An Extras Girl in Australia

by Ryan Cole on April 24, 2013 · 14 comments

in Strippers, This Time, It's Personal

maxines_barI get into work at the strip club and put my bag down. “Who is leaving all these condoms around here? We’re not fucking whores!” “Why do people have condoms in here, it’s meant to be a STRIP CLUB, who is doing that shit?” I replied straight back, “They’re not mine, but what’s the big deal? Lots of us do extras.” Hours pass, and in a quieter, more private moment, the same worker who said this earlier confides to me that she does extras too.

The first sex work I did was in a strip club—in the state I was living in at the time (Victoria, Australia) there is a complex legal system for the sex industry which means to work legally for yourself you must register with your legal name and only do outcalls. The only other way to work legally is in a brothel where the money cuts are less and you had to attend monthly invasive health checks to work (recently reduced to once every three months). Neither of these options really appealed to me, so I chose to work in a way that was criminalized, but where I could keep the maximum amount of my money, take care of my own health, have the maximum amount of control over how I worked and also avoid police as much as possible. I chose to work in a strip club.

I’ve worked in a few different strip clubs and found that one of the best things about the first place I worked was the degree of openness with which extras were talked about. There was still shaming about extras and the people who offered them, but there were enough who openly admitted that they offered extras that it created an environment where we could share tips about how to screen for undercover cops, how to be discreet, and what prices to charge. If people hadn’t told me that they also did extras and how much they charged, then I would have definitely charged less than what I did, at least to begin with. By being able to talk about it we could set common prices for extras and more or less stick to them and all get more from our clients.

When business was quiet or people were reminiscing about old days where it was more common to make a lot of money with just stripping, no extras, sometimes the extras would be blamed as a reason why it was harder to make money from only stripping or how it meant “stripper” had a different meaning or why clients would still be trying to ask for extras even if you didn’t offer them. First of all, clients will always ask for extras that we haven’t offered, for cheaper prices. This never means other workers are doing it for these prices, or that they are asking only because of other workers offering it. It’s just what some clients do to try and get more. Second, I don’t think offering extras is undercutting or ruining stripping. It really is just another marketing tool or service you offer and I think it begins to be whorephobic when we get annoyed at some workers for offering sexual extras but not at other services other strippers may offer such as talking to or counselling clients or doing amazing dances which also set them apart from other dancers and mean clients will want to book them. Thirdly, from my own observations when I didn’t offer many or any extras at the start of my stripping career, I often found that I was the busiest when I was on shift with other workers who offered extras. Why? Because the dancers who offered the most were often the most booked by regular customers, and so there were fewer dancers to choose from for other club regulars and walk-ins, so we all got more dances. We would also get the clients who wanted the “good girl.” So I think it is at best debatable, and often wrong, that people who offer extras are ruining the business of other workers. If no one in the strip club offered extras I don’t think it follows that everyone would make more money. Dancers offering extras just means people have another tool to make a bit more money on top of the private dance and a way to bring a larger pool of clients to strip clubs.

It seemed even more ridiculous that doing extras could be considered “undercutting” or creating an “unfair playing ground” given that a few hundred meters down the road was a well-known legal brothel. If customers walked in there, they could pay the same amount for full service in a comfortable bed that they would for a 15 minute dance in our strip club with a quick, no-frills hand job in a dingy room with a semi-functioning CD player and a chair held together with duct tape. Men could easily get more for their money from people who openly advertised as full service sex workers. Instead, they came to the strip club to pay much more for less for the fantasy that they were doing it with a dancer who only did this special extra for them. Other regulars would come to book dancers who they knew would not offer extras and would just have a chat and a dance.

Shaming strippers who offer extras does not create better working conditions for dancers at work. It creates a work environment where we are divided and pitted against each other, and we already have clients and operators trying to set us against each other  so they can avoid paying us as much money for our work. United we bargain, divided we beg!

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

mistressmatisse April 24, 2013 at 5:28 pm

This is very interesting perspective – the fact that you live in a place with legal prostitution near the club gives you an experience we don’t have in the US. I think you’re on target about the fantasy part, too.


