“They’re destroying the industry by creating a labour shortage,” said association director Tim Lambrinos. “The word exotic means foreign, and that’s what people want to see.”
The association has created a “six-point action plan” to help keep the dancers in Canada. The plan includes more recruitment of women in high schools and colleges, lobbying the government for changes, and if all else fails, the strippers plan to file refugee claims or marry Canadian citizens to sponsor them.
Lambrinos says girls 18 and older can work as dancers in Ontario according to advice from their lawyers.
He said recruiters from strip clubs will try to attract students by attending job fairs at high schools, colleges and universities in Toronto and surrounding areas.
“We are already doing some outreach work in some areas,” Lambrinos said. “We will be taking a strippers’ dance pole with us to the schools.”
Today looks like this:
My car is ready to be picked up and then I’m picking up Regan to finally go see Magic Mike! but I can’t move yet. Too busy drinking coffee, googling baby sloths (“Baby sloth text”, which I thought might turn up some LOLSloths instead yields a surprisingly high amount of Veronica Mars pictures and references. And while I’m on that topic, my summer vacation is being seriously disturbed by the lack of working videos on thewb.com. They all stop early in the episodes and skip to the next. It’s tragic! So tragic that I’m actually going to buy it on itunes) and reading.
Today’s reading, interesting enough to put off the reunion with my beloved car:
(I’m very slowly working my way through a backlog of articles on Nabokov and exile, and looking for more.)
“According to SlutWalk’s website, the event is slated to be reproduced in Argentina sometime this year. It’s the country I was born and raised in, among Spanish, Guaraní and Portuguese speakers – and I can assure you that the word “slut” is not used by anyone there. This is not what we need. I do not want white English-speaking Global North women telling Spanish-speaking Global South women to “reclaim” a word that is foreign to our own vocabulary. To do so would be hegemonic, and would illustrate the ways in which Global North “feminists” have become a tool of cultural imperialism. I will be going back home in about a month, and want to do so without feeling the power of white women bearing down on me from 6,000 miles away. We’ve got our own issues to deal with in South America; we do not need to become poster children to try to make you feel better about yours.”
“There’s more than escapism going on here. Why do we seek out these hard places for our fantasy vacations? Because on some level, we recognize and claim those disasters as our own. We seek out hard places precisely because our lives are hard. When you read genre fiction, you leave behind the problems of reality — but only to re-encounter those problems in transfigured form, in an unfamiliar guise, one that helps you understand them more completely, and feel them more deeply. Genre fiction isn’t just generic pap. You don’t read it to escape your problems, you read it to find a new way to come to terms with them.”
Fuck, I love Lev Grossman. So much. This much:
Next tattoo, Abigail the sloth?
The incredibly leisurely drinking of coffee in my underwear is my most important morning ritual. One which my neighbour, on an agitated and peripatetic phone call that has ended in him mostly stationed outside my open living room window, is interfering with. I want to tell him normally this view would cost him 2 dollars for every three minutes but more than that I want him to find some place else for his noisy phone call.
Regan is out for a month adjusting to her boob job. She’s living her dream! Work is less hilarious and more tedious without her, and I have to find a new partner when I hustle bachelor parties and two girl dances. (On the bright side, when she’s back I think her boobs will be a big selling point with bachelors and birthday parties, so that’s something to look forward to.)
She went out in a blaze of glory, however, winning the honour of Most Dances Sold in June, I think with 189 dances (I had 130-something), and sharing the honour of Most Dances in a Single Night (29) with me.
