hearts on fire

I was on fire last night. It was weird, too, because usually my first night back after a vacation is rather clumsy. Generally it’s a shift I have to get out of the way, dip my toe back in the proverbial pond of pretending to like people for money before I actually get my game back. Not this time.

I jerked off before work, my customary pre-shower activity. I’ll let you in on a little trade secret: I save my pussy juices and combine them with my perfume. It’s so awesome to watch guys’ eyes roll back in their head when they smell me. They don’t KNOW they smelled it, but they did. Gotta love pheromones. (Don’t believe me? read this). And I love my new hitachi—thank god I only recently got one, because if I had discovered that thing at a young age I would have developed the female version of what Dan Savage calls the “death grip.” But I guess I should be more worried about carpel tunnel?

But I digress. Last night I was glowing, batteries recharged from visiting the only place on earth that makes me feel whole (i.e. San Francisco), it felt like I had a beam of light (and fog, and eucalyptus, and lube) emanating from my chest. My stage sets were perfect—this happens about once a month—I’ll get up there and something just clicks. I love dancing, and I love it when I don’t have to think about it, and that doesn’t happen very often when I’m alone on a platform in heels with lights and an audience that is scrutinizing my body for flaws. I experience that psychological weightlessness on the dancefloor all the time, pretty much every time I try…but not very often at work. Sometimes, though, sometimes it clicks. And last night it did. Both sets too. That never happens. I mean, I love my music—I make sure I keep a CD up with the DJ of songs he’ll only play for me because I brought them into the club, and I switch it out about every six months—songs with meaning, songs that make me feel powerful and sexy and dirty and fierce. Like I own the place. But just because I love my music doesn’t always spell a spectacular set, where every move is perfectly timed without thinking about it, and I feel effortlessly graceful while also oozing sex. Well, last night was one of those nights.

In addition to feeling like captain badass superslut onstage, everyone I talked to gave me money—and that almost NEVER happens. The night started off with my awesome regular Ken, a customer I actually missed when I was in California. We talk with my friend Rhiannon about hunting (yes, this girl is an archer. How hot is that?), and how she wants to do a photo shoot/reality show in camo body paint and not much else. I tell tales of my trip to Cali. I do four dances, and again, every move is perfect. Lap dancing is a bit different, it’s more about nerve clusters and pressure points than timing, but still, there are some nights that I just feel on. Ken regales me with updates on what his crazy soon-to-be-ex-wife pulled while I was gone, and he and I make plans to pop our Ikea cherries together sometime soon. He’s got a new apartment to furnish, and neither of us has ever been to the Swedish home furnishing monolith. Besides, I hear the meatballs are awesome.

I go onstage. I glide and spin and writhe to Miss Kittin’s “Metalhead.” (Incidentally, this is the track that played when I took my first spill onstage, the event which catalyzed the beginning of this blog, my very first entry. It’s dark and mean and hot as fuck, and thus still on my CD years later). On stage three, I receive a tip from a very nice man named John, he’s clearly taken with me, and moves straight to the top of my priority list for post-stage profit-garnering activities. On my way to stage four, a bar regular I’ve chatted with but never actually done dances for slips a twenty into my g-string. I’m like, “wow. Thanks! What’s that for?” and he goes, “Because Robby [my favorite bartender] says he loves you and I think you’re awesome.” Fucking sweet. I love free money. On four I practically get mauled by an overly intoxicated but very funny good ol’ boy. On five, the female half of a couple literally leaps out of her seat to come and see me. On six, I get to heckle a bachelor party, a favorite pastime of mine. Then I’m off to see John.

Well holy fucking shit, turns out we have something huge in common: debate. I don’t know that I’ve mentioned it, but I was a debater in high school and college. (In “never trust a man with a boat,” the boyfriend I described living with for a summer and residing in a dorm while he worked at a summer camp—that was a debate camp. When I wrote that I intentionally hid the debate detail in an effort to protect my privacy, but this morning I am no longer worried about keeping that a secret). Well, he’s a lawyer, I mention debate, and turns out this guy was the high school debate partner of a very successful college coach who recently passed away. Fucking crazy. I impress him with my debate record, we discuss the differences between Lincoln Douglas and Cross-Examination. We talk about non-monogamous relationships and commitment. Recently divorced, he says that I give him hope. And I am so touched that I send myself text messages from his phone, the only way I can really take notes while actually on the floor.

