Does strip­ping down to your ‘party suit’ for a liv­ing change the way you view your­self? Mind Guru Kim Lacey ex­plores the eth­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal im­pacts of parad­ing around in a G-string. We’re still won­der­ing why the Guru team weren’t born with any ‘erotic cap­i­tal’.

“Be­ing a ‘dancer’ cer­tainly does change your

out­look on life.”

‘ Stephanie’

In March 2012, upon the dis­cov­ery that foot­baller Mario Balotelli was busted vis­it­ing a strip club, the Bri­tish press went wild de­bat­ing the ethics of gen­tle­men’s clubs. This me­dia frenzy prompted Dr. Stu, Guru Mag­a­zine’s Edi­tor, to ad­dress the bl­o­go­sphere with his post ‘ The psy­cho­log­i­cal cost of

be­ing a strip­per.’ His blog post sparked a lot of con­ver­sa­tion – more than 40 lengthy com­ments! Now, al­though I’ve never been an ex­otic dancer, all of this heated talk got me won­der­ing about the mo­ti­va­tions and ex­pe­ri­ences of this of­tendis­missed pro­fes­sion. And while you might fun­da­men­tally dis­agree with strip­ping, please keep an open mind – I’m more in­ter­ested in why they do it and how they ap­proach it.

A G-string full of green­backs

One of the first things I re­alised was that Googling the term ‘strip­ping’ yields dozens of re­sults – but prob­a­bly not the ones you’re in­ter­ested in if you plan to write a se­ri­ous ar­ti­cle on the sub­ject. What I did find, how­ever, was a fas­ci­nat­ing book by Cather­ine Hakim ti­tled, Erotic Cap­i­tal: The Power of At­trac­tion in the Board­room and the Bed­room. Hakim de­fines ‘erotic cap­i­tal’ as “a mix­ture of so­cial and sex­ual at­trac­tive­ness” – a trait you im­me­di­ately align with strip­pers. De­spite my lack of ex­pe­ri­ence of dis­rob­ing for strangers, I have waited ta­bles – and one of the most sought af­ter qual­i­ties was so­cial at­trac­tive­ness: the abil­ity to en­tice oth­ers with your con­ver­sa­tion and charm. Com­bine so­cial at­trac­tive­ness with a sen­sual strip­tease and you have your­self a real mon­ey­maker! Ac­cord­ing to an ar­ti­cle by Su­san­nah Bres­lin on, strip­pers earn on aver­age $30 (£22) an hour. It’s usu­ally not a steady in­come; the day of the week (week­ends are primo) and the clien­tele both af­fect your take-home pay. Bres­lin notes that strip­pers usu­ally work ap­prox­i­mately 82 hours per month and earn an aver­age of $2,500 (£1,600) for their time. With th­ese num­bers, it’s pretty ob­vi­ous that strip­pers know how to play up erotic cap­i­tal very well: there’s a huge mar­ket for it, af­ter all.

“…I feel so much em­pa­thy for the girls who work in this in­dus­try. I didn’t like many as­pects of what I knew I was go­ing to have to do – so I walked out. I’ll take the non-stop col­lec­tion calls any day. But many dancers feel ex­actly the same, and don’t quit. They are work­ing so hard for so lit­tle re­spect, money (yes, money: af­ter the house gets a cut its in­sane how lit­tle you can go home with), and bal­ance in life, some­times for YEARS. It’s a drain­ing job in ev­ery way.”

‘ Wild­card’

The mind of a strip­per

There’s cer­tainly a lot more to think about be­yond the cash. Con­sid­er­ing that a grow­ing

num­ber of teenagers and young adults are be­ing iden­ti­fied as hav­ing body im­age is­sues,

