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Health, Science, The Mind

The psychological cost of being a stripper

Gorgeous LibrariansA few days ago I heard an interesting radio debate. Following the news that footballer Mario Balotelli was caught out visiting a strip club, BBC Radio 5 Live held a late-night telephone discussion about the rights and wrongs of ‘gentlemen’s clubs’. A feminist speaker argued that such establishments unfairly degrade women. Opposing her, a female strip bar owner claimed strip joints were nothing of the sort – striptease performances were ‘natural’ and ‘harmless fun’.

Remarkably, morality never entered the debate and the arguments hinged on personal choice and the psychological wellbeing of the strippers. The strip club proprietor claimed all her workers were well-informed adult women who enjoyed showing off their bodies. Her antagonist gave anecdotes of women who had suffered serious psychological harm.

Neither party gave any evidence to support their claims – only personal experiences. And whilst very little scientific research has ever explored the issue, there is sufficient to peep in on the truth of a female stripper’s mental wellbeing…

Is stripping for a living bad for mental health?

Of the few relevant scientific studies to explore this voyeuristic trade, one of the best was conducted by Daniel Downs and Gloria Cowan of California State University. In their 2006 research they compared 40 exotic dancers with a similar number of young adult females who didn’t strip for a living. Using validated surveys, and interviewing both groups, they made some significant findings:

  • Strippers had remarkably less satisfaction from their personal relationships and were more likely to think their romantic partnerships would fail
  • There was no difference in self-esteem between strippers and non-strippers
  • Strippers prized their physical appearance over and above their other qualities and abilities.
  • If a stripper felt their body was not beautiful enough, their self-esteem would be affected.
  • Strippers seemed to be slightly less satisfied with their body and were more likely to scrutinise their physical appearance. More often they would “be ashamed if people knew what I really weigh”.

strip bar "mary"Superficially, the evidence seems to support the strip club owner: strippers do not have any loss of self-esteem or overall sense of self-worth. They are (perhaps understandably) more preoccupied and concerned with their physical appearance. This research is however far from infallible. The strippers interviewed were generally older than the non-strippers, and 40 strippers is hardly a big sample to draw sweeping conclusions. And of course, there is nothing to actually prove that the stripper’s increased level of body shame is caused by their occupation.

It does of course seem logical that taking one’s clothes off for a living is sufficient a reason to skew a woman’s sense of self-worth toward her perceived physical attractiveness. Our feminist speaker would argue that women should never view their physical appearance as the measure of their importance.

Personally, I’m no advocate of the sex industry (of which stripping is officially a part of) and I don’t feel that women should objectify their bodies. This is, perhaps, more of a moral than a scientific decision. But if that means I ought to be called a feminist then I can live with that.

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Thanks for reading – feel free to comment below…


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REFERENCES:

Downs, D., James, S., & Cowan, G. (2006). Body Objectification, Self-Esteem, and Relationship Satisfaction: A Comparison of Exotic Dancers and College Women Sex Roles, 54 (11-12), 745-752 DOI: 10.1007/s11199-006-9042-y

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About Stuart Farrimond

I love writing about science and health subjects. Strange, because I also teach the same things. I trained as a medical doctor before turning my hand to other things. Shortlisted for The Guardian/Observer for Science Writer of the Year 2011 and editor for Guru Magazine I also like to grow large pumpkins...

Discussion

56 thoughts on “The psychological cost of being a stripper

  1. This is an interesting subject. As for the study conducted, it seems highly subjective. The amount of women studied hardly seems like a relevant number, and also, there are really no details given about the women’s personal backgrounds. Are any of them educated? Why did they choose stripping? It’s my personal belief that in some cases, it may be a fast, easy way to make money, which may seem like a cheap thing to do to one’s self, however, aren’t those paying to see these women the ‘cheap ones’? I think it’s all a matter of opinion and circumstance. I’ve heard of women stripping to pay for grad school; does this still mean they’re “objectifying” themselves and in turn, having low self-esteem as a result?

    This study seems too narrow, but touches on an interesting subject. I’d be interested to see this same topic used on a different group of women.

    Posted by annesaeonlane | March 12, 2012, 11:50 pm
    • Thanks for your comment, You make some excellent points.
      The study appears to be an attempt to quantify psychological differences between the female stripper population with other women. But given the small sample and number of confounders, it makes for an interesting point of discussion – and, as you rightly put, warrants follow-up before any real conclusions can be drawn.
      The researchers went someway to consider the demographics of both groups – including sexuality, although none of the other features you mention were documented:
      The ‘control’ group were female University students (when will psychology researchers stop relying on University students??). All were heterosexual, compared with only 16% from the exotic dancer sample. The students were younger (20.8yrs vs 22.3yrs); the largest proportion of students were hispanic, whilst the strippers were predominently European American.
      Recalling the radio interview, the club owner said that most of her employees were indeed full time students trying to earn some extra money – to pay their way through College.
      I would agree with you that the people who pay for their services are the ‘cheap’ ones. I’m sure there is many a man who wouldn’t agree with me though.

