Should You Dropout And Become A Stripper? Actually, No.
With summer ending and semesters starting around the country, the financial institutions we call “universities” will be opening their doors once again. Along with that will come the inevitable all-nighters, panic attacks and dinners consisting of ramen for the fifth consecutive night. And of course, there will be the thought that seeps into the heads of all college students: “Fuck this, I should dropout and become a stripper.” Which, depending on your major, might not be a bad idea. You really think you’re going to get a job with that degree in archeology? You’d have a better chance of finding the Ark of Covenant in Iowa. But before you give the finger to Fannie Mae and start picking your entrance song, there are a few things to consider if you hope to bare it all.
The first thing to think about is, how much do exotic dancers make per year. That answer depends on multiple factors, including — but not limited to — age, looks and location. For men, Chippendales is the creme de la creme. Chippendale dancers have been reported to take home an average income of $80,000 per year. However, male strip clubs are a lot less common than their female counterparts. Male dancers are typically only booked for bachelorette parties and once a week “lady’s night” appearances. So, unless you are built like Channing Tatum, your success in the industry might not be as magical. In fact, stripping is one of the few professions that serves as an outlier to the gender wage gap. A female stripper can make nine times more than a man on any given week. Female exotic dancers bring home an average of $42,000 a year, but they can earn as much as $118,400. Which, according to the U.S. Census, puts you at almost double the yearly income of the rest of the country, which currently sits at $26,695.
Another factor to consider is the employment rate and typical income for Millennials. Currently, 16.2% of millennials are unemployed, compared to 11.2% of the general population. The average yearly income for millennials in the U.S. is $32,500. That means if your striptease skills are average, you are likely to make more than your peers. More importantly, by showing some skin, you can avoid huge student loans. Selling your soul to Uncle Sam for that single dorm might seem like the right decision now, but student debt remains one of the biggest limiting factors to net income. It also serves as a continual stressor, with 41.4% of people under 35 years old facing some form of educational debt. In 2013, 69% of graduates that year owed an average of $28,400 in student debt.
Mounting debt is one of the biggest factors that drives people to the stripping industry. Seeing her sister dump out a night’s worth of earnings was enough to convince “Micki,” the stage name of a former exotic dancer and recent college graduate from Columbia University, to go in for an audition. After dancing while on breaks from school, she now has her degree, but she is still struggling to find entry into a career and pay off her debt. “My job prospects are not looking good,” says Micki. “In general I feel incompetent when applying for jobs.” This is coming from a graduate of the fourth highest-ranked university in the country!
But before you start counting your dollars, know that unlike most industries that look for years of experience, exotic dancing is not one of them. While dancers can legally start at 18 years old, the years that they are able to make a profit and generate the most money can diminish the older the dancer gets. Because strip clubs are not known for offering 401ks and pension plans, most dancers leave the industry in their 40s, finding it hard to support themselves. With the retirement age being raised from 65 to 67 years old, this career is a sprint instead of the traditional marathon that most professions are accustomed too.
But if the money is so easy to get, why hasn’t Micki returned to the stage? “I’m not currently dancing, but the idea is very tempting,” said Micki. “The only reason I haven’t picked it back up is because I liked having the support of my sister in the club, and she’s not with me here in New York.”
Because there is a societal stigma that surrounds exotic dancing, a big factor to weight when entering the industry is having emotional and psychological support. In a study by Old Dominion University, female dancers received very little support from their families and friends about their careers. This lack of support makes dancers less likely to talk about their profession and to recommend dancing to women considering the profession. On the other hand, a majority of male dancers not only received support, but would also recommend the profession to friends.
And because dancers are making their money based on looks, it is crucial to have an emotional outlet. According to a study by the University of California, female dancers are more likely to be concerned about their physical appearance than mental abilities and have trouble within romantic relationships. On the other hand, female college students are more likely to have a better relationship satisfaction, and they place more stock in competence-based attributes. However, even though dancers seemed to be at more of an emotional risk, both dancers and students reported the same level of self-esteem. “I wouldn’t suggest this job to anyone. It takes a tough exterior to milk an industry where clients feel entitled to degrade the ones who provide service to them,” said Micki.
If you do have that emotional support, great body and ability to market yourself then stripping might just be for you. But, while dancing does create higher earning potential from the onset of a career, unless you are using that money to invest in Roth IRAs and getting flown to King of Diamonds by Drake himself, you should not drop out and become a stripper. No, college isn’t for everyone. More importantly, it’s not the end-all-be-all it was for our parents’ generation. But your career earning potential is a lot higher with a college degree or certification than without one. And if you choose to leverage your natural abilities and looks to get ahead in this ever-changing world of self-promotion and exhibition, go right ahead. “I send my support to anyone who can make it through a world of customers who can’t separate the fantasy being sold from the person just working their job,” says Micki.
Now, uncrumple that syllabus and get back to work!