FEBRUARY 19, 2018
How old are you?
Where are you from originally?
I’m from a small town in Louisiana like an hour and a half away from here.
How long have you been here?
Almost 11 years. I moved here the month after I turned 18.
On a whim?
No, I always knew. My mom always took me to New Orleans when I was a kid. She had three kids and our special thing was coming here. We would just walk around aimlessly wandering looking at pretty things. She knew from very early on that this is where I would land and she was right. And she dropped me off. She moved me down here.
Why are you still here?
It’s the best and easiest place for me to be myself. I also don’t like big cities. They overwhelm me a lot and I feel very disconnected from other people. I like that here I can’t go anywhere without seeing somebody I know which is very much like my hometown. But the people here are better and I’m actually happy to see them everywhere I go. New Orleans is so close to my roots and my home and yet so far away. Geographically I am still in my Cajun heritage and easily accessible which is really important to me but I don’t have to live with the negative stuff that comes from living in a small town in Louisiana.
How do you refer to your work? There’s a lot of different terminologies for what you do.
I am a sex worker but that’s an umbrella term for so many other things. I identify as a sex worker and a stripper.
How often do you tell people what you do?
Almost all the time. Unless I’m in that hometown space or a family space, I tell everybody. I have no shame. I used to work a very different job and I’m more ashamed to tell people about that than what I do now.
Why is that?
Because it was terrible. And I’m really proud of being a sex worker. It’s the best job I’ve ever had and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made for my life.
I used to work in the film industry and I did that for five years. It’s what I wanted to do, I went to school for it, I got in right off the bat, I climbed the ladder, I was very successful. But it was misery for me. The people are not nice and you just have to deal with it so you end up being not nice because you’re in an environment where everybody is under such extreme pressure. Have you talked to anyone from the film industry yet?
That’ll be a good one. Talk about sexism. I felt owned by my employers. I felt forced to do things that I would never ever do on my own. Physically difficult things. Emotionally difficult things. Mentally difficult things. And all the while, I’m in an incredibly sexist environment. And that’s the film industry.
It’s ironic to me because there are a great many people, my former self included, who think those things of the sex industry and of sex workers.
That’s the reason I describe my old job that way because people will automatically assume that’ I’m talking about my current situation but in my current situation...it’s really hard to get people to understand this: I have friends that I’ve known for ten years and now that I’m a sex worker, they don’t get it. I can sit down and tell them a million times that it’s great but they don’t believe me. Everybody thinks that it’s the other way, that it's forced and it’s coerced and it’s miserable and you must have some problem if you’re doing it. But in reality, I had a problem before. In that old job, I was mentally ill by the time I was finished. I can’t hold a regular job anymore because I suffer from severe depression and so sex work is perfect for me because I work whenever I want to and I don’t whenever I don’t. My experience is totally different now. I work for myself. If I’m in a situation that I don’t like at the strip club, I walk away or I decide that I’m going to punish that person for being mean to me by taking all of their money.
Do you feel comfortable saying where you work or have worked?
I worked at Barely Legal on Bourbon Street for three years. That was the place I started. And then earlier this year I got a contract at Temptations to try to mix it up but I don’t work there anymore because it’s been shut down permanently after the raids.
Tell me about your experience with the raids.
Every stripper does this thing where they’re on the fence before their shift. Am I going to get ready and go to work or am I not? And I decided not to go. And we started getting messages and reports from girls that so many clubs were getting raided. So all of the BARE girls got in the same car and went down there and stalked outside the clubs waiting for people to come out. They kept girls in there for a long time and wouldn’t let them leave. We staked out in groups outside of each club that was being raided and tried to talk to girls that were coming and making sure that if anybody did get arrested that they had legal support. But after Temptations got raided I didn’t go to Barely Legal for a while because I figured they would be next and they were. It made me afraid to go to work which I have never been ever. I love going to work. It broke my heart. There were so many amazing women of color that I worked with [at Temptations] and I can’t find them. I don’t know where they are. I have asked around at different clubs and I don’t know where they ended up. Who knows?
I’m so sorry.
How did you get your start in sex work?
I worked on a particularly shitty TV show and it was so bad and it crushed me so much. There was one day where I literally threw my hands up in the air and I said to myself, I’m too great for this. A friend of mine was working at Barely Legal and I was going in as a customer because I love strippers and they kept telling me that I may as well work there. I did an amateur night that they did every Wednesday. I danced one song and I won $500 and a job.
When you were growing up, do you remember being told or taught anything about the societal expectations of you as a girl?
I grew up in the kind of environment where the men stayed very separate from the women especially at family occasions. The women would be around the dining room table and in the kitchen and the men would be watching football or outside talking about guns. They didn’t even have to tell you to be separate, it just was that way. I had girl cousins who were more into boyish things and they were given a really hard time and then I had male cousins who wanted to hang out with the girls and they were also given a really hard time.
