During my first few years working, I would get my hands on any stripper memoir I could read, obsessed with finding out how other women experienced this bizarre life I ‘d embarked on. I was relieved at finding how common some of my insecurities and struggles were, and occasionally disappointed to discover that none of my thoughts on the business were as original as I had hoped.

The Beaver Show, by Tits and Sass contributor and blogger Jacqueline Frances (AKA Jacq the Stripper), was a reintroduction to my love for stripper lit, and brought with it a sweet nostalgia for my fish-out-of-water feelings as a baby stripper. The book chronicles Jacq’s first days working at clubs in Australia, then follows her to stints in New York City, New Mexico, Alberta, Canada, and Myrtle Beach, S.C. Like me, Jacq goes from feeling confused, clueless, and decidedly like an imposter, to riding the high that comes with early success, to settling with the persistent irritation that I think is unavoidable after you’ve been in the business a few years. She begins the book with a short personal essay she wrote in fifth grade, where she says that her proudest moment to date is dancing onstage in cool costumes. From there, we follow her to her first day at work. [READ MORE]


(Photo by Du R Maciel via Flickr)

(Photo by Du R Maciel via Flickr)

Disability is the reason that I’m no longer a dancer.  Occasionally, I’d fool myself and go back to work for a while, and then remember why I can’t do it anymore.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.  Dancing is hard on the body – and for my body, it’s particularly difficult.  I’m having a hell of a time with chronic pain, and as it stands right now, it’s painful when I walk or drive. Thinking I can dance an eight-hour shift these days is an exercise in self-delusion.

I’m Mel, formerly known as Valkyrie.  I started dancing when I was 20, and I retired this year.  I’m bipolar, and I’m also physically disabled.  I have a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS).  My joints are very easily dislocated, and I have issues with back and neck misalignment, dislocations, subluxations, moderate to severe chronic pain, and chronic fatigue.  Think major arthritis and a hand tremor, and that’s the reality of the body I’m living in.  I should mention that I am about to turn 31, and none of these conditions are readily apparent unless I talk about them, or unless I’m visibly wearing braces.  

Disability is pretty common in the sex work industryoverwhelmingly, invisible disability.  Many sex workers choose sex work because they can pick their own hours.  The ability to earn high amounts of money in a short period of time really helps conserve spoons/limited energy, which is particularly helpful when dealing with a painful condition.  Many dancers, models, cam girls, and full-service workers suffer from chronic pain or physical limitations.  Mental illness is also very common; I’ve personally run into people with PTSD, depression, bipolar disorder, and at least one sociopath (who, lest you get the wrong idea, is a friend of mine and a wonderful person, all stereotypes to the contrary).  Mental illness can be disabling to a greater or lesser degree, depending upon circumstances.

I have some tips for those of us who are dealing with disability. Then I’ll be discussing disabled customers and how we can interact with them in a way that’s good for both them and us.



As an indie-listening escort, I was surprised by the content of August Alsina’s 2014 medley/single, “Grind n’ Pray/Get Ya Money”: “Wait a sec, is this actually an ‘I’m a sex worker’s partner and I understand the economic uncertainty we both suffer because I’m a member of the lumpenproletariat/grey market too’ song?” Most strippers will probably be familiar with Alsina from his track “Porn Star” from the same album, Testimony, but I’m still just discovering the R & B genre and realizing just how much I’ve missed—neither Belle and Sebastian nor the Magnetic Fields are going to be writing a slow jam about the perfect love of a stripper and a drug dealer any time soon.

But Alsina is here to save the day and provide everything the hipster musical canon doesn’t in the touching underclass story this track tells:




Together we can be the ones doing the shakedown. (photo courtesy of Tobias Higbie, from Industrial Pioneer, Februrary 1924)

I’m currently in the beginning stages of suing local Portland strip club Casa Diablo. So of course when last fall the Oregon chapter of the National Association of Social Workers hired lobbyists from lobbying firm Pac/West to find out what protections strippers need and to craft a bill that offers these protections, I was very interested. But by the second meeting it was clear that as far as knowing strippers’ rights was concerned, both groups were starting from a blank slate.

To clear the matter up, I talked via e-mail to Corinna Spencer-Scheurich, a lawyer from the Northwest Workers’ Justice Project, an Oregon organization that represents workers in wage claims, does education and outreach about wage theft, and works on other ways to promote human and labor rights. This fall, Spencer-Scheurich represented a dancer in a lawsuit against Portland club Rose City Strip, which won in arbitration. She’s also done two presentations on the legal rights of strippers for SWOP-PDX.

Red: In most of the country, strippers are working thinking they’re independent contractors.  But are they really?  We’re winning these lawsuits for employee status across the country—Rick’s, Sapphire, Spearmint Rhino, Rose City—what are the indicators of independent contractors status?

Corinna Spencer-Scheurich: Those are a lot of big questions so let me see if I can break it down.  Many workers (including dancers) are treated as independent contractors, when they are actually employees. This happens in a lot of industries.

Red: Like FedEx drivers it turns out! And Uber drivers.

Spencer-Scheurich:  Exactly.  So this is a big problem overall.  It is especially rampant in the exotic dancing industry. Clearly, there are independent contractors who are dancers. The clear cases are where people are headliners or traveling acts, etc. Where they are their own business entity separate from the club. But, there are many more dancers who are employees. And those are the cases that you are seeing dancers bring across the country.

Red:  So to really be an independent contractors would you have to be registered or licensed as your own business?