many will won­der what ef­fect this has on the self-es­teem and the emo­tional well-be­ing of (specif­i­cally fe­male) strip­pers. In one study (ref­er­enced in the orig­i­nal blog post), re­searchers com­pared a group of fe­males who were em­ployed as ex­otic dancers with un­der­grad­u­ate fe­males who were not. The two groups were asked sev­eral ques­tions about how they per­ceived their own body, their aware­ness of ‘ ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion’ (be­ing seen as a ‘thing’ in­stead of a per­son), and their com­fort level in a sweater ver­sus a swim­suit. Ad­mit­tedly, it was small-scale re­search – but the re­sults were nev­er­the­less re­veal­ing. Th­ese Cal­i­for­nian re­searchers found that fe­male strip­pers were much more aware of how their ap­pear­ance af­fects oth­ers’ per­cep­tions of them. As a re­sult, the ex­otic dancers were more likely to place more im­por­tance on tak­ing care of their hair or nails, or hit­ting the gym. The women also had less sat­is­fac­tion in their per­sonal re­la­tion­ships and were more likely to think their ro­man­tic part­ner­ships would fail. As you might ex­pect, the ex­otic dancers’ con­fi­dence was also hooked into what they thought about their looks – and would more of­ten “be ashamed if peo­ple knew what I re­ally weigh”. One of the most sur­pris­ing find­ings from the study is that when it came to body sham­ing – ‘an in­ter­nal­ized as­pect of body con­scious­ness’ – there were no dif­fer­ences be­tween the two groups. And even more re­mark­ably, over­all self­es­teem was the same be­tween the strip­pers and the non-strip­pers. We can’t know for cer­tain whether th­ese find­ings would be true for all strip­pers: re­search­ing the sex in­dus­try is tough be­cause few men or women agree to take part. It may be some time un­til we see the full pic­ture of the emo­tional state of women in the strip­tease in­dus­try. Un­til then, we are forced take such find­ings with a lit­tle pinch of salt – or rather, a pinch of glit­ter.

The se­duc­tion of the sex in­dus­try

So why would some­one go into the pro­fes­sion? One of my fa­vorite ex­am­ples can be found in Melissa Fe­bos’ mem­oir Whip Smart: The True

Story of a Se­cret Life. OK, so the writer isn’t tech­ni­cally a strip­per – she ac­tu­ally chron­i­cled her ex­pe­ri­ences earn­ing money as a dom­i­na­trix dur­ing grad school. A self-de­scribed cul­tural an­thro­pol­o­gist, Fe­bos ex­plains how ev­ery pre­con­cep­tion she had about ‘erotic cap­i­tal’ was wrong, and thus changed her per­spec­tive com­pletely. She re­peat­edly notes that medicine is the only other pro­fes­sion that ob­serves the

“From a young age I be­gan danc­ing. As soon as I turned 18, I was [ex­otic] danc­ing. At 24, I am still danc­ing. How­ever, this is two chil­dren later. I am ed­u­cated, have grad­u­ated from col­lege and now must take my boards, but yes, it took me this long to fin­ish [danc­ing]. I must say, at first it started out as fun and games. Com­ing from no fam­ily I have al­ways worked hard, but one night a friend told me to try it so I did. I made [lots of money], thus I stayed.”


hu­man body with such in­ti­macy (pun in­tended). I won­der what Dr Stu would make of that… Be­fore I sign off, I want to point out one fi­nal thing: the fem­i­nist per­spec­tive. Many of the com­menters on the blog ar­gue whether or not strip­ping is de­grad­ing to women. (There was a lack of peo­ple dis­cussing male strip­pers, and I don’t see how they’re im­mune from that ar­gu­ment ei­ther.) It’s tough to agree or dis­agree with th­ese ar­gu­ments; many of them have valid points about us­ing the body for ‘erotic cap­i­tal’. Oth­ers have sug­gested quite the op­po­site – that car­nal in­dus­tries are ac­tu­ally lib­er­at­ing. (See Nadine Strossen’s De­fend­ing Pornog­ra­phy for an in-depth ar­gu­ment.) Whether you agree with it or not, there’s a whole lot more to strip­ping than you’d imag­ine (no, now stop imag­in­ing that).

“Strip­ping is not worth it. I may have made a good amount of money but I’ve come to my own con­clu­sion that I would rather have my men­tal well-be­ing then be fi­nan­cially at ease. Please girls, ev­ery mo­ment in your life, ev­ery ex­pe­ri­ence, molds you to who you are now.”


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