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One Year A Male Stripper

November 24, 2013

After a year of stripping, almost to the day, I feel like I should do some sort of sum up kind of thing.

So that’s what I’m going to try to do here.

There are a lot of ways to do this job, being a stripper at Silverado. I will say that after a year here I make less money than almost everyone. This is because I have made the decision not to do floor work. Floor work for most strippers is where they go talk to customers and get them to buy a lap dance. That is the same for us, except it involves getting groped more than anyone would be comfortable with. This is the kind of groping that makes it uncomfortable to watch, 50 year old men touching mid twenties men while the young guys just stand there. There is no interaction, it’s like sampling a product, which is, in fact, exactly what it is. As such, our club does not specify exactly how we must do our jobs, and I choose not to do that. Anymore. There were some dark days. That’s all I’ll say about that.

What I choose to do instead makes me less money, but allows me not to go insane or go home feeling like no amount of showering would get the creepiness off of me. I dance on stage, and I do my “pole” tricks, and I do my handstands, and I do that thing where I stick a dollar bill to my dick and pretend like I’m gonna go full monty on the audience and ohh they always love that one, but as soon as I’m off the stage, that’s it for money making efforts.

When I’m off from the stage, I’ll talk to customers, mostly those I already know, but some new ones, and because I made the decision I wasn’t going to do floor work, I don’t let them touch me. Pretty simple business really. I talk to them, maybe they buy me a drink (yay) or I convince them to buy a lap dance. Oh yeah, I still do lap dances, because there are some strict rules up there.

That’s how I do my job now, there are many who do the job many other ways, ways that seem to suit their needs. I’ve learned a lot about myself, about straight white boys (wow, I see why so many people are fed up with them), about creepy people, how to defend myself against said creepy people, and how to do the best flag of my life. Turns out doing a trick every day for two months is a good way to get REALLY good at it.

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How Stripping Made Me A Better Feminist

November 3, 2013

Alright, the stripper journal is back, people. I’ve got some stuff I need to lay down, and I think it’s time to do some writing, so here we go.

When you talk to any woman and they talk about cat-calls or ass slaps or generally being objectified and treated as less than human, it is very hard for us men to understand. We have male privilege, and it makes it incredibly difficult to sympathize – we simply have no frame of reference for what it means to be consistently degraded by random people. It’s just not something we have to deal with. You’ll hear guys say “what are you talking about? I’d love it if people would stick their heads out their car windows and yell ‘hey sexy, nice ass!'” but the truth is that they don’t know what they are talking about. They are talking about isolated incidents, and I think most women would agree that the occasional compliment from a passerby can brighten your day. But when it becomes a constant barrage, and when refusing to engage these “complimenters” can actually put you in danger, we are in a whole different ballpark of experiences.

Sometimes, you’ll be walking around and say to a woman “lookin good today” and she blows up in your face. But, you were just trying to be nice! How could she say that to you? It’s not like you’re a rapist or anything, right? But what you don’t get is that there are hundreds if not thousands of guys who have said that to her in her past. Maybe a few of them even followed her for a few blocks after.

Well, as a man I will never understand, but I am pretty sure I’m closer than most, and I will tell you why.

It is my job to be objectified. I signed up for that when I became a stripper. I am a professional object. It’s actually a pretty interesting job to have  – when people don’t consider you human you will see them say and do some very interesting things. But, of course, it has its downsides.

The first hundred times I got my ass grabbed when I was walking through the crowd to or from the stage, it didn’t bug me. I kinda liked it, even. It was like “hey, I’ve got a nice ass, and I know it, but now I have validation,” but something snapped last night. I’ve been a stripper for eleven months, and last night a guy grabbed my ass, I turned around and asked him if he was going to tip for that, he said “no, that’s not my style” and I responded “well then, you’re an asshole.”

Upon first glance, it’s a total over-reaction. It’s just one guy grabbing my ass, right?

But it’s not. It’s all of them. I looked into this man’s eyes and I saw the eyes of every man who looked at someone and didn’t see them as a person with autonomy, just a sexy body that existed for his pleasure. I saw the eyes of every guy who didn’t consider it wrong to touch another person without their consent. I saw them all at the same time, and there is only one reasonable reaction to seeing something like that. It is a scream. It is rage.