The thing about having a lap dance partner in crime is that a lot of guys have a short attention span. They get three or six or nine dances from you, and then suddenly their attention wanders, and they want fresh meat. They say, “Later, give me 20 minutes,” and before you can win them back over someone in furry legwarmers is pulling them back into the lap dance room. Sometimes we can bounce the same guy back and forth, or, if the guy is really feeling wild, get a two girl show. That way we both win. And she’s a mildly judgmental prude like me, so the fake lesbian thing is (yessss) off the table. I don’t think Regan believed me that guys would just go for a two girl dance that wasn’t frisky until she actually saw me sell a few with Shawna and Autumn. She laughed her ass off the first time (so did Shawna and I. I laughed so hard I fell over the customer’s feet and went down in a graceless heap, while Shawna distracted him by shoving her boobs in his face) and told us “That was the worst dance I’ve ever seen.” But having performative cunnilingus happen in their lap isn’t every man’s dream. (thank god. Or I would be out of a job)
The last Friday in June I got out of the dance room and went to find my next customer. He looked uncomfortable, no, he did not want a dance any more. He bobbed his head awkwardly and I mentally cursed whoever got in there while I was busy. Fine, fine, I turned away from him and walked into a pudgy bespectacled man who said eagerly, “I want a dance!”
It was so ideal and soothing. I beamed at him and led him to my favourite booth.
Cut to 1.30 am and I’m exhausted but not about to stop. Regan and I have spent the whole night back and forth with that same guy, until a few songs ago, when he decided to simplify things and just get us both back there. Regan made me take off my shoes, which I don’t normally do, in case I stab her hand while clambering up the chair as we maneuver around each other. The guy is nice, but he talks a lot. And I’m getting so tired I’m not even sure what’s coming out of my mouth any more.
I purr into his ear. Regan, on his other ear, has to turn her head away for laughing. She just found out about this when I told her about Plaid Shirt Who Doesn’t Like Cats and she can’t believe that anything that cheesy has a success rate. Our current customer smiles, “Do that again!”
I can’t do it without laughing.
I’m Katniss, he comments, idealistic and brave, and Regan is someone more misanthropic, he names a character I’ve never heard of and thus can’t remember. He starts talking in a Pirates of the Caribbean/Jack Sparrow accent–my fault, for explaining my stupid Teenage Bad Judgment tattoo, which is ripped straight off Johnny Depp’s arm in that movie–and I take a break from dancing, sitting on the armrest and keeping up the patter while Regan takes over. He’s talking about string theory now and I move into his lap, thinking about how weird lap dance conversations always are. He seems to expect an answer.
“I don’t really do math,” I explain. “It’s part of why I’m a history major. Math makes me feel desperate and filled with despair.”
“It’s about black holes!” he said urgently. “Entire universes in black holes!”
“…like the final credits of Men in Black?” I look up from current position between his legs and try to avoid Regan’s ass.
“I love that movie!” Regan chimes in, climbing down.
“Yes!” he agreed, pleased. “Just like that!”
“Hmm, that sounds really interesting.”
He nods, and lapses back into Russian. He doesn’t actually speak Russian, it’s guidebook phrases–“I don’t know, I don’t understand, USSR”–I think stemming from my confession that I don’t speak it very well and request to practise. I haven’t commented on his very limited vocabulary.
“I may move here,” he says. “I want to settle down and get married.”
“We will marry you,” I offer magnanimously.
“We’ll be your sister wives.” Regan agrees.
We continue in this delirious fashion for an hour. At one point Regan makes me laugh so hard that I collapse on the edge of the seat. She’s making fun of one of my moves, a habit so ingrained that I don’t even notice I do it, like pinching my nipples.
“I’m going to pee!” I gasped. “Oh no, I’m going to pee!” This seems like a real and terrifying possibility, since I’m naked I will actually be peeing on our customer and it’s the danger of that that stalls me. Regan is merciless and keeps going, but I can keep my laughter in check. Guy seems amused and indulgent of the fact that he’s basically incidental to our own entertainment, the dance has stopped being even nominally for his benefit and is just the two of us cracking jokes over him, while we all laugh. I lean over him again while Regan kneels down and it’s in this pause that he decides to lick my nipple. My slap is instinctual, and immediately I’m horrified. We both apologize. Mine is less sincere than his, but I think of the hundreds he’s spent on me and the hundred’s more that I want and I accept his apology.
