Stripping has been a contested cultural industry for centuries. It’s been vilified as a seedy, exploitative enterprise and celebrated as a service industry providing essential income to those who enjoy performing and celebrating sex positivity. Strippers around the world offer vibrant and significant forms of entertainment and many different kinds of work as sex workers. A “stripper” is an individual who dances and removes their clothing on a stage during performances in a nightclub or other venue in exchange for tips from customers.
Stripping is often misunderstood and under-examined as a form of labor. Today’s strippers work with ever-changing rules, regulations, stigmas, and entertainers of all gender identities, ages, and backgrounds. The jobs and services that strippers provide are legal in some countries or states, while in others, they are strictly prohibited. The efficacy of public health measures surrounding sex work–including stripping– has been debated in recent years by advocates, policy-makers, and the public at large. While strip clubs may still be seen as outposts of adult entertainment, the contemporary stripper is a professional, well-rounded entertainer. They have many skills, talents, and abilities that extend beyond the stage.
Several factors have contributed to the global spread of the strip club industry. Stripping has become a popular form of entertainment and 49% of respondents to a recent survey agreed that a night out at a strip club was a great introduction to the gay scene. Meanwhile, strippers are also becoming more visible in mainstream media and culture, whether they are being employed for music videos or appearing on reality television shows. As the industry has become more accepted and visible, some of the social stigmas that once surrounded stripping are evaporating.
While the industry may be growing, the wages for strippers are not. In most cases, strippers must purchase their own costumes, music, and dance moves in addition to relying on tips from the audience to stay afloat. Many strippers are paid “house fees” by clubs, which often take as much as 50-90% of their nightly earnings. This practice, which many deem exploitative, is often used to limit competition and ensure that newcomers to the industry receive low or no pay for their work.
In terms of legal regulations, strippers may be subject to different rules depending on their country or region. In the United States, a federal law called the Professional Entertainers Act of 1975 has helped to protect strippers across the nation. This protects a dancer’s right to be paid for the time spent on stage, and it also provides various protections from harassment and exploitation in the workplace. Specific laws vary by jurisdiction and may apply to other strippers who contract their services outside of clubs, such as burlesque dancers and some performers of exotic dance.
All in all, being a stripper is a great way to supplement one’s income. That said, it’s important for those in the industry to be aware of and comply with the relevant laws and regulations, many of which are designed to protect them. Additionally, many dancers have carved out spaces where they are able to support each other and build a community of performers that are respected and celebrated in the industry. Strippers have a unique opportunity to become financially stable, receive recognition for their talents, and bring joy to many with their artistry and enthusiasm.