Fortunately for me, I am a professional, so I walked away and contained myself. But maybe after 23 years of dealing with this every day, not just the four hours I go to work a few times a week, I would not have been so well controlled. I also have an added advantage – I can quit. I could walk away from that job at any moment of any day. All I have to do is grab my backpack and say goodbye and never return, and I’d never have to deal with random guys grabbing my ass again. I have that privilege. Women do not, they can’t just walk away, because what happens to me at work, in one building in one city, happens to them every day, on every block of every city across this and many other countries. When you can’t just walk away, how do you even begin to cope with something like that?

Being a stripper has given me a (very, very small) window into the life of a woman – the life of someone constantly reduced to an object by society, and this makes me a better feminist. I can sympathize to a greater degree than I ever could have doing anything else.

So guys, I want you to do two things for me. First, the next time you feel like complimenting someone, really think about how that compliment might make them feel given the experience they go through every day. Second, the next time somebody blows up at you for what seems like no good reason for something you said or did, remember that they are not blowing up at you – they are blowing up at every man whose words and actions echo in their memory, that memory that was just brought up by whatever you just did.

The Tuesday of Triumph

March 14, 2013

It was a Tuesday. I’d never worked a Tuesday before, never managed to get on the list you see, but I’d been told by some dancers that they make a lot of money on Tuesdays. This was not one of those Tuesdays. This was the Tuesday that for the first two hours (and therefore the first four of eight sets that I perform) there were no more than a dozen customers in the entire place, and in the first half of the night, I had only made $7, which is still three dollars less than my dancer fee. Needless to say, the night was not going well.

But things started to pick up around 12:30 or so. We got some more people in there, some more regulars certainly. But still not a lot of tipping going on for most people. I had $9 by the end of my 5th set. Then something changed, I don’t know if it was me, or the crowd, or the mean blood alcohol level of the club, but all of the sudden I was making money. Guy were tipping me four dollars at a time instead of just walking right by me. So I got bought this drink by a regular who I had never talked to, he wasn’t one of my regulars, so I left him alone for the most part – don’t want to go encroaching on territory.

I should mention I have no idea if strippers are territorial over their regulars, but I do have a very good idea of what it is like to be on the bad side of employees of Silverado – it doesn’t take a lot of power to really make someone’s life miserable in a place like this. Because of this fact, I am just going to assume they are generally territorial and keep my sweet little ass safe from stripper wrath, which I assure you is great and terrible.

So, this regular. We’re talking, he seems intoxicated, I’m having trouble understanding him and it just slips out of my mouth,

“Do you want to go upstairs?”
“Sure”

Tuesday was the day of Triumph, for I gave my first lap dance!

So I take his hand, and we make our way upstairs and as I am walking up towards the bar stools and flashing lights and the dreadfully understocked upstairs bar, I realize that I might have a problem. If you read this blog, you know that Silverado has a lot of rules, and often times you don’t learn these rules until after you have already broken them once or twice. Lap dances are no different – about a month ago I asked one of the strippers to go over the rules for lap dances with me. There are two problems with this, first, strippers are fallible and often don’t remember all the rules, and second, it was a month ago, and I was really not sure how my memory was. So here I am, walking up these stairs about to give my first lap dance as a professional, and I am freaking out that I’m going to break some rules and get yelled at.

Keep it under three minutes. Keep your genitals covered. Nothing touches your bare ass or junk. If it is a guy, you can have them sit how you want. If it is a girl, her legs must be closed if she’s in a dress or either open or closed if pants (but only on Friday and Saturday nights). Keep it under three minutes/one song, which ever comes first. Wait? Is that a different song? DJ kinda blended two songs together there. Am I done? Has it been three minutes? Why is there no fucking clock up here in private dance land? Yeah I’ll be done now. He seems happy, that’s good. Ooh! A $5 tip on top of my $20 lap dance, that’s how it’s done!

