7 February 2012, 19:48
My interview with an escort last month caused a bit of an uproar. The majority of women were supportive of Alexis’ choice, while at the same time mentioning that she didn’t sound very happy. On the flip-side, some women were appalled. I received a few emails from people asking, “How is this radical self love?”, & I’d like to address that.
Radical self love is not just about ourselves & our own interests, passions or values. It is the OPPOSITE of selfishness. It is about supporting ALL women, no matter whether we agree with their lifestyles or not. Radical self love encourages us to EDUCATE ourselves about other peoples’ way of life, even if it makes us feel uncomfortable. It is not about being judgmental, or writing people off because of the decisions they’ve made.
I got the wagging finger from a few people. I was accused of “glamorizing prostitution”, which is a bit of a stretch. An interview is not an endorsement. I think some of those people wanted me to put a big warning sticker on the article. I didn’t need to write a damning introduction or a reproachful conclusion, though — Alexis, in her own words, told us everything we needed to know.
I’m going to continue to address topics that may make you feel uncomfortable. If that drives you away, then so be it. It’s important to me that people are able to tell their stories, & I have a platform that allows me to help them do that, without slapping my morals all over the top. I’m going to continue down that road.
Sex work is part of life, & whether you like it or not, it’s never going to go away. All we can hope is that the people involved in the industry are healthy & happy.
With that being said… Here is Anneliese’s story about working at a non-profit during the day, & as a stripper at night!
Who are you & what do you do?
I am a full time writer for a non-profit organization by day, creating marketing and promotional materials, writing grants and reporting documents, cover letters, anything the organization might need. I am also a contract freelance writer in my spare time, mostly writing SEO content and press materials for local businesses, and then at night, I’m a stripper. I have a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in literature along with my teaching license for grades 7-12. I taught high school for four years before moving over to the world of non-profits.
I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have my night job now if I was still teaching, and I definitely make more per hour dancing than I ever did teaching! I sometimes wonder how shocked my students would be if they ever found out…
What does an average day look like for you?
On a day when I’m planning to work at the club, I try to get a little extra sleep the night before, so I’ll skip a shower to sleep in an extra hour, and make it to my office by 9 AM. I’ll work at my computer through lunch so I can leave early, about 4 PM, to go home and start getting ready to go be “Annaliese.”
I try to eat light on dance days, sticking to soups and drinking lots of water. When I get home I’ll use my juicer to make fresh green juice, usually with an apple and a combination of kale, spinach and parsley; this helps me feel like my immune system is nice and boosted before going to work and being in close contact with strangers. I’ll shower, shave, and set my hair in curlers, then try to relax for an hour or two by reading a book or watching a couple of episodes of 30 Rock on Netflix.
My boyfriend usually gets home about 7, and by then I’ll have started packing my bag with my outfits and snacks (almonds and raisins), and make sure I have enough cash on hand to pay my house fees and tip-out just in case I don’t earn any money (always a scary possibility). I’ll put on my makeup and tediously apply individual false lashes, then finally do my hair, which I’m not very good at, so really that just means taking it down and blow drying it.
I like to do everything at home so I’m not vying for space in the dressing room. I’ll try to leave no later than 8 PM so I can make the 30 minute drive to the club and pay the cheaper house fee that’s in place before 9 PM (house fees can be very expensive, more so the later you arrive).
Once at the club, I check in with the host at the front door, get changed in the dressing room, check in with the DJ so he puts me on stage rotation, and then survey the club. It’s usually slow going for the first two hours, but once it picks up I stay fairly busy talking to customers, selling dances, and going on stage. I try to only go in on weeknights because the club closes at 2 AM vs. 3:30 AM on Fridays and Saturdays (too late for me!).
Once the lights come on it’s time to change back into jeans, count my money, tip out the managers and the DJ, text my boyfriend to tell him I’m headed home, and then drive the 30 minutes back to our apartment to shower again (very necessary – customers love to try and lick me or kiss me, which is gross, plus stage dancing makes me very sweaty) and go to bed. The next day I’ll sleep in an extra few hours and start my office hours late, staying later in the evening to make up for it. Even with the extra sleep I’m always exhausted and sore after a dance night.
On a normal night, I simply come home, try to make it to the gym for an hour, play with my dogs, start dinner for my boyfriend and I, then cuddle with him on the couch while we watch episodes of Dr. Who till it’s time to curl up in bed with a book.
What motivated you to start stripping in the first place?
I’ve always been curious about sex workers – I think it’s the writer in me that wants to experience every type of life a person can live. That’s probably why I’ve had so many jobs and can’t stick to one field – then go home and take notes about everything I’ve done and everyone I’ve met.
