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No, we're not all strippers. But so what if we were?

Fiona Perso

Posted on September 03 2018

No, we’re not all strippers. But so what if we were? Would that somehow make you value us less as human beings? Would you look down on us, pity us, try to save us from the big bad world? Would you assume we were damaged goods? Would you assume we're uneducated? Would you value our opinions less? Would you look down your nose at us? Would you not want us in your circle of friends? Would you keep your boyfriends, partners, husbands away from us? Would you smile to our face and snigger behind our backs and thank the almighty lord above that we aren't your children? Would you assume our parents hadn't raised us properly? Would you be embarrassed if we were your children?

I’ve experienced a wide range of reactions when I’ve told people that my sport/hobby/passion is pole dancing. Anything from excitement and genuine curiosity to open derision and obvious discomfort.

As someone who works in a corporate business role by day I was faced with the dilemma of whether or not I should even tell the people I work with what I do with the majority of my spare time. I made the decision to be upfront from the very beginning and actually told my supervisor and the HR staff member in my interview for my current role that I was a pole dancer. Luckily for me they were both non-judgmental about it and I think appreciated my openness. But there have been others I’ve encountered whose reactions haven’t been very warm. I recall one incident where I attended a meeting where we were asked to pair up, learn some key facts about our partner and then introduce them to the group. I was paired with a middle aged white man whose name I can’t remember. One of the questions was; “What do we do with our spare time, hobbies etc?” Being the honest soul that I am I said that I pole danced. When the time came for us to stand up and introduce our partners the guy couldn’t even say it, he ummed and ahhhed a bit, and then I stepped in and said that I pole danced and saved him from his obvious discomfort. My partner has no issues with it, never has. My mother has no issues, my grandparents didn’t even bat an eyelid, they wanted to see my performance videos. My older brother is uncomfortable, he makes jokes about me being a stripper to cover up his discomfort because all he can associate pole dancing with is stripping. And he’s never made any effort to educate himself further or to watch me perform. In my previous job I worked with someone who disapproved of my pole dancing because he was of the opinion that it was a gateway to stripping and he was of the mistaken belief that all strippers are being exploited and objectified. Because heaven forbid we acknowledge that women can actually make the informed decision to be employed as a stripper, or that women may even enjoy that employment. No, we’re much more comfortable as a society to believe in the stereotype that these women are damaged and have daddy issues that have driven them to the stripper pole to seek the acceptance, attention and approval they obviously didn’t get during their formative years. Admittedly some of them probably are damaged from the experiences they’ve had throughout their lives, but how does that make the adult entertainment industry different from any other industry? There are damaged people everywhere, that’s the world we live in. Corporate workers, admin workers, retail workers, hospitality workers, teachers, doctors, nurses. Don’t try and tell me the only damaged people in the world end up working as strippers because I think we can all call bulls$%t on that one. One industry isn’t big enough to support all the damaged people in this world. And while we’re at it, let’s get rid of the misconception that what these women do is EASY. Stripping is as much sales and customer service as it is taking your clothes off. You’re selling a service and you need to have the skills to understand the personality of the customer you’re dealing with to make sure they want to come back and see you again. Emma Lea Corbett said it best in her book The Stripper Next Door; “A stripper is very similar to a salesperson; the product you’re selling is yourself. Like in any sales role, you need to believe in the product, establish a connection, build rapport and trust, then close.”

As for the dancing part, if you think it’s easy to dance you’re way through an entire song or two on stage without pauses to think about moves and without breaking character than give it a try. I dare you!! Because personally I can’t freestyle for two minutes without feeling like a complete goose.

And pole dancers aren’t exempt from displaying a lack of respect to the industry that their sport was born from. A lot of us are quick to point out that we’re not strippers without even being asked. “Yes, I pole dance, but just for fitness, I’m not a stripper”. And let’s not forget the #notastripper that was circulating for a while on social media. Maybe they’re not intentionally trying to be disrespectful of women in the stripping industry, but simply trying to distance themselves so that they’re not painted with the same societal brush and therefore subjected to the same harsh judgement. But consider how this makes our sisters who are working as strippers feel? Strippers and have paved the road that we now walk upon and they deserve our respect and our solidarity. Felix Cane, Bobbi, Suzie Q, just to name a few amazing trail blazers. Maybe it’s time instead of pre-empting the “Are you a stripper question?” with denials before it’s even asked, we wait for it to be asked, and we counter with; “So what if I was?” Let’s force people to admit their prejudice and to think about why it exists in the first place. Was it a conclusion drawn from personal experience? Or was it, like so many other beliefs, forced upon us through our education, the media, and the beliefs of the adults who have influenced us throughout our childhoods.

I’ve met a handful of women who work as strippers and I can tell you without doubt that the existing stereotype is way out of line. These women are fierce, they know exactly what they want, they own their sexuality and they’re amazing dancers. They sure as s$%t don’t need or want your approval. What they need is to be afforded the same level of respect that all working professionals are, regardless of their industry. They need you to stop thinking they need your pity, or sympathy, or that they need saving. The whole narrative around objectification and exploitation needs to be changed. These are adjectives that don’t apply to grown women who’ve made a conscious choice to work in the adult entertainment industry.

So before you ask a pole dancer whether or not she’s a stripper, ask yourself why you want to know and what difference does it actually make?

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