August 28th, 2010

Next time you go for a lap dance…

…you might do well to start up a conversation about philosophy or English lit or even astrophysics with your new ladyfriend, because she just might be a college grad who went into the business after having trouble making ends meet in another job, according to a study highlighted in this article.

At least that appears to be true in Britain, where the research took place. Of three hundred lap dancers interviewed, all had finished their basic high school education, the vast majority had some post-high-school courses, and a quarter were the proud possessors of a college degree (whether this says more about lap dancers’ intelligence or about the British educational system is unknown). The women report uniformly high rates of job satisfaction (it is also unknown what rates of satisfaction their clients report).

One of the researchers, Dr. Teela Sanders, said that:

…she had been surprised at the “endless supply of women” wanting to be lap dancers. She said: “These women are incredibly body confident. I think there is something of a generational cultural difference. These young women do not buy the line that they are being exploited, because they are the ones making the money out of a three-minute dance and a bit of a chat.”

Well, color me unsurprised. Those who don’t feel they have attractive bodies would be likely to choose another field, and there’s virtually always been an “endless supply of women” wanting to go into what one might call the sex trades, and to justify the decision to themselves.

Money, of course, is the object—as well as (at least sometimes) a feeling of power over men, however illusory it may sometimes be. And after a couple of generations of extreme emphasis on the body, self-esteem, materialism, and the erosion of traditional values about the disgrace of working in such fields, you’ve got an even more endless supply of women waiting in the wings. Despite the growth of opportunities for women to be employed in more conventional fields, sex still pays pretty well in comparison, especially in this economy.

According to the article, feminist groups in Britain consider lap dance clubs to be “a form of commercial sexual exploitation and promote the sexist view that women are sex objects.” Well, of course they do—women are sex objects when they lap dance. My libertarian leanings dictate that, if they want to do so, and are of the age of consent, no one should be able to stop them. But my own experience with the feminist viewpoint on such things—via a conversation with a young lady I know a few years ago, back when she was a college student majoring in Women’s Studies—was that stripping and prostitution and lap dancing and the like were a valid and feminist-approved form of self-actualization.

Whatever the feminist point of view du jour might be, the women themselves are reported to bring a certain drive to the job. As one financial journalist wannabee, now working as a stripper in London pubs, notes:

I’ve met dancers who have degrees in astrophysics from top universities. They’ve pushed themselves hard to get those qualifications and now they’re pushing themselves to be successful dancers.

There’s a movie in there, I’m sure.

38 Responses to “Next time you go for a lap dance…”

  1. Richard Aubrey Says:

    With good health, good luck in the dental area–you need it in Britain–no hard labor as a routine part of household life growing up, a young woman with the genetic wherewithal is going to keep looking good, or great, for a long time. To put it another way, many fewer are going to lose the physical manifestations of their potential due to circumstance.
    Endless supply, indeed.

  2. Bob From Virginia Says:

    Actually a low grade B soft porn movie was made years ago about this.

    Come to think I met a stripper who was going into astrophysics and hoped to become an astronaut. A former co-worker managed to date two girls in college who worked as strippers. It must be pretty routine.

    Regards “a feeling of power over men, however illusory”‘
    I always thought it was the other way around.

  3. vanderleun Says:

    When Bob Guccione was just starting Penthouse magazine in England in 1965 he was looking, of course, for women with good bodies to model for him in the nude. Nothing at all as racy and raw as you see it now. Just torso shots at best. Not even pubic hair, if you can imagine such a thing.

    At any rate he was, at a certain point, given an introduction to one Kathy Keeton, a woman from South Africa who had studied dance formally there and was pursuing her formal dance studies in England. She was also making her living at the time by working in a club as an “exotic dancer” (the lap dancer of that era).

    Guccione caught her dancing at the club and afterwords went backstage to see if he could talk her into posing for Pet of the Month.

    But in her dressing room he noticed she was an exceedingly sharp mind and that her table was covered with copies of the Financial Times and other publications having to do with business and the stock market.