      Posted by Stuart Farrimond | March 13, 2012, 2:07 pm
    • i dated a woman who began stripping for a place to live.Even though she lived with her parents,before she got her place.Watching a woman be exploited for dollars is not a pretty site.Alot of the women are smart to stop but don’t because they enjoy men lusting them.ALSO THE MONEY IS ADDICTIVE.Women who dance often get jealous when a co-worker makes money and they don’t.Very few dancers about thirty percent go to college or trade school.Many are very skilled in beauty and hair yet in enroll in trade school.Their fathers weren’t present all of the time or lack education.Most of their children have a behavior problem.Women who dance works five to six hour shifts to make 500-1500 a night.Not every night will a dancer make that money much.She has to pay the club a house fee depending on her time on arrival (50-60)dollars fri,sat,sun nite.majority disregard men as tricks and don’t like really what they have to do.Imagine slow grinding on a stranger.Who might have Hep C or goes beyond your control.A drug dealer can invest a thousand dollars in some lawn equipment and start a business.A DANCER pays the club to work and has to worry about making money.Many girls come to work with balances from previous nites and fines for b.s.! I RESPECT ALL WOMEN,BUT RESPECT IS EARNED NOT GIVEN.Add rent gas food and bills.most are to tired from work and use the day off to rest.

      Posted by marc | March 31, 2012, 1:11 am
      • Thanks for the comment and the insight!

        Posted by Stuart Farrimond | April 10, 2012, 10:19 am
        • I’m sorry, you can’t be more wrong. Most strippers I know were either actively attending colleges or have actually completed their college educations.These same strippers were either unemployed or underemployed and only stripped as a means to an ends to make money until they got the job, car, house or savings they needed to live a better, more secure life. Yes, some strippers may turn to a drug addicted life of crime, but most do not and have never been part of such a life style. All strippers aren’t victims of low self esteems or somehow victims of being “fatherless” little girls. The truth is, most strippers are just damned good business women who know how to use their looks to secure a better financial future for themselves….without actually having to prostitute. It may not be the most wholesome job, but stripping temporarily is a hell of a lot better than turning to prostitution, or some other form of crime, to pay the bills.

          Posted by Jamie | February 20, 2014, 3:05 am
      • Marc, while all women have different MO’s for their reasons for sticking to it, I appreciate your input about some women sincerely making an effort by simply working hard. I had worked many double shifts and had a steadfast rule of NEVER dating anyone I met in there and ceasing to date anyone who attended. Of course even this rule didn’t serve me well when a man I dated, who didn’t know where I worked, brought in his entire basketball team. They all clapped him on the back as I danced, telling him what a cool guy he was…. Of course I’m sure he enjoyed soaking up the attention, but I ceased dating him. Quite frankly as odd as it sounds, I didn’t respect men who spent their money like that. Isn’t that funny?

        Posted by Breaking Chase | April 3, 2013, 4:56 pm
      • This is so freaking condescending! I hope she dumped you when she realized how narrow minded you are.

        Thirty percent of strippers in school at any given time is not “very few”. It’s on par with the national average, for all adults. That’s just poor writing on your part.

        Explain to me how a drug dealer can drop 1k on equip,ent to start a legitimate business, and yet a stripper cannot? That’s absolutely retarded, and clearly based not in logic but in the stereotype that sex workers are oppressed victims. (In reality, far more drug dealers are stuck in poverty.) The house fee is not a big deal at all if you have sales skills, and serves to weed out would-be strippers who can’t hustle (the job isn’t for everyone)

        Hep C and other STD’s/STI’s are pretty hard to get if you’re not having sex in the club. Even in nude clubs you have much more of a risk of catching the common cold, or the flu. The worst thing a clean stripper could come down with is BV or a yeastie, and that can be avoided with frequent hand washing & etc.

        The daddy issues thing, oy. Again, just not true. Now there certainly are plenty of strippers with absent fathers and other issues, that stereotype does exist for a reason. But absolutely not all or even most! Sheesh. I’ve been a stripper for years and have a healthy relationship with my parents, they know what I do and help me with investing and budgeting all the ca$h I bring home, as well as tax stuff (Dad is a retired accountant who actually used to work with independent contractors, funny how that stuff works out). I’ve known a few strippers who were supporting elderly parents as well.

        So what if strippers are tired on their day off? Being in my 20s I know plenty of people who work in bars, nightclubs, restaurants, etc. Most of them are tired on their days off and service industry jobs tend to make people not want to go out to bars on their nights off. No big deal.

        One thing you are right about-hell yes the money is addictive! I have a degree and several other professional licenses, but every time I go and get a straight job, I ended up back in the club after a couple months. I love the money and freedom! :D

        Posted by Unicorn Rainbow | May 30, 2013, 12:20 am
      • I’m sorry, you can’t be more wrong. Most strippers I know were either actively attending colleges or have actually completed their college educations.These same strippers were either unemployed or underemployed and only stripped as a means to an ends to make money until they got the job, car, house or savings they needed to live a better, more secure life. Yes, some strippers may turn to a drug addicted life of crime, but most do not and have never been part of such a life style. All strippers aren’t victims of low self esteems or somehow victims of being “fatherless” little girls. The truth is, most strippers are just damned good business women who know how to use their looks to secure a better financial future for themselves….without actually having to prostitute. It may not be the most wholesome job, but stripping temporarily is a hell of a lot better than turning to prostitution, or some other form of crime, to pay the bills.

        Posted by Jamie | February 20, 2014, 3:05 am
  2. There might be a bit of projection going on here. The feminist might imagine that she would feel degraded if she stripped. (That’s possibly why she’s a feminist, not a stripper.) For the practising stripper any such feelings are probably long gone if they even had them in the first place. People generally find anything they do that brings a bit celebrity ends up feeling like a good thing – including stripping, and also feminism.

