I’ve long thought there’s something kinda cool about strippers, maybe because it’s something I could never do. Not that I’m a prude, mind you. Noooo. That’s not the problem. I just don’t think I’d have cool moves around the pole or the ability to sashay around the stage like a sexy, prowling cat. Basically, I think I’d suck at it, and – call me crazy – it’s not fun doing things we suck at. There are many women out there who wouldn’t be strippers, of course, for more psychological reasons – because it objectifies women, it degrades them, etc. Writer, adjunct professor, and feminist stripper Antonia Crane is not one of those women.
I learned about Antonia recently via an article I came across on CNN.com titled “Inside the world of a feminist stripper.” There’s a video that accompanies the article in which Ms. Crane talks about why she strips and what the appeal of it is to her. Rather than think of it as degrading, she says it’s “hot and empowering.” When she takes her clothes off she becomes an animal, “part of the sensual world of heat and sleaze.” Is there a parallel here between how erotic writers feel when producing steamy reads? Do we, too, feel connected to a world of heat and sleaze?
Crane has recently written a memoir called Spent detailing her life as a stripper. I’ve not read the book myself, but from the reviews I’ve looked through it seems that she’s not sugar-coating her world. Like many women, she started stripping to pay the bills but, also like many women, found that it’s tough to quit. She earns more money from stripping in a shorter amount of time than she could from any “regular” job. The quick bucks in short timeframes means she’s got freedom to pursue her other interests, such as teaching and writing.
Critics of strippers also point out that it’s the men who have control over women who strip because men are the ones with the money. I say, not so fast. Those clothes are only coming off if the money starts flowing. No cash = no ass. So who’s the one in control? It’s the stripper who chooses whether or not to go the fully monty. Men can toss all the money they want, but if a woman chooses not to strip the guy is s.o.l. If someone wants something from me that I choose not to give, seems to me like I’m the one controlling that situation.
How about that whole degrading thing? Is taking your clothes off for the pleasure of others degrading? Is writing stories detailing intimate sexual acts between people degrading? Unlike strippers, readers of erotic romance don’t actually see the writers perform the situations they describe. Yet the assumption is that we’ve gained our knowledge somehow, more than likely first-hand experience. Stripper Crane says that she doesn’t view stripping as degrading whatsoever. Her opinion is that our bodies are “gorgeous” and “our sexuality is beautiful and something to be celebrated.” In the video she asks, “Is it more degrading to work and not be able to pay for your kids’ diapers?”
To strip or not to strip – that is the question, and the choice. Choosing to do so comes laden with consequences, some of them lasting a lifetime. Then again, so does writing erotic romance. Once you’ve got something published and available for the world to consume, you’ve opened yourself up to potential criticism and judgment and not all of it nice. But it’s empowering, too. We write what we believe in, what we feel is worthwhile, and what makes us feel good.