    Kathy Keeton ended up being the number 2 person at Penthouse, the Director of Advertising Sales, the most formidable daily power in the business, and once she came to America to run the place one of the key women in moving other women into positions of power in magazine publishing of all sorts.

    Anna Wintour once worked for her at the beginning of Wintour’s career although you’d be hard pressed to spot that in Wintour’s resume today. Many other women who went on to success in publishing and movies also started with the “exotic dancer” Kathy Keeton.

    How do I know? I was there and I watched it happen.

  4. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    “How do I know? I was there and I watched it happen.”

    Gerard, might not a book and/or movie be lurking there? Inquiring minds would like to know about such naked history.

  5. soupcon Says:

    Now I know how Billy Elliott will get remade!

  6. PA Cat Says:

    So how are the male strippers doing these days?

  7. Gringo Says:

    This is not the first time that college graduates have worked outside their majors. That reminds me of an Argentine joke from some decades back. An electrical engineering graduate couldn’t find a job as an EE, so he hired on as a lion tamer in a circus. He was scared to death the first time he encountered a lion in the ring, until he heard the lion say, “Don’t worry, I’m an electrical engineer, too.”

  8. Paul Snively Says:

    vanderleun, I was a huge fan of “Omni” magazine, back in my teen years. Vastly superior to anything “Wired” has ever done, in my opinion. All from the fine minds at “Penthouse.”

  9. anna Says:

    Realistically speaking, a degree in astrophysics and other obscure sciences don’t really increase job prospects that much. Heck, having a degree in geology and other more usual sciences is not a guarantee of a job. Most science related fields require a PhD to even get close to having a real job. The possible exceptions being lab sciences where you could always be a lab techie.

  10. david foster Says:

    There’s a slight Koestler connection here, too….one of his essays was a nostalgic look back at the prostitutes of Paris, among whom he counted many friends. (He was silent on the subject of whether he purchased services from any of them: I’m betting that the answer is a definite “yes.”

    Many of them, according to Koestler, made enough money to set themselves up with a dowry and sufficient capital to purchase a respectable shop somewhere in the provinces.

  11. Daniel in Brookline Says:

    Working one’s way through college by stripping – a state college, at any rate – remains a viable option, right here in the States. I can attest that, in the strip clubs near UMass Amherst, the strippers are more than likely to be students. (I enjoyed starting conversations with them by asking “what’s your major?”… always good for a nice chat, and infinitely better than asking “what’s your sign”.)

    If you’re interested in the sociological implications of all this, you might want to read the positive things Robert Heinlein had to say about the strippers he chatted with, in his posthumously-published Tramp Royale (which I highly recommend for other reasons). That was written in 1954.

    Daniel in Brookline

  12. Foxfier Says:

    Gringo –
    one of the guys in my Navy C-School was a doctor in Argentina before he managed to get to America, join the Navy and become a calibration technician.

    From talking to the ladies when I was in the Navy, I formed the theory that part of it is BAD body image– people paying to look at you is a counter for it.

  13. Occam's Beard Says:

    Educational resources well spent.

  14. strcpy Says:

    I knew a couple of strippers when I was in college – quite pretty, smart and lots of self esteem. However they still “lacked” – from a feminists point of view they may not have but as far as normal social interaction went they did.

    What they lacked was respect for others – most notably the vast majority of males. Even the males they did have some respect for (for instance one generally thought of me as “friend”) there was still a hard edge of thinking they could manipulate me into getting what they wanted with sex (or at least the suggestion of it) along with a certain amount of looking down at me (and confusion when attempts that made me back away and *less* likely to get what they were wanting). While I generally liked them they were not people I tried to keep contact with.

    Ultimately there is something lacking in almost anyone going into the business. For some it is self esteem, for some it is a respect for others (it is an inherently parasitic way of thinking), or it is a lack of other options (or at least their other options are no better or worse and they have to pick something). Even if selling sex for money was an accepted societal norm they are not really selling sex, they are *exploiting* sex and that action will always be there.

    To note the difference is women who have “one night stands” in clubs – many of them are not really exploiting. There are many that are just as much a prostitute as the next (they just do not take money directly or advertise), but there are also many that are not.