    FWIW I’ve known a couple of women who worked in the sexual entertainment industry and can report that in this case at least they were definitely not deficient in the self-esteem department. They weren’t anyone’s victims, contrary to a stereotype I think I might have had.

    For an alternative and interesting take on this issue see Catherine Hakim’s Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital. Yep, erotic capital. If you can’t read the book, try a review:

    http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/reviewofbooks_article/11656/

    Posted by Jim Birch | March 13, 2012, 3:42 am
    • I agree with the above comments. As matters stand at present women are be caught in a double standard where being proud of their naked body is wrong but also it is wrong to dress without regard to sexual attractiveness ( this being viewed as frumpy or scruffy or even as a sign of eccentricity).
      Women who strip their way through college are taking a pragmatic approach to the imbalance of power that still pertains in society. Sexual attractiveness is a form of power and I think there is still a lot of disapproval of women who take on any form of power.
      I made a small study of this subject for my degree and I remember that there is other research that shows that the self esteem of the participants correlated to how well the clubs were run. ( I suggest that would apply to any form of work a person might undertake) What I think is degrading to women is having to work in dead end badly paid jobs and do a shed load of house work when they get home.

      Posted by Ruth Behan | March 13, 2012, 12:01 pm
  3. Considering how overweight most women are, the vigilance strippers have on there appearance is badly needed in women in general, especially hairy feminist. The reason women do this work is for money plain and simple. They make as much or more than a doctor or lawyer who have to spend a fortune on school and spend years of hard study. For a person with nothing special to offer strippers are way overpaid in my option. I can agree they have no shortage in the self-esteem department rather the opposite is true. They are not victims. The real victims are the working class guys that get exploited and degraded.

    Feminist dont like stripping or prostitution, feminist rightly fear the completion from other women. They want to keep men starved for sex and affection so they can drastically overcharge for what niggling amounts they offer.

    Posted by Joe American | April 28, 2012, 3:54 pm
    • You should consider revamping your vocabulary and language skills before giving an opinion like this, because you appear as ignorant as the words you use.

      Posted by MJ | April 16, 2013, 4:44 pm
    • Some feminists actually support stripping because they view it as liberation for women, where women can defy society’s traditional expectations of a woman and gender roles. I think it is ignorant of you to generalize that way and lump all feminists together. Feminists don’t all share the same opinion as far as what makes a woman oppressed, and they don’t all work towards achieving the same goals. Also, I certainly do not think exotic dancers are overpaid. The job can be difficult and the women have to deal with a lot of negativity… if the job didn’t pay well, nobody would do it. Also, if you’re a man that’s starved for sex and affection maybe you should get a girlfriend. I don’t know why you have this sense of entitlement. Why do you think these women who don’t even know you should have to entertain you if you aren’t paying for it? The customers aren’t exploited and degraded… nobody forced those guys to walk into the club and spend money.

      Posted by Feminist | November 24, 2013, 1:50 am
      • I completely agree with you! I don’t understand why some “feminists” have an issue with the adult entertainment business. Women are DIFFERENT from men… and that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are not their equal. I feel like it’s less empowering to a woman to deny the power of our sexuality; and it also adds shame to it. I don’t think we should shame one another for using our sexuality for gain.

        Posted by Jennifer Swygert | March 2, 2014, 4:49 pm
  4. lol @ the picture that says “gorgeous librarians”. Hey I’m a stripper and I don’t have any of those issues and I’m very educated and happy with my life!

    Posted by jet | May 31, 2012, 8:35 am
    • Hi Jet, thanks for your comment!
      Out of interest, from your experience, is the stereotype of ‘student needing extra cash’ true?

      Posted by Stuart Farrimond | May 31, 2012, 9:43 am
      • I was in tears reading your comment because everything you spout out is the gods honest truth. I have buried my past so far and really thought I could handle it but 6 yrs later I have forced to reconcile with it and deal with it. I finally feel that I’m moving in a positive direction, 16 years after joining the game. It’s just not worth it there is nothing fast money about it. You hammered every nail on this one. Thanks for your comment. Glad I know I’m not alone.

        Posted by onstagenext | May 25, 2013, 12:35 am
  5. what i find so hilarious about the whole ordeal, is that it was a choice, although sometimes it isnt thought through, but it was still a choice given to the women who do it. it might be apart of the sex industry, but still no one has held a gun to any of these young ladies heads and said they have to do it. Moral’s? who now a days, in today’s society have morals? they went out the window with 60′s, 70′s and 80′s….. really these girls made that choice and there is nothing wrong with dancing…. as long as the managers of each and every club treat the girls proper…. people make choices in life….

    Posted by lane | June 20, 2012, 5:40 pm
  6. I entered this site on a whim..a conversation came up about the money to be had off of owning a strip club. I looked at the person in the face and had a few objections. The truth is, while no one is putting a gun next to the woman’s head, the mere pressure of needing some quick money will make anyone do anything if they were put in the right enough tight situation who do not have the means to find a job quickly.

    I don’t think any woman who goes into it ever comes out of it the same. I should know, I know a few of these ladies. Its not a very rewarding “career” and it only lasts but so long. It runs and wears out women emotionally. I have some moral issues that also border on my opinions but just the same, the fact that the strippers can’t just go around saying freely, hey I dance at nights for a living says it all. Plus let’s get real here, many of those places aren’t polished cheerful spots that help a woman out emotionally. Its just a dump supported in the end by the very people who have you believe the women were well informed of what would happen to them…which are the owners and the leery horny men who just spend their money in all the wrong places.

