November 5, 2014

I Am Stripper, Hear Me Roar

shutterstock_178171868By Elizabeth Shore

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.

DarkDesiresHey, speaking of feeling good, go grab yourself a copy of The Lady Smut Book of Dark Desires. The release date is tomorrow so get yourself in the virtual line and pre-order a copy now.



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  • Post authorMadeline Iva

    You have to check out Jenna Jameson’s “cautionary tale” How To Make Love Like A Porn Star. She highlights the clear connection between stripping and porn.

    And INDEED — I actually know a guy who dated a “Miss Petite Nude USA” — a stripper, naturally. We watched from the sidelines as she gradually sucked up into the world of porn–with him—through trying to boost her stripper career in the off-season. He ended up marrying her — and divorcing her. But not before escorting her to these various stripping events where he had to act as a body guard at all times.

    Without a guy actually touching her (claiming her as his possession) men felt free to grope, pinch, and poke, aside from just opening their mouths and letting whatever thought was in their brain pour out uncensored. The job was a walking harassment ordeal as far as I can tell. Jameson talks about men shoving bills “up there” if you know what I mean. And not doing it in a nice way either.

    The biggest downside that I saw to stripping, literally, is that to make the big bucks you have to have super enormous fake tits. I’m not sure your feminist gal went there, but MPNU did–twice. Jameson–who already had lovely large breasts went there too, after repeated pressure from the industry around her.

    And having hung out with MPNU as I did, you have to realize that she’s taken herself out of normal world and put herself into clown world with the massive boobs. Just going to the convenience store to get crackers she is faced with a certain kind of transfixed attention, that may or may not come with stares, comments, laughs, jeers, etc.

    You could not pay me to live in that world for one day. But apparently, some gals you can. Not sure what MPNU had going on–other than a bad case of alcoholism–but Jameson outlines your stereotypical f***ed up childhood from A to Z — and then some.

    I wonder if “feminist” strippers will eventually make a dent in the conventions of this world or if they are too few in number to change the system? I wonder if people who support porn and stripping have gone there, lived the life–or at least seen it up close and personal– and really know the ins and outs of it?

    “I’d rather take off my clothes than work at Taco Bell” I once heard this girl say. Not me! Though admittedly — working at Taco Bell really, really sucks. MPNU, by the way DID leave stripping/porn. She went to law school–and went from looking like a toned petite woman with freakishly massive breasts to the goodyear tire guy in about a year. Because she wasn’t making the same kind of money as before, she couldn’t afford to have her breasts reduced. (I think she drank up all her stripper money.)

    I’m not saying that all tales of stripping and porn stars are cautionary — I think that the shorter amount of time one spends in that world, and the more of an outside life that they have with a solid support system the better. What I am saying is this: I’ve yet to meet anyone myself who was involved in this world who wasn’t pretty darn messed up.

    Whereas with erotic romance writers I can say — again, speaking from experience –we’re mostly talking about women who’ve been in happy relationships for decades, many of whom are making bank like a stripper. But we’re able to stay at home when we write and avoid all the nasty stuff. Jameson includes this hilarious cartoon in her bio about the injuries women get from pole dancing.

    Reply to Madeline Iva
    • Post authorElizabeth Shore

      Yeah, it’s interesting and I agree with you – from what little I know about strippers, the ones in the business are generally messed up. Bad childhoods, alcoholism, drugs, etc. Feminist stripper Crane did go the big boobs route. Not sure if they’re real but methinks not.

      From the reviews I’ve read of Crane’s book, she does detail difficulties in her own life, but whether those were a result of stripping or whether they existed and then she began stripping I don’t know. She’s got an interesting career outside of her stripping world, teaching english lit and writing classes, but that’s not where she makes her money …

      Reply to Elizabeth Shore
  • Post authorelfahearn

    I’ve often wondered why people found nakedness degrading. Women who have gorgeous bodies like to show them off, as well they should. You have talent as a writer–innate talent–something you were born with, so is it degrading for you to show it off? I think the whole “objectifying women” thing is a holdover from Victorian times and we’re still struggling to find the words for this prejudice, this discomfort with sexuality. In my opinion, if a gal wants to take it off on stage, good for her!

    Reply to elfahearn
    • Post authorMadeline Iva

      What I found degrading is that back when I was younger, I wanted to show off my writer talent, but people wanted me to show off my body instead. Meanwhile, I don’t think nakedness is degrading — I think the way people treat women in the biz is the problem…that’s all I’m sayin’.

      Reply to Madeline Iva
      • Post authorLiz Everly

        I have a friend in the business. I think it depends on the woman. She is smart and is treated well–because that’s what she demands. I don’t think it’s true that all women are treated badly in the duisness. I’m certain that many are–but not all.

        Reply to Liz Everly
  • Post authorKel

    This is an interesting discussion. I don’t think there’s anything inherently degrading or powerful about stripping… I think the power is all in the way that the performer and the audience interact. A powerful person will own a stage whatever they are wearing or removing; a submissive person will not. If you can’t own your body taking your clothes off isn’t going to suddenly give you that ability the same way that if you do taking your clothes off isn’t going to take it away.

    I wouldn’t want to strip for a living, but that’s mostly because I don’t want to share that part of myself with people who would force me to reeducate them or injure them to learn respect. I have no problem with taking my clothes off.

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