An Open Letter From A StripperS

Girl, your man owes me 60 dollars. About your man: white, early 30s, balding, slightly chubby, suited, small dick rubbing into my ass. Your typical strip club patron.

I gave him five lap dances before he claimed he did not know they were 20$ per dance, then bolted without paying me. Before he did, though, he nervously stammered about how he liked this club because it seemed to respect patrons' privacy, like we were entering into some tacit agreement.

We weren't! First of all, as a man coming to a strip club by himself when his girlfriend was out of town, there was no way you didn't know that every club charges 20$ a dance. There are signs up saying as much too, but because I gave you the benefit of the doubt I even agreed not to charge you for the last dance. But then again, even if you did not know, saying you were going to the ATM directly outside and then bolting after you felt you had solicited some confirmation that I wouldn't tell on you is a dirty, dirty thing to do, and here's why.

I should not have to convince you that the work I do deserves pay like everyone else, but because you seem like a stupid man, I will give you a quick run-through. I do not make any hourly/shift wage. In fact, I have to tip out every night that I work. Its called a house fee, it can run up to 200$ depending on the club, and its part of a model that is pervasive throughout the service industry. This is also why you should also tip waitresses and bartenders fairly. I am also not an employee but an independent contractor, meaning I have no worker's rights or larger support network, like a union.

As for your privacy in a strip club, it mostly works like this: I don't care who you are or what you do! To the man who came in with his girlfriend the other night then put his hand to his lips and gave his girlfriend a stern "honey, DO NOT tell the stripper" look when I asked what you do: I am just trying to make conversation! You have an absurd sense of self-importance and I would fashion you a classist, racist, sexist asshole if you think that strippers are a separate class of bottom-feeders and you do not realize that I am, in fact, only asking you because it is my job!

That's right, because a lot of you don't seem to realize this, it is my job! Many seem to have problems with me doing this job for money, and seem to think that my only motivation should be personal enjoyment. Fyi, I do like my job, most of the time. But my pay should be independent from whether or not I, at the bottom of my heart, like everything I'm doing all the time. Imagine if you went into work one day and weren't paid because someone thought you weren't enjoying it as fully as you should be! Listen, part of my job is to maintain a glossy illusion and normalize the experience for you. I am more than happy to entertain you in this way, and you should feel free to enjoy me as such. This is respectful because it acknowledges that I AM WORKING!

There are a couple of you who think you're smart when you smugly respond with"Now, what is your real name" when I introduce myself. Bitch, I am not impressed. Congratulations, you figured out that I'm a stripper! Now wipe that self-satisfied grin off your face. This is a strip club, didn't you come here for strippers? This goes for you too, men who give me a mocking laugh and a self-satisfied "NO!" when I ask if you want a dance after chatting with you and letting you stroke my leg for 10 minutes. Like, "Oh, I knew it, these strippers only want money, but I am much too smart to be tricked by them." That's right, I want to be paid because I AM AT WORK and you came to my place of work to see me and the other girls naked.

You might feel uncomfortable that this is my work but that is, quite frankly, insulting and stupid. Insulting because you think that women should be getting naked and treating you like the king that you are for free, or that this type of behavior should be only be natural and acknowledging it as anything else offends your sensibilities. This is the same reason why other sorts of traditionally gendered work is low-paying: because women should naturally care-take, or nanny, or teach, and not greedily demand money for it! Stripping, like many other work, is gendered and classed.

A strip club is the only place where you have access to younger, naked women more than willing to dance all over you and tell you how special you are. Moreover, you can pick the girl best suited to your preferences: if I am talking to you and you tell me to that you like the girl on the other side of the room better, there are no hard feelings and I will gladly send her over to you. This is fantasy-land and you should be able to do that. And honestly, 20$ is not a lot to pay for access to a girl who is exactly your type. Remember, you probably do not have access to her outside the club. But at strip clubs you can see her naked off the bat, you can unabashedly ask for her, and she will faun over you and rub her herself all over your cock. Now think about that pretty girl on the train. Chances are she will not be willing to get naked, coincidentally have the exact type of body you like, be able to do cool tricks with her ass and then happily grind on you while telling you you are the sexiest if you offer her 20$. In fact, she might even think you are creepy and retaliate. So really, 20$ is not a lot to pay for this type of access. But if you come into a strip club you should have already accepted this and if you disagree, don't come!

There are ways to be a good customer even without buying a lap dance. It is possible to simultaneously acknowledge that I'm working and enjoy yourself. It is my job to help you enjoy yourself, and I am happy to do my job. Like I said before, I do often enjoy my job and sometimes my customers, too, although this point is generally irrelevant. For me, working and enjoying myself are not mutually exclusive, but, like anyone else, these are not necessary functions of each other, either. The number one rule is to realize that I work as a stripper, and treat me like one! If you are not going to buy a dance, then tip me when I'm on stage. You are looking at me, and if you don't want to have to pay the naked girls then go to a regular bar where there won't be any.

But really, I will enjoy you as long as you pay and do not treat me like an asshole. To the married man last night who politely refused a dance then tipped when I was onstage: sir, thank you. Your wife should know that not only does she have a husband who respects (what I assume to be) her boundaries, but is respectful enough to acknowledge the work and the performative aspects of my job (this is, ultimately, what tipping conveys). You looked at me when I was onstage and enjoyed my performance as such.

Or the director of the art magazine who just sat back and enjoyed himself when I gave him a dance instead of shifting and darting his eyes around nervously: more men should receive dances like you. You paid without prompting, didn't try to touch, and enjoyed me doing my job. Or the bachelor party who came in, where the bachelor and his friends tipped extra and just had fun without trying to bargain me into anything extra (I will, by the way, never accept). You were cute, funny, and polite, and the model of strip club etiquette.

As a stripper, good customers make your night. Many of you seem great, are fun to talk to and dance for. I wish many of you good ones would become regulars. I genuinely enjoy many of you. Men, I am happy to take things at your pace. You can tell me you like ass more than tits, or you don't want to talk, just dance, or can I send that other girl over, because this is a strip club. Do not try to ask me out. Do not try to pay for sex (especially with one hundred dollars, stupid asshole). Telling me you're famous will not work. Being famous also won't work (unless you're Lil Wayne, that's my ONE exception). Do not tell me you don't like lap dances because you're not like the other guys, or you can get it for free, or because then you'll want to fuck too bad and what are you going to do about your poor hard-on blah blah blah: I do not think you are special, sir, I just wonder why the fuck you're in a strip club.

And back to you, girlfriend of the guy who stiffed me: I do not blame you for having a bad boyfriend, but the irony of the situation has not escaped me. Customers like him make me feel demoralized and awful (my legs also get tired, just try grinding and squatting in stilettos for 25 minutes). I like my job, and customers should like it, too. They just need to pay like they do anywhere else.

Image via MaleWitch/Shutterstock.com.