    Posted by Charlene Jones | November 25, 2012, 10:45 pm
  7. I’ve dated 4 girls who after the break-up went on to become go go dancers. They were all attractive girls from bad homes who didn’t exactly have a moral compass. If you want one, never tell them they look good, they will keep trying to get your attention by any means possible. Attention is what keeps them going and it gets real old, fast. Also, never date people like this unless you’re just looking for a hot piece of ass and not someone to raise your kids.

    Posted by Dave | February 10, 2013, 4:40 am
    • Wow, you are the kind of guy I would quickly walk away from at any club. Maybe you never heard the quote “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”

      Posted by Carmen | April 3, 2013, 6:00 am
    • wow you clearly know nothing about the sex industry and women in this industry, that to me just sounds like a narrow minded stereotypical view of dancers.

      Posted by rebecca nice | May 9, 2013, 12:58 am
  8. Hello Dr. Stu,

    I had to comment, even though I know I’m a little late to the game. After moving to LA recently, I needed money for myself and my boyfriend until I could get a real job. I am determined to make this work! I had never stripped before, and did 4 and only 4 shifts at a nude club before I quit last night. I’d like to share with you my experience.

    Stripping itself isn’t terrible. I’m looking forward to becoming a more classically trained dancer and doing burlesque in a tasteful way. What is terrible, however, is the fact that most strippers have some serious emotional baggage and are put in situations that put them at risk for even more emotional damage, and most strip clubs make money off people who are continuously hurting themselves in some way. Period. When I was in the dressing room, I would listen to these girls stories, and they just don’t feel good about themselves. One girl said she used to hate being a stripper, and she used to say she would always get out, but now she says she’ll never have a “real job”. It’s really sad because when they dance, there is no life or enjoyment in their faces, even if they are very talented on the pole. I think what does them in is not listening to their intuition. I was only there for 4 days, but I think the reason I came out unscathed is because I set very strict physical boundaries with myself and customers. When for the first time in my life a man groped me and asked me to put my hand on his dick, I knew that I while I refused, he had gotten that service by someone else at one point. I knew I was quitting the next day right then and there. And these dancers are pressured to COMPETE for the attention of these low lives. One of my most interesting customers was a reserved Asian diplomat who refused to do anything with any other dancer because he swore he could tell they were emotionally and physically bruised. It helped me end my four-night nude dancing career on a high note with my dignity and self-respect intact. I still made enough to help us get by for awhile. But I feel so much empathy now for the girls who work in this industry. I didn’t like many aspects of what I knew I was going to have to go through after having a taste, so I walked out. I’ll take the nonstop collection calls any day. But many dancers feel the exact same, and don’t quit. They are working so hard for so little respect, money (yes, money: after the house gets a cut its insane how little you can go home with), and balance in life, sometimes for YEARS. It’s a draining job in every way.

    This stint has completely changed my attitude about people in general. When I knew I was quitting and gave away body spray to another dancer, I cannot tell you how it felt to see the look on someone’s face who had experienced unconditional generosity for the first time. She could not understand how I just gave it away, nor could she understand how I gave her another $14 the next night when she was walking out of the club with $3. She is currently living in a hotel with a child, has a DUI in Florida that she is trying to retain an attorney on, and rents a car. My BF is an attorney, and I am trying to hook her up with some pro-bono work through some of his contacts. I want to use my experience to help girls like that; part of me thinks it was almost destiny to work there. It’s so clear to me that many of these dancers were not conditioned to respect themselves at a young age, and while I do believe there are the rare few who see what they do as a positive thing and are not negatively affected by what goes on at work, strip clubs are just not a healthy environment IN ANY WAY.

    I am looking forward to working at a decent job for significantly less money, and will only do ever do nude again in fine arts photography because my body feels honored and as an artist, I love that I’m part of something creative. I’m looking forward to the performance aspect of burlesque, where people will actually be there for the performance element. I’ll never forget some of the stories and things I saw and experienced, but having walked a mile in these girls’ shoes, I have serious respect for the intense life experiences of others in whatever form they have shown themselves to me, from deciding on an abortion to having a child killed in a hit-and-run. I am a less judgmental person. I have emerged from this experience a more empathetic and grateful person determined to be happy and successful, while still listening to that inner voice, and I hope I can teach some of these girls to do the same.

    Posted by Wildcard | February 11, 2013, 11:13 pm
    • It certainly does change your outlook on life being a dancer. Personally, I have sworn never to be or work at any club that has all nude, and I’m sure I would not make it even four days if I tried. The world should be more thankful for people like you who choose to take the high road and help your fellow human beings instead of judging them for what they are doing.

      Posted by Stephanie | April 3, 2013, 5:56 am
  9. there are just so many things wrong with your post.

