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Wow! You packed so much in here.
First of all, I’m not selling my body to gross old men.
There’s a few misconceptions in that one sentence alone. You may have noticed I’m home in my bathrobe, alone with my dogs, having finished my gyro, answering this. How did I get my body back?! Did I buy it back? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of selling it? Maybe he GAVE it back to me out of charity when he was done using it, is that it?
So —taking this ask at face value—i’m gonna say your feminist praxis needs a bit of a refresher. Women—all women, and tbh all people as little as I care for men—are living beings with agency and calculating capabilities. We calculate our best options and go from there. We are not tissues to be used, regardless of that fervid and foetid radfem rhetoric. They only regard certain women as people anyway.
And then, if you’re talking to me, you know my stance on pole dancing. You know that western appropriation narratives aside, the reason you want pole dance specifically to be your fitness routine and not mallakhamb (which doesn’t welcome women anyway) or aerialism, is that neither have been sexy and appealing background props setting the standards of female desirability for the past twenty years.
You want to look like a stripper. You want that slumming, dangerous, mysterious aura, you want to walk with confidence like I walk in 8” heels, you want to look like men pay you hundreds of dollars because you’re desirable.
You want to feel edgy and desirable.
That’s why you haven’t run off to cirque du soleil, nor are you calling aerialists tramps.
With that cleared up, let’s go back to your first point:
You do have a problem with strippers. Your problem: you want our aura and desirability and not the stigma, not the danger, not the real threat of losing homes/jobs/family/scholarships/children/careers/futures.
You know that the edginess you crave comes at a price, and your way of dealing with this is NOT to combat stripper stigma, your way of dealing with this is to play up respectability politics for all you’re worth, widening the dichotomy between pure you and filthy us, too busy selling our bodies to dirty old men to develop the skills and grace you so admire.
And to a certain degree this makes sense. It will work for you, sort of. There are people who will buy it, mostly other women who have the same investment in maintaining respectability politics.
Men, babe, are never going to believe you, and they are never going to care.
BUT! There’s another option. Instead of crying when someone asks if you’re a stripper after a certain effortfull routine, sobbing like strippers can’t climb a pole through shoulder mounts backward and then do a drop in a straddle split catching themselves an inch above the floor in 8” heels, instead of reassuring yourself that we’re all mushy muscles barely able to stagger around the pole, making your tricks all the more unique and special—
The next time someone asks if you’re a stripper you could say:
No! But isn’t it amazing that they manage to do this in heels?
No, I’m not a stripper, but I’m flattered you think I have that self confidence!
No, I’m not a stripper but I’ve thought about it, but the stigma scares me.
No, I’m not a stripper but their skills and bravery inspire me and my classmates!
No, I’m not a stripper, and it makes me nervous that you would ask that bc sex work is so loaded and sex workers are murdered and discriminated against, so I get defensive about this but I’m trying to fight it and support strippers in ending sex worker stigma, starting with myself.
No, I’m not a stripper and I get tense about that question because of daddy issues stereotypes but isn’t it so fucked up that strippers (and other women) are the butt of jokes about male pattern abuse? 1 in 3 or 4 women is abused in her life time, usually by a family member or an intimate partner. You know someone who is the butt of that joke, stripper or not. And issues are a valid response to abuse across the spectrum, not just for strippers.
No, I’m not a stripper but I love them and I’m jealous they get to wear fancy outfits.
No, I’m not a stripper because they’re an exploited labour class and i enjoy my pole work best without having to give a percent of my income to a man who doesn’t deserve it.
No, I’m not a stripper, and they don’t pick up dollars with their vaginas either because unlike customers (who stick dollars in their mouths) none of us are interested in getting hepatitis.
So these are some potential answers for you! Hope this helps and thanks for indulging me.
Love, your friend,
sex work IS work