    I’ve been to a strip club once and that is all I needed to go. I felt it something I needed to experience at least once in my life and it was about what I expected (didn’t pay for anything beyond what you are expected too). Not really my cup of tea – it was a bit creepy but not so much I would turn down an invitation on just that account. I think a lap dance would have been a *really* strange combination of truly creepy and, being male, a huge dump of testosterone into my system. It would have mainly been regretted when that testosterone was processed and the highly creepy all that was left (as is the most vivid memory was the look in the females eyes as she hugged me – against my will, I have a minor touch phobia which also makes lap dances a tough thing – and pressed her breasts and hips strongly against my body).

    Magazines and movies can hide a great deal of what a strip club can’t – you can at least fool yourself (or refuse to think about) the ruin it rains down on peoples lives (what I wrote above carries for men too, it is inherent in the industry). The only rationalization I can give is two fold: one the libertarian one already stated that it is their choice and the second is that the job and ruin is a symptom, not the root cause. If not this then something else so making it illegal will not solve anything either.

    There are a few that seem to be able to approach it as a true choice, not have it come from some deficit in their character and do not let it ruin their lives. However that is *really* *really* really* rare. One of my ex-coworker (and enough of a friend we meet for lunch 6 years after I left there) sister-in-law retired from the in her 40’s, she has been happily married since she was around 18. So it happens and with respect to any particular individual one can not say. However chances are they are messed up in some way be it with themselves or relationships with others.

    Anyway, long post and kinda rambling. TLDR version is the vast majority in the sex industry are screwed up as a total package. One may look at individual traits as good but you are typically ignoring the bad. For instance noting that many female strippers self body image is good, but that ignores that they generally consider males nothing more than a penis with money. While one can find someone in any screwed up industry that is adjusted, in this case it is *really* rare.

  15. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    So anna – lab dancers?

  16. Days of Broken Arrows Says:

    This article makes perfect sense because money, not sex, seems to be what drives strippers. You can hear this on “Howard Stern” or any other place they get a forum.

    My question is: what kind of guy pays for this? It’s like going grocery shopping, paying for the food, but you can’t take it home and enjoy it.

  17. br549 Says:

    I am reminded of the Gold Room in Atlanta, during its peak. Lots of beautiful young women, most of them paying their way through school. All of them making very good money, more than a college degree would bring them later – and they knew it.

    The greatest gifts are to be young, capable, and wise. We are all prostitutes, to a degree. As we age, well, we know what happens.

  18. waltj Says:

    I ran into one of the college girl strippers during one of my military reserve tours in Tampa (before a lot of the clubs got swept away by development). She was a sweet kid from New England working with her more hard-edged cousin, who definitely knew her way around the trade. “J”, as I’ll call the college girl, was clear why she was doing it (far more money than she could make flipping burgers or filing papers at daddy’s company). She could carry on an intelligent conversation, was happy to say that she liked men, and frankly admitted that she got a charge out of having men ogle her body (this was an “upscale” topless joint, not one of the raunchy fully-nude clubs that Tampa had back in the day). Is that power over men? Perhaps, but from talking to her I doubt she looked at it in a confrontational way like that. I also doubt she had a poor image of her own body; she had a figure that was way better than her rather anorexic cousin’s, she didn’t smoke or use drugs (she said, and I’m inclined to believe her), worked out regularly, and knew how to use her assets to garner the maximum in tip income. She had no intention of staying in the trade beyond college (I can’t remember her major, but it was one of the sciences). So it looks to me like she made a rational decision to maximize her income potential over a defined and limited period of time. If she managed to escape with her dignity and emotions intact, so much the better.

  19. neo-neocon Says:

    Days of Broken Arrows: what kind of guy goes to prostitutes? I certainly don’t know in the sense that I’m not a guy nor have I interviewed any on the subject, but I’ll take a stab at it: one who wants to have sex devoid of emotional complications, the need to talk afterward about his feelings, or the need to pay for dinner and a movie. Also, many guys who like to go to prostitutes probably get off on the idea that they can dictate the terms of the transaction and the woman will do what they ask. Others also (such as for example Eliot Spitzer) get off on the power they feel by being able to hire a very high-end prostitute, who (presumably) knows a lot of special techniques and tricks of the trade and is especially good-looking (supposedly) besides.