Regan’s looking up at me from his lap and I can feel her thinking “Don’t fuck this up.” I agree. It’s harsh because I want to hit him again, and harder, but there’s her money to consider too. And I don’t want to go back on the floor and hustle up someone else who might be even more difficult, for less money. I purr in his ear and we keep going until the bar closes.
At the end of the night when the bouncer is tallying up our dances I have 29, 20 of which came from that guy. Regan has 28.
“Just lie!” I said gleefully. “You’re so close! We did it together!”
“Really?” the bouncer looks baffled. “You want to get charged for a dance you didn’t do?”
“We want to be tied! We’re going to win!”
1-the club keeps track and posts on a monthly scoreboard, something I never used to pay attention to because I try to curb my competitive urges but what with our lapdance competition and all I started to pay attention, and winning is satisfying.
2-It’s so awkward having to pull the other girl aside to specify “No body fluids!” before a dance.
3-To be fair, we were trying to make it bad. Shawna in particular was having a terrible night and our revenge was selling a string of absolutely no-contact air dances under the guise of “A wild two-girl show”. The first target was a guy I gave a dance to earlier who wouldn’t stop trying to squeeze my ass, and the look of dawning disappointment on his face as he realized neither of us would come within a foot of him was the most delightful thing ever. Aside from him, however, no one seemed disappointed at all.
4-This one shares the title of Ultimate Gulag Tattoo with the one on my chest. I heard some Russians making fun of it and saying it looked like a prison tattoo last week.
5-He told me on my first dance with him at the start of the night that he just got back from St Petersburg.
“Govoritye po-russkii?” There’s nothing like practising my Russian to liven up a dance.
“I do!” he said. “And you do too?”
“Not very well.”
That was key. He started talking and at first I couldn’t make sense of it, and then I realised he was just saying guidebook phrases. “Nye znayu, nye ponimayu, s s s errr.” I had to smother a giggle.
6-It’s the same look she had while we were between dances with him and I got called to the stage and she was on standby. She glared at me. “Go get him! Make him come to the rack!”
I made a face at her. Peevishly:”I think he’s tired of me.” The night was too good, I didn’t want to ruin it by getting rejected. Sometimes I’m perverse.
“He has a black card!” she hissed at me even more urgently.
“Oh, all right.”
I waved him over and he sat down, and between the two of us we managed to keep him at the stage until Regan finished her set a song after me.
“Are you ready for more dances?”
Yes, he was.
Frowning at my phone. Glaring, really. Regan is on her own phone, kicking my ass at Word Scramble, as usual. So she’s distracted.
“hey, what’s this word?”
She reaches out for my phone and I hand it to her, hoping she doesn’t look too close at the top.
S_H_L_ _ is where I’m stuck.
“Scholar,” she says after a brief pause, and hands it back.
“thanks!” I try not to let the giddy relief of postponing my inevitable loss sound too clearly in my voice and I finish my turn without laughing.
I hear her phone alert her that it’s her turn.
“Whose word was that?!”
I can only keep a guileless smile up for so long before I start cackling hysterically.
“you’re ridiculous.” she says without heat, mildly disgusted but more amused, and I lose my shit still further, doing a little footloose dance of glee in my 8 inch heels. She’s shaking her head at me.
“your turn!” I gasp.
Regan and I have two new games we play. This partially accounts for my slacking here; also there is the fact that Beautiful Professor sent me some very true feedback that had me sobbing in therapy, whereupon we spent the next hour constructing potential scenarios in which I do not faff off and read fantasy, leaving 15 page term papers til 5pm days after they are due. I have actually been timely (well, with studying. Being consistently on time to a morning class is a work in progress) and only missed one class, last week when my engine died.
