The allure of stripping is lost in its standardization
The thing that draws many dancers to the world of striptease -- the space to create your own ideas about dancing sexy -- gets crushed in chain clubs, where dancers are instructed to hustle customers for every penny and to embody a specific, uniformed vision of “sexy.” And dancers who have worked in independent and corporate clubs know the difference.
Janine Marshall, a London-based former stripper and proprietor of the first pole-dancing school in the United Kingdom, told me she was there “before Spearmint came in and fucked everything up.”
Another seasoned performer who wished not to be named had this to say: “In a chain club, you’re there to entertain a person by constructing a fantasy of being there and being adoring, hanging on every word that they say, and being their mom or girlfriend or bitch or whatever. And dancing is almost secondary to all that. In the small clubs, it’s all about dancing. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?”
Many feminists believe that stripping degrades women. But the reality is more complicated than that. Dancing at Backstage Bill's allowed me to move in new ways, and to embody new and sometimes uncomfortable ideas about myself as a subject and object of desire.
But I noticed an uncanny similarity between other service jobs and stripping at Diamonds. In both, you are subject to management directives. Your mandated costumes are called uniforms. Improvisation is surrendered to routines. And conversations are scripted.
A striptease can degrade and empower dancers, suppress and express subversive desires -- erotic or otherwise. But as exotic dance moves into the mainstream, its transgressive potential is being erased by the imperatives of the brand. The corporate takeover of striptease is rapidly repackaging the most mysterious of human emotions into easily branded experiences no more personal or powerful than those to be found in any other mega-chain.