is all about NOT trying too hard. It’s about being yourself. Being as average as can be, which in turn makes really great fucking comedy.
But I’m so used to being myself with high heels and glitter that being myself in a dry t-shirt was totally jarring.
After my course was complete and I totally BOMBED as a bona fide, clothed improv star, I realized that I’ve been an improv actress – and a successful one – for FOUR FUCKING YEARS. Stripping is basically the highest paid improv acting gig you can find in New York City!
What follows are Tina Fey’s Rules for Improv, and how they are also Rules for Successful Strippers.
Rule #1 — Agree
The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. Always agree and SAY YES.
When a customer says something like, “I can tell you like anal sex” I say YES. Because horny men ARE TOTALLY UNORIGINAL and because that is the fantasy he wants to play out. And I am here to work out these fantasies without any actual anal sex ever occurring! MAYBE I AM A SUPERFREAK BUT TO ME THIS SOUNDS FUN.
The Lesson: Respect What Your Partner has Created
“The benefit of ‘agreement’ is an open mind, an environment where ideas can thrive and innovation is welcome.” Everyone has fantasies and it’s healthier to talk about them and act them out in a consenting environment. Confession: I’ve never had a dick up my ass. But this is an opportunity to learn what this man likes about it so much. Learning is fun!
Rule #2 — Not Only Say Yes… Say Yes And
To keep the ball rolling (and the money flowing), I need to add to the fantasy that he is sharing with me. I have two choices:
1. If I think I will make money out of this transaction, I will cater to his desire.
“Anal is my favourite. It’s how I like to start every time.”
2. If I think he is a cheap pervert, I will follow with something for my own personal entertainment.
“No preamble with the pussy, no lube. Just dry, hard, painful ANAL. It helps loosen my bowels when I’m constipated!”
Either I am having fun and making money, or just having plain old potty humour fun. You would be surprised how much money I make off poo jokes. I make them so uncomfortable that they CANNOT LOOK AWAY. Horny boners, awkward boners, shame boners… they are all BONERS and they all turn a profit.
Rule #3 — Make Statements
Sitting on his lap, I sip on the glass of shitty champagne my customer just bought me – a signifier that he likes me and would like to continue spending time with me. I state the following: “Anal sex is highly underrepresented in porn.”
To which my customer replies with “Yes AND it’s a tragedy because I don’t think the female audience is aware of how much they don’t know that they want it!”
Lesson: Don’t Ask Questions All the Time
Just like I don’t want to be asked where I’m from, or how old I am, my customer doesn’t want to talk about his job, his wife, or his kids. So I don’t ask! Instead I strike up an NSFW conversation. Because he is NOT AT WORK AND DOES NOT WANT TO BE.
Rule #4 — There Are No Mistakes… Only Opportunities
So now my client is happy, aroused, and buying a zillion lap dances, and apparently now I really like anal sex. And you know what, maybe I will one day! Now I’m inspired to go home, whip out my dildo, and slip it in the other end. Because WHY NOT? The reality is that I probably won’t, but it doesn’t matter. Entertainment is kind of isolated in the way that being turned on by a certain fantasy can often mean not wanting to replicate it in the bedroom.
Lesson: Stay Positive, Learn to Adapt
The incessant curiosity I have for human desire keeps me good at what I do. The day I started stripping, my sex life and overall confidence skyrocketed. All sorts of beautiful, uncanny and fascinating things continue to fall into my lap as I go on plopping down in the laps of others.
KEEP ON SPINNING, WEIRD AND WONDERFUL WORLD !
I’m going to go and re-watch Mean Girls for the millionth time. And maybe try again at IMPROV:102 now that I get it.
In honour of Matthew McConaughey‘s early days and Kate Hudson’s inability to get cast in decent roll since Almost Famous, I’d like to provide an instructional guide for people who want to have a bad time at a strip club:
How to Lose a Stripper (read: High-Powered, Self-Respecting Woman in a Hurry) in 10 Seconds:
Ask her age. Better yet, GUESS! Be sure to vocalize your hypothesis with everyone within earshot – especially the woman whose age is in question. Be that asshole at the carnival who guesses age and weight, and if you don’t have a prize that’s fuzzy and plushy waiting to gift her when you’re WRONG, she might up and leave even faster!