Let me tell you about being relegated to biking and public transit. It is rapidly sending me back into the baleful vale of hate that caused me to have a total meltdown and quit dancing because men on the street seem incapable of allowing a woman to simply go about her day, and life, unmolested.
I got a taste of this on my first trip to the grocery store without a car:
“hey, how about you come over here and make fifty bucks the hard way?”
This alluring invitation was issued by a creepy white dude in a creepier white van. I’ll pass, but thanks for reminding me again of reason #3 on the list of Why I Love My Job.
However. Despite assholes inside the club and out, and despite rapidfire word games with Regan, I remain on top of things. I paid 1,000$ on my student loan, my new engine is paid for, and I even got an A on that midterm I thought I did poorly on. My classmates remain ridiculous and mockable, particularly a long-winded and begoateed fellow I have dubbed Shakespeare-in-Love.
1- While on the street I’m fair game to any creepy asshole misogynist laboring under the (notreallymis)-apprehension that he can harass, follow, and even potentially assault me with impunity, the club destabilizes this. It’s the one space I can think of where this sickeningly prevalent idea about the easy availability of free female attention–or forcing that attention if it isn’t immediately given– doesn’t hold. In the club, if they want my attention, they pay. Through the nose. And even that doesn’t give them the unfettered access to my attention and person that they can force on me outside the club. I say what happens when, and I can choose to walk away.
Stripping lets me profit, even from interactions that anywhere else–and let’s be real, they happen almost everywhere else– cost me a sense of security and peace of mind and make me dread running simple errands. In the club it costs them.
Although, honestly, unlike street harassment, the vast majority of customers run the gamut from nice to boringly innocuous to harmlessly weird or gross. Only the ones that stick in my head for being outstandingly awesome or hilariously terrible make it on here.
2-I learned years ago from reading the scrabble dictionary that “be” in front of anything is a valid word. My personal favorite, and one that made me laugh for ever, was bevomit. Like bedeck, but more acidic and foul.
I went to a sex workers’ organizational meeting a few months ago. This is the kind of thing that used to give my life meaning: I started volunteering with Danzine when I was 17; I was part of a pointless and frustrating attempt to unionize my club when I was 20 (we were against the 25$ stage fee and 17 girls a shift which at this juncture–I work with 20+ girls regularly and usually pay over 150/night to work–seems kind of hilariously absurd. That’s too thorny to get in to, but you know?); I went to SWOC meetings and we tried to organize a SWOP, &c&c&c.
I was burned out for a long while–at some meetings I would be the only, or one of two, sex workers in a room full of social workers and I missed Danzine ferociously. The idea of being around sex workers with similar values who wanted to get active in the community didn’t just seem naive, it seemed anachronistic. What would we even do? The oft-stated goals–union, co-op, whatever, aren’t that appealing to me anymore, and they don’t seem workable. Despite my commie pinko red solidarity with the values behind the Lusty, in practise it fills me with quiet distaste. Get naked for barely minimum wage? What a joke. People make more working at Starbucks.
But nostalgia and a desire to, I don’t know, explore my options, led me to the inaugural meeting of a new group a few months ago. We did introductions, names and what we do. It was (predictably, for activist meetings in my city) overwhelmingly white and mostly politicized queers. I knew a few of the people there already, one person I worked with in Danzine. Then:
“I’m _____, I run _(the student cafe the meeting was at)_, and I’m not a sex worker but I have a lot of slut identified friends so I can really understand where you all are coming from. But if you want me to leave I can.”
My eyes involuntarily rolled so hard they hurt. He was assured that he could stay, and in the interests of progress we moved on. It would have stuck in my head anyway, but got sealed there when we were planning for the next meeting; the kid next to the kid with lots of slutty friends side-eyed me and announced that he would feel more comfortable if the legal sex workers had their own meeting and weren’t invited to the illegal sex workers meetings.
