I had to think about that for a little while. Confusing? Yes. I've seen too many girls struggle with their identities to deny that; I've watched enough of them try to reconcile their night job with their daytime personae and not always succeed. There are plenty of ways that a girl who enters this business will have to guard herself, countless lessons for her to learn and many adjustments for her to make.
It seems like a given that strippers have to protect their souls, and we do, but not for the reasons some might think.
Exposing one's sexuality doesn't necessarily make one vulnerable - unless you happen to be female or gay and living in our society. It's not the hazards of the job, but the prejudices of the mainstream, fluorescent-lighted world against which the stripper must protect herself. When a customer tries to upset or humiliate her, society at large has tacitly (or overtly) told her that she deserves to be treated that way and has no right to protect herself. I've often heard people say that they assume strippers don't have boundaries, but nothing could be further from the truth: it's knowing precisely where our boundaries lie and feeling sure that they're firmly in place that makes it easy for us to move freely within them. Unfortunately, guarding those borders is left up to us and to our faithful male support staff, when things get out of hand: we don't get much support from outside. It's the strain of this constant and unsung vigilance that drives many women out of the business and spoils their memories of the time they spent with us. We have only each other to turn to for understanding.
As confused as our culture is about its sexual self, and as mixed as our collective feelings are about sex workers, it's no wonder that our lovers get a little mixed up sometimes, too.
Not all strippers are able to successfully cast off the manacles this culture has placed on our sexuality. When we're able to do it, though, it becomes unnecessary to try so hard to distinguish between what we do at work and what we do at home. We know the difference. The real issue tends to lie with our partner and his feelings of propriety; HE'S the one who gets confused. People ask "Does your boyfriend let you do this?" more often than one would guess.
Let: a strange word to use in relation to a grown adult.
Sexuality is so abundant, so life-affirming, that there's really always enough, no matter how much of it we share with our audience. It's not sexuality, but intimacy that we save for our lovers. Whether they understand that, however, is another story. It takes a thoughtful and secure man to look past the stereotypes and separate the two. If he appreciates us and wants to partake of our abundance without killing the goose that lays the golden eggs, then the profession isn't a point of contention. If he wants to possess what he desires and crush it when he's not able to control it, then there's a problem.
Female sexuality is the instrument of creation. It's also the focus of abject terror, obsessive yearning and unspeakable rage. Many women never come to terms with their own, and spend their lives peeking out at it like villagers hiding from an elephant. Others are unafraid; they adorn it with gold and bright silk and ride it, high and proud, like Egyptian queens. Those of us who do that soon find out that taming the great beast means housing it, though, and feeding it; it follows that there are some men who will find it hard to live with - especially when they find that only we can command it.
To be a sex goddess is to live daily with extremes that most others will never have to negotiate. Those extremes will touch every aspect of her sexuality and constantly threaten to intrude upon her intimacy; her challenge is to shelter it against the relentless onslaught. To love a sex goddess is to be always ready to protect the soul of your relationship from the madding crowd, and not everyone is up to the task. Many fail, and go off in search of calmer climes.
Let them go, I say. I need to be with someone who trusts my judgment and respects my choices. I can understand that a potential partner may have some difficulties with that when it comes to what I do, but I can't waste my time with someone who can't work through them. Better that they eliminate themselves in the first few rounds and leave the rewards for those made of stouter stuff.
For Private Dancer Monthly