Ask how much money she makes! If you try to make yourself seem like less of an ass by quickly following up with “On average,” don’t worry, she will still walk away!
Tell her that her stage name is coincidentally your mother’s name. She already has enough laundry to do.
Tell her you’d love a dance, but if she’d wait a minute so you can go to the men’s room to switch into your sweatpants and rearrange the boner you’ve been sporting all night.
Ask her out for coffee! (Lose her even faster if you ask this before you even give her any money!)
Don’t offer her a drink!
Don’t make eye contact with her – ever! Especially when she puts out her hand to introduce herself! Be sure your eyes are fixed on Sports Center and she’ll be gone in a flash!
Talk about how much money you make!
Lie to her – tell her that you hate strip clubs, that you don’t usually visit them, in spite of the fact that you are in that very moment sitting in a fucking strip club, all by your damn self on a Tuesday night!
And there you have it! How to alienate yourself from Enterprising Goddesses in ten easy steps!
Behold! An honest discussion about my greatest love affair, Benjamin Franklin:
Click here to read the original article and to check out Adult Mag’s freshly-launched and superbly sexy new site!
Money: It’s Terrible
What if women started talking about money the way we talk about everything else? We brought together a group of women from around North America to chat cash.
Girls talk about everything except for money. We’ll talk about this unexcavatable ingrown hair on our bikini lines, about the most comfortable position to peg your boyfriend in, about her late-term abortion and my rhythm method, about therapy, acne, and workplace rivalry. Dieting, smoking, and voting. Siblings, kittens, and cops. (Girls talk about the booty, too, about the way a brother is hangin’, too.) But not about money.
Because money is taboo. What’s more shameful than money? Having it, not having it, being born into it, being born without it. There’s a danger implicit to this silence. bell hooks writes,
“According to More Magazine, American women are expected to control 23 trillion dollars by the end of the decade, which is ‘nearly twice the current amount.’ But what will this control mean if women lack financial literacy? Acquiring money and managing money are not the same actions. Women need to confront the meaning and uses of money on all levels.”
Recognizing that money management is a skill one has to learn, and one that girls aren’t often taught, we had a thought: What if women starting talked about money the way we talk about everything else? What might happen to this last taboo if we assigned it in, as the EIC of this mature magazine once put it to me, “cunt school?”
And so we brought together a group of women from around North America to chat cash. Like the best girl gangs, these women all have different but complementary backgrounds and personalities. Over the course of a week, we communicated via a shared GoogleDoc and e-mail about easy money and hard lessons, about debt, and about how love may go away but a joint checking account doesn’t.
Hannah Black is an artist and writer from London. She is currently a participant in the studio program of the Whitney ISP in New York. She speaks with an infectious rapidity and claims to feel shame, not just with money, but with most everything.
Claudia C. is not going by a last name because she sells drugs. Just on the side, though. This 26 year old’s main gig is as a digital marketing strategist at a “struggling web startup.” She also writes freelance and tweets.
Fiona Duncan is a Canadian-American living between her East Williamsburg apartment and an independent bookshop in NoLiTa New York, where she orders fashion and comics books and loves to man the information desk. She writes and also works odd jobs in the comics biz for pillow-stuffing cash. Up until her 26th birthday two months ago, she had hardly ever thought about money. Now, all she sees is signs.
Iris Greene is an adventurous American who writes so-far-so-free under the name The Sapphic Stripper. She has a boastful PMA and strips because money is independence and money gives her that. She says things like “cash is sexy” or “I get a lady boner after a good night… when the cash won’t fit into your wallet so you have to wrap a rubber band around it.”
Margaret Haines is a 29-year-old artist, filmmaker, director, and graphic designer for New Byzantium in Los Angeles with a striking resemblance to some model you’d know and a profound knowledge of astrology. She is wrapping up production on a feature film that is stunning. She is currently living in Montreal as she works as a visiting Assistant Professor of Art and Photography at Concordia University. She took on more jobs, because debt.
Sandeep Salter is a 25-year-old new mother who lives in Brooklyn Heights with her handsome young husband and works as a Partner and Managing Buyer of McNally Jackson Store, Art/Design Buyer for McNally Jackson Books.
