I’m A Former Stripper — & These Are The Myths About Strippers That I’m Sick Of Hearing

Lexi Laphor for Refinery29 Australia
There’s nothing quite like the grotty glam of the strip club, but pop culture — and people — rarely get it right. I stripped for a few months in Australia before I moved overseas to study, and it was absolutely nothing like I’d been led to believe. The misconceptions out there are wild, along with the deplorable social stigma of working as a stripper or in the wider sex industry.
So, in an attempt to dispel the stigma, here are some of the questions I've often been asked as a stripper, along with the various myths swirling around about what we do.

Why did you become a stripper? 

Let’s be real, as much as I can say I did it because I was an 18-year-old chasing every bit of life experience I could, I started stripping because of the money. The immediate financial payoff for the hours you work is unlike anything you’ll find in an entry-level job, anywhere. 
My logic was that I could work a minimum wage 40-hour week in hospitality, or three nights a week in a strip club for substantially more.

What are the working conditions like? 

It 100% depends on the club you’re working at and the management team that runs it. In Australia, there are pretty strict rules and regulations in place to keep dancers safe and in control. If a customer is being inappropriate, you can terminate a dance at any time — no refund, no questions asked. 
Essentially though, as a dancer, you work for yourself — like a contractor — and pay a 'door fee' to work. Most of the time, you’d work at least eight-hour shifts. Some clubs will pressure you to come in five nights a week; others are cool with less. Just like any job, it varies depending on your workplace.

What are the associated costs?

With the need for various shoes, outfits and pole classes, it can get expensive fast. You can try and do it on the cheap, but you need a good rotation of lingerie and bikinis. Add into that rideshares if you choose to drink, and your expenses can rack up pretty quickly.
The mental health cost also can't be ignored. Late nights, alcohol and drug culture, and the brain-chemistry-altering emphasis placed on your body and appearance in the long term can definitely start to leave its mark.

How much money would you make on an average night?

There’s no such thing as an average night. It depends on what city you’re in, the club you’re working at, its location, and whether it’s a weeknight or a weekend. You can expect to make anywhere from $400 to $700 on a weeknight, and perhaps between $700-$1500, or up into the $2000s over the weekend.

Common myths about strippers

It’s like a party every night

It’s not. For real, dancing is nothing like the movies. It’s closer to weird kick-ons than the actual party, because a lot of the job is just sitting and chatting. However, if it’s a busy night and you’re booked for dances back-to-back, you get the biggest workout of your life — you’ll be telling customers you’re off for a bathroom break just to go and sit in the dressing room to catch your breath for five minutes.

Stripping is our only option

It definitely wasn’t my only option, but often it’s the option with the most immediate financial stability. I think that’s important to recognise, because it affords dancers (often women) more disposable time for their studies, families, hobbies, other careers, and/or simply themselves.
Just remember that dancers are choosing to be there. I don't appreciate that weird guy who sits in the corner and thinks he’s some sort of Prince Charming because he refuses to buy a lap dance from those damsels-in-distress. Strippers know what they’re doing and they're there for your money, so give it to them.

We don’t enjoy doing it

Sometimes I enjoyed it, sometimes it was mind-numbingly boring — just like any other job. My take is that labour doesn’t have to be inherently empowering or enjoyable for it to be a valid stream of income.

The customers are all creepy old men

I love this one because it’s so untrue. Some of them are, but I met far more creepy men working in a cafe than I did working in a strip club. Most customers are just normal, regular people.

We can’t have romantic relationships because of what we do

If your partner is a decent human, you absolutely can. It just requires good communication. I experienced way more weird energy when I told some partners that I’d stripped in the past than I did from my partner when I was actually stripping. My partner now couldn’t care less.

We make thousands every night

Some nights you might make thousands, others you might make nothing. It can be a bit depressing, but if you have nobody walking through the door, you’re not going to make any money. That’s where stripper-grams worked well — dancers could chat to their regulars and followers, and hopefully get some to come in.

You can’t be a stripper and a feminist

This one is so silly — if your feminism is exclusionary in any way, it’s not real feminism. Sex worker rights are women’s rights. Morality shouldn’t even come into the argument; whether you personally would visit a strip club or not, you can support sex industry workers and vouch for their rights. When we are pushing for equality, but policing the way women achieve it financially, that’s not feminism; that’s purity culture and ignorance.
The sex industry allows individuals to achieve financial freedom who otherwise might be disproportionately disadvantaged and/or excluded from typical employment under Western capitalism. The flexible schedule and working hours can also work really well for those of us who find a full-time nine-to-five job inaccessible, including people who are chronically ill, disabled or neurodivergent. Feminism doesn’t exclude, and neither should you.
Ultimately, I'd describe my time as a stripper as a culmination of hilarious, boring, fun, weird, wild, and at times mildly traumatic experiences. While you may not understand what we do at first, it's important to not cast judgment. After all, we all exchange our time and labour for income, and isn’t everyone monetising their bodies in some way or another?
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