You are on page 1of 6

Norton 1

Colleen Norton
Professor Brian Goedde
April 6, 2015
The Stripper Myth: Busted.
As his audience roars with laughter, comedian, Chris Rock exclaims, Theres a stripper
myth thats being perpetuated through society. The myth is, Im strippin to pay my tuition. No
youre not! Theres no strippers in college! Although Rock claims, theres no clear heels in
biology, is it really true that exotic dancers are incapable of achieving college degrees? Are the
late nights, platform heels, and stacks of cash strictly reserved for the classes of single mothers,
drug addicts, and sexual deviants? Most importantly, who are these women of the night who are
willing to bear-all to get by? Through my research of the multi-billion dollar strip club industry, I
have concluded that Rocks stripper myth is nothing more than a myth itself. The women who
spend their evenings climbing the pole are not only capable of climbing corporate ladders and
receiving diplomas, but are also well-integrated members of society, regardless of the social
stigmas placed on them by their job title.
A typical entry-level or minimum wage job may require a high school diploma, a
background check, and a formal interview from prospective employees. Few, if any,
requirements are necessary for women who wish to find work as an exotic dancer, thus making it
easy to walk in, audition, and begin making money all within the same night. By working as
independent contractors rather than employees, dancers are capable of creating their own work
schedules, enjoying limitless earnings, and the ability to entertain at a variety of establishments.

Norton 2

The benefits and flexibility dancing offers makes it a one-of-a-kind job opportunity for students
who wish to claim their financial independence, break free from a ramen-noodle diet, and still be
able to put in whatever necessary focus required for school. A study provided by the Economic
and Social Research Council at University of Leeds concluded that of the 197 dancers
interviewed, one-third were currently attending school while 23% had already achieved an
undergraduate degree. The researchers who recorded their findings, Dr. Teela Sanders and Dr.
Kate Hardy, chose to not only interview dancers for their study, but also club owners, managers,
as well as law enforcement and other regulating bodies to find the best information in regards to
the truth behind adult entertainers. Dr. Sanders herself has greatly focused her studies on the sex
industry and its workers and, along with Dr. Hardy, has authored other peer-reviewed articles
such as Participation in Sex Work: Students Views and Flexible Workers: Labour, Regulation
and Mobility in Lap Dancing. As their studies have concluded that many dancers are,
motivated by the opportunity for future mobility, its evident that the decision to become an
exotic dancer is not a result of hitting a dead end; rather, it is a journey down the road less
traveled to a brighter tomorrow. Common stereotypes associated with exotic dancers exist likely
as a result of cultural influences such as rap music and the portrayal of strippers in movies and
television. The popular belief that dancers are unintelligent, gold-diggers with a background of
sexual abuse and drug addiction may really only speak for a very minute fraction of those in the
industry. In order to shine light on the sociocultural diversity of women involved in the industry,
Lacey Sloan of University of Southern Maine, a former dancer herself, grouped strippers into
various categories based on their own individual backgrounds and motivations. Of these the
dubbed group of nonconformists were defined as those who had chosen to live alternative
lifestyles and had seeked out a career in exotic dancing to do just that. Many were of upper-

Norton 3

middle class upbringing, were college-educated, and made the decision to ditch their privilege
and resources to enter a stigmatized profession in exchange for platform heels (Sloan, 27).
Alongside those who had chosen to march to the beat of their own drum, the workers were
those of whom had danced full-time based on the opportunity the job offered for ultimate
financial benefits and freedoms. This category consisted of mostly working-class, high school
graduates who independently supported themselves and their families. Sloan also concludes that
few, if any, dancers are actually forced to dance due to economic desperation, drug addiction,
and/or pressure from a third party, thus proving that the stripper image painted by society is
one that is extremely unfair and flawed (Sloan, 21). Based on her time in the industry as well as
fifteen years entrenched in the feminist debate over sex work, Sloan is certainly a reliable
source of information and insight into the lives of the women who dance for money.
According to ABC News, with college bills up to $60,000 a year, todays grads are often
saddled with crushing debt (Chang, The G-String Scholarship: Students Strip to Pay for
College) In his article, The G-String Scholarship: Students Strip to Pay for College, JuJu
Chang interviews Maggie, a dancer and straight-A student, studying to become an international
affairs lawyer. Claiming to make about $180,000 a year and only working 4 nights a week at
Scores in Manhattan, Maggie shares that she has greatly paid down on her student debt and the
flexibility of her schedule has afforded her plenty of time to focus on earning her degree.
[People] assume that we're damaged and it's like, no, we just want to make three times the
amount of money we're going to make when we graduate, before we graduate. Thats why Im
trying to save now, Maggie states, defending the job that has enabled her with the financial
freedoms to pursue her dreams (Chang). The raw, first-hand interviews from dancers like Maggie
make this article a compelling piece of commentary that supports the belief that dancers are