Susan Elizabeth Shepard is a 37-year-old married stripper and writer currently residing in Austin, Texas who describes herself as “Not Good With Money.”
Bramble Trionfo is a 27-year-old director of brand partnerships at VFILES, budding director dabbling in performance art, and consult/madam for extra cash who pays $2040 in rent and utilities to live alone in Little Italy. She’s the type to “check [her] balance on my Bank of America app about 4 times per day.”
Kat Ying is a 29-year-old divorced and single mother, working in community projects and not getting paid at present, since she’s between grants. For the past six months she’s been living and travelling on savings from the sale of a family owned apartment. She pays $645 dollars rent for a two bedroom apartment with a living room and kitchenette in park extension Montreal. Plus utilities and the Internet, it comes to about $800 a month. “Globally speaking,” she says “I got it made.”
When, how, and with whom do we talk about money, if ever?
Iris Greene: I feel like the people who have the hardest time speaking openly about money are the ones who don’t know what the fuck they are doing with it. I find that if one understands the value of a dollar, it’s easier to talk about. But if your parents are still paying your rent, your phone bill and your $200,000 undergraduate degree was something you did not in any way finance, you’ll have a hard time discussing or having an informed opinion about how much is appropriate when tipping after a lap dance, negotiating a salary or contemplating a mortgage.
Or, if I have it my way, [I’d be] alone for a couple more years and then into a trustful, polyamorous three-way partnership with a hot girl with nice tits and an attractive feminist dude.
Fiona Duncan: As kids, I feel like we were taught to keep money talk in the family, which was the home, which was the bedroom, kinship in this culture being what it was. But kinship isn’t that anymore. A few of us may still swing from our parental homes straight into one with a mate, but most of us will spend years on our own. I may spend my life on my own. Or, if I have it my way, alone for a couple more years and then into a trustful, polyamorous three-way partnership with a hot girl with nice tits and an attractive feminist dude. I remember being a young girl and thinking that I could pick any career, regardless of how it paid, because I wouldn’t have to worry about making or managing money; I’d eventually have a boyfriend or husband who did that. And I was raised in a feminist household with two breadwinners. That daydream is probably why I ended up working in independent publishing and writing. Only recently, like two months ago, did it dawn on me that my ideas about money and jobs needed to be updated to fit my love and kinship ideals. So now I’m talking money with everyone, trying to learn from whomever will teach me.
Bramble Trionfo: I actually quite enjoy talking money. I come from a long line of Italian gamblers — we were always talking in dollar signs and I have very fond memories of my father and uncles with rolled up hundreds in their back pockets. Italians don’t like wallets. I talk money with my mother every time we speak, though I could never ask her for any. She worries for my savings because there is none and my financial security because I “lost my man.” I talk raises and salaries with coworkers, though I shouldn’t, I’m just too curious I guess, and I don’t feel uncomfortable with the topic.
How do we manage our money?
Claudia C.: Budgeting is like promising to work out or follow through on a New Year’s resolution for me. I start out with good intentions and stick to the plan for like a week then give up. And bills? *Turns on the Destiny’s Child song and ignores this question like my medical bills*
And bills? *Turns on the Destiny’s Child song and ignores this question like my medical bills*
Kat Ying: When I split with my ex and set up alone with my son, my budget became meticulous, like on an Excel sheet. I was pretty broke for a while, until we sold our apartment. That was good because I had gotten used to living on little, which made it easy to not touch our profit, well not too much. Come to think of it, my first budget was written during a panic attack in the middle of the night when I was about twelve years old. I had figured out how much the average lawyer makes and how much my private school tuition costs and had recently learned how much my mother spends at the grocery store per week. I was doing the math and freaking out about how I would never have enough money to raise a family. My mother tried to console me by telling me that if I had a child I would have a partner…
Sandeep Salter: We have an inbox at home, which we ceremoniously take care of every month. The bills have subsided a little now that our daughter is six months, but while I was pregnant and just after she was born, we were constantly pummeled by bills. The pregnancy and birth cost around $5500. Shocking. Now, paying the bills is less stressful because I know what to expect. You never know what you’ll get with a medical bill.
