I would just like to say that I learned more about stripping from Hustlers than I did about America in AP U.S. History class. Seriously, this movie deserves an Academy Award in every category and I will
fight anyone respectfully debate the opinions of those who disagree. Because this article isn’t actually about Hustlers, I’m not going to waste my word count listing out all of the lessons imparted on me during the best two hours of my life. Look, strippers, both real and fictional (like J.Lo and the rest of the amazingly talented cast), make pole dancing look easy. Well, guys, it’s actually really f*cking hard.
If you’re wondering how I know this, allow me to explain: last weekend, a friend and I signed up for a pole dancing class and, I’ll just to cut to the chase, it did not go well. Holding your body up while balancing on a pole requires a level of strength and determination that I do not possess, so this class was exceptionally hard. Like, yes, I could climb up the pole and chill for a few seconds before awkwardly sliding down, but that is neither sexy nor impressive, so I tried the more advanced moves and it was an absolute sh*tfest. However, my hour on the pole wasn’t a raging dumpster fire because I’m just a hopeless mess, it was because pole dancing is beyond hard and no one, not even Cardi, is good on her first day. Pole dancing is no easy feat, and this needs to be recognized. So if you want to find out exactly what your local strippers do every day and night, read up!
You Need More Than Rhythm
As I mentioned before, you essentially need to be the Hulk to be able to do literally anything on a pole. Even just the basic moves, like a wide squat and then slowly straightening your knees while arching your back on your way up to a standing position (or as Christina Milian would say, “dipping it low and picking it up slow”) requires a level of strength I didn’t think human beings were capable of. As for the more challenging moves, yeah, that didn’t go well, either.
Just for sh*ts and gigs, I wanted to try something really hard, so I climbed to the top of the pole as ungracefully as humanly possible, hooked my right knee and my right wrist around it and attempted to swirl down slowly, à la J.Lo in the Hustlers trailer. The swirl lasted approximately half a second because the inside of my knee felt like it was being lit on fire by the sun itself and my wrist wouldn’t budge since the pole was sticky with sweat. Ouch. So in addition to being able to dance with an inanimate object, exist in six-inch heels and look hot while attempting the impossible, you need to be very, very strong to be a decent pole dancer.
It’s A Workout
I know that pole dancing has become the new hot workout for young suburban moms in recent years, but don’t knock it ‘til you try it, because it really is a workout. For context, this is what it feels like: you know when your SoulCycle instructor says you have one song left of class and you’re so relieved because three minutes of effort is really all you have left? Okay, that’s how I was feeling eight minutes into pole dancing and the class was an hour long. Yikes. So, while on my hands and knees with the pole against my ass, I started to think about all of the hard working dancers out there who do this for hours on end, and I became absolutely mesmerized by their strength, willpower and endurance.
Also, one important thing to note: it hurts a lot, and not in a good way. At one point, I was in a handstand position with one of my feet against the pole and was told to walk my hands away from it. Because I have zero balance and next to no core strength, I came crashing down and have a giant bruise on my shoulder to prove it. I’m sure this happens less with practice, but frankly I’ve given up on my short-lived dreams of ever attempting this again.
It Doesn’t Feel Sexy At First
Full disclosure, I walked into the studio thinking I’d at least be decent at this since I did ballet for over a decade. What a fat LOL I had after exactly two minutes, when I realized that ballet and pole dancing have absolutely nothing in common! I thought my dance background would be helpful, but going on pointe for a few seconds at a time is nothing compared to hanging upside down from a metal pole. Also, pole dancing is really graceful, and grace was something I learned in ballet, but I still managed to look like a cross between a clumsy, blind toddler and Greg from Succession on the pole.
Again, it takes practice, but I’d just like to remind you that it took J.Lo, the most fit and coordinated person on planet Earth, weeks to master this, so it would take me about three years to even kind of figure it out. That math seems accurate, I think. The thing is, I could have definitely tried to be sexy doing the moves, but I was too focused on not dying to prioritize looking good. So I truly don’t know how strippers both defy gravity and look incredibly hot doing it.
At the end of the day, strippers are athletes in every sense of the word and deserve the same, if not more, respect that we show a bunch of critically concussed men for running around a field in shoulder pads. I don’t really know how or why people assume strippers are these broken and sad women who strip as a last resort, but that grossly incorrect presumption needs to be updated because they work incredibly hard. They are hardworking queens who possess a lot of skills that are hard to come by, and if you don’t agree, take a pole dancing class and you’ll change your mind.