  20. Vieux Charles Says:

    The article claims the girls are educated, suggesting they have other options and are there by choice.

    And, for no other reason than due to their level education and for lack of direct observation of behavior that is secretive by nature (arrggh!!!) the author declares these girls drug and prostitution free.


    I’d like to see one of these girls pass a drug test. And, don’t get me started on STDs.

    Not proud of it, I spent my tender fist years of adulthood on the wrong side of the tracks. And yup, I’d dated a few strippers, enough of them anyway to know this article is dumb.

    Educated or not, I say these women are of a growing number of women who have daddy issues, a sad generation who grew up unloved and, sans serious professional intervention, have now become unloveable.

  21. Oblio Says:

    Lots of guys with opinions about strippers. Not so many women, though. I’m not sure anything is wrong with that; it’s just…interesting.

  22. Foxfier Says:

    I don’t really keep count, and some folks aren’t instantly identifiable. (Not like my name is as readily identifiable female as, say, Anna’s.)

  23. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Back in the day, I knew a couple of women who were not, afaik, strippers or who had anything to do with anything remotely resembling sex work of any type.
    However, they did try to manipulate me in minor ways by offering, with conditions, some goodies. This was done indirectly, of course.
    I wouldn’t have thought much of it, since if I’d gone along with it, the whole thing would have looked like fun between friends.
    It was the odd reaction when I declined to do whatever it was they wanted that got my attention, to some minor degree–other matters such as war being on my menu–and made me wonder just what their world view, or view of men was.
    It’s a mental health truism that people tend to continue behaviors that pay off and discontinue those which don’t or which net out negative. But the question is what “pay off” means to a particular person.
    I’ve sometimes wondered.
    I’d change a tire for a friend for free. Don’t need some hip-wiggling to precede the request. Who thinks that’s necessary? And why?

  24. br549 Says:

    I am blessed with two of the most beautiful and wonderful daughters who have ever walked the face of this planet. When young, I met plenty of women i surely did not want my daughters to turn out like. Although I did not realize it at the time, I am thankful to have realized what being a crappy father can do.

    I know I’m not the best dad in the world, but I sure tried like hell.

  25. Vieux Charles Says:

    I am thankful to have realized what being a crappy father can do ~ br549

    Here, here. And, not to just pick on the women.

    Lots of bad parenting out there: fathers who don’t support, mothers who don’t nurture.

    The result is self-destructive, self-serving young adults incapable of empathy, self control, devoid of any sense of civic responsibility, all facilitated by a media that trafficks in this misbehavior.

    And really, all you can do is take care of your own.

    Even the most altruistic of actions simply can’t undo 18 years of bad parenting.

  26. Gray Says:

    I’ve got more than a few good arab friends.

    Upon seeing one well into drinking Heineken, I asked him: “I thought you were muslim. Isn’t this forbidden?”

    He responded: “Yes, of course I am, but I didn’t say I was a good muslim!”

    There you go.

    Or my favorite exchange:

    Syrian pal: “You say you are free in America! I can tell you, my friend: I am just as free in Syria! I can say anything I want, go to any church, own a gun, support any idea I want. Travel anywhere. I am free!”

    Iraqi pal: “Yeah, ‘cuz your dad was the head of the secret police….”

    Syrian pal: “I am not resposible for who my father is!”

    Oh, we laughed and laughed…. I love the arabs: crazy, passionate bunch with an irrepressible sense of humor and irony. They’ve found a way, through Islam to pull their people out of their desert into the world stage and they love it. They will push it as far as we let them and if we fight back, they will love and respect us more.

    Give them a reason to believe in America, its strengths and virtues, and they will repay it tenfold. Give them American self-loathing, deconstruction and weakness and they will despise us.

    If Americans won’t stick up for America, the arabs certainly won’t, they know better: they despise weakness and broken promises.