Margaret Haines: I am into this app called WEAVE that wakes me up every morning reminding me to budget. It is a half fantasy.
Do we have debt? Student? Credit card? Other? Have we ever borrowed or loaned money from friends and/or family?
Susan Elizabeth Shephard: I’ve got credit card and student loan debt that probably — don’t make me look — total around $28,000, which is completely stupid. Debt is such an abstract to me. I wish it had a physical representation in my life, like a pile of garbage in front of the house, or whatever the physical representation of negative cash would be, to make it more real.
Fiona: Moving to New York at 24, without any parental support, I was broke, but I realized that I had this immense privilege because my (cheap Quebec) education was all paid for. I had zero debts. That’s given me a freedom and mobility that I don’t take for granted. I still don’t make much money, not enough to pay for health insurance, but that’s a decision. Unlike so many of my American friends, I haven’t had to make any decisions based on debt. I think about that all the time.
I rarely borrow from friends because they don’t have to love me.
Hannah Black: I have a £2300 overdraft, which I live inside. I owe some money in taxes in a way that is so complicated it’s like the music from Jaws: constant and very, very low in the background of my life. I currently owe my father’s girlfriend £350 but I haven’t paid her back for reasons partly emotional and partly logistical. I often borrow money off my mother. My father is more talented at pretending to be broke. I rarely borrow from friends because they don’t have to love me. I have never had a credit card. I have student debt but it’s less intense in the UK, if you haven’t paid it back by the time you’re 50 they just write it off anyway. I owe money to the college where I did my MFA. I feel like a loser writing this list of terrible failures but then I think of Joseph Roth writing begging letters to Stefan Zweig, the richer and less talented half of their friendship, who always paid up out of guilt for being richer and less talented. I think of how shameless Roth’s letters are, how furious he is with the world for its failure to reward what he knows is his great talent. I think in particular of the wonderful true story of how Zweig, out of his endless guilt, bought Roth a suit jacket, only for Roth to deliberately spill wine all over it at a dinner party; when Zweig complained, Roth turned on him: “Why didn’t you buy me the trousers, too?”
What’s the hardest thing we’ve ever done for money? What’s the easiest?
Hannah: When I was 20 I worked in a toiletries and cosmetics factory for a week. There were posters all around the shop floor saying things like “MORE PRODUCTIVITY = MORE PROFIT = MORE PAY” and other nightmarish things. I had never before seen grown adults with all their attention fixed on the second hand of a clock, bodies thrumming with the intensity of the coming break bell which came on the exact second of break time and never a second before, grown adults almost running out of the door for a break or — even better — the end of the day. There were doctors and engineers from Iraq who couldn’t get any other kind of job and also local kids who also couldn’t get any other kind of job. Initially because I was studying at a fancy university they thought I would be really good at my work so they put me on a super-complicated production line folding up little boxes with face powder inside. I was terrible at it and couldn’t keep up with the line. They gradually demoted me over the course of the week until I was just funneling bath salts into jars, which was an OK job because you could talk to other people and they let you listen to the radio. At the end of the week I went to the supervisor and said, “I’m not coming back.” He looked at me and said, “your kind never stay,” which always sounds like he was racist when I tell it but he meant “your kind” as in the bourgie kind who go to university and don’t necessarily absolutely have to be here. For months after, I was disgusted by anything factory-made, which is most things. I couldn’t believe that everything had to be made in a factory, that everything was imbued with wasted time and the worst kind of livid, raw boredom. It was like being injected with Marx, except that most people don’t need Marx to know that most work is fucking bullshit.
It was like being injected with Marx, except that most people don’t need Marx to know that most work is fucking bullshit.
Claudia: The hardest thing I ever did for money was wait tables at Cheesecake Factory. Waiting tables is a shit job as it is, but working for a corporate restaurant is the fucking worst. Pointless rules, tests, uniform checks, basically an endless stream of arbitrary bullshit combined with being treated like shit for too little money. The easiest thing I ever did for money was run a brothel. All I had to do was handle money and tell the girls to line up when clients came in. Plus since I was booking the appointments girls would slide me extra cash on the side to make sure they got priority booking. Oh yeah, selling drugs is pretty easy, too.
