Good morning and Merry Christmas! It’s officially December and I’m writing this at about 4am, tucked up in bed with a coffee, next to my Christmas tree watching the lights twinkle.
Nine months ago at this time in the morning, a Saturday morning much like this one. I was leaving my very first shift as a stripper (exotic dancer, pole dancer, whatever you call it). A duffel bag hoisted over one shoulder, a backpack on my other, forcing my very, very sore feet to climb over one another and tumble into a taxi back to my old sharehouse. I remember that night quite clearly. Even now I remember the name of the first customer who booked me, who tipped, where he was from and possibly even what he did (carpenter?). I also remember waking up just six hours later to find the remnants of a bucks party going on in my backyard and laughing at the irony of the situation.
One of the main questions people ask those of us in the sex industry is, why are you here? Which, to be fair is pretty rude. I will tell you a story though that explains the whole thing.
I grew up working class Australian, poor AF and in the middle of nowhere. I always had dreams of moving to the city, away from my racist and close-minded neighbours. I wanted to be an author, so I studied creative writing and journalism at University and spent three years freelancing, writing brand pieces and blog posts for companies, and working on my own novels, before landing a job as a Higher Education Consultant and designing university degrees. In the six months I kept this job I designed an entire accounting degree by myself, despite never having even looked at an accounting textbook beforehand. By the end of the six months I was somewhat of a glorified copy-editor and mostly worked on writing out policies and answers that matched what the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Association (TEQSA) deemed each degree presented must abide by. I was one of the first people to write out the answer to a three-tiered question presented by TEQSA for 2018 applications made by universities, to ensure all new degrees fit alongside current market demand. My manager had a PhD in Computer Science from Oxford. On paper that all sounds brilliant, in reality I was paid exactly minimum wage for my hours, and on a casual contract with no sick leave, holidays or overtime. It was my first real job and while I found it brilliantly educational, I was also still broke to the point that sometimes overdrawing my PayPal account was the only way for me to get groceries. I was still only earning about $100 more per month than when I had been on student benefits.
I also wanted to create my own job. As a writer I had always been highly entrepreneurial and creative. I wanted to create my own business even if that meant pulling eighteen hour days, six days a week. I wanted a book deal. I wanted to finish my novel and have it take off. Whenever I came home from work, and before I left, I would sit at my desk and try to write. The thing was, I’d been suffering from tendinitis for five years and my job, as a copy editor/researcher (whatever I was, really) left me in constant burning pain, often awake til past 3am, in tears from the pain that radiated down the left side of my body.
So, one day I said, ‘fuck this, I’m becoming a stripper.’
The specifics of dancing aren’t part of this story. In short the reason I became a stripper is this: I’m never going to be twenty-four again (I turn twenty-five next week). Logically, to work 2-3 days per week, making well above the average wage for even someone in a middle management position, and still have the time, energy, and physical ability to work hard AF on my dreams, makes more sense than subsidizing those dreams to earn minimum wage for the next five years. Yes, my parents know, yes they’re okay with it, and yes they think it’s a bit weird, but not enough for it to change their opinion of me as a person.
A lot goes into dancing, a lot of work and effort, and I respect the hell out of my stripper fore mothers, but that’s still not the point of this story. The point here is to relay the reality of stripping against what many of us have been taught about the ‘sad stripper’ trope, the idea that sex work is always a last-out option, and the ‘seedy’ strip club, and even that pseudo-open minded idea that, ‘Well I don’t know what happened in her life for her to get here,’ idea, that is still a judgement created from archaic concepts and media headlines. Rather than the empirical evidence that can only be acquired after at least a few months in the industry. So that, my friends, is why I became a stripper – because earning more money with less days at work, still able to work on my own business, seemed like a better trade-off than working to build someone else’s dream company. A company I had never thought about late at night as a child, excited for the day it would become a reality.