On Charlie Sheen’s partners: “A woman’s active embrace of the fame monster or participation in the sex industry, we seem to say, means that she compromises her right not to be assaulted, let alone humiliated, insulted or degraded.”
In March 2005 I started a blog. My first post was about my new hideously expensive purse, but my blog, pretty dumb things, quickly became a blog with—not necessarily of—sex. I wrote a lot, posting five or six times a week, often but not always, narrating something sexual. At the height of its popularity, my blog brought in somewhere between 4,000 and 10,000 visitors a day. Which is a dizzying number for a one-woman show of neuroses, orgasms, butt sex, blowjobs, pop culture, occasional snark and/or whimsy, and tales of when I was a stripper. My writing got noticed, and I got paid to write for various magazines and anthologies, got interviewed by Susie Bright, and got semi-pseudo-famous, in short, for my sexytime writing.
It’s that time of year again — the part of the year that I playfully refer to as sports season. For the next few weeks we’ll see an orgy of American sports converge — professional football, college football, preseason basketball, hockey, and of course, the World Series.
Any stripper will tell you that it’s definitely challenging to sell a lap dance when The Big Game is on. The Big Game is like lap dance kryptonite. Sure, you might be standing there in a tiny little spandex outfit but the men on the big screen are also wearing spandex and, well, one must prioritize their spandex preferences.
An unholy mix of gentrification and trafficking hysteria created the perfect political climate to allow law enforcement to shutter several New Orleans strip clubs, leaving scores of dancers unemployed. The Bourbon Alliance of Responsible Entertainers rapidly sprung into action; they disrupted the mayor’s press conference and organized the Unemployment March the following night, which drew national attention. I talked to them about the situation in NOLA, their strategy, and their future plans.
So, to start, what is BARE? How long has BARE existed and what kind of activism does BARE do?
Lindsey: BARE is the Bourbon Alliance of Responsible Entertainers. We are an organization run by strippers, for strippers. I started coming to meetings a few months ago, but some of our members have been at this since the Trick or Treat raids of 2015. What we do first and foremost is provide a voice that’s been previously underexposed during the city’s assault on strip clubs: the voice of actual strippers. We’re attempting to work with city officials to influence policies and decisions that affect us. Outside of that, we really just want to foster community among dancers and show the people who don’t understand us that we are valuable members of the New Orleans community. During our first ever charity tip drive, participating dancers donated all of their tips from a Friday night’s work to a women’s shelter. Strippers literally paid that shelter’s rent for six months!
Lyn Archer: I arrived in New Orleans after being laid off from two seasonal jobs in a row, one in secretarial work and one in hospitality. I was on unemployment and got a job cocktail-waitressing at a Larry Flynt drag club. One night, a few weeks before Christmas, the club closed without notice and let everyone go. That’s when I saw how quickly fortunes could reverse on Bourbon Street and how little protection there is for workers. My first week on Bourbon, I was the likely the only stripper that didn’t realize that Operation Trick or Treat had just happened. I entered a work environment where strippers were scared, mgmt was over-vigilant, and customers were scarce. Everyone seemed confused about “the rules.” I later learned that’s because what’s written into the city code about “lewd and lascivious conduct” is different than state law and different than federal law. But these supposed “anti-trafficking” efforts are a collaboration of badges. Undercover agents from many offices move through the clubs. I began researching and writing on this for my column in Antigravity, called “Light Work.” I began to see how a feedback loop between press, law enforcement, self-styled “anti-trafficking” groups and civic policymakers can cause so much destruction for people they haven’t even considered. The club I started at was the first to close. The club was inside a building that was the house Confederate president Jefferson Davis lived in. The house I live in was the home of a Confederate general. We are working against, while inside-of, unfolding histories that are deeply, deeply violent. The more I learn about the history of sex worker resistance in New Orleans, the more I know this fight is lifetimes old and will replicate itself if we do not end it entirely.
Are you working today and feeling like the woman at the center of this Reductress article? Flag-themed negligee has been a stripper staple since the country’s first peeler swung a tassel at an eager soldier. Historians largely agree that Betsy Ross said upon completing the first flag, “Ah, yes. This will make a delightful scrunchy butt bikini.”
A stripper’s body could be the most patriotic or the most atrocious way to display the flag. Do you blindly love this country (please read a book, by the way)? Then behold the red, white, and blue’s majesty as it blankets your ample bosom! Are you little less enthusiastic for a place that’s propped up by white supremacy and hell-bent on legislating sex workers into the gutter? Well, today’s the day to shove that Lycra flag straight into your ass crack!
I’m a sucker for stripper clichés, so I asked workers to submit July 4th selfies. Unsurprisingly, our submissions tended towards the white and blonde—which could be the topic of an entirely separate post that I’ll save for another day.