Kat: Hardest thing I ever did for money? Can I have more than one? I stayed in a controlling relationship with my parents so they would keep paying my tuition. Dividing the family patrimony during my divorce. Actually, that was so hard I gave up and stopped trying to fight for it. I felt like everyone was telling me to stand up for what I deserved, but I couldn’t do it. In the end things fell in a fair place without the fight. But that sucked. I guess, job wise, I worked for a telemarketing scam for one morning.
Are there any serious emotional decisions we’ve made for financial reasons you can’t quite admit?
Bramble: I did not grow up wealthy, but I didn’t want for anything either. My father passed away suddenly when I was 16. On his actual deathbed, when we were attempting to say our goodbyes, he said three things to me: “Look after your mother, look out for your brother, and please marry a man with money.” As shallow as that sounds, it’s really not. He was old-fashioned. He wanted me to have security and stability and be able to pursue my insane fantasies and manic career choices while still having a belly full of rigatoni. My most recent ex had no money, and was in a great deal of debt. I loved him more than I have ever loved anyone, but there was a nagging reminder of what my father said to me, regularly. So now, in a sick way, a partner with financial stability is something extremely important to me. I am, in an odd way, honoring my father.
I stayed in a relationship (live-in, long term, first love) for longer than I think I would have were it not for the money. Not because I was financially dependent on the man when I decided I wanted to leave, but because I felt indebted to him.
Fiona: I stayed in a relationship (live-in, long term, first love) for longer than I think I would have were it not for the money. Not because I was financially dependent on the man when I decided I wanted to leave, but because I felt indebted to him: he supported me years earlier, through a move and life in Berlin, plus some. He made way more than me. He shared his income because we lived like a married couple. We even had a shared bank account in Berlin. We used to talk about how one day I’d be out of school and buying him things. When I started to feel itchy in the relationship, we talked about why I wanted to leave, why I wanted to stay. We were the type of couple who talked about everything. The only thing I never vocalized, not to him, not to my closest female friends, was that I felt extraordinarily guilty leaving before paying back this imagined debt.
Are you aware of yourself as part of a certain socio-economic class? If/how do you find socializing outside of that class?
Sandeep: I suppose I am and have grown up upper middle class and have always been very comfortable mixing in different socio-economic circles. My family is very big and runs the gamut. In many ways though the traditional socio-economic brackets tend not to be self-evident in the people I socialize with because the people I interact with, for the most part, are part of a creative class that operates through such a different currency of values and behavior, in that someone could be poor or rich, but act relatively the same, hang out in the same places, eat and drink the same, and enjoy the perks of the supporting lifestyle (that being the art community). It’s hard to tell who is footing the bill and who’s making the most of free drinks, gallery dinners, and sample sales. Of course, no one talks about money.
Iris: In my line of work, the most generous people are those who have less. The biggest assholes in strip clubs are the under-thirties with black Amex cards. They usually have really delusional fantasies that they don’t want to pay for.
The biggest assholes in strip clubs are the under-thirties with black Amex cards. They usually have really delusional fantasies that they don’t want to pay for.
Fiona: Coming from Canada to New York, I became aware of class and money in a way I’d never been before. Class disparity in Canada is far less extreme. There’s poverty and wealth, but our spectrum is short compared to the States, and it’s not so visibly racialized. I feel uncomfortable around certain kinds of wealth, though it’s not the wealth in itself that makes me uncomfortable. It’s how people associate with it. Doing fashion journalism in New York for the first year here, I was surrounded by thoughtless wealth. That was poison. I still feel a burning in my chest thinking about the conversations I had with absolutely clueless born-into-money rich kids. I’m also suspicious of anyone who has a lot of money because of what it takes to make lots of money — I don’t believe that great wealth can be accrued without moral compromise. Show me one example!
Is money gendered?
Claudia: Because money is power, it is hard not to find it gendered. I don’t think patriarchy would crumble if women made more than men, but I do think the playing field would be a tiny bit more even. Also, I’m not sure whether men and women relate to money differently, but I will point out that women and men are marketed to differently on the assumption that men and women spend differently.
