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Enter at Your Own Risk: How to Decide if You Really Want to be a Stripper
A former stripper gives young women the DL on taking clothes off for cash

In these uncertain economic times, and with strip clubs like Windsor’s Leopard’s Lounger and Broil enticing young dancers with promises of tuition and rent payments, a woman may find herself curious about stripping– even if she’s never imagined taking her clothes off for cash before.

You may be trying hard to look past your preconceptions of strippers; maybe you’ve even made fun of women in the adult entertainment business. But now here you are–wondering just what it’s really like to dance nude in a strip club. You’ve even skimmed the Adult Help Wanted section of your alternative weekly newspaper out of “curiosity.” You’ve joked to your significant other that maybe you should become a stripper, and while he chuckled at the idea, you were secretly wondering what was so funny.

IOr maybe you’re thinking about stripping because you’ve heard stories about women putting themselves through college by stripping a few nights a week and you’re thinking, hey, if they can do it, why not me?

There are lots of reasons why a young woman may contemplate becoming a stripper. Whatever your reasons, you probably have a lot of questions about what the business is really like. Sure, you’ve surfed the Internet in search of forums, you’ve browsed stripper blogs, and you’ve even rented Showgirls a few times, but you’re wondering what the truth is behind the fiction.

You may have questions like: Are high-end gentlemen’s clubs in the city as glamorous as I’ve heard? Will my local dive-club be dangerous and demeaning? Will I be expected to perform “extras” for the managers? Is leaving the stripping world as difficult as some say?

I worked in the business for a decade and experienced the full range of strip club environments and situations. Today, as a writer and speaker, I’ve also taken a lot of time to revisit my past to understand my motivations and the deeper meanings of my experiences.

My goal is not to convince you one way or the other to enter or not enter the adult entertainment business–I want to give you the questions I think most necessary to mull over before you decide if stripping will be a healthy lifestyle choice for yourself or if you should keep your exotic shows for your partner’s eyes only.

When I first started stripping in 1989, the Internet didn’t exist. Now there are a multitude of virtual peeks into the strip club world available to you in memoirs, magazines, and strip club reviews. I went into my first club with no idea of what to expect. I’m not sure I would have become a stripper if I had had the kind of knowledge at my fingertips that is available now to you. Take advantage of the fact that you can know what to expect before you make such an important decision in your life.

Stripping is a job that will impact your life on many levels. As much as you may like to think you are strong enough not to be affected by certain negative influences, there is no way to become a stripper without coming face-to-face with serious issues.

Don’t get me wrong–I’ve seen many happy exotic dancers who enjoyed the job. But for every at-peace-with-being-a-stripper woman, there are dozens who regret their decision. And many continue to suffer the repercussions years after they leave the business.

I am not here to judge. I believe in freedom of choice for everyone and that there are some women who will never regret their decision to be a stripper. But why go into something without examining the facts? Be as prepared as you can be so if you decide to move forward with becoming a stripper, you will be able to remain as healthy as possible.

The most important questions to consider before you decide to audition are:

  • Why do you think you want to become a stripper?

There are many different stories of why women become strippers–maybe you’re telling friends you want to be a stripper for the fast cash, but inside you’re hoping to be discovered and become a Playmate of the Year. Other motivations may include your desire for a flexible schedule and a hoped-for feeling of empowerment. Deeper, and often hidden, motivations include the desire for attention, love, and a feeling of specialness.

Understanding your motivations for entering the adult entertainment business can help you figure out if this really is the right job for you. If I had stopped and thought about my motivations I might have realized I was actually running away from responsibility, being self-destructive, and hiding from the possibility of failure as an actress by becoming a stripper. If I had asked myself seriously why I wanted to be a stripper, I may have made a different choice.

  • How do you think being a stripper might affect your future?

I don’t recommend making decisions based on what you think others may think of you in the future, but it is an issue to be considered. If you don’t feel good enough now about your job choice and you think you might have to lie someday to a potential mate or employer, then you definitely have some thinking to do.

I imagine I will always deal with my past career in my relationships. I’ve accepted that I will be processing and making sense of things. Are you prepared for that same possibility?

  • Do you think you possess the right skills for the job? 

A job as an exotic dancer requires some necessary traits and skills. If you have a decent bikini body then you’ll most likely be able to get hired. If you feel confident in your own skin, if you feel sexy, if you can exude that sense of a healthy body image, then the men will more than likely see you through the same lens that you do.

More important than your looks is a positive attitude. A woman who can go onstage and radiate a sense of feeling beautiful, wanting to be where she is, and enjoying her job will make the customers feel and believe all this, too. If you’re going to be a stripper you have to be able to at least “act” the part of a sexy woman on stage. Even if you don’t feel fabulous on a certain day, you still have to be able to get up there and convince the customers that you are having a good time and like dancing for them.

  • Are you prepared for the emotional, physical and moral difficulties involved?

The physical toll of stripping may surprise you. Dancing in stiletto heels all night will take its toll. There are lots of opportunities to twist an ankle or pull a tendon as you swirl around on four-inch heels, but the real potential for injury is more emotional.

The emotional toll experienced by strippers is threefold: the stress you experience on the job, the stress you experience after you go home, and the residual emotional wear and tear you experience even after you have left the stripping life behind you.

I probably don’t need to tell you about the risk of addictions as a stripper: alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, fast money, disordered eating and the need for attention.

Evaluate yourself well in terms of these possible risks. You know yourself best and you are the person to decide how much risk you are willing to allow into your life.

  • Have you considered the people in your life? 

The most intelligent approach you can take toward the people in your life is to be honest with them and give them a chance to voice their feelings. Our past relationships can also affect how well we’ll be able to function as a stripper.

If you’re in a healthy romantic relationship, hopefully it won’t be difficult for you to share your intentions with your partner. If you have close girlfriends I suggest discussing your job plans with them. They know you well and you will probably hear them out better than you will family members. Listen to what they have to say. Ask for their opinions. You want as much information to make this decision as possible.

  • How do you really feel about stripping? 

As much as some people would like us all to have the same morals, conforming to the same standards of what is right in behavior, how we act is an individual decision. There is nothing inherently wrong about stripping. It’s legal. If you are staying true to your own morals, then there is nothing wrong with what you are doing. The most important idea to keep in mind is that you let no one else dictate to you what it means to be a stripper. In the end, what is most important is being true to yourself.

  • What are your long-term goals in life? Might these be affected by you being a stripper?

Setting concrete goals in writing is the key to achieving those goals and knowing when you have reached them. I have mixed feelings about anyone going to college if that person doesn’t feel motivated to go. When I was eighteen, I think if I had been pressured into going, I would not have done well because my heart would not have been in it. But if you have a club willing to pay your tuition? That’s a great incentive.

You won’t be able to be a stripper forever. Having a college degree will simply open up more doors for you. And when you reach the point when you are ready to quit stripping, have an exit strategy for yourself. Tell a friend when you are ready to leave the profession and have her or him keep you true to your promise. It’s too easy to say you’re going to quit, but then flake out when you realize you can’t live without the fast cash.

Considering these basic questions can help you to understand your motivations, strengths, and possible weaknesses that will impact your survival in the business–and beyond.

Examine your thoughts and let them sink in. Take your time to do this–do not rush the process.

Good luck with your final decision-making process. Whatever choice you make regarding your future as a stripper, I hope that you are happy with your decision and that you, above all else, remain true to yourself.

____

Sheila Hageman is a Women’s Empowerment Speaker, Author and Teacher. She is also the author of STRIPPING DOWN: A Memoir and THE POLE POSITION: Is Stripping for You?. Follow her on Twitter @SheilaMHageman

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