Can you define sexism?
I think it’s someone treating you differently based on their perceived gender role for you then they would someone of a different gender. Differently and usually poorly, right?
How does being treated in a sexist way make you feel?
Oh, it makes me mad. It’s visceral. I get so mad especially now that I know what it is. Growing up I wasn’t always so sensitive to it but I think once I went to college and took some Women’s Studies classes and now I have this group of friends where that shit does not fly at all. It’s a gender-fluid community. Nobody discriminates against anyone for their chosen gender or the gender that they were assigned. I never experienced sexism from any of the people I work with. My fellow entertainers, my management, bartenders, hospitality, security: I have never experienced sexism from any of those people at my club. It happens with the customers every night. But now when I experience it with a customer, it delights me in a weird way. I know they think that they know better or they think that I am less than them because I am a woman and I am a sex worker but I actually have all the power. They’re the ones paying and it makes them feel very powerful but they don’t understand that I’m the predator in that situation and it’s delightful.
Why do you think there is such a discrepancy between the way strip clubs and sex work is viewed to people who aren’t in that line of work to how it actually is?
People have done such a good job at upholding stigma. It’s because people continue to portray sex workers in the media without having any actual knowledge or understanding of the job. People think being a stripper means being a dead body on an NCIS show because that’s what people see. They don’t see other depictions. It’s important for those negative aspects to be visible because that is the reality for some sex workers but it shouldn’t be the only thing. But then that would be boring, right? I am going to work later but until then I am sweeping up after my cats and doing the dishes. It’s not that exciting, so why would people want to portray us in the media if it’s not sensational?
Do you always notice when people are acting in a sexist way?
I do now. It’s really hard when I go back home because it’s hard to teach them otherwise. Here I exist in a nice bubble where the only people who treat me in a sexist way are people I don’t know because I don’t allow people who behave like that to interact with me. Once you do, you’re out. That’s the glory of being a sex worker because I used to not be able to do that. I used to have to work with these people: directors, producers, any man on set at any time could and would harass me in any way. But now, I don’t have to ever deal with that. When a customer is doing it, it’s different because they can’t hurt me.
Can you recall any lingering instances when you experienced sexist behavior against you?
There’s this thing that so many strip club customers do and it gets old. This one actually gets to me because they have this savior complex. Why are you doing this? You can do so much better. That was always makes me mad. You can’t explain to them any different because they’re not listening. They’re not paying attention. I’ve wasted energy before saying, No actually this is really good for me.
What’s the best thing about being a sex worker?
Everything. I make my own schedule. If I’m having a bad day, I don’t have to work. Who else gets to do that? The financial freedom is incredible. I could never make this much money working two days a week in any other job. I love working with other women who are also amazing beasts and queens. I also have a lot of sexual energy. That’s not the case with all sex workers but it is for me and I actually feel like I’m helping people a lot of the time. Some customers don’t get sexual touch in their everyday lives and I provide a safe way and comfortable way for them to get that. It’s the best job ever.
What’s the hardest part?
It’s just the stigma, that’s the only thing. Any difficult part of sex work is because of stigma. If you feel shame for what you’re doing, that’s because of stigma. If your family disowns you which happens to a lot of sex workers, that’s because of stigma. If someone commits violence against you because you’re a sex worker, that’s because of stigma. Stigma can be anything from people not understanding you to actually murdering you. But this is coming from a white, privileged sex worker. On the spectrum where people actually get hurt and killed, stigma affects us all but usually women or color and trans women who experience the brunt of that violence.
What are the biggest misconceptions about working in the sex industry?
That’s we’re all miserable and that we have to be doing it. Why do you have to do that? I don’t have to. Why do you have to be an accountant? That we’re all forced to be doing it and that we’re all damaged. They forget that as a woman, you can choose to have sex and you can also choose to do it for money. It’s pretty easy actually. Everybody’s had bad sex before but it’s really much better to have sex and get paid for it. Everybody’s had to deal with shitty men at their job but the difference is I get extra money for it.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
It’s always a good thing to talk to sex workers because so many people write things about us without talking to us first. It’s really easy to find people like me to talk to people like you: white, privileged, empowered, comfortable. That’s not the case for everybody. Whenever you want to be sex-positive and paint sex workers in a positive light, it’s easier to go with the stories that are about empowerment but that’s not everybody’s truth. Even in the strip clubs where women are working for themselves, it’s astonishing. I’ll go up on stage and I’m not good at dancing and I’m not good at pole tricks and I’ll get tons of tips while a woman of color who is the best pole dancer in the club gets on stage and the club clears out and nobody tips her.