Sandeep: I don’t think that money is gendered, and I find it a very strange and general assumption. Nor do I find that women are any less educated about money than men. Money is an effective agent in reinforcing gender roles, in the subjugating of one gender below another. But that has nothing to do with money itself as a concretized and tangible agreement of value. It has rather everything to do with the perversion or abuse of exchange. Individuals are gendered. Money is an idea bestowed upon an object. How money is used by the different genders is totally situational.
When you realize how powerless a man becomes when faced with a naked woman, the rest of why things are the way they are in this patriarchal society start to make a lot more sense.
Fiona: Perhaps, in the abstract, money is a pure object or idea exchange, but the American capitalist valuing of individuality and competition are gendered; institutions are gendered; the family unit is gendered — that’s all money. Lean In exists for a reason, and I loathe it for that same reason: Our society values and retributes work that is patriarchal, and unless you are born into money and live outside industry, you will be forced to work through these patriarchal systems. You might see “women’s work” devalued. I’’m getting so emotional right now I have to stop typing: What a woman!
Iris:Part of why I’m writing what I’m writing is so that more women are inspired to get naked for money. More smart women should be doing it so they can have more personal time to pursue projects about which they are really passionate. If I wasn’t stripping there is no way I’d have the time I need to write. Plus, when you realize how powerless a man becomes when faced with a naked woman, the rest of why things are the way they are in this patriarchal society start to make a lot more sense.
What’s left? What do you want to talk about?
Susan: Nothing. It makes me nervous. Can we talk about that? Money is terrible. But actually: Do you know anyone who is “good” with money? Honestly I feel a lot of my “badness” with it comes from not being taught shit about it by my dad and my mom until they divorced, whereas my husband, as soon as he got his bar mitzvah money, was taught by his dad about how to handle it, plan, et cetera, and I’m sort of pissed I didn’t get that.
Margaret: Everything. I want to talk about how I can do everything I want to do, and not feel upset by money. I want a lesson. I want it to be clear. I want a nice person to do this. Not the scared voice that comes up when I think about money. A clear. nice. person.
This panel was conducted by Fiona Duncan.
Your afternoon comic, presented to you by The Stripper Truth:
Even if Management does water down the drinks for a) your own personal health or b) the deep deep pockets of the Establishment, you are probably dehydrated from hustling on your feet, in heels, for at least 8 hours. You may or may not be hungover. You may or may not know what the difference is anymore.
By Michelle Lhooq
It’s nearly midnight on a Friday in Times Square, New York, and I’m huddled outside one of the city’s most infamous gentlemen’s clubs.
My friend Iris Greene is a dancer there, and since the club tends to stop single girls from barging in on their own (they’re wary of prostitutes poaching their clientele), she’s preemptively told the bouncers that I’m applying for a job. After I introduce myself, the two burly men, who look like they’ve stalked straight off a Boogie Nights set, 70s moustaches and all, radio the manager to come pick me up for my “audition.” I have no idea how I’m getting out of this one.
As it usually does around this time of night, the mood in Times Square has started to shift from early evening exuberance to something more seedy, if not downright sinister. The theater types exiting their Broadway shows have long cleared the streets, the jet-lagged tourists have stumbled back to their hotels, and the crowds thronging outside the club seem looser, baudier and definitely drunker.
“I would take your coat off if I were you. You’ll never get a job here with so many clothes on,” one of the bouncers tells me, his eyes greedily unpeeling the layers of fabric sheathing my skin. My pulse quickens. In the awkwardness of the moment, I become keenly aware of how greatly clothing — or the lack thereof — defines the power dynamics of a strip club.
Simply put, those in control have the great privilege of keeping their clothes on. The clothed then exchange that other symbol of power, money, to exert their will — and what they want, desperately, fleetingly, is for the beautiful creatures around them to take their clothes off. To relinquish my coat then would also mean losing some of my agency; I pull it closer around me.
After a few minutes, one of the bouncers finally escorts me to the bar, where I’m told to wait for the manager. “I hope you have experience,” he mutters, casting another disdainful look at my incontrovertibly unsexy clothes cocoon. I’m surrounded by girls wearing far, far less.
All strip clubs have some kind of dress code. Most of the clubs in New York, especially in Times Square, are upscale establishments that require their girls to wear “gowns” — a euphemism for skin-tight tube dresses that wrap around their bodies and end slightly below their buttcheeks.