Images: Shutterstock; Giphy (3)
The first time I ever set foot in a strip club, I was in awe. I mean, the club was sh*t and the drinks were overpriced, but the strippers were A-MAZ-ING. I pulled a T-pain and fell in love with all of them. Of course, being a fan of strippers isn’t groundbreaking. Most people are pretty pumped about a topless woman showing off her athletic abilities. However, most people have a lot of inaccurate ideas about strippers. The way strippers are portrayed in media and the ways in which we talk about them in casual conversation are usually based on false stereotypes. Wow, humans wildly misrepresenting an entire group of people based on assumptions and a desire to belittle that which they don’t understand?!
Anyway, what do I know? A bit, actually. For the past five months I have been working nights at both a “gentleman’s club” and a traditional strip club. I’m certainly no pro, but one of the first things I noticed while stripping was how infuriatingly off-base people’s beliefs about it are. So, I’m here today to share what I’ve learned and hopefully make you realize that talking sh*t about strippers is dumb as hell. Sex work is work, babe.
False: Strippers Are All Catty B*tches
Pretty much any Law & Order episode that has a scene in a strip club (a lot of them) involves strippers fighting. I’ve seen this in a lot of other TV shows and movies too. It’s portrayed as a cutthroat industry where women see each other as the enemy. While every work space is bound to have some drama, I’ve noticed that my coworkers at my stripping jobs are the most supportive, friendly, welcoming women I’ve ever worked with it. It’s a lot less, “Get away from my customer, you whore,” and a lot more, “Omg babe, you look so hot! Where did you get that corset?!?!” Of course, there is etiquette to abide by, and you should never steal another woman’s customer. If you do, you might find her mad at you, but most of what I’ve seen is someone doing this on accident, realizing it, apologizing profusely to the other woman, and then both of them laughing about it. Often the best part of a stripping shift is going to take a breather in the locker room and talking sh*t about men/trading skin routine regimens with all of the other strippers. People love to paint women as catty bitches who can’t work together, but the reality is women tend to love being around other women, and this is often the case at a strip club.
False: Stripping Is A Last Resort Job
Sure, some people may turn to stripping when they can’t find other work, but this could be said about so many jobs, such as bartending or working as a receptionist. People seem to think that anyone who becomes a stripper is down on their luck and is only doing this because they have to. That’s not always the case. For me, I could easily be working at a restaurant or babysitting or temping as a way to pay my bills, but I’ve chosen stripping. Why? Because I like it. I like the flexible schedule, the environment, the fact that I get to work with women, and tbh dancing naked beat answering the phone for a startup company run by 21-year-old finance bros in midtown. Also, this assumption implies that just anybody could be a stripper. Like any job, it’s not for everyone. It requires an incredible amount of energy, personable skills, and talent. Especially for the women who are expert pole dancers. That sh*t is unbelievable, and most people could never do what they do. So the idea stripping is only meant for those who have run out of options is, to be frank, bullsh*t.
False: Strippers Are Gold Diggers
This one makes me lol. A lot of times, people talk about strippers as if they’re these malicious people just trying to get your money…as if that isn’t what every business transaction is about. Imagine this scenario:
Plumber: *asks for payment for his services*
Customer: Wow, all you care about is my money. Here I was thinking you liked me, when really you just want to be paid! Slut.
Sex work is work, plain and simple. And yet, I’ve seen men get all worked up when it comes time to pay for their lap dance. They feel hustled, scammed, bamboozled by the fact that they agreed to a payment plan and then were asked to follow through with it. They feel this woman who is simply asking to be paid for her literal job is somehow taking advantage of them and rolling in dough by means of gold digging and scamming. But really, she’s just asking for what every worker asks for: compensation. It’s almost as if the fact that she’s a woman using her own body as a means for money delegitimizes her as a professional in the eyes of society?
False: Calling Someone A Stripper Is A Sick Burn
“You look like a stripper,” is supposed to be an insult, but all that’s really saying is, “You look like someone would pay a lot of money to see you naked.” Mission accomplished, b*tch. It’s the same when people say sh*t like, “She should quit politics and go back to stripping.” Stripping isn’t any less a respectable job than working in politics. Assigning value to these jobs is classist and sexist. Truth be told, people are just uncomfortable with the idea that a woman is comfortable and confident enough to use her body and sexuality to her advantage, so they react by putting her down, because god forbid she realize her power. So when someone uses “stripper” as an insult, it’s actually a compliment commenting on your power. *Drops mic*
False: Strippers Can’t Find Love
The question I encounter most often when working is, “How does your boyfriend feel about this job?” Men are always surprised to hear that I’m in a relationship, my partner is aware of the work I do, and he’s okay with it. The concept that a man could allow a woman the freedom to do her job, even if it includes using her sexuality, is truly absurd to most. But a lot of the women I work with are in happy and healthy relationships. And why wouldn’t we be? We’re fun, sexy women, so much so that many are willing to pay for a few minutes alone with us. Imagine how lucky the ones who get it for free are.
Images: Eric Nopanen / Unsplash; Giphy (2)