Because A) I clearly have never done anything else besides strip and B) I/strippers never get assaulted or arrested by vice or deal with boners or sexualized services for money and C) strength in numbers and a variety of perspectives is a pretty stupid idea so let’s just have that stripper meet by herself. I sighed.
1-Altho, one of the reasons I appreciate my club so much is that the stage fee is proportionate to dances. So it’s only high if you’ve made enough to absorb that.
12.30am after that last post I was set to leave, there were enough girls that my 12.20 stage set would be my last. I did a cursory circle, not wanting to miss out on a last lapdance, and was passing the stage when a bachelor party in matching tuxedo tshirts walked by me. Though they’d hovered around the stage shooting the shit on my last set, only one of them had tipped me. This guy reached out as I navigated through them, grabbed my tits in a smooth, deliberate gesture, and squeezed.
I don’t like not making money, I don’t like losing sleep to not make money, and I especially hate getting treated like a blow-up doll as I lose out on sleep and study time to not make money. Any one of those things is bad enough; he didn’t make eye contact as he moved on and I could tell he didn’t think anything of it. It’s what you do when you go to the strip club, don’t pay the girls, make their night that much more stressful, and then reach out and fondle them because of course, they’re not autonomous adults with personal preferences but objects there to facilitate a specific (and apparently free) leisure experience.
I grabbed him by the neck of his stupid fucking tuxedo shirt and hauled him back to me before I could think about what I was going to do to him. His shirt ripped, startling both of us; he let out a hysterical squeal and started trying to pull away from me and I jerked him back. I mentally ran through my options as fast as possible. Outside of the lapdance aggression is frowned upon–I got that lecture about slapping customers who touch me at the rack and since then I’ve limited myself to casually taking their outstretched hands and bending their fingers back as hard as possible before moving on–but I couldn’t let this go. His friends heard his yelping and started moving back toward us.
He had a half full pint in his hand and I grabbed it with my free hand and poured it over his head. One last tug ripped his shirt further, just as a bouncer walked over.
“He grabbed me,” I explained. The bouncer grabbed him and hustled him out. I went in the dressing room to cool off.
The girl who’d been onstage during the incident came back after.
“Someone write ‘Hands off’ on my ass!” she demanded.
“What happened to you?”
“That same party, the one you grabbed? A different one grabbed my ass and slapped me!”
“I hate them.”
I found a sharpie and wrote “Hands off” arching across each ass cheek. Thought about it, added an exclamation point and a little heart.
She inspected it, pleased.
“You’ll have to change into a g-string so it’s visible,” someone advised.
I changed, left.
My test Thursday morning didn’t go great, my essays were overly general, I forgot the specific details that would have made them solid, as well as what the hell the Turkish national Pact was. Unnh. You can’t win them all.
Last night was better than Wednesday (almost inevitably, it would be really hard for anything to be worse). I tried hustling an old man who seemed perfect and was in reality awful. He kept grabbing me by the shoulder and back of the neck and shoving my face into his to whisper inane commentary into my ear.
“I love redheads.”
“I’m out celebrating with my son.”
“My night’s so much better now that you’re here.”
It was the longest minute of my life, and every time he shoved me into his face I felt the impending doom of his spit meeting my skin, and I flinched away from him. He wasn’t having it; I needed to be thisclose to his face for him to be certain I could hear him. Or something. Eventually I pried his fingers off my shoulder and fled.
I went up to Regan to complain and caught the eye of a girl sitting at the rack. I had to transition expressions, from bitchy horror to friendly smile, but it worked. Her girlfriend bought her a dance from me while she got a dance from Hands Off. Even better, my girl didn’t frantically hump me, and she was wearing underwear, and leggings. After the last few dances I’ve given to women–the girl from C—–, every couples dance ever, another woman a few weeks ago who wasn’t wearing underwear, a fact I discovered to my horror when her skirt rode up and I felt something like beard stubble against my ass–this was a piece of cake.