Photo courtesy of Flickr user Kim S
When I started stripping in Los Angeles after college to avoid becoming a nine-to-five automaton, I thought I would bask under a rain of dollar bills every night. Instead, I found myself in a constant battle to avoid becoming a prostitute. San Fernando “Silicone” Valley, America’s porn capital, was right next door, and strippers regularly traded sex acts for extra tips, making it difficult for prude dancers like me to compete. Why would a guy spend $200 on a five-song dance when he could spend the same amount on a blowjob?
After a year of stripping in Los Angeles, I wondered if the same scenario happened everywhere, so I hit the road for a month-long tour of the finest and shittiest strip bars in the American West. Would I take home a decent wage? Would I still have to offer customers a line of coke off my ass as conciliation for refusing to suck their dicks? I was about to find out.
Photo courtesy of Yovany Alas
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
Las Vegas strip clubs were way worse than clubs on the Sunset Strip. Dubstep music prevented me from talking to clients, and hallucinogenic light projections obscured my vision. At Treasures Gentlemen's Club, which calls itself “the Most Luxurious Gentlemen's Club in the World,” the girls outnumbered the men. The second a girl left a dude’s lap, others flocked to him. When I did manage to sit on a guy, I felt like a dumb, blind sex object because guys routinely rubbed their hands on my skin, like flies attacking honey.
In this all-the-ladies-you-can-eat buffet scenario, guys wanted to sample everything. After I convinced guys to buy me drinks to keep me numb throughout the hustling process, I sold as many single $20 dances as I could. I was in hustling hell, and most nights, after house-fee deductions, I barely broke even. Sometimes sales were so slow, I looked to capitalize on other commodities. A $10 drink instead of a dance? Count me in. A bump of coke in the bathroom? Sure. I thought I might as well get my rocks off if I wasn’t going to make any money.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Portland claims to have the highest density of strip clubs per capita in the nation, and dancers praise the city for being a haven for “alternative” dancers on stripperweb.com’s Portland threads. Unlike Vegas and LA, most Portland clubs don’t discriminate against hiring girls with facial piercings or unshaved pussies—the first night I worked at Casa Diablo, the world’s alleged first vegan strip joint, girls fucked each other with strap-ons.
These girl-on-girl shows definitely inspired guys to give dancers big tips—in private booths, guys wanted to experience girl-on-girl action. Casa Diablo is famous for its friction dances (fully nude lap dances), and men wanted their money’s worth. “Well, I don’t want alone time necessarily,” one customer told me. “Which one of these girls do you wanna play with for me?” Casa Diablo enforced a strict no-touching-private-parts policy, so I regularly found myself in a back booth hovering over another girl to create the illusion that we were fucking. Tips often correlated with the intensity of our moans.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
The Fox Club Cabaret is the best place I have ever stripped. Dancers undulated from the top of the stage’s 20-foot pole like Cirque Du Soleil performers, and the club's cabaret setup lent it class. Although beer-guzzling college guys often hollered at the strippers, a few loners lounged in the dark corners.
“I haven’t had sex with anyone but my girlfriend of 15 years,” a loner told me one night. He and his lady friend were exploring the possibility of an open relationship, but he rarely looked up at the nude acrobatics on stage. When I caught his gaze, he became tense. “Maybe I’d like to take you home later,” he blurted out. “I have $300 to spare.”
Knowing that getting him to spend that money on dances instead would take some convincing, I observed my other options: cheap college boys and other quiet, nice guys. I decided to stay with him and ask him questions about his life.
After I made him laugh a few times, I asked if he might want to try getting a floor dance to see if we had chemistry. He sheepishly agreed and then backed his chair up against the wall away from the lights. As I pushed my hips into his, he kept his hands stiff at his sides. This was either because he was timid or because Fox Club is known for running a clean ship. (The house mom regularly patrols hallways looking for runaway hands.) When the song finished, he quickly handed me $20, as if he was closing a tab, but then he lingered in the chair, looked up, and said, “One more.”
All the one-mores added up to more than his $300 offer for sex, and his hands stayed at his sides the whole time. “I like you a lot,” he said as he left. “Thanks for letting me experience something new tonight.”