    Posted by Monica | February 13, 2013, 10:11 am
  10. My step-daughter is an ex-stripper. I will call her “michelle”. Michelle goes to great efforts to judge others and act purer than thou, despite her infamous past. Her excess baggage has caused her to become antognistic towards aspects of life she has not experienced nor cultivated nor can competently understand. Her venom is scary. She has three children. One, who is an intellectual prodigy, married young to escapte Michelle’s dominate control. Her next child, is gay, and she therefore poses no threat to his happiness in life. Her third child is autistic and pays the price for her indescretions. She has lied to her kids and they will sooner or later find out who she really is. She didn’t become a stripper for a financial need, her father was a pilot and her mother an airline stewardess. Had Michelle asked, either parent would have helped her financially. Michelle got off on perverted audience fawnings. Michelle is one confused and unsatisfied sexual animal. Never completes any academic program, never completes any trade school program, and never qualifies for a permanent job, not even at Wal-Mart. Needless to say, she has not paid any of her many student loans. It makes me happy to know that their is a lien on her home for the money my taxes were spent to help her. To her kids, run, run as fast as you can, don’t let your mother michelle, make sure you can’t.

    Posted by TheSwampRiverMadame | February 17, 2013, 4:22 am
    • Wow, with support from a stepmother, such as yourself, I can see why “Michelle” may feel a bit confused. This particular comment, among others,

      “It makes me happy to know that their is a lien on her home” shows your inability as a parent to cope, when you voluntarily accepted her with wedding vows. There seems to be some indpendent searching needed on your part–you may want to consider getting some mental assistance.

      Posted by Breaking Chase | April 3, 2013, 4:48 pm
      • she may be confused and unsatisfied have you ever approached her with compassionand love rather then judgement ? and asked her why?

        Posted by B nice | May 9, 2013, 1:07 am
        • Nope. Don’t feel as if she deserves “compassioned love” when she has none for her step-daughter. That’s what being a mother is all about, love. I am not her mother and do not owe her that, however, she does owe it to her step-daughter.

          Posted by Breaking Chase | June 11, 2013, 8:37 am
    • Ouch, your opinions of her is probably not helping her get her life right.

      Posted by Sarah | May 27, 2013, 2:35 am
  11. Well, after reading all of these comments, I feel as though I must add my own. I am currently 25-years-old and finishing my third year of college with a major in psychology and criminology and a minor in abnormal psychology. I am also a dancer. I can’t say that I dance for the “extra” money, but more for just the money in general. I worked as a salaried manager at two different retail stores from the time I was 19 until I was 24 and, as a dancer, I make more money in three nights of work than I did on an 80 hour paycheck. It is well known that there is a certain stigma that follows women in my industry, and sadly it has been exacerbated by several of these comments. However, as any good psychology student or graduate knows, no two people are exactly alike, just as no two dancers are either. I actually take great pride in my work. I also appreciate the opportunities I am given to meet and converse with people I would otherwise probably not be given the chance to. Yes, there are plenty of jerks in the world, but trust me, there are just as many people who talked down to me and treated me like dirt in the retail world as there are in the club. The difference is, in retail I had to stand and take it and agree with the customer that I was obviously an idiot and that the world would be better off if a robot were doing my job. In the club, I will happily let you and those around you know about how much of a jerk-off you are being, right before I smile and walk away. Being a dancer is only a job, I have had hundreds of customers ask if I have ever felt any kind of attraction for any man I have ever performed for and the answer is simple, no. This is an occupation, outside of my job I live a normal life, I am happily engaged to my best friend who has absolutely no qualms about what I do because he knows that I carry myself with class. When I started dancing I made a vow to myself that I would never, ever put myself in a situation or perform any action that would ever jeopardize my own personal morals and values and since starting, I never have. I hold myself to my own standards, not those of anyone else. There is nothing you can say to me, no name you can call me, that will make me lower myself to a position of acting as a prostitute. I do have high self-esteem for both my moral standards and my physical appearance, but I do not obsess over my looks anymore than the average woman who goes to the gym to stay in shape. I would maintain my appearance as is even if I did not dance. As for the person who mentioned “daddy issues” granted my parents divorced when I was 13, I actually grew up living with my dad. As an only child, he was my rock and to this day I know that I can go to my dad with anything and he will never be mad or disown me or whatever these foolish people seem to believe. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know that I seem to paint the picture of being a happy-go-lucky, easy life girl turned stripper. My life has been far from easy, my mom has been dealing with prescription drug addiction since I was 10 (the kind of addiction that left her incoherent, nearly unconscious on a daily basis), I wasted a few good years in a physically, mentally, and emotionally abusive relationship, and had my fair share of hard times, but none of these thing play any factor into me becoming a dancer. Although, a small part of me hopes to run into my ex at the club just because I know it would infuriate him. Overall, by being a dancer, I am empowered beyond that of the average woman. I play a fantasy and give what we call “the girlfriend experience”. Think of it like a first date, only the girl is fascinated in everything you talk about, hangs on every word, laughs at all your jokes, and is beautiful as well. As for hiding the relationship, I actually let men know that I do not approve of them lying to their wives or girlfriends about where they are, I have, more or less, counseled men on being open and honest with their s/o because without trust, a true relationship is not possible. So, now that you have read my story, I hope that some of the “stripper stereotype” can be dispelled and as a colleague in the field of psychology, I would love to hear your input on my outlook of only being as strong as you choose to be.

    Posted by Stephanie | April 3, 2013, 5:50 am
    • Seems like you have gone out of your way to try and prove how okay you are with stripping….which makes me think in truth, you are not okay with it at all.