He asks me if I have any piercings that he can’t see, and I spew the saga that was my hood piercing. The “short” version: pierced once, totally easy, loved it, lost it while messing around with Ruby in the backseat of my ex-fiancĂ©’s WRX while he drove us home to fuck, woke up to an ice storm and no clit jewelry, couldn’t get to a shop for three days to get new hardware, and it had sealed up. Fancied myself a badass (he says, “but you ARE a badass!”) so I got it re-pierced in two places, must have had scar tissue because HOLY SHIT that hurt so much I could barely hold still, and the healing process literally included clawing at the walls of the shower when I cleaned them. Then I found myself working around them when I jerked off, and finally met someone who could consistently get me off with his mouth who said it was in his way, so I took them out. I used to say my clit piercings were neon arrows that said “RIGHT HERE, DUMBASS” but at the point where they’re interfering with pleasure? Gone in half a second and haven’t looked back since. So then we start talking about cunnilingus, and he tells me that the next time I meet a man who does it right, that I should immediately demand he give me lessons by having me practice on his ear, and that I should go lysistrata on his ass (read: withhold blowjobs) until he complies. The lysistrata reference was mine, not his. I fucking love lysistrata.

So, that happened, I made about $80 from him in half an hour and had that fantastic conversation, he leaves and off I go in search of my next victim. It’s about a ten foot journey to a table of three guys, two of which are occupied by some of my favorite bitches, so I figure I’ve got some good odds with the empty lap—or at least a majority vote. I sit on him and quickly earn his trust by saying I won’t try and swindle him into the champagne room. He likes garters and stockings, so I go put some on—fine, twist my arm. I spend the next half hour pretending that I actually want to date him because it seems this is what it takes to gain entry into his wallet. Very interesting contrast to John, who I didn’t have to pretend with at all and who actually gave me sexual advice—I have to lie to his person. But whatever, it’s all in a night’s work, and I definitely have the power of persuasion in my bag of tricks.

Another $80 later, and I’m onstage again. This time it’s Primal Scream’s “Some Velvet Morning” and I fucking rock it out. I feel so hot. Hell, I AM so hot. It’s late after that, and the remainder of the night passes in a blur as I do a dance here, a dance there, the most memorable of which comes from the unlikely couple consisting of a hot (and very fucking randy) Persian chick and her body builder boyfriend. I’m like, “So how did you guys meet?” and she goes, “I like muscles.” Nice. Cute. I dance for them both, she gives me this really amazing kiss, and they promise to come back in tonight.

All in all, a great night. It ran the gamut from conversing with a trusted regular and friend, updating each other on what’s transpired in our lives in the last week; a new potential regular whom I don’t have to pretend with and who adores me for my smarts; an easy mark I could play without even thinking about it; and picking up on the vibe of a hot couple and getting to make out with a pretty girl with an accent. I made about $400, below average but totally acceptable, and I had a blast. I was on fire, all my moves were right, it was easy and fun. I really love my job. Fuck social acceptance and medical benefits, I’ll take my life on the fringe any day.


Men's Studies

As I may or may not have mentioned, I’m a grad student in a women’s studies program. When I attended my first sex work conference (and subsequently became a stripper), I remember a particularly interesting encounter with another stripper/researcher who warned me to be careful that I not “hide behind the research.” Driven by other accounts of stripper/researchers who had customers say, “oh, you’re just doing this for the research” (Katharine Frank, G-Strings and Sympathy 13), I refuse to hide my researcher status from inquiring customers. So when I mention I’m a grad student in women’s studies, I usually get a response like, “Well sweetie, I’ve been studying women for over 30 years, whaddaya wanna know?” or, “You’re already a woman. Why do you need to study them?” while at first these jokes were annoying, I got used to them—I literally hear versions of these statements several times a week. They might be belittling, but they’re not overly offensive. And besides, it’s really hard to offend me. Well, the other night, someone completed that seemingly insurmountable task. Ahem:

I was on the third stage, twirling around a pole for dollar bills, when I apparently caught the eye of a distinguished looking gentleman with an extremely kind face. He approached me, tipped me, and I told him I’d come “bother him” after I was done with my stage rotation. Temporarily ignoring the advances of a VERY hot couple by stage six, I went and sat down on Steve’s lap instead. (sometimes these decisions can be difficult—when you get tipped by 10 different people, who do you approach first? You make the wrong call, waste 10 minutes talking with someone who doesn’t pan out, and your other leads are either busy with someone else, or have vanished altogether. It can be stressful. Every stripper has her own strategy, and my internal dialogue went as follows: I see this couple in the club almost every Saturday night, but I’d never seen distinguished-looking-steve before. also, couples usually aren’t worth more than a few dances, and I’d already seen steve do at least five with a hot Russian babe while I was sitting with someone at an adjacent table earlier in the evening).