  27. Gray Says:

    Hahaha ! Wrong thread….

    Well, sit back and an enjoy it. Like a lap-dance….

  28. SteveH Says:

    I used to know guys that would spend a couple hundred bucks at a night in a strip club. I counted myself lucky to possess conservative leanings that made me realise early on that looking at p**** cost more than actually getting it.

  29. Donna Says:

    Well, I don’t buy it. A few years ago I read an article in a women’s magazine written by an “exotic dancer.” She said ALL of the women she knew in the business were hooked on some kind of drugs, and that none of them enjoyed the business.

    She also said that when she dancing, she also told everyone how much she enjoyed it and denied she was on methamphetamine.

    It’s a sad state when we can joke about this unfortunate exploitation of women by pathetic men who are so desperate for some supposed “exotic” sexual experience that they have no respect for the young, lovely girls who are indulging their fantasies

  30. ALP Says:

    Neo said: “…one who wants to have sex devoid of emotional complications, the need to talk afterward about his feelings, or the need to pay for dinner and a movie.”

    An old friend of mine did the escort-occasional sex for pay thing in the 90’s. She said that her regulars hired her more for the pillow talk afterwards than the sex – especially the older guys. One used to bring old photos of his Army days, another brought her thoughtful gifts. She said she felt more like a girlfriend for hire. One even hired her to watch his favorite college football team with him – the sex came after.

    After her stories, I have decided that money for sex is not the sad part – its having to hire someone to TALK to that is really sad.

  31. Foxfier Says:

    “Buy me drink” bars, same thing– pretty ladies who will set there and look interested as long as you keep buying them drinks. (Occasionally they also hire out, but sometimes they just make money off of getting guys to buy them expensive, watered-down drinks.)

  32. SteveH Says:

    “”It’s a sad state when we can joke about this unfortunate exploitation of women by pathetic men””

    Unless you consider the pathetic women objectifying men for their money?

  33. JM Says:

    “Here, here. And, not to just pick on the women.

    Lots of bad parenting out there: fathers who don’t support, mothers who don’t nurture. ”

    Yes. While we are at it, we might also want to hold men who purchase young women (via stripping or prostitution) accountable as well. It’s never been clear to me why the “men have needs” or “boys will be boys” argument works, when there are so many men out there who don’t really like strip clubs and find the whole experience awkward. If more men had the confidence to decline a bachelor party or night out with the dudes that includes strip clubs or prostitutes, maybe more men would also be able to admit that it isn’t really their thing. And maybe less women would be exploited in the process.

  34. Richard Aubrey Says:

    You use the term “exploited” as if the women have no agency.
    If the women declined to perform, this wouldn’t be happening.

  35. Foxfier Says:

    my dear Elf does that, but we’re geeks– being stubborn is an assumed thing.
    (First time he walked into a strip club, one of the “dancers” was a female friend of his that was practically his sister. {parents sucked, so she actually lived with his family for a while} A couple of times he’s mused that such an experience might kill 90% of the sex trade.)

    Oddly, I think that Hooters and Buy Me Drink bars and such are actually rather counter to strip clubs and impersonal sex industry places– I’ve never been to a Hooter’s where the ladies didn’t have a heck of a line of patter, if not great conversational skills, and the whole point of a Buy Me Drink bar is that A PERSON is listening, rather than ‘get in that p****’ version.

  36. Richard Aubrey Says:

    It’s said that some of the guys most likely to want to be listened to by the hookers are married.
    If true, that’s really sad.

  37. Scottie Says:

    Interesting article, and interesting responses.

    I met a number of young women who were strippers about 8 or 9 years ago.

    It’s a long involved story and undoubtedly not what is being assumed – and yes the wife knew I knew them.

    As a matter of fact, the wife knows a few of them as well – and no, we didn’t go around bar hopping at strip clubs. There is another reason we met them. Believe it or not, they were actually paying me!

    Anyway, based on my observations back then I’d say some of them are absolutely bat$hit crazy.

    You don’t want to be anywhere around them, they are self-destructive in the extreme and generally whacked out of their heads either on booze, drugs, or both.

