DECEMBER 4, 2018

How old are you?

29. At work I’m 25 or 26, depends on the customer.

Where are you from originally?          

Dallas, Texas.

What brought you to New Orleans?

I always wanted to live here and had friends here. I had started dancing in New York and it was a good vehicle for coming to New Orleans. I knew I would have a job here and could live well. I love it, it’s hard to leave. I am planning to go back to New York next year probably because there are more opportunities outside of dancing there. I need a little bit more hustle and bustle in my life. But it’s going to be so hard to leave. I am even considering keeping a small room here and popping back and forth.

In terms of dancing, that is the view of New Orleans from outside the city?

I mostly got my intel from a forum for dancers online. It was not romanticized, it was pretty accurate. But also, they were just very similar.

How do you refer to your work?

Stripping or sex working.

Why that terminology over others?

It’s factual. I’m stripping. I don’t really say ‘dancer’. I don’t use euphemisms or try to pass myself off as just a dancer. 

How did you get your start?

I started in Brooklyn in a little titty bar. It wasn’t even a real strip club. There was like a little area cordoned off with a curtain for lap dances. It was in an industrial part of Brooklyn that got a lot of truckers and hipsters. It was interesting. It was a good way to wade in as a baby stripper.

Do you like it?

I do. I like this job. It allows me a lot of freedom which is the main thing. But the work itself is something I enjoy. We just socialize and party and dance. It’s a good way to make a living. I’m a social person anyway and I thought I would be well-suited for it and I was right.

When you were growing up, do you remember being told or taught anything about what it meant to be a girl and the expectations that came with that?

I was lucky enough that my parents had the attitude that I could do anything that a boy could do. They made me aware of sexism but there was never an expectation that I would limit myself because I was a woman. Except my mom is very whorephobic and she does talk down about sex workers so there was the expectation that I would limit myself from doing sex work. It is misogyny. Whorephobia is just a form of misogyny. Ironically, that was my only gendered expectation from my parents. 

Can you define sexism?

It’s having different expectations for people based on gender or restricting people based on gender. Marginalizing basically non-men based on gender. It is reinforcing the world order that puts cis men at the top. That’s sexism.

How does being treated in a sexist way make you feel?

Um, not great. (laughter) I don’t take it personally because I know it’s not personal but it’s really frustrating. It’s such a waste. It’s a waste of everyone’s time. It sucks for the world to limit women in this meaningless way, in this absolutely silly, unnecessary, harmful way. The world would be so much more interesting and people, women in particular, would be doing so much more. It’s frustrating.

Do you always notice when someone is acting in a sexist way?

Not always. I have definitely had experiences where at the time it didn’t occur to me. That’s because I don’t think of myself as other and I don’t treat people differently based on their gender. I have had experiences where I go into it expecting to be treated equally and then I’m not. But what else can I expect? I know sexist people are everywhere and that my life experience is affected by sexism but I can’t live my whole life with that attitude. 

Can you recall any specific instances when you experienced sexist behavior against yourself that may have stuck with you?

Honestly what upsets me the most is when you make friends—or so you think—with a guy and then you start to realize that he doesn’t treat you like he treats his male friends. Those are his real friends and you’re just there because he’s hoping one day you’re going to have sex with him. That’s what I have found to be most reoccurring as a woman and that is what is the most frustrating day to day.

What is the best part about your job?

That I get paid more for my time than I would in most other areas of the service industry. It’s also really fun and you meet really cool people. Your colleagues are from all walks of life. You get everyone, it’s a great mixed bag of different personalities and different backgrounds. It’s the most diverse pool of employees of any kind of job I have ever worked in. I like that. I like meeting people who are not all the same. And you meet cool customers too sometimes.

What’s the hardest part?

The hardest part is that there is not great job security. That’s probably toughest. People come in with expectations that are just not accurate and it can be hard to deal with those customers but the cool thing is that ultimately, you don’t have to. You can just walk away. It’s not like any other job in that way. If you have a shitty customer while you’re waitressing, you still have to deal with them and serve them the whole way through and take abuse basically and they’ll probably tip you poorly at the end of it. But at the club, if I have a shitty customer, I walk away and spend my time elsewhere more fruitfully and I don’t have to deal with it. It has actually been something that has made me take better care of myself in my day to day life as well.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about the industry as a whole?

The public image, the popular conception of a sex worker is so skewed. First of all, the idea that it’s a certain type of person is crazy because it is so diverse. This industry has the greatest diversity of people in it and yet, there’s the idea that there is one type of person that does sex work and that she’s stupid and catty and not doing anything [with her life]. People don’t look at us as fully formed human beings and that is wrong. They’re wrong. We’re people. The narrowness of the popular conception of sex workers is so off base. The idea that we all hate our jobs and are crying alone at night is so wildly wrong. I have never hated one of my jobs less than this. I work in [video] production sometimes and I love it. It suits me well and I really enjoy it but it’s a lot of hard work for not a lot of money. Whenever I am on a particularly long shoot, I break down crying before I shake myself off and keep going. But I don’t ever cry from dancing.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I want to talk about why I think people hate sex workers. I used to waitress in New York City and it was grueling. I was working really hard and I wasn’t making enough money. I was paying my rent and that was it. I was working in a restaurant and I was starving. I avoided dancing for so long even though it interested me. I was amazed with it but was steeped in that stigma and my mom’s attitude. You may be starving but at least you’re not on the pole. I wish I had started so much sooner. I would’ve saved myself so much grief. When I was waitressing, it was terrible. I was mistreated constantly while I was at work. It was very sexist. That was where I was more degraded for my gender than my current job where I am celebrated for it. I switched to dancing and it saved my life. It made my life so much better and gave me the resources to actually live well and I was able to take care of myself properly for the first time in my adulthood. I came from an underprivileged background and couldn’t afford to go to school. I wish I had started dancing then because by now I’d be getting my PhD. Once I started dancing, I leapt ahead by leaps and bounds. I think that’s why most people hate sex workers. Sex work makes it really easy to get ahead and society is mad about that because we’re supposed to be happy with what the ruling class has allotted for us and we’re not supposed to advance ourselves but we do. We also generally have more agency over our bodies than women who have accepted the patriarchal expectations and conditioning and society hates that as well.