By Sydney Benjamin
One thing that people don’t know about stripping is that every night, we pay to work- therefore, we start in the negative. Obviously, anyone at any job faces some sort of expense upon arrival. Between transportation there, getting ready, and everything in between, each thing has a cost. Once we arrive, we physically hand over- in some cases- over $200 just to work, or, in stripper terms, we must give at least 11 lap dances before we see any profit. Surprised that money isn’t ALWAYS just thrown at us?! I would be if I didn’t know the truth, either. Yes- sometimes money IS literally thrown at us, but there are nights in clubs where maybe five customers walk in and twenty girls are working. I got a 1 on the AP Calculus exam, and even I could tell you that 5 customers + 15 girls = not everyone gets paid.
If you search the term “stripper” on YouTube, the first ten results include a stripper counting money on camera. The clear reasons for this include the following: clickbait, attention, and bragging, but, most noticeably, it shows the weight that not only dancers- but also that spectators, place on the amount of money strippers make, and how that relates to success and watchability. God forbid a stripper complain about their income- especially since they are “selling their body” (something I do not agree with- we are selling a *fantasy* and an *experience*). If as a collective, we want to end the stigmas that are tied to stripping, it’s important that we speak of it like we do any other job, discussing our day-to-day customer and colleague interactions and the other realities that go along with it.
By no means do I think that it’s not acceptable to discuss money. For some of us, money was scarce, and sex work was some women’s first introduction to social mobility. In our patriarchal world, money is power and success. Money, for many people, symbolizes independence, achievement, and self-worth. There is nothing that I love more than to see women winning (against all odds, at that), but I will say there are right and wrong ways to go about it. Some people, who I think do an amazing job at highlighting the relationships between money and stripping, include Elle Stanger (@stripperwriter on Instagram), who occasionally posts images of money, along with an intimate recollection of her interaction with the customer who paid her, Jamie Saint (@strippervenom on Instagram), a stripper turned CEO who shares advice on financial stability as well as discusses the realities of being a stripper, and Gia (@strippreneur on Instagram), an activist, CEO, and an expert on financial literacy. These women prove that there is a way to celebrate a money win- and even in some cases- a loss- but in a reality-driven manner. If we don’t talk about the stories behind the money, we simply look like hot money robots who show up, collect a stack of bills, and head back into our “shallow” world. For many of us- THIS IS NOT THE CASE! Not every night will be our best, just as not every night is our worst, which is a common theme in every job on the planet. You can’t always have a perfect time- not even in a world where women are shown to have perfect, hairless, thin bodies, showered in crisp dollar bills, which are thrown by billionaires.
As our founder and one of the most enterprising women I know, Kika Flynn, so gracefully puts it, “Big Check Energy doesn’t mean every night has to be your best night. Appreciate your small stacks. Big Check Energy is owning your space and powering through, even on the small check nights.” We should be encouraging each other to perform to the best of our potential, but it’s more worthwhile to attempt to mimic someone’s hustle, rather than their paycheck. As discussions become more open and honest, I hope it’s our work ethic and grind that are admired, rather than our riches and glamour- because for most people, it’s not that simple. That being said, we all have limitless potential, and something that I admire about strippers and all sex workers alike, is that we just go out there and make that shit happen. As a majority, we all started doing sex work because we wanted a better life for ourselves in some capacity, and it’s my hope that we can always acknowledge that we are more than the amount of money we make- we are what we do with it and how we encourage each other to win.