I didn’t get yelled at; I didn’t even get any sideways glances from my boss as I left the upstairs. Oh, in case I forgot to mention, on days other than Friday and Saturday, the upstairs is closed except for private dances, so because there is no bartender up there, our floor manager stands at the entrance and you have to ask his permission to go up there (and he isn’t always there, and trust me, when you are trying to get a lap dance set up, the last thing you want to do is go look for the floor manager, who could be in one of two bar rooms; two staff rooms, one of which we can’t get into; or outside, where we can’t go). Once you do, he comes to the top of the steps and doesn’t exactly watch you, but he is definitely keeping a watchful eye. I was thinking that would make things much more awkward and difficult, but to be perfectly honest, I barely noticed the guy I was dancing on, let alone the guy 15 feet away look at me.

Because I’ve done lap dances, I know what I’m doing. I’ve got my tricks that I like to use, little flourishes on top of your traditional grinding maneuvers, and I don’t need to think about them that much. So I got on this guy and just did it. I put everything I had into it of course, hard breathing, arching my back intensely, putting a lot of effort into this – but not for one second did I care who it was on. I was just dancing for myself, doing things that made me feel sexy, I just happened to be doing it on top of someone who was paying me $25 for three minutes of work.

I think I could get used to this job.

Conversations in the Back Room

March 3, 2013

One thing I very much enjoy about stripping at Silverado is the camaraderie between us. Most of the guys are really friendly and have no problem having a good conversation. We laugh a lot back in the dressing room, it’s a good time. But there is a huge problem with hiring a bunch of mostly straight white males to service an LGBT clientele.

Anyone who has spent any time in gay rights activism knows that each group seems to have a problem playing nicely with other oppressed groups, and so even in LGBT spaces, racism isn’t hard to find, and Silverado is no different. But the real problem there is not racism (we’ve got strippers of all ethnicities, so it’s less of an issues) but trans*phobia. We get a lot of gender non-conforming folks in silverado, because it is the only strip club not intended for straight males. We get some transvestites, some transexuals, some drag queens (professional and personal) and some people who we, despite our best efforts, have no idea how to describe.

As a member of the circus community and the queer community, these people don’t scare me like they seem to scare normal people. As a social activist who is very concerned about language, I pay attention to how people talk around me. I am also keenly aware that criticism of Silverado or its employees is a very quick way to make it tough to get shifts.

So as a result, when I hear things like “dude, that fuckin’ tranny wants to suck my dick” or “I think it’s a shemale” or any other number of things I can’t remember, I kept my mouth shut. I just sat there and didn’t look up, didn’t speak, gave no reason for anyone to take note of my reaction.

But that was until Wednesday, when one of the bartenders who is an ex-stripper was shootin the shit with the guys in the back and talking about sex with customers and they got into the debate about “is it gay if you fuck a tranny?” and the conclusion made by this particular bartender was “of course it’s gay, if it has a dick, it’s a guy” and that was it. That was the straw the broke the camels back.

I rose up out of my seat, walked around the corner in full view of all five guys in that room and the three in the entry room, pointed my finger at him and said in a loud, clear voice “no, you are wrong” and then walked out. I could have explained to him why he was wrong, and how your genitals don’t define your gender, but I knew it would all be wasted on him. I just needed to declare just once that that kind of thing just was inappropriate. I felt the need to go back there an explain myself and just when I was about to, I turned around and three strippers are standing right behind me. Apparently I was not the only one made uncomfortable by the conversations in the back room, and it was nice to have some support.

Silverado is very accommodating to other gendered peoples up front. To their faces. For the public. But behind closed doors, Silverado is the most prejudiced place I have ever worked. Oh, and if you would all do me a huge solid and never tell the management about this blog, I would be very grateful, because if they ever saw this, I would get fired so quickly.

How to run a strip club

February 20, 2013

If I were to run a strip club, there are several things I would change compared to how Silverado runs them.

Here are some, but not even close to all, of the unwritten rules that Silverado operates under

  • If you don’t work one of the two shifts on Sunday (or sign up if you don’t make the list) you can’t work the entire week
  • If you don’t work at least two weekdays (not including Sunday) you are not allowed to work weekends unless you pay $50
  • The people who get chosen for the list on any given day are the people who have been there the longest

Now, let me tell you a tale of how I ended up in this pissed off state I am in now, if you can’t imagine it from the intrinsic problem introduced in the rules.

