Sex work seems to invite entertaining, original economic research. Wouldn’t it be interesting to quantify the change in income for a women who change careers to begin stripping? Or how much money dancers pay out to clubs? What do they do for the local economy? What kind of sales techniques are most effective for strippers? What marketing is effective for escorts in different markets and income brackets? What is the elasticity of demand for sex work?*
The first time I heard about the “Ovulating Strippers Make More Money!” study, I thought, “oh, that’s interesting! I wonder what they learned. So many strippers must have been studied.” But NO. Here’s the story: Two researchers at UNM in Albuquerque studied dancers for two months. They studied 18 dancers. In one club, in one city. For two cycles. There are so so many things to ask here. For instance, did ovulation coincide with the Pit hosting an NCAA tournament round? Since all the dancers were in one club, did they all work together often enough to have their cycles sync up, and did this perhaps amplify any effects ovulation or menstruation would have had?
The study is a start towards what they ultimately hope to look into (estrus in human females), but it’s an example of something that ultimately hurts us all: Harmful legislation is frequently passed on the basis of research that amounts to little more than a collection of anecdotes. Just about every anti-strip club ordinance or punitive stripper tax or licensing fee relies on decades-old studies with precious little basis in fact. And every once in a while I still see citations of this paper where the author said that 100% of the dancers she’d interviewed (coincidentally also a total of 18) had been sexually assaulted (this, perhaps, could be the case in some clubs, I know that it never happened to me until I worked in some bars with lax security) and had a dancer describe having roadkill thrown at her, which sounds to me like something a smartass stripper would say to fuck with a clumsy interviewer.
But back to my point and my headline, which is my irritation that I still get emailed, tweeted, and Facebooked links to this irritating study. Every single time I have to point out its miniscule sample size, short duration, and self-reporting, all characteristics of, at best, pre-research, and not a reputable study. Let me reiterate:
- The sample size is tiny. They studied 18 dancers. 18!
- In one club, in one city.
- For two months.
The idea is solid: Let’s tally up what strippers earn and see if some ovulation x-factor—pheremones, subtle changes in behavior or appearance, signs of fertility—affects their money. I’d sign up to participate in a study like this. IF IT WAS REAL RESEARCH. You’d have to have at least 200 strippers in fifteen different cities track their earnings and cycles over the course of a year. This should allow business cycles to even out. I keep scrupulous track of both my menstrual cycle and my earnings, and I have a Paragard (nonhormonal) IUD, so I’m a great test case. And the results, from the last three years (eighteen times longer than the UNM study), are thus:
2009: Period shifts: 4% greater than average. Ovulating shifts: 20% lower than average. Definitely contrary to what the research would have predicted.
2010: Period shifts: 5% lower than average. Ovulating shifts: 21% greater than average. The big difference in ovulation’s favor was its concurrence with a big sports weekend one month. Without that, my ovulating shifts would have been 6%.
2011: Period shifts: 9% lower than average. Ovulating shifts: 2% lower than average. Which must mean being horny makes my money go down, but not as much as having cramps.
For me, the biggest predictor of high earnings was being somewhere where a big event or good season was in swing, and keeping a consistent schedule. That’s all! Much like birth control, when and how you make your money is different for every dancer, but the biggest factor remains having customers coming in the door. If there is an across-the-board difference, maybe a more comprehensive study will reveal its existence.
*Feel free to send us your links and papers.