Ask any experienced stripper who has worked in Western Europe, the USA, Australia and New Zealand over the past ten years and they will no doubt confirm that societal attitudes towards sex work have changed dramatically. This is due to a combination of the tireless work of sex worker-led organisations, as well as individual high profile sex workers publishing their craft on social media.
However, there is a fine line between destigmatisation and glamourisation, the latter being something that should wholly be avoided. Ours is an adult industry for adult people who have to face very adult problems.
Behind the glittery micro bikinis and twerking videos, neon acrylic nails and piles of cash is sometimes a woman who has gone home after her shift in the back of a cab crying, not every shift, but more than what most people outside of the industry would guess. Every single stripper I know has been sexually assaulted, in one form or another, on the job. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. This can range from non-consensual groping to rape. Our nights consist of a delicate balance between being sexually available but still empowered enough to enforce our personal boundaries, and enforce them we have to do. Telling a customer ‘no, you cannot do xyz’ is oftentimes simply not enough, we have to physically and psychologically impose our boundaries without seeming like too much of a killjoy lest they lose interest. This is a skill that takes both time and experience to learn, something that a teenage girl attracted to the glamour simply does not have. The hardships faced by strippers is not what people see on social media, nor is it what we oftentimes want them to see.
In an attempt to remove stigma from our industry we tend to emphasise the positive and overlook the harsher, tougher side of it. I personally grapple with the conundrum between wanting to encourage and empower myself and my colleagues whilst simultaneously not trying to recruit every new young women into this life. I absolutely love my job and it is the best career option for myself, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the career for everyone.
The rise of Tik Tok has brought new problems. There is nothing more worrying than seeing a 17-year-old MINOR in full whore style makeup talk about how cool it is it to have a sugar daddy who doesn’t want any sugar (Spoiler: they don’t exist).
To the Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminists (SWERFS) reading this (firstly, fuck off) and secondly the solution to these issues is obviously not to simply ban the industry, however any young person who wishes to enter this world should have a long, hard think about whether they are suited for it. Do not be attracted to the glitter and performative sisterhood. Do not listen to anyone who tells you it is easy money. Listen to the women who have collected decades of experience dealing with the ins and outs of making a career out of exaggerated hypersexuality. Finally, never take advice from Tik Tok.