The tipping point was when I realized it was going to take me years to pay off all of my debts – car, credit cards, some extra post-graduate classes in English that I took in preparation for a hypothetical future PhD in English program – and I wanted to hurry up and pay those off so I can have a positive net worth sooner rather than later. It was also motivating when I figured up that the amount of interest I’m going to have to pay is over $15,000 if I don’t pay everything off earlier than the initial time frame.
Also, my day job is great, but it is for a non-profit, not very lucrative, and doesn’t pay enough to cover bills and expenses, make debt payments, and save up money for a rainy day or emergency. Between freelance writing and stripping once or twice a week, I can make, at the very least, an extra $1000 a month, which means I make as much as my supervisors at the office, which is kind of a good feeling, and I smile to myself when I think about it!
I can’t wait until I am debt free, I have a mental picture of myself doing Julie Andrew twirls in an open, sunlit field on the day it’s all finally gone.
What’s it like to work as a stripper? Have you formed friendships with the other girls you work with?
Working as a stripper has been the best professional development I have ever experienced. I am naturally introverted, so it has forced me to learn to be more outgoing, fearless, and pushy in terms of business transactions, (not pushy in an obnoxious way, but I’ve learned that I am worth a lot and I shouldn’t ever accept less than what I know my time is worth – in any facet of life).
I’m also becoming an excellent sales person, which I never thought possible, because I am so shy. It helps that I’m naturally diplomatic and a people pleaser, because some customers will be rude, or try to tell you that they paid you already when they didn’t, or other difficult scenarios that have to be dealt with, preferably without making a scene.
One of my biggest fears going into stripping was the rumors that strippers are mean and catty. I’m sure plenty of them are, but the ones I’ve interacted with have been sweet and polite. The girls who seem like they may be mean I just avoid. I haven’t been doing it long enough to make solid friendships, but I was already friends with a stripper who gave me the run down on how to get hired and what to expect – but she’s at a different club so I don’t get to work with her. When I started I just tried to keep to myself and be polite to everyone without asking for help (too often) or getting in anyone’s way. The girls who are nice started coming up to me and making conversation, and getting to know them has made working so much more enjoyable. Most of them are much younger than me (I’m 28) so I don’t pursue friendships outside the club, simply because we are at such different places I our lives.
But, it always makes me feel good when they guess my age around 23. My mother always told me, at 14 when I looked 12, that I’d appreciate looking younger when I got older. She was right, as usual. I tell all my customers that I’m 24 and working on a master’s degree, and no one’s ever questioned it – but they do insist on weeding out my “real name.” Good luck, guys.
What’s the best thing about what you do for work? What’s the worst thing?
The best thing about my day job is getting to raise money and support for charity. The worst thing is that a lot of the writing I have to do is repetitive, and I don’t really like being holed up in a cubicle all day. The best thing about freelance writing is getting to do lots of fun assignments about local businesses, events, and note worthy people. The worst thing is trying to keep my deadlines when I get overwhelmed with office work and need a break – breaks are rare when you have three jobs.
The best thing about stripping is the money, and being told I’m beautiful about fifty times a night, it never gets old. I had an awkward stage that lasted from about age 11 to 23 – I have always felt dorky and weird. I had to learn to tell myself that I am gorgeous just as I am, and that the healthier I am and the better I take care of myself, the longer I’ll stay gorgeous. Sometimes I still can’t believe, when I see my reflection, for example, in the glass doors of a grocery store, and I’m wearing baggy jeans and Sperry’s, that people pay money to get to spend time with me in a nylon bikini.
I’ve always been body insecure until the recent years of my late twenties, I’m not sure how my insecurities evaporated, but they did, with lots of self-pep-talks and positive programming, and now I don’t feel worried at all when I’m half naked in front of strangers. It’s incredibly liberating; I literally throw off any body self-doubt or care when my top gets flung across the stage during my second song.
I’ve also noticed that my insecurities in public in general have slowly been evaporating. For example – I don’t feel weird sitting alone at restaurants anymore, or anything that used to make me feel socially inept – it’s amazing to live without fear. I still get nervous, especially in the club when I have to approach strangers, I’m not sure that will ever go away, but getting older, thanks to stripping or not, has brought about a confidence in myself and a contentment that I wish I could go back in time and instill in my teenage self. This feeling makes growing older wonderful.
But there is a negative to stripping – since you asked – gross men groping me! A lot of the guys in strip clubs who actually spend money on dances are not men you’d willingly want to be close to, but you have to get over it. They get erections you can feel through their pants, they try to stick fingers places that they shouldn’t, they slobber on your neck… it can be really vile and you have to deal with it. You can either tell them to get a dance with someone else, or you can try to pin their hands down and put up with it to get their money. Sometimes they are really terrible and you have to get a manager, because it starts to encroach on assault. Other times you have customers who keep their hands to their sides, are engaging in conversation, tip well, and are fantastic. But for every charmer, there’s a groper, and knowing your own boundaries is the only way to get through it.