      Posted by Snow white | April 16, 2013, 11:58 am
    • Hey Stephanie,

      I’m glad to know you’re empowered! I’m looking forward to dancing again soon, and will definitely take some pages from your book. Nude is a totally different world, so it’s nice to know that you’ve had some good experiences on the non-nude side of things. One thing I don’t think anyone can dispute is the money that dancing can get you, when used wisely, can be a gateway to create the life you want for yourself when it just isn’t possible to stack cash like that in any other time frame, short of doing something like “Breaking Bad”. I’ll be doing cartwheels when I pay off my debt, and thanks to my new pole skills, I will hopefully have a rockin’ dancers body long after my exotic nights are over : )

      Posted by Wildcard | April 22, 2013, 7:40 am
    • How long have you been a stripper?

      Posted by Sarah | May 27, 2013, 2:39 am
  12. Having been a past participant of the trade with an interest in writing, I took it upon myself to interview women who did the same. Realizing this article comments on the mental anguish and degrading surroundings promoted to women by places such as this, I would like to agree, yet cannot. What I discovered during my interviews is that literally through all of my interviewing (33 women) only one of them had not endured physical or sexual abuse from an adult as a child. This means the mindset of the dancer was created long before they figured out how to use that to their advantage. If you’re going to be lusted after as a sex object, you might as well be paid for it.

    Typically speaking women working this type of job has a hardened outer casing that is nearly impossible to crack after years of ongoing abuse. When a heckler makes a rude comment, the woman won’t run crying from the stage defeated, but will probably throw some crudeness back at him. Personally, I became impervious to crying, but great at listening and soaking in the stories of others’ miserable lives in an effort to make my own more tolerable.

    These findings were my own personal ones, so I’m sure others will have arguing points defying what I’ve said, but I stand behind these comments wholeheartedly. Since I’ve “grown-up,” I remember one of my friends was actually working towards a goal. She was paying her way through college with the money because she knew it was a short-lived profession. All I can say is I wish I had followed suit because I could have prevented a lot of stress later by simply being more independent and stronger by acquiring a career by now.

    Posted by Breaking Chase | April 3, 2013, 4:13 pm
  13. From a young age I began dancing. As soon as I turned 18 I was dancing. At 24, I am still dancing. However, this is two children later. I am educated actually graudated from college and now must take my boards, but yes it took me this long to finish. I must say, at first that this started out as fun and games. Coming from no family I have always worked hard, but one night a friend told me to try it so I did. I made more money than I did in two weeks at the time, thus I stayed. I never thought it would take an emotional/psychological toll on me but it did. Years later I am left to deal with what bothers me even though I cannot quite put my finger on it. It can become fun at first but when it becomes a means to an end and the only option you have left, the feeling is like no other. So yes, I guess, It does cause mental trauma.

    Posted by Dancing_Rn | May 8, 2013, 11:24 pm
  14. I myself am a dancer. I’m 24 years old … and agree of such mental traumas that come with this occupation. As I try to fight my demons…i find myself dancing with them instead..the money is so disgustingly addicting. I quit my day job for the stripping thinking it was the best of my options. I regret doing so and I highly encourage young girls to find a positive environment. I’ve neglected my own well being for the past 5 years… and these are years I can not gain back… but lesson learned… quick money comes at a VERY HIGH COST. Although different experience per individual ( dancer)….Be as it may… it is not worth it. I may have made a good amount of money but I’ve come my own conclusion that id rather have my mental well being then be financially at ease. Please girls . every moment in your life ..every experience molds you to who you are now. Do what is morally right…..I know its a “cold ” world and in reality “hustling” will get you by…but enjoy these moments of life…. Do not become a product of your history.

    Posted by ariel | May 15, 2013, 7:19 pm
  15. - private school education- religious upbringing- suburban lifestyle college bound- law or medicine was the plan… Then after a fallout with my parents and being financial cut off.. Having no where to live or a car… I decided to try. Strippers love money_ that’s true and some make a lot more money than you think… But stripping is a scar on your SOUL. Basically crimne bosses run the show. In other words there aint no union. Can be fired at any moment. You lose your sense of reality…. You often see the absolute worst in men..it makes you numb… Your heArt breaks daily, you beg ugly otherwise laxkluster men for attentuon and approval MAJOR mind **CK… Then you see girls whoring girls, snorting, shooting, having backstage sex… It destroys your morality and bsense of self. (The prettier you het the uglier you feel. STRIPPERS HAVE LOW SELF ESTEEM m”managers” “djs” security persue you sexually.. You are objectified… You are DEPRESSED about the STIGMA…the whole “secret cob” only reinforces feelings of self hatred. BY the time you finish you have a drinking or drug problen, HEP C or STDs NO MONET SAVED and serious mental trauma… No resume for the last 4 years all things said at least you weren’t one of the many who are raped, murdered,pimped sex enslaved… Everyones incorrect… Stripping is MORE traumatic than it seems and strippers are LYING when they say anything. You will never be fully recovered.

    Posted by EXOTIC | May 15, 2013, 8:55 pm
    • True true true

      Posted by On Stage Next | May 25, 2013, 12:49 am
    • Clearly you did not work at a professional club. I, myself, was put into a very similar situation to what you speak of. My best friend was a stripper and urged me to come work with her when I said I was broke and needed to find a job. I decided to try it, went for my audition, and loved it. The place is extremely clean, and there is zero tolerance for drugs or “extras,” as they are known in the clubs. Yes, there are many smarmy clubs out there that you should avoid; my friend guest stripped at one of them in town and had an awful experience. If you are smart and find a good club, then you can have a great experience.