Seedier joints are called “bikini” clubs, which means exactly what you’d think: girls are only required to wear patches of cloth just around their naughty bits. What those patches of cloth look like — the color, the pattern, the cut, its aesthetic appeal — is rarely considered to be of much importance. After all, the thinking goes, she’s just going to be peel it all off anyway.
More than a fashion statement or an avenue for self-expression, stripper wear is fundamentally utilitarian. As my friend Iris puts it, “When the goal is to make as much money as possible, you need to appeal to the lowest common denominator. I wish I could give men more credit for having more interesting fantasies, but they really don’t seem to. The blonder, more tanned, toned and droney you look, the more money you’ll make.”
When it comes to general standards enforced by the club’s management, the rules are pretty simple: “Whatever it is you have on, it better look slutty, sparkly and easy to take off.” Thus, the vast majority of gowns have straps that tie around the neck — easily unraveled with a simple tug, allowing the stripper’s breasts to spill out effortlessly. Form follows function.
Back at the bar, the manager storms out of a back room, visibly coked out. Before I even have a chance to stutter my half-baked excuses as to why I’m not, in fact, ready to take my clothes off, he makes a neck-cutting motion with his fingers. “I’m not taking any more auditions tonight,” he barks, coke flecks flying from his flared nostrils. He swivels back to his den. Thoroughly relieved by this deux ex machina, I slide off my barstool and head to the pulsing main room where the topless girls are dancing.
Taking a seat between two French tourists, I gaze up at the shimmying bodies from my seat in the area right by the stage — the delicately-named Pervert’s Row.
Patrons at strip clubs are nothing if not fidgety, attention-deficient gazers; each girl gets just 15 minutes on the pole before a fresh body is trotted out. Therefore, every part of the routine is primed to maximize the profits reaped from her short performance. That, after all, is exactly what stripping is at its essence: a deliberate, choreographed act. Too much is at stake to leave up to chance — or creative expression.
Later in the night, Iris slips out of a $2000-a-night private room, looking resplendent with her blonde curls, red lips, and plunging white dress. “I’m so sorry I can’t hang out with you, I’m with an amazingly generous client who just wants to massage my toes!” she cooes. Her resemblance to Marilyn Monroe is hardly accidental.
“I once bought this stunning white dress that all of my colleagues loved, but it didn’t show enough boob. I had to shelve it,” Iris later tells me. “Now I make sure whatever I wear shows lots of boob and lots of leg, [and] I opt for a cleaner look. I try to keep it as simple as possible. That way I can mold my personality into whatever kind of fun a client is looking for. Versatility is key.”
Iris’ stripper costume is not an expression of her individuality, but a business plan calculated to maximize profits. And even though Iris and her coworkers flaunt different dresses, thongs, and sky-high stilettos in dozens of cuts and colors, their outfits are all merely different iterations on a shared them — all exaggerated expressions of traditional feminine sexuality.
For even though strippers are constantly transgressing social norms of sexuality and moral behavior in their line of work, their attire seldom challenges the boundaries of gender and the so-called “feminine ideal.” Ultimately, this adherence to classic modes of female sex appeal is central to their performative role within the walls of the strip club — a space that, as the Russian critic Mikhail Bakhtin put it, can be described as “carnivalesque.”
Strippers and porn stars, says Marcel Danesi, a professor of semiotics at the University of Toronto, are examples of “modern-day carnival mockers who take it upon themselves to deride, confuse, and parody authority figures and sacred symbols, bringing everything down to an earthy, crude level of theatrical performance.”
By pitting the sacred (say, the sanctity of human body) against the profane (the bald-faced lasciviousness of a strip club), Danesi argues that the “carnival” form aims to “critique traditional mores and idealized social rituals, bringing out the raw, unmediated links between domains of behavior that are normally kept very separate.”
Thus, by satirizing sex, gender and sexuality, strippers — in their hyperfeminine costumes highlighting boobs and bum — may act as court jester: revealing and challenging these entrenched norms from behind a mask.
“Through costumes and masks, these transgressive individuals take on a new identity, and, as a consequence, renew themselves spiritually in the process,” Danesi says.
