When Beyoncé’s “Drunk In Love” first came into our lives, every stripper I know considered surfbort to be the highlight of her night at the club for a solid month. My escort friends curate playlists for their incall appointments and memorize which song signals the end of a session (try Semisonic’s “Closing Time” if the 90s are your thing and subtlety is not). If you ever pay me for sex, we will bump uglies to a bump-n-grind playlist of today’s top 40 hip hop. My middle-aged white clients probably do not identify as R&B fans, but their involuntary bodily response to a good beat makes my job a lot easier. The truth is that every professional has her favorite playlist for work, but not all songs are created equal. Any music that keeps our heads in the game despite the threatening click of loose dentures during cunnilingus is already doing a service to sex workers. But in addition to salvaging some of our least sexy sexy times, certain cultural producers seem to be the lone voices unironically celebrating our savvy skills as sex professionals. Enter Canadian rap artist and Drake protégé PARTYNEXTDOOR.
This guy joins a proud list of his countrymen (Drake, The Weeknd) in his lyrical appreciation for ladies of the night. But while we’ve long extolled his fellow Canucks for the special place they hold in their hearts for girls like us, there remains a significant disparity between him and the rest: PARTY doesn’t simply remark on the beauty of his hired hands. He lends a socio-political complexity to hegemonic narratives surrounding paid affection in a way his colleagues haven’t quite accomplished.
The ladies I performed with in the new Mastodon video, “The Motherload,” were not all strippers, but I don’t think that matters much to the 800,000-plus viewers that watched the video in the first week. Though those of us who were strippers initially sat in cliques—the girls who knew each other from the same club or girls who had danced with each other in the past—we still exchanged pleasant glances. When the director came in and told us we’d be having a twerk dance battle with dancers we didn’t know, there was a momentary gasp.
There was a long time when I first started working as a strip club DJ when I’d engage in small talk with customers. Almost always it led to them saying “You must have the best job in the world!” It was hard to understand why. I don’t have benefits. Trying to get days off is a daunting effort, and when I have to cover for another DJ I am yelled at for reaching overtime. I’m the whipping boy of management and certain dancers. Then the slow realization dawns of why they think it’s so great: I get to look at naked women all day.
So I wonder what they’d think if they knew they were talking to a fag (well, queer male, in the Rainer Werner Fassbinder/Paul Bowles sense. I’m attracted to women romantically and intellectually, but mostly sleep with men) who remains pretty indifferent to all the nudity. But since I don’t really want to discuss any more with them, or ruin any part of the illusion that comes with the territory, I nod and say “Yup,” then proceed back to my booth.
I’ve worked at two different clubs and there’s not much to the job. I come in, turn on the sound equipment and lights, put music on shuffle and wait out the day until I can clock out, chatting with the dancers or staff when free or not reading a book. I’m not out to my coworkers by any means for fear of being fired. In an industry that hires solely on looks and can fire someone for such bullshit excuses as saying no to a drink when already very drunk or trying to signal a customer over from stage, I’m sure a queer man in a highly hetero male space would cause waves. [READ MORE]