Irony Butterfly April 24, 2013 at 8:25 pm

I have another perspective on what you call “fantasy”. I think a certain kind of guy is only happy when there is a conquest – that is when he is getting you to do something that he knows or at least thinks you don’t want to do it. It isn’t a fantasy that he is so charming – it is a fantasy that he can get you give something up. I don’t see it as sweet or romantic.

I agree that the absence of extras certainly would not guarantee more money in general (although many other dancers would point out – the distribution might be a bit different, and that is their point). But – and I am saying this respectfully without any shaming – I do not buy for a second that there is no downward pressure on our working conditions as a result of them, and that is a different argument. I mean, it is creating an expectation in the customer base of “more” – whether it is more for less or just more is immaterial to a lot of dancers who wind up in dancing rather than other facets of sex work because they don’t want to offer “more” period.

Obviously extras are a tool – literal undercutting is also a tool, but there is a reason that it is discouraged – it is because we don’t want to start a race to bottom. In deference to this notion of whorephobia let’s call it “a race in a direction most people in that facet of the industry don’t want end up.” I’ve seen a lot of arguments that are saying, at bottom “you are not better than prostitutes, so you should be happy to provide the same service” or, as a variation “there is nothing wrong with prostitution so you should not resent the slide of your business into prostitution.” To me those things are not related. I am not better than my escorting and prostitute brethern (sistern?) but nor do I want to do it myself. And yes, I wanted my corner of the industry to remain friendly to me.

I agree that moral shaming is not a valid tool for workplace solidarity. And I agree with your line about uniting and dividing (although generally, as I said, people controlling the market is considered to be a bad thing not a good thing). But I wonder where you see the role of workplace standards when we “unite.” Like is it only the responsibility of other people to extend tolerance and solidarity to you? (I’m serious, not rhetorical). Like under what circumstances would you respect the “rules”? (And I recognize that “rules” is a fluid and amorphous term in this context, and that is part of what I’m asking). Are there circumstances in which you would agree that utilizing a tool that your peers and colleagues generally agree should not be exercised is inappropriate or not exercising solidarity? If so, what are those circumstances? And I’m honestly asking.


Sienna April 24, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Very interesting piece, really like to hear some of the theories though I don’t entirely agree with the part about losing customers to dancers who do “extras”. I have DEFINITELY seen this happen. Clubs are set up so girls compete, they are incredibly capitalistic in that sense so of course new “marketing”/”strategies” are going to take customers away. I don’t think this is an “extras” thing though because you could say the same of a girl may have gotten cosmetic surgery. It’s the competitive setup that pits us against each other, and pointing fingers naturally goes along with that.


MissOvereducatedHooker April 25, 2013 at 12:47 am

I started out as one of those girls being upset that other girls offered extras. Then I became a girl offering extras. Then I realized that I was way getting underpaid for those extras, and became a high end escort. Now I’m moving into super high end, which is slow but I’m giving it a go. And I’m considering going back to dancing (well, doing both, really). Will I give extras in the club? Not sure yet. I’m used to being paid about $5-$9 a minute now for full service, which isn’t that far off from dance prices. The unpaid time will be in stage sets (often eliciting very little cash), working the floor, etc.; rather than hours on my computer (tweaking ads, building sites, photoshopping pics, looking at other escorts’ ads, etc.) or planning & executing photo shoots. It doesn’t seem that different.

I can’t even tell you if I made more money or less when I started doing extras. I can tell you that I stopped putting an imaginary line between my dancing and that of “dirty girls,” and I am happy that I did. I do think that when someone is putting themselves at greater risk (of STDs/STIs, of getting busted by cops or management, etc.) they should be paid more than someone who is at less risk. The standard amount the club charges should be for what services it advertises and what is legal (whatever that is).
Anything beyond that deserves higher compensation. I do think that strippers who offer more for the same amount (and I’ve been one of them) are getting ripped off, and that it creates a culture where clients think they deserve that level of risk taking by every stripper for the same price. Or by that same stripper every time, though she may not feel like it at times.

The trouble I had in the club I worked at is that no one would admit to doing extras, largely because it was unsafe to do so (spoken and unspoken threats from management, police, and other strippers). Without a basic ability to communicate, it wasn’t really possible to set our own workplace standards. I couldn’t imagine trying to unionize that place, it was a large club with hundreds of workers and a lot of transience.