I show up Sunday for my shift and don’t make the list. There were 18 of us, that’s a 33% chance that I won’t make the list based on random chance and I don’t make the list. Fine, I talk to Imer and he says come in tomorrow. So I do, on Monday, amateur night (a.k.a. the night where you can’t hope to make any money), and I do, and I make the list. I show up tonight, Tuesday and I do not make the list. So I’ll show up tomorrow and hope I make it. If I don’t, I will show up Thursday.

I should clarify – making money on weekdays is impossible unless you have regulars. I’ll give you one guess how you get regulars: you have to be there for a long time.

So, if you have not figured it out yet, here is the catch 22 of Silverado.

You must work there for a long time in order to get shifts consistently. You must get shifts in order to work a weekend. As a newbie, you must work weekends in order to make money. You must make money to make the job worth while. The job must be worthwhile to make the trek (on bike for me) to Silverado to put your name on a list in hopes that you will be able to work. You must put your name on the list to work. The people who have been there the longest get preference as to who gets on the list. DO YOU SEE THE PROBLEM HERE?

You have to put up with months of shit and showing up night after night getting turned down in order to earn any money, and that’s tough for a performer like me, who needs the money and already works 7 days a week and oftentimes another job is right before my work at Silverado.

I am displeased. But if any of you think for a second that these entries are going to end and I am going to get a new job, you’ve got another thing coming, because I am stubborn. I do not accept defeat easily. I have never dropped a class because I was not doing well, I will take a failing grade before I give up. I have never quit a job because I wasn’t good enough at it. If this establishment wants to make my job difficult, I will rise to their challenge and conquer their system and make it work for me, because I am Gaz. I am named after a stripper who was an outcast but came up with a way to outshine even the most popular and mainstream strippers by using his mind and figuring out how it could be done. I will honor my namesake and kick some motherfucking ass and make some money, because that is what I set out to do.

I’m Not Dead Yet

February 11, 2013

I wanted to let you all know that Gaz’s Stripper Journal is not dead, it just went on a brief hiatus.

For nearly the entire month of January, I was either sick, injured, or otherwise unable to work at the strip club, so I just took the month off. The way it works, if I have not explained it before is that if you don’t work sunday, you don’t work the rest of the week, and I kept having things on sunday that kept me from going to work (another performance, injury, etc.) so I just didn’t get the chance. But tonight I went back in, made some money and secured my spot for this weekend.

I am still on my mission to give a lap dance so I can write about that, and I’m sure I’ll get there soon. I have some insights from tonight that I want to write about, and I’ve taken some notes about them, but I am too tired to write about them now, I’ll make it a tomorrow thing.

Anyway, I just wanted to pop in and let you all know that this is still an ongoing thing with much more excitement to come I’m sure.

Something odd happened today

December 29, 2012

Someone, a friend of mine, came into my work today. Not my stripping job, mind you, my circus-at-a-bar job, and she is awesome and I love her and she housed me a lot when I was homeless, and she put her arm around me and I kinda pulled back a little bit. It reminded me a bit of the guys at Silverado, the creepy ones, who I realize I have described to the people in my life, but not actually written about here yet – I’ll do it soon. Anyway, it is nothing for me to be worried about, just something I need to be more conscientious about, separating physical touch when at one job to another. I do not want that response creeping its way into my every day life, so I’ll stop it, not worried. But I wanted to tell you all, because I think that it is important to note that after less than two months of this job, I have already noticed it affecting my life.

I also noticed it affecting my way in a different way on the way home. I was next to a nice looking girl on the bus, we were talking, and I noticed she had bruises all over her knees and thighs and I asked her about them, she hesitated, and said that she danced that night. I just smiled and said I worked at Silverado – queue stripper conversation for the rest of the bus ride. There are so many strippers in this town because Portland has one of the highest (if not the highest) number of strip clubs per capita. Someone check me on that, but we’re up there. I now have something in common with a large number of people in this town. So yeah, there’s an upside of being a stripper, being able to relate about that with complete strangers all the time (this is not the first). The interesting bit was how she was shy about saying “I danced tonight” and as soon as I told her I was a stripper she totally calmed down and opened up about it, and we had a lovely ride.

Anyway, I just wanted to share that all with you. Goodnight.