Steve starts asking me about myself: this is a good start. Sometimes guys don’t give a fuck who I am, where I come from, what I do when I’m not dancing for dollars, so it’s nice to be asked. I tell him I recently completed a master’s degree, and he asks me what my major was. I say “women’s studies” and he goes, “UGH.” I say, “What was THAT reaction?” and he rolls his eyes. I press on: “no seriously, you just had a very strong negative reaction to women’s studies. I’m really curious as to where that came from.” And he asks,in a very combative tone, “Is there a MEN'S studies?” (omg. Really?). I go, “Honey, the whole goddamned world is men’s studies. Women’s studies was invented because some people thought an alternate perspective was needed. Besides, the school won’t let us change it to gender studies. Also, we spend most of our time talking about race, class, ethnicity, orientation, disability, and all sorts of other categories that separate people and lead to discrimination. Women’s studies is really a misnomer.” Then he goes, “Well, do you think you deserve special treatment?” I scoff: “No.” He asks, “Do you feel victimized?” “No, and I resist that label whenever possible.”

At this point, I really want to bolt. This is clearly going nowhere profitable. But I think to myself, “Part of the reason you got into this business was to challenge people’s stereotypes about what constitutes a stripper, what constitutes a feminist. If you stomp off, he’s just going to chock you up as a bitchy feminazi, and that won’t do anyone any good, now will it?” and so I remain. And then, after insulting my entire field of study, he proceeds to launch into a truly offensive train of thought:

Steve: “So, do you have a doctor?”

Me: “Yes.”

Steve: “Are they black? White? Male? Female?”

Me: “She’s white.”

Steve: “Would you be opposed to having a black doctor?”

(Sweet baby jesus on a stick. Where the fuck is he going with this?)

Me: “Of course not.”

Steve: “What about if he was over 50?”

Me (ignoring the presumptive "he" in that last statement): “No. And what does that have to do with anything?”

Steve: “Well you know, up until about 30yrs ago they didn’t let blacks into medical school. So any black doctor over the age of 50 was given a free pass, and didn’t have to compete.”

Me: “So what? It’s not like they were automatically given a free pass through all their classes as well. They still had to do the work and get the grades.”

Steve: “I just think there should be an even playing field.”

Me: “But there’s not an even playing field, and there certainly wasn’t one back then. And you owe me a drink for that comment.”

Steve rolls his eyes, but complies. I know I’m not going to get any money out of him, and I feel I need to be compensated in some way for the time I just spent listening to his racist diatribe. I’ve had this affirmative action debate with other rich white men before, and I really can’t stand to hear someone who refuses to acknowledge their privilege rail about how “there should be an even playing field.” Of course you think there SHOULD be an even playing field, you rich white motherfucker, because for YOU, there always HAS BEEN. I have a dear friend who once made the mistake of bringing up a similar argument in my presence: “Well, I’ve not received jobs because they gave it to a black person instead.” I said, “So fucking what? How many jobs do you think you’ve gotten because you’re white? There’s no way to know, because that’s your reality. But people of color encounter hidden prejudices like that every day.”

To be clear, almost nothing pisses me off more than a rich white man talking about how he’s been discriminated against because of his skin color. Cry me a fucking river, asshole. You’ve been given EVERY opportunity in life, and just because our government decided that certain classes of people might need a helping hand doesn’t mean your life is any less cushy as a result. So what if you didn’t get that one job? You make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. So what if you have to pay a higher insurance premium to fund the healthcare of someone who doesn’t have a job? You can still afford a giant TV and fiber optic cable content, high speed internet, a gas guzzling truck, and bottled water delivered directly to the door that leads to your climate controlled home. You walk on a treadmill in your living room instead of walking to an hour long bus ride to work every day.

My point is this: privilege is often unacknowledged by those who possess it, and the privileges of whiteness are often as invisible as the category itself. And that, my friends, might be the most important thing I learned in grad school.