Michelle of many names April 25, 2013 at 4:30 pm

This makes good sense to me. In the clubs I’ve worked at where full service was available, not offering full service was never an issue for me when the girls who were doing so were charging lots more than I was for my dances/VIP. The stated VIP price was $220 for half an hour, the full service girls charged around $400, I was regularly able to charge $300, and there was no drama.

I recognize that there are providers reading this who think it’s insulting when strippers like me make comments like, “girl, hook if you want to, but respect yourself/get what you’re worth/etc…” I get that it comes off as shaming. That really isn’t where it comes from, though. Like, of course it pisses me off on a personal level when enough girls are charging $30 for penetration that I can’t pay my rent with $20 dances. That isn’t what I signed up for when I started stripping. But I want us ALL to maximize our profits, and non-extras & extras girls alike aren’t making as much as we could if the range of service available at the standard price didn’t vary so widely.


Deb Lah April 25, 2013 at 3:33 am

Beautiful piece and excellent points, thank you Ryan.


Tristan April 25, 2013 at 10:10 am

Thanks Ryan for this piece. It’s awesome!


JR April 25, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Ok, since some of you have speculated about men’s fantasies, I thought I’d add my two cents as a guy for why I sometimes might go to a strip club instead of a brothel (in Mexico) or instead of calling an escort here in the US.

A trip to a strip club is a night out at a bar. Just like any other bar, sometimes one goes with friends, you relax, have some beers, watch girls, talk with girls, maybe buy them drinks. It’s fun and relaxing and you could spend several hours there. And after hanging out with an attractive girl for a while and finally agree to a private dance, well, you have no idea what she will do. She might do an awesome lap dance, might give a horrible lap dance, or she might go all out in terms of extras. One doesn’t know, it is all mystery and suspense. That’s a big reason of the fun for me. Mystery and surprise.

As for seeing a regular, for me at least, what’s fun is that I’m getting a sex act in a bar, sorta a public space, with lots of people right out side the cubicle. That doesn’t happen to me much when I go to regular bars.


story April 26, 2013 at 12:25 am

in all these articles and comments, there’s been reference to the idea of being stronger by being united. stronger in particular against an unsavory power imbalance between strippers and management that i think everyone agrees exists. but as irony b. alludes to, must all the dancer-only dancers tolerate extras and the extra girls not take a step toward compromise, also?

more interesting, is that all the unionizing, liberal jargon of the extras argument clashes with the mind-your-own-business-i’ll-get-paid-however-i-best-see-fit-and-fuck-the-rules argument made for extras also. it seems like extras girls work in a paradigm of financial conservativism and then expect to be embraced by and unionized with with the same crew of dancers they just undercut. no?


M April 26, 2013 at 2:54 pm

I don’t disagree with you. However, I think our society has fueled the fire of change in the strip club setting. We are a culture of immediate gratification, of entitlement, and are highly sexualized. Porn is getting more extreme and with a click of a button, you can view it all for free on the internet. Men come to a strip club and don’t feel satisfied with only an air dance any longer. Look at any strip club review website. They will post the dancer’s name and say “don’t dance with this person, her dances are a rip-off”. Perhaps this is just my view of the situation and I will admit it may be biased because my club tolerates extras. It’s not any one person’s fault and it can’t be so easily fixed.

How do you think the extras girls can compromise? I’m not asking to be adversarial, I’m just asking out of curiosity. I’m not quite sure how that could happen. Stripping is sex work. If a person is uncomfortable with that, he or she could make probably just as much money as a shot girl, waitress, or bartender.


Serenity Slick April 27, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Stripper here. Also I moonlight in full service and sometimes rub n tug. And I agree with Ryan. Imma paste some of my own thoughts that I’ve already Tumblr’d during discussions around extras that have been taking place for quite some time. I wrote some of these prior to the publication Josephine’s piece and some after.

-Firstly, I want to call out the common ‘wisdom’ that girls who perform extras undercut others as the utter disingenuousness that it often is. Those who cry the loudest about extras tend to be exceedingly normative, privileged strippers who make an excellent income, some upwards of 100K/year by their own reckonings. If they are being undercut, their takings do not show it. I can believe that they *fear* being undercut, but this fear is frequently not borne out by the reality.

