Once again, we are delighted to welcome our striptease correspondent Edie Lamort. You can follow her on Twitter here: @EdieLamort
Something occurred to me last summer after phoning up a radio talk show and commenting. It was in the wake of a Cornish policeman accusing lap-dancing clubs of increasing rape and the controversy it had caused. There were the usual prohibitionists on the line so I called to put the other side of the argument. I was trying to make the point that this way of thinking gave excuses for criminals and rapists. It allowed them accuse society and sexy women as the cause of their crime rather than to take personal responsibility. It also ran the old-fashioned narrative that the victim of rape is somehow to blame. Just a bit of good old-fashioned slut-shaming.
During the conversation, I had to keep asking the radio presenter to get back on to the subject at hand, because he was interested and wanted to know a lot more about the job. He asked about the money, the customers and how I felt doing my first strip. I gave some vague answers but was a bit puzzled as to why he was so intrigued about my first strip. It did make me wonder as it’s not the first time interviewers have strayed from the subject matter and quizzed me like this. They all ask about your first strip and to be honest I don’t really think about mine.
Why do they ask? I think it’s because there is a general perception that this job is not something you would choose to do and therefore you must have fallen into it or happened upon it. Do they think that one thing led to another, and before you know it, you’re on the slippery slope towards stripping? That it was forced on you and suddenly, before you could stop it, you were naked on stage? That it was not a personal decision? That you somehow took the wrong turn and did something you never expected to do? Or is it because we are all voyeurs? Even those who clutch their pearls and gasp, yet still want all the details?
I began stripping in San Francisco and it was a personal decision that I pondered for a while. I’m sorry to be boring but I am quite a pragmatic and analytical character. I ruminate on a decision for a while and I am not very impulsive. I am methodical about things and it takes me a while to settle on a decision. This is because once I do it is firm and I stick to it.
I decided to dance for a number of reasons, money obviously being one, but freedom and creativity being others. So I went to talk to a dancer that worked around the corner from the restaurant I was working in. I asked her many annoying questions and got lots of information about different types venues and where they were. Then I began a tour of the venues. Going into them one by one and telling them I was looking for work. They were all very nice and polite and showed me around. I spoke to the girls, watched stage shows and checked out the dance booths. They told me all about the fees and security protocols and how the shifts worked.
After this tour I decided on the venue I wanted to work at. I called them up and booked an interview with the house mom. She gave me a lot of advice during the interview and booked me in for an audition. She also gave me a few addresses of shops where I could buy my new work uniform; a long gown as it was an upmarket club, some T-bar panties (not G-strings – too crude apparently) and a couple of bikini sets. She then gave me dancing advice and we watched a few shows together. She explained floor work was important and to move slowly as it was more seductive. The whole interview process took a long time and I found myself getting a little impatient with it. I wanted to start work.
I returned the next week with my recommended outfits and settled into the changing room. I made up my face and put on the long red velvet gown over my underwear set and pasties. It was California over a decade ago and we had to follow strict protocol as you do in any licensed venue. We had to wear pasties over our nipples, along with the t-bar panties, and could only remove them in the last 30 seconds of the strip. Everything was quite controlled and tame really.
When I did my audition I was concentrating on the things she had told me to do, hoping I got the job. I chose middle of the road music and kept it fairly straight. The quirky, creative, more rock n roll part could come later. You don’t go to an interview in your wildest outfit after all. It was all over very quickly despite being about five minutes and my main focus was on perfecting my new craft. Moving slowly, feeling the beat, moving my hips and remembering all that poise I’d learnt in dance classes as a teen.
I got the job and was given a month of lunch shifts so I could get used to the stage, the dance and how it all worked. This next month too consisted of me learning the ropes, and that really was my focus, to learn my new craft and make it my job. Towards the end of the month the house mom came on to the floor during one of my lunch shifts and watched a few dances. She smiled and told me I’d improved a lot and seemed so much more natural on stage. This meant I could be moved on to a full rota, which would include evening shifts, and that I had passed my probation. This was great news because I had plans and savings goals that could now be achieved.
No one forced me to do this; it was purely a personal decision. I didn’t tell any of my friends, or colleagues from the restaurant, that I was doing it either. This was because I wanted it to be my decision and was worried that they would worry and panic, clouding my view and effecting my decision. Also it is not information that you can give to freely due to the social stigma so you have to be careful who you entrust with it. Even after I’d left my former job and started stripping, I gave some friends vague answers about ‘working in a bar’. I needed to make sure they would be ok and I wouldn’t get strange reactions. People will either think it’s disgusting, try to save you or ask a hundred bizarre questions. I was comfortable with the job but cautious in regards to the reaction of others.
Over time I learnt whom I could trust and began to be more open. The standard social narrative swings between ‘poor victim’ to ‘evil slut’ so it’s hard to have a normal and open conversation about this. That it is just people making a living. It is also people doing a lot of other thing besides dancing. You never know, you may work next to someone who dances at the weekend. Or one of those mums you chat to at the school gate so politely with, well she might have a pair of stripper heels in a bag ready to work. Or the friend of a friend that you think is really sweet may be checking in for her shift tomorrow night…