The F Word

As it turns out, I probably have a dollar for every ill-informed person who looks down on me for selling my self.

If I say “feminism” and your first reaction is to roll your eyes, I kindly ask you to hear me out for a second. When I say “feminism”, I don’t mean the loud, angry, misandrist aggressive offshoot of feminism that relies on combativeness to address issues.

No, I just mean people being treated as equal and not being defined or confined by gender norms. Women historically have been disadvantaged and oppressed {if you disagree, it is my turn to roll my eyes and suggest you google the word “dowry”} and we are, as a species, breaking out of that but there are still ways in which women are disadvantaged and specific challenges we face. A lot of people seem to think feminism has nothing to do with wanting equality- otherwise why not call it egalitarianism or humanism or something else?- and the best way I’ve seen this explained recently I’ll attempt to sum up.

Basically, women historically have faced oppression, been treated as lesser, seen as weaker, less capable, etc. The way femininity is viewed, as weakness, as an insult, damages men too: men are insulted by being compared to women, by having their masculinity questioned. The word “feminism” is a reminder that the focus is on elevating femininity until it is respected to the same degree as masculinity, not dragging down men or masculinity to make it equal. When femininity has the same place as masculinity in our world, everyone benefits. It is not limited to females or aimed at knocking men down and anyone who believes so is missing the point of feminism: again, the goal is for equality and to not have gender be damaging or a source of inequality.

So why am I bringing this up? Well. All my posts are tagged with “feminism” on here and to me, this is important for two reasons: to combat misogyny and challenge sex worker exclusionary radical feminists {SWERFs}.

Let’s start with misogyny. A lot, but not all, of this comes from men and it comes in many flavors. Misogyny is the guy who keeps trying to grope you in a lap dance even when you’ve told him no: he believes that because you a stripper, because you are naked, because he is paying you, he is entitled to violate your boundaries because you are inherently lesser than him. Misogyny is the patron who refuses to spend money on you because he “respects you too much” {yes, really, this is a thing} and thus is telling you that he views your work as degrading and stripping you of the right to be regarded as someone who has autonomy over their body and choices. This stems from this obsession with purity, where a woman’s value decreases with each sexual partner she has, where a teen boy is lauded for having sex but a sexually active teenage girl is called a slut. Misogyny is this patriarchal idea that women owe men gratification, that it is our fault that we make them desire us and thus owe them fulfillment, that we are asking for it. Misogyny is thinking it is unfair to have to pay strippers for lap dances when you can get sex for free, it is thinking you are an exception to the rules. Misogyny is telling a dancer there is no way they can possibly be happy. Misogyny is thinking the only reason a stripper isn’t interested in you must be because she has a boyfriend and honoring the concept of us “belonging” to another male before honoring the concept of us simply not wanting you.

Strip clubs are a place where gender norms and patriarchal structures are indulged. If you think about it, a strip club is a fantasy environment where a man can sit down and either be approached by a gorgeous woman or approach one himself and not be turned down. He can then see her in various stages of undress, gain intimacy with minimal effort, and receive sexual attention from said woman. This is a very simplistic view but it is one of the primary functions of strip clubs. Everyone wins: the dancer makes money, the patron gets to feel wanted, important, interesting, and special. But misogyny runs rampant and our boundaries are constantly ignored, we are constantly told our bodies aren’t good enough by men we’d never look twice at on the street, we are treated as though we sleep with anyone who comes along and are met with anger when we aren’t interested. I am a slut because I am unafraid to wield my sexuality proudly, not because I am a stripper. Honestly, since I started dancing, I have only gained self-respect and do not let anyone get away with treating me below what my dignity commands.

I tag my stories as feminism so that all the misogynists out there and even those with subtle biases and assumptions about strippers- that we are all drug addicted partiers, that we are all secretly insecure, that we are easy, that we don’t have self-respect, etc- can learn that we are humans. That we are constantly treated like crap, that we have thoughts and feelings on the matter. That we are all different people with different paths and backgrounds and did not just take “the easy way out” with stripping. A job is a job and just because we are strippers does not mean we deserve less respect than women who aren’t sex workers.

And now to address the other end of things, sex worker exclusionary radical feminism. There is a little group of self-proclaimed feminists who rigorously believes sex work is inherently oppressive and can never be ethical or empowering, that sex workers just have deep seated internalized misogyny and reinforcing sexist ideals. These people can go fuck themselves. There’s this idea that all sex workers are secretly unhappy and miserable and desire the approval of men. This dogmatic ideology takes a good point- the fact that a lot of sex workers are not sex workers consensually- and runs over it until it’s so far removed from the point that it is unhelpful.

Sex work is rife with people who are being trafficked or otherwise have no other option. This is a real issue and I’ll talk more about it down the road. SWERFs, in their eagerness to live in a world where misogyny does not run rampant and patriarchal ideals are no longer the norm, have decided that all sex work is exploitation and thus supporting sex workers is antithetical as sex work is inherently oppressive and can never ever be consensual and people who are sex workers are just perpetuating this cycle of objectification and commodification of women and their bodies. SWERFs, then, support movements to strip protections and rights away from sex workers in hopes that it’ll discourage us from signing up to be Pro Dommes and escorts and strippers and come to our good senses. Again, our opinion is erased and we are told we do not know our own minds. SWERFs see sex work as a condition from which we suffer instead of oh, I dunno, an occupation many profit from and enjoy.

Look. I chose to strip. I could’ve continued on with a career in science that made me miserable, I could’ve tried harder to break into tech. Nothing in my life has made me feel as assertive, powerful, confident, and proud as stripping has. I consider myself a feminist because I find it important for harmful norms and standards to be dismantled so that everyone has an equal chance at success, which includes being safe and happy. I would like to live in a world where autonomy is a given and boundaries are respected.

I am a stripper by choice and the fact that that is so hard to believe for many is why I write. I would like to think that most people just don’t *know* enough sex workers or have enough exposure to our lives to challenge the views that can be so damaging to us so I am adding my voice to the chorus. The most effective way to combat trafficking and sex worker abuse is by offering us more legal protections {more on this some other time too but give this a watch if you’re skeptical or want to learn more}. Strippers firmly have a place in feminism and if this bothers you, ask yourself why.

Before lecturing me on why I am wrong to be a stripper, consider this: I have spent far more time considering if this is the right choice for me than you have and know myself far better. Entertain the possibility that perhaps I know myself. Sound good?