Spencer-Scheurich: That would be one hallmark of an independent contractor. Another might be that the dancers could actually negotiate their contracts (instead of everyone [being] subject to the same rules).

Red:  So being able to change prices for dances, or [deciding] when they show up to work and leave?

Spencer-Scheurich: Right, the less control the club has over the dancer, the less likely the dancer is going to be an employee. So, you are more likely to be an employee if you are subject to fines, can’t set your own schedule, have to dress a certain way, can’t control how you are paid, etc. No particular factor determines whether you are an employee or [an] independent contractor. Courts just look at the whole picture. One big piece of the whole picture is whether the dancing is an integral part of the club’s business. As we know, strip clubs need strippers.


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You can find the first part of this round table here.

Has anyone had a regular whom they legitimately could not stand? The kind of guy that just wouldn’t go away? Maybe his personality was foul, or maybe he was living in a fantasy world with you? What are some defense mechanisms for coping that with sort of regular?

Leigh:  This can take a couple of forms for me: I’ve had regulars who are really good clients, in the sense of being well-behaved and pleasant, but whose fetishes I’ve found really emotionally draining or just plain gross to accommodate. Then there are the “why on earth do you keep booking me?” guys who will make appointments really consistently, but complain the whole time, appearing generally unhappy with their experience. The professionalism-nerd in me finds the latter much harder to deal with. I can be extra gentle with myself around seeing Mr. Creepy-Fantasies, and tell myself that I’m providing a life-improving service, but guys in the second group are both annoying to spend time with, and leave me feeling like I’m lousy at what I do, which is much more of a blow. If I had to pick a worst-instance, there was a guy who was actually a house-regular at the dungeon where I first started working who probably takes the cake. To start with, he smelled rank. He wore the same the clothing all the time, and it smelled like he didn’t take his trousers off when he had to piss either. But he came in two or three times a week the entire time I was working there, and while he’d go through phases where he’d focus on one woman, and see her once or twice a week, he was remarkably un-picky in whom he saw overall. On top of this, he also didn’t openly have a fetish. You’d ask him what he wanted to do and he’d say “I dunno,” and nothing you tried seemed to get more or less of a rise out of him. And boy, did we try everything, from cross dressing to diapers to floggings to role play to rope bondage. (I don’t think anyone ever tried foot worship, because, well, you wouldn’t even put your feet on him, seriously.) My pet theory was that he wasn’t a submissive at all, that he was actually a top who got off on making women uncomfortable or humiliating them, and his noxious odor was the tool of choice.

I’ve found with tricky regulars, especially as an independent, there’s lots of ways to make them more manageable—whether internally, by scheduling them when you’ll have time to decompress, or when you really need the money, so it feels like an extra-solid accomplishment, or externally, by over time finding ways to defuse their irritating foibles. But I think the biggest single thing that makes it workable is that it’s a really clearly defined time limit: I only have to suck it up for an hour or two, and then I’m done until the next booking. The fact that I know exactly what I’m making and how long it’ll take is a big part of making it sustainable for me. I imagine that I’d have a much harder time working in a club or camming, for that reason, since the hustling gets done while you’re meeting the client, rather than beforehand. This ties right back in to why I focus so much on cultivating regulars in the first place: predictability is a big bonus that’s worth a lot of tradeoffs to me personally. I find not knowing what my week looks like much more stressful than the pushiest, grossest regular.

Caty: ​When I encountered this—”baby I LOVE YOU”, that is—when I was much younger, I used to just take the easy way out and agree to keep seeing them, say, every night for a week, until they ran out of money to see me. I guess I was lucky enough—well, in this sense—to live somewhere where most clients’ incomes just can’t take seeing me several times a week. ​Callous, maybe, but it worked efficiently enough.

Otherwise, often just dropping the pretense of giving a shit will do wonders. That way, you don’t put the besotted client in a Romeo and Juliet situation by blacklisting, making them feel like they have to win you over again and possibly having them turn violent stalker in the process. Rather, they just don’t want to see you anymore because you’re not the girl they thought you were!

Josephine: I wish there were an easy strategy to adhere to. I’ve tried to to pawn them off on younger, more patient dancers. If that didn’t work, there were only two semi-effective methods that did: drinking copiously OR bluntly setting clear boundaries: “I appreciate your generosity, but I hope you know not to expect anything in return.”

Ephemeral: Is it sad that there were quite a few I couldn’t stand? I don’t think I’ve ever had a regular that didn’t get irritating at some point. I will say there is one guy that’s such a headache simply because he is a huge pain to talk to. He’s not rude, or clingy, but he re-defines “bored to death.” The only sex he can stay erect and ejaculate from is very carefully done oral to a small penis suffocating underneath the fat fold of a pudgy lower gut. Yes, it’s as agonizing as it sounds. Throughout this process he is eerily silent. He’s a very awkward kisser and his lips are continuously chapped. Figuring out what he wants in the first place has been a series of trial and error because he seems remarkably indifferent and/or uninterested in everything I do. After I perform the world’s least sexy blowjob, we’re left with 2/3 of the 90 minute booking to talk, or cuddle…except he does neither. He has a gruff, cynical opinion on every conversation topic under the sun. He actively hates, or tastelessly makes fun of everything, including himself and his own life. It leads to a painfully dull interaction, that feels depressing even after he leaves…ugh! When I was too fed up with it, I sat on top of his belly and said these words to him very clearly: “Despite everything else, you’re fucking ME right now, and that’s awesome, so cheer the fuck up.” Now we just talk about me, which is easy, because even with all the cynicism in the world he can’t deny that yes, I AM awesome.