We are often taught to view the sex industry as a place of depravity, forsaken men and women, drug addicts and nudity… but how much do we really know about the sex industry? What would we know about life as a sex worker? Many of us are fed a preconceived idea of what the sex industry must be like, without once questioning what we are being told and, while there are certainly less than savoury situations (ie. Sex trafficking), many men and women within the sex industry are there by choice and work in able to support themselves and their families. Instead of questioning the morality of the sex industry and slut-shaming sex workers, perhaps we need to question why we are condemning a group of people whose life choices are none of our business.
Hailing from Melbourne city in Australia, Valentina* has been stripping since she was 18-years-old. Outspoken and open-minded, I was fortunate enough to share a minute or two with this lovely lady as she opened up about life as a stripper, her thoughts on the sex industry and why she’s not gonna be taking any of your anti-sex work feminism bullshit.
TC: When did you first start stripping?
Valentina: I started two weeks after I turned eighteen. I’ve always been a lazy person (I come from a wealthy family) and the thought of making lots of money working minimal hours really appealed to me.
TC: Do your friends/family know about your profession? How have they reacted?
V: Yes. I lost a lot of “friends” initially, which I suppose is a good thing, because they obviously weren’t good friends to begin with. My parents found out after my mum went snooping through my room and found the money. I was told I could either quit or continue working and move out… So I moved out.
TC: What do you find is the biggest misconception about stripping/strippers?
V: Probably the misconception that we’re all sad, drug addicted single mothers (or other similar variations of that). I think another thing people (young girls/women in particular) don’t realize is that we actually have to work for the money – we don’t just get it for being good looking.
TC: Has your view of the job/industry changed since you started working?
V: Yeah, I guess I’ve matured and I see it as a job like any other, rather than something to do for extra pocket money. Since getting more involved with feminism, I’ve learned more about the politics around sex work.
You see yourself as a feminist and obviously some people may consider this a contradiction because of your job. What are your thoughts on that?
Well, we live in a capitalist society. You need to work to survive. Women (and men, because anti-sex work “feminists” always seem to forget the fact that many men are in the sex industry) will do what they need to survive and should be able to without running the risk of being raped, beaten, murdered, fired (from other jobs, if any), having their children taken away from them, denied housing and healthcare, etc. Sex work is especially good for people who face discrimination in the workforce (trans people, the disabled, PoC, women, the mentally ill, the poor/homeless, single mothers, etc). It’s a service someone can provide without any formal education or training. Whether or not someone is happy in their job is irrelevant – sex workers receive money for providing a service and it should be seen that way. Abolition and criminalization do nothing except make it harder and unsafe – anyone who works towards these goals cannot call themselves a feminist. You cannot contribute to the harm other women face and be a feminist.
TC: Do you enjoy your job?
V: Most of the time. Whenever I’m feeling down, I remind myself that it’s still a thousand times better than any regular job.
TC: Why do you think this job is better than any regular job?
V: The hours give me more time to myself. I get easily stressed out, so it’s good to have lots of time to either lie in bed or run errands. In one night I can make what someone makes in two weeks, working 40 hours a week. In most clubs that I know of, you can choose which shifts you want to do and if you get fired from a club, you can easily find another that will hire you. It’s probably one of the only industries where the customer is never right – the house always wins.
TC: Have there ever been times when you’ve wanted to quit this job?
V: Definitely. When I first started, the industry was really lucrative. I didn’t even have to talk to customers – I’d get men grabbing me and booking me without a second thought. In 2012, things started to slow down and it became harder and harder to make money – I actually had to work, which is something I wasn’t used to doing.
TC: Has stripping changed the way you view your body?
V: It helped me recover from anorexia. I knew if I didn’t eat again, I wouldn’t make any money. It’s made me more confident, not only about my body, but my mind. I used to be really shy and it definitely helped me come out of my shell and develop more communication skills.
TC: What kind of clients do you often find coming into the clubs?
V: I’d say most men are 25 – 50 year old business men. Looks and personality all differ – but rarely do any conventionally attractive men come in and it’s not often that we get really rude or aggressive customers in (although I do work in a high class club so they usually make sure those kinds of people don’t come in). Most of them are married and looking to kill some time – especially mid week.
TC: Do you ever see any of the clients outside of work?
V: I haven’t seen any outside of work accidentally, and I’m sure none of them would even recognize me, I look completely different without makeup on. I’m sure some clients have recognized me, because every now and then if I’m in town I’ll get some stares and think to myself, “that guy was looking at me weird… Has he seen me naked or is there something on my face?”
TC: Obviously the sex industry is not a place many people could work in due to its particular demands. What kind of traits to you think a person should have in order to thrive in this industry? Would you recommend it to others?
V: Confidence – that is the most important thing. I mean, looks help, but the highest earners at my club aren’t anything special. If you have the confidence to approach multiple men a night, and the ability to talk to them then you’ll be fine. You need to have thick skin, you need to be able to handle being rejected multiple times, you need to be able to handle having a dude not be able to keep his hands to himself, you need to be able to handle having rude and obnoxious customers.
Would I recommend it? I can’t say. Not every girl can handle it; it’s not for everyone. I would definitely recommend it to people who need quick cash or who are otherwise discriminated against in the work place. It’s important to think about all the possibilities that could come from it, because people will find out, you will lose friends, family could disown you, your personal brand could be forever tarnished, and of course there’s always the possibility of something more serious happening.
*Name has been changed for the purposes of safety and privacy.