This transformation, however, is only temporary. When the carnival is over, the catharsis is complete — and sexual norms (and bras, jeans and sweaters) quickly snap back into place.
MICHELLE LHOOQ is a writer and stripper shoe-enthusiast living in New York City.
Originally posted on: http://shop.sweetlyinked.com/blogs/kiitc/10716001-the-semiology-of-stripper-style#
a) Wearing heels while doing squats and hip undulations (these two moves are the basic steps when performing a lap dance) has turned my sad white girl booty into a slightly less-sad white girl booty. I’m about six light-years away from a shelf, but that’s a hell of a lot closer than I was before I first showed a stranger my yoni and demanded 50 bucks in return. And I feel like that is progress.
b) Contrary to every Cosmo sex-tips column you’ve ever read, stripping teaches you that Jiggle = Good! If you are in doubt, please refer to #9.
2. Men who ignore me when I’m walking down the street. (Or at least the ones who make no mention of the fact that I am a person they would like to fuck.)
3. Informal Education.
I used to be Joey fucking Potter. I loved school and thought the only way to measure one’s worth was by getting a full scholarship to Harvard.
4. My low-numbers bank account.
Cash is King, and that shit is in my mattress.* Having met every depressed and coke-addled Wall Street guy in Lower Manhattan, I know never to trust those bastards with any sort of investment. But don’t worry, I’m not one of those assholes who collects the dole while making a mint under the table.
5. When people think I am a heathen or bad person or best of all – a SLUT.
6. Cotton briefs.
7. My scent.
That’s right – I love the smell of my pussy, and you should love yours too. It’s been identified by keen sniffers as ‘salmon,’ ‘puppy’s breath’ and ‘hot musk’ and it’s the fucking best. I used to think if my cunt smelled like ANYTHING and someone were to *GASP* smell or taste her, I would certainly die a thousand deaths unless I lathered her in Dove or better yet – just left the whole fucking bar of soap wedged up in there for the entire session of hanky-pank. Thank god those days are over. Come at my laundry hamper, panty-snatchers!
Gossip used to make me really nervous:
Now I just fucking feed off it like a leech on a boner. I hang out in the dressing room just to touch base with who’s pregnant and who got busted for dealing coke to customers and subsequently getting in a cat-fight with the Queenpin.
It’s not that I’ve become a keen porn collector, but I can appreciate it now. Before I started stripping, I thought porn was gross and silly. A huge part of me still believes most porn to be hilariously gross; if I ever watch it I am laughing for at least 75% of the program. But being in the sexy business has inspired me to have this reverent sense of gratitude for it. Like, ‘Hey, look at how crazy awesome our fantastical imaginations are! Isn’t it nice to have some talented and generous actors to act it out for our viewing pleasure?’
10. Body Hair (and by body hair I mean my bush)
11. Hot Pink
SOMEONE GET ME THIS PUSSY DRESS:
12. A day without alcohol.
Don’t get me wrong – I fucking love alcohol. It’s fun and silly and slutty and Shoshana is my new favourite character on Girls after last Sunday’s Mean-Drunk-Girl episode.
But a day without booze is so fucking rare when your job is to be perpetually drunk, and when your non-stripper friends think you’re ‘so fun’ because you’re essentially a professional fun-haver. And they never see you having fun because that would be AWKWARD. So, when they do get to hang out with you, it’s like NO YOU ARE NO WAY ORDERING THAT SHIRLEY FUCKING TEMPLE. WAITER SHE WILL HAVE A LEMON DROP SHOT AND A TECATE.
It’s quite possible that every woman hates the idea of strippers until she either meets one, or becomes one. I thought they were drugged up attention whores with daddy issues. Now that I’ve seen the light, I know that we TOTALLY ARE attention whores with daddy issues (and of course there are drugs, but drugs are everywhere so let’s retire this strippers-are-the-only-addicts hypothesis once and for all). And we are taking these needs, wants and Freudian complexes and spinning them into GOLD. We are modern-day Rapunzel-stiltskins with expensive hair extensions.
Nickelback makes men want to spend money. So now, whenever I hear one of their tracks (I couldn’t tell you which one; they all sound the fucking same) I am fondly reminded of having money thrown at me, and this makes me happy.