    If you happen to be standing nearby when they finally implode, you may get the blood splatter on your shoes.

    Trust me when I say there are some people you just can’t help.

    Then you have others that have reasons for doing it that have nothing to do with being drawn to that kind of lifestyle.

    Things like having husbands bail on them, leaving them with absolutely no means of supporting their kids and no higher education that would allow them to get a decent job – all in a very short time frame that required drastic action on their part.

    Given a general lack of skills otherwise, dancing was seen as a viable choice in their view.

    Taken logically, they made a hell of a lot of money in a short span of time doing something that could be learned quickly, could support themselves and their kids, and could pay for an education that would allow them to start a real career.

    They also didn’t seem to think of themselves as being exploited – if anything they were taking guys for every penny they could.

    My impression at the time was that they were quite the cold blooded capitalists…..and they had no problem getting a guy drunk and leaving him completely broke, with a huge credit card bill, and with a hangover the next day.

    It got really interesting a bit over 7 years ago when I was sitting in the OB/GYN’s office with the wife while she was pregnant the second time around.

    The wife was just slightly smaller than a house, felt like she was roughly 10 or 11 months pregnant (even though she was only about 6 months along), she was really uncomfortable and not feeling well at all, having blood pressure issues, waiting to see her doctor and do the ultrasound thing and make sure everything was going ok.

    I had gone with her that day specifically because she was feeling so bad and we were both getting worried – the wife over the health of our baby, and me over the health of both my wife and our baby as her first pregnancy damn near killed her.

    It was one of those call in things where they were going to try to “fit us in” between the regularly scheduled appointments – but it was a very busy day and a very crowded lobby.

    Anyway, it turns out I recognized one of the nurses.

    The reason I knew her was because she was a stripper and I had met her a year or so earlier.

    When I realized who was there, I quietly got her attention.

    She had a slightly shocked expression at first when she saw me (understandable under the circumstances), and then I told her my wife was there and what the problem was and her entire demeanor changed.

    She realized we had been sitting out in the lobby for over an hour already and immediately got things to rolling.

    The funny thing was I didn’t know until that moment that she worked at that particular office.

    We were in the exam room 5 minutes later, and the wife never had a long wait after that the entire rest of her pregnancy.

    The introductions between them as we waited in the exam room for the doctor were very funny.

    After that, if the wife felt the need to see the doctor it was as simple as hitting speed dial on her cell phone and her brand new friend made sure she got the doctor she wanted to see and the appointment time she wanted to be there, and made it a point to be in the room with her for every appointment and made sure she got the best care possible.

    They became very good friends, to the extent they would have phone conversations even late at night.

    While the woman was discreet, apparently some of the doctors knew of her “side job” at the time and were ok with it as long as she wasn’t advertising it.

    It was funny to listen to coded conversations between the nurse, the doctor, and my wife when someone else walked into the room.

    Anyway, she got the special VIP treatment.

    As a matter of fact, this young lady ended up being something of my wife’s very own personal attendee – and I still remember the day she walked in after one of the exams, clipboard and test results in hand, and asked the wife pointedly when was the last time she’d eaten.

    Our daughter was born later that same day via an emergency C-section.

    So, while there are definitely woman who are on drugs and bat$hit crazy that strip for a living, there are also woman who have a hell of a lot more on the ball that have their own reasons for doing it as well.

    Oh, and our friend no longer is a stripper.

    She’s now very successful and working in the medical profession, with two great kids and a second husband for several years now that thinks the world of her.

    Interestingly – especially in light of the article – her stripping helped pay for that medical education.

  38. IgotBupkis Says:

    > There’s a movie in there, I’m sure.

    Ummmm, there was: “Showgirls”….


    Look, you can make 100k a year doing it, in areas where starting pay is more like 25-30k for a non-engineering, non-business BS degree. Hardly chump change.

    Plus you get lots of men, some of whom have substantial cash, hoping to seduce you by… throwing still more cash at you. If you have no problem with finding a sugar daddy, the job’s perfect.

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