You mentioned that you keep your late-night life & your day-time life separate — why is that?
I’m not sure if I could get fired from my full time job for my part-time job, but I don’t want to find out. I’ve also learned that it’s surprising who holds stigmas about strippers/sex workers in general. I’ve told some friends and they don’t care, or they think it’s cool to have a “stripper friend.” Others, though, had odd reactions that involved bugged out eyes and questions about my motives, drugs, if anything was going on with me, etc. I learned it was best not to discuss it with them any further. I’m also not sure how my family would take it. I think they should be proud that I’m taking control of my finances and working to secure independence and financial security, but they may not see it that way.
Are there any major misconceptions about your job or industry?
There are lots of stigmas and stereotypes, but the three biggest that I’ve had to deal with are that I’m on drugs, that I want your boyfriend, and that I’m irresponsible.
The drugs one amuses me, because I’ve never done drugs, and I’m far too much of a purist to ever try them. I’ve never even had a cigarette, and I hate the smoke in the club. Yet somehow, stripping = coke user and/or pot head.
The second stigma is that I, or any stripper, truly are hitting on a boyfriend or husband and want to sleep with him. Stripping is about acting, and hustling, and trying to sell a dance and get tips. Most of the girls I work with are in relationships or married. After a guy pays me, other than having respect for him as a human being, I’m finished and ready to move on, no second glance back. I appreciate guys who make genuinely interesting conversation, but my girlfriends do that too, as does my boyfriend.
I used to get jealous at the thought of my boyfriend getting dances from strippers at clubs because I didn’t like that he was aroused by it, not because I thought the stripper’s ploys or intense stares meant anything. But, nature is nature, and lots of men are aroused by all women, not just their significant other. As long as a man isn’t actually cheating, touching, or trying to meet other girls in social settings, there is no real cause for concern.
The final stigma, that stripping is equal to being irresponsible, is almost laughable. It’s a job, and you have to show up on time, prepared, and keep track of all of your earnings, what you will owe, and how much you need to save for taxes. Plus, if you’re like lots of girls, you’re doing it on top of other jobs, school, or supporting a family. The image of a stripper is that of a party girl, but that’s the image that’s necessary to make a sale. Everything is acting, at least for the majority of the girls. Back in the dressing room, most girls look tired. It’s “game face” when you go out on the floor.
Other common stigmas involve having daddy issues, (I have a great relationship with my parents), that strippers are stupid, (there are people with a lack of intelligence in every profession, sex or being sexy does not negate a brain), and that strippers have no moral compass. No moral compass, to me, is trying to be everyone else’s moral compass. The only thing we should strive to be is compassionate, and too many people miss that mark, especially when judging sex workers.
What motivates you to keep going?
Paying off that debt, baby! And building up a solid little savings account. Also, this is cheesy, but I love the outfits and the shoes. The work is hard, and I’m not always crazy about going in to the club, but getting made up and cute is always fun; plus, high heels make everyone look good.
What are you most passionate about?
Writing – all I want to do is publish a novel and quit working for other people. Right now I’m so busy working for other people that I only work on my current novel about once a week. I’m hoping I can eventually save enough that I can take a hiatus from working and finish this book.
If I wanted to ice that cake, I’d get my PhD and teach literature. I love books and I loved teaching high school English, but I hated the hours – stuck in a classroom all day with no room to breathe – and I wasn’t too fond of the parents who all seemed to think their child deserved an “A” for existing. I often think about renewing my teaching license, I should probably research if my current employment will show up on a background check. I don’t think it should matter, but it seems my opinion on that is in the minority.
I also love cooking and working to keep myself and my boyfriend healthy – My New Roots and Bonzai Aphrodite are two of my internet food heroes. Cancer runs in my family, so I’m an extreme health nut, and pole dancing has been a fantastic way to stay in shape and build muscle.
Where would you like to be in 5 years?
In five years I’d like to be married to my sweet heart – he is the most wonderful boyfriend I could imagine – he’s not always very good at being romantic, but there’s nothing we can’t communicate about, and he brought flowers home for me yesterday just because, so he has his sweet moments, and we always, always have fun together. He also takes care of me, so I try to do the same for him, even if he doesn’t always like all the vegetables I make him eat!
In five years I’d like to have all of my debts paid off and no new ones incurred. I’d like to have my first book either published or at least finished and in the works of being shopped to editors and agents. I’d like the topic of kids to be on the table (I’ll be 33 then), hopefully in our own house with a yard for the dog, and I if I get my way, we’ll add a potbelly pig and a Chihuahua to our menagerie. Thirty-three also seems like a good time to finally get that PhD if I don’t already have it – no debts will make it much easier to quit working so I can go back to school full time.
No matter what happens – married, single, book published or not, I’m counting on it being fantastic, because I know it will be.