-though the strippers decrying extras claim to have no problem with full service workers and that their concerns are in no way rooted in whorephobia, their use of shaming language – including the use of the term ‘clean dancer’ to describe girls who do not perform extras – speaks to something else entirely. ‘Clean’, for a start, implies that contact sex workers are just filthy.

-Performing extras is strongly bound up with poverty. People who perform extras often do so because they must, to survive. Such poverty, in turn, is strongly correlated with various forms of intersectional oppression. These include but are not limited to race, class, trans* status, motherhood, body size, non-normative appearance, ability, mental health and the like. Those decrying extras tend to be free of such factors, and so in most cases will never be faced down with the choices often facing down ‘extras girls’ . At the end of the day, I find the lack of thought or compassion for those struggling to earn given the listed or other intersectional factors to be frankly repulsive.

-I am also thinking that extras in fact serve to somewhat level the playing field between normative and non-normative SWs but that, like all things that level the playing field, the privileged class see it as the marginalised class gaining privilege over them as opposed to an equaliser.

-‘extras girls’ get blamed for the demands and entitled attitudes of customers and clients, rather than those customers and clients themselves. I hope I don’t even need to point out just how problematic this is…This implies that men can’t help themselves and bear zero responsibility for their actions in the sexual arena, which on its face is both wrong and woman-hating. My experience spans all forms of sex work aside from porn, and I can tell you that men are always demanding more, whatever is offered. In full service they demand unprotected PIV, anal, free GFE, the right to film you – whatever is not on offer – they want it. This is a function of male privilege and entitlement, not other sex workers.


Ultra Violet April 27, 2013 at 3:08 pm

I agree with Miss overeducated hooker and Michelle.
I work in NZ where prostitution is legal. I’ve never stripped, but I’ve worked in ‘sensual massage’ which is hot oil massage with happy endings. Its a similar argument, do women providing extras ruin it for everyone? Well no, so long as they charge the going rate for extras. If I do massage for $140 fine, for $150 they *could* go down the road to a brothel for full service but they come to me because they want sensual massage, and lots of them like to think extras are something I only do when I’m extra super turned on. If I charge $190 to be naked and include a blowjob it doesn’t mean the other workers lose customers, some guys want to spend under $150, some want to spend $210 and get full service (but come to me rather than the brothel option because they want sensual and relaxing which is not a given unless you’re going to a massage joint). Plus, extras don’t get split with the house. One reason why people who provide extras don’t just go work in a brothel is because of that. If a blowjob or full serivce is an extra you keep 100% of the extra charge rather than 50%. I imagine its similar with stripping? As long as there are market rates being charged for extras I don’t see a problem beyond clients wanting extras from everyone. But in saying that, NO ONE provides sex without condoms and clients still ask for that all the time! So I think its largely a case of clients will ask for stuff regardless of whos doing/not doing it. And when clients complain to me that some of the other girls don’t do XYZ I cutely tell them that I think its great that people can choose, and everyone goes home happy.


jd April 27, 2013 at 4:30 pm

The illicit nature might be part of the attraction. The web built around the rules of sex work seems meant to contain that sex is not natural. There is no other arena where the pro creative urge exchanges so much information. And money is just human information.


Eff August 20, 2013 at 6:01 pm

About “extras girls” undercutting other dancers – I heard about a club in the city I was dancing in, where girls were notorious for doing extras. Every time I took a customer to any private room, of any level, I would be groped without hesitation. Automatically. Alternatively, I once worked at a club where most girls were clean, and customers groping us was almost nonexistent.
Fact is, anyone going to buy something wants the most bang for their buck, whether it be a car, a house – or in our case, a “dance.” But the entertainers as a group sets the tone for how much bang customers can get. So yes, Extras Girls are responsible for undercutting other dancers in that they can turn an entire club into a brothel (see some of the stories posted here….the Detroit extras girl comes to mind). Unwitting new dancers walk in, get sexually assaulted and can’t understand why….until they learn of the club’s history. Extras girls in the past turned otherwise clean clubs into brothels. This cannot be denied. Of course, they were helped along by greedy club owners. In fact, I would go so far as to say that greedy club owners created Extras Girls, by turning the business from a performance-oriented line of work into what is essentially a sales job.


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