      Posted by Lia | July 13, 2013, 4:28 am
  16. I usually don’t jump in on these forums but I had to on this one.
    I don’t judge others… It’s not my business to do so, we all have a story. I danced for 10 years and they day I walked away I was so proud that I was no longer an erectional engineer. I have been screwed up since the last few years of doing it. I have social anxiety, I’m narcissistic, controlling, paranoid,depressed, suicidal, and completely out of touch with reality. I think that if I’m never gawked upon by men I have no self worth. I have been out of the industry for 6 years, thankfully. I was never a drug abuser but experimented yes. I did become a heavy drinker in the last 2 years so I lost my eye on that ball. Made nothing but a bar tab. I trust not men nor women and I cant have a stable normal relationship because I think my partner is always sleeping with someone. Its a mess.I have always loved psychology and I’m currently on my way to finishing my masters degree in clinical psych. I am not healed,. I’m far from it. However, I am not in denial of the person I became. I do remember how I was before. This is all I can say for the young women in the field who do this long term… Everything you make now you will pay for later in shrink bills. Sooner or later it does get you.

    _

    Posted by onstagenext | May 25, 2013, 12:28 am
  17. This person knows the truth… :( I’ve worked la when it was money flowing some hoes and easy cash outs that totalled a weeks work. Yet we all were mentally fucked.

    Posted by miserablewhore | May 25, 2013, 11:34 pm
  18. I was a stripper for two years… it is extremely mentally damaging (and soul damaging). It is also very hard to get out of it after awhile. And ALL of the girls I worked with were a little messed up in one way or another… some more than others. I always thought there should be some sort of documentary made so that people would be more understanding of the subject, or at least more research done. And I think most women who have stripped for at least a year agree with me in that it fucks you up.

    Posted by Sarah | May 27, 2013, 2:23 am
    • Yes an uncensored documentary would shatter and reveal a lot notions it really is much bigger than we think. Society must face the fact that there is an underlying acceptance and booming business based on exploitation and abuse of woman.

      Posted by EXOTIC | May 27, 2013, 5:46 am
  19. I’m a 47 year old man and my best friend is a stripper. She says she looks at it as a job and the guys that come in as dollar signs. She has a full time day job I am also her coworker she only does the stripper thing on saterday nites. over the years she has gone from straight relationships to being a lesbian she has been in a relationship with a woman for a couple of years now. she was married at one time and has a teenage son. her and I both have a drinking problem we also drink together. When she first told me she was stripping I fell apart and told her she was better than that. She kind of got upset at me and said what she does is not degrading but she said she appreciated ware I was coming from. Later I found myself telling her I wanted to visit her at the club, she gave me a flat out no. She said she valued me to much as a friend and me being there would make her feel akward and she wouldn’t be able to do her job. I persisted just a little, I said it kind of hurt knowing she lets strangers see somthing of her that I’ll never see. finally she told me that she couldn’t stop me from coming in there but if I did it would end the friendship. I feel so stupid and selfish for saying what I said to her. This is a woman that told me she would always have my back, she also told me one time that she loved me. She was plastered drunk when she said it but thats when most people speak more of the truth than when their sober. And all the huggs I get from her when she is sober kind of says it all. I guess the real reason I’m writing this post is to tell people they shouldn’t steriotyp someone for making a decision to strip to help make ends meet. From the first time I met this woman I always new she looked good, and she is smokin hott believe me, but it’s nothing compared to her beauty on her inside.

    Posted by larry | July 9, 2013, 9:42 am
  20. My mother is a psychologist, and I am a biology and psychology double major, with aims to go to medical school and work as an addict specialist. My parents split about a year ago, which was the best thing that could have ever happened. My father was abusive growing up, and still to this day is extremely manipulative emotionally. My mother is wonderful, and my best friend. However, she makes little money at the moment, and my father does not want to support me any longer. Because of this, I grappled with the decision to strip.

    The funny thing is, though, that I was not concerned with the stripping in and of it itself. It was the social stigma that goes along with it. You want to say that feminists say that it is objectifying women? I think not. I feel that I am putting men in their place by having them shower hundreds of dollars on me just for the pleasure to see me naked for all of three minutes, where he cannot touch me at all. These guys pay $10 just to talk to you. I am quite feminist, I believe, and extremely supportive of sex workers’ rights, and I have to say to me stripping is the very definition of feminism. We are using what is given to us to make money, and taking advantage of men’s sex crazed ways.

    With that said, I have a very positive experience stripping. However, I also work at a really great club. There is no house fee, and you are not required to tip out for the bouncers (though, of course, unless it’s a really bad night we always do–you want the bouncers to like you). Of everything we sell, we get to keep half, and every Monday we get to keep 100% of what we earn from lap dances. The club is extremely clean and the owners have a zero tolerance for “extras” or drug use. Some of the girls are messed up, yes, but some of them, like myself, are just trying to support their way through school and this is a great way to do it. I would like to make that comparison to a fast food restaurant I worked at previously, and you had very similar ratios. Some were people that couldn’t seem to get their lives together, some were kids working their way through school. The difference is that I can make more in one night than I did on a paycheck working 40 hours.