Norton 4

capable of achieving college degrees that lead to distinguished, high-earning jobs such as one in
law. On its website, Mynx Cabaret of Hartford, CT claims itself to be a leader in adult
entertainment. In a personal email, the clubs manager, Chris Cheng, insists that, The stigma
on dancers is false. Not all girls are prostitutes. Not all of them are cocaine or heroin addicts.
There are girls all over the country who dance for the empowerment of controlling men. Cheng
is extremely passionate about his position at the gentlemans club, even considering many
entertainers, both past and present, as friends while demanding that they are treated like human
beings and not a piece of ass. With over six years of experience in the industry as a bar-back,
bouncer, and manager, Chris has, in his own words, seen it all and heard every story from every
possible angle. This goes to show that in his experience, the occasional encounter with the
stereotypical stripper are few and far between.
A journal titled Motivations by Professional Strippers by Lisa Monchalin chose to
cover the external rewards of stripping as well as the motivations to striping besides just
economic. By observing conversations taking place over an online message board, the source
concluded that, the data revealed that motivations other than economic rewards do indeed exist.
Non-monetary motivations include an array of different motivations for stripping. These
motivations are pride, a strong work ethic, enjoyment, and the sense of power felt while
stripping While this factual evidence may in fact be true, I find myself unable to accept this
academic research as a credible source of information due to the lack of communication in which
Monchalin actually had with her subjects. The article itself is even quick to identify its
shortcomings, noting that, using web-based data from a message board constrains the researcher
to examining only what is published there and may not make inferences about abstract elements,
such as sarcasm. Because of the unobtrusive nature of the research design, the study was only

Norton 5

able to scratch the surface of the exotic dancing industry. While attempting to find first-hand
accounts of those involved in the industry is a crucial key to gaining only the best information
possible, its important to note that some data collection resources have proven stronger than
others of its kind.
In conclusion, its been proven that the belief in which exotic dancers are unable or
unwilling to achieve college degrees or find other work is completely and entirely false.
According to both factual evidence as well as commentary from those in the sex industry, these
women are just as intelligent and capable of realizing and reaching their dreams as much as any
woman who does not dance. However, as receiving an education does not guarantee a job upon
graduation, it would be interesting to find studies or additional commentary in regards to the
transition from sex-work to work outside the sex industry. Maybe in the end, if Chris Rock was
looking for the smart lap dance he claims to have never gotten, chances are he just didnt ask
the right dancer.

Norton 6

Works Cited
Chang, JuJu. "The G-String Scholarship: Students Strip to Pay for College." ABC30 Fresno.
ABC Inc, 19 May 2014. Web. 06 Apr. 2015.
Cheng, Chris. "The Stripper Myth." Message to the author. 07 Apr. 2015. E-mail.
Monchalin, Lisa, "Motivations of Professional Strippers" (2006). Master's Theses and Doctoral
Dissertations. Paper 2.
Sanders, Teela, and Kate Hardy. "The Regulatory Dance: Sexual Consumption in the Night Time
Economy." University of Leeds Economic and Social Research Council 42.3 (2008): 40017. University of Leeds, 1 Apr. 2001. Web. 6 Apr. 2015.
Sloan, Lacey, and Stphanie Wahab. "Four Categories Of Women Who Work As Topless
Dancers." Sexuality & Culture 8.1 (2004): 18-43. Academic Search Premier. Web. 8 Apr.