    I have personally found the experience empowering, and as someone that was a bit insecure about her body before, I have gained a great deal of self-confidence from stripping. Something that another commenter stated, and that I would like to reiterate, is that you are ALWAYS in control. I always make a guy pay up-front for his lap dances and champagne rooms, because that way if he acts up I immediately end it but I still get my money. I honestly think that many girls that already had issues mentally go into the industry, and so it is not really so much as a cause of mental anguish, as something that exacerbates an existing problem. Although how you would study that is beyond me, because you could not assign a random group of people to go strip and evaluate them mentally before stripping.

    Posted by Lia | July 13, 2013, 4:43 am
  21. Wow! This is crazy! The bottom line is if men wouldn’t pay then women wouldn’t dance. End of story! So stop hating the women for being finacially smart and focus more on intervention of the men who frequent these places.

    Posted by Mediator | July 24, 2013, 9:12 pm
  22. After being a stripper for three years and just quitting that degrading disgusting job I find myself in a bed contemplating suicide

    Posted by laura | September 4, 2013, 11:57 am
  23. I am foreign and I apologize about my English. Many strippers which don’t even like being called like that talk about feeling empowered which I find ridiculous. How can grinding on a man s dick for a living empower u?

    Posted by laura | September 4, 2013, 12:00 pm
  24. In Portland many dancers don’t make money because of the high amount of strip clubs. So on top of feeling gross mentally disturbed and miserable u end up with no money. How empowering is that?

    Posted by laura | September 4, 2013, 12:02 pm
  25. I believe they think is empowering cause they actually feel the opposite way.. They feel they have no power or control over their lives. How empowering is it to show ur vagina for a dollar? Please. Empowering shouldn’t even be used as a word to talk about strip clubs. And money it ain’t great everywhere. Work in Oregon and see how quickly u starve

    Posted by laura | September 4, 2013, 12:07 pm
  26. Thank you for an insightful article.

    I dated a stripper. They should never be judged for what they do. They are part of a system and a market. That’s the heart breaking part. She would tell me that at least 90 per cent of the attendees in the club are married men. When I asked her to get out of the scene ( which she did) it wasn’t about judging her. I loved her. It was about getting her as far away as possible from the disgusting pigs that attend and think that it’s ok to throw money at women to take their clothes off and do a lap dance or private show. You can be sure that the clientele would not like it if it was their own daughters on the stage.

    I’m not moralistic and have attended strip joints in my younger years. I can say that I was never a big fan. The way that men would speak about the strippers when they weren’t listening in many cases, was vulgar and repulsive. I will never go back to a strip joint.

    My disappointment isn’t centred around the women, but more towards the men that frequent those places and flash cash as if they think they have power. Seriously, what a bunch of losers!!!

    Posted by Maximus | October 26, 2013, 10:47 am
  27. I must say, I agree with Laura. After being a dancer for 10 years, I go to therapy once a week. I survived a suicide attempt four years ago. I come from a good background and have a great relationship with my father. I came home from Portland a year ago and have socially isolated myself ever since. I feel as if my dancer ” persona” was the coping mechanism I had to use to justify working in those conditions. At first I felt “empowered” when I started dancing. The money was great, I could provide well for my 2 children, and I felt I had the freedom all these girls think they have. Flash forward 10 years- I haven’t been in a healthy relationship for 4 years, I have struggled financially, socially, and most of all emotionally. The hardest part is learning how to live again. I never felt so powerless. It has been a complete spiritual journey. I’m not even religious. I don’t think it is a coincidence or an accident that I ended up there. I guess it was part of the plan. There were a lot of things I learned, good and bad. I had some of the best times of my life. I traveled, met interesting people, made tons of money but yet I came back to reality a broken woman. It was almost like I let the dancer persona become me. I am a very logical, intuitive, and intelligent woman but as hard as I tried not to let that world get to me, it did. It was like a demon trying to destroy me. I will never look back at my life with regret, but ultimately the emotional cost was far too much than I could afford. I struggled with it long before I even left the club. It was almost like spiritual warfare going on inside my soul. I empathize with the ladies comments above in how it has helped them get through school, raise kids, etc.

    Some of the most intelligent and inspiring women I’ve known I met in dressing rooms all across the West! But what they don’t know is the future. I used to think of myself as a Stripper Soldier, because I was tough and strong and I could handle anything that came my way. And I was wrong. I will never play victim, nobody hurt me, except me. It’s a world of illusion, it’s escapism for everyone involved and it’s negative. Plain and simple. I will never judge any woman who does it for a living because there are a million different reasons why the ladies get involved. But what I will say is that there is a cost, whether it be financially, emotionally, addiction, prostitution, divorce, you name it. I’ve seen it, I’ve lived it, I have the damn t-shirt. And there’s not one thing in this world that’s free! I can say that despite everything, I have seen my life change for the better in the last year. I did a 180. I really don’t give myself enough credit. But when you’re tired of something you change it. Nothing is impossible. Well, there’s my story and I hope anyone who wants out finds a way. Make your own way. If you’re still doing it and you like your job, make that money, save that money and picture yourself in 2, 5, 10 years. I hope you like what you see! Don’t let the industry steal your essence! Cheers and love to you girls out there:)

    Posted by B | February 2, 2014, 11:15 am
  28. Don’t ever block the women’s view of a male stripper, if you want to live.

    Posted by Chiefsteve | February 11, 2014, 4:29 am

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  1. Pingback: Peeping inside the stripper’s mind: the true cost of taking your clothes off | Guru Magazine - August 28, 2013

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