When Strippers Take Advantage of Clients: A Moral Ambiguity Must-Read

Spring Breakers

In this absorbing profile from New York Magazine and The Cut, a group of exotic dancers resorts to more unusual ways of making money off of their clients. Like, essentially drugging and stealing from them.

Samantha had come up with the innovation that was making her rich: a special drink spiked with MDMA and ketamine.
“Just a sprinkle,” Rosie recalled, as she maneuvered her SUV out of her driveway and toward her daughter’s preschool. “Like a pinch of salt.” This was the key to the scenes she had observed in the Champagne Room, with Samantha’s clients “laid out,” and once she realized what was going on, she told Samantha she wanted in. She had no qualms about their methods — working at a strip club, she’d already crossed a lot of lines. “It sounds so bad to say that we were, like, drugging people,” she said. “But it was, like, normal.”
The guys they were targeting were wealthy, she pointed out. “What’s an extra $20,000 to them?” And they weren’t exactly upstanding citizens. “It wasn’t like we pulled them off the street,” she said. “They had history. They’d been to Hustler, they’d been to Rick’s, they’d been to Scores. They all walked in ready to party. And yeah, we slipped an extra one that they didn’t know about. But all of it goes hand in hand — sex, drugs, and rock and roll. You know?”

My instinct is to say, Nope, I don’t know. This is often how people dismiss and undercut the claims of sexual assault victims! Oh, she had history. She walked in ready to party. She wasn’t exactly an upstanding citizen. It’s a kind of character assassination, a way to make someone seem less human and thus more deserving of whatever was done to them.

Still, the article is too compelling to walk away from. And not because it’s being marketed, at least in part, as a tale of twisted female empowerment.

[Rosie] rejects the suggestion, made by some, that anyone at Scores was the driving force behind the scheme. “Nobody put us up to anything!” she snapped at me when I suggested it. “We are strong women who don’t fucking take shit from nobody.”

These are dynamic, ruthless characters operating in a high-stakes environment. Their whole situation seems cinematic. In fact, if this story isn’t optioned by either Hollywood or cable TV, I’ll eat the winter hat I found on the street.

Samantha had zero business sense, was the problem. Look what happened with Rick, a banker they’d met. “He was good-looking, had money, was nice, and not a pervert,” Rosie said. Paraphrasing Warren Buffett’s long-term-greed philosophy, she’d suggested the gang would be better served by padding out Rick’s bills over time, rather than “banging him out” all at once. But after Samantha found out Rick had a credit limit of $50,000, that was that. Rick was predictably furious and never returned a text again. “That’s the problem with these girls,” Rosie told me of her cohort, shaking her head. “I see the forest. They just wanted a $50,000 tree.” …
Rosie kept telling herself that as soon as she had enough money in the bank, she was going to quit. “I would say to myself, Okay, I’m going to make 100 grand and leave,” she said. “Then I’d make 100 grand. Then, I’m going to make another hundred grand. I’m going to get to half a million and leave. No, now I want to make a million and leave. It was just never enough.”

No, it never is enough, is it? Money is addictive, and the accumulation of money even more so. It’s like The Wolf of Wall Street, only these women are preying on the wolves of Wall Street. Greed makes everyone involved reckless, success makes everyone arrogant, and sex makes everyone stupid. Gender, too: the cops had a hard time finding people to press charges because “men don’t want to admit to being victimized by women.”

That kind of entrenched sexism — and the fact that years of stripping had given them a sense that all men were assholes, at least once they got drunk — left the women feeling aggrieved and justified in taking whatever they could get. Hence, I suppose, the author Jessica Pressler’s comparison of them to Robin Hood which is, by any standard, pretty far-fetched. Robin Hood robbed from the rich to give to the poor. If you rob from the rich to give to … yourselves, that’s not heroic. That’s theft.

But the gender stuff is fascinating, and on the part of the author too. Pressler doesn’t complicate the narrative by acknowledging that there are women working on Wall Street, just as there are male sex workers. Instead everyone’s role in this story seems biologically determined:

As a kid, [Rosie] said, she used to buy candy in bulk and sell it at school for a profit, which I later remembered is the same story hedge-fund billionaire John Paulson tells about himself. But John Paulson was born into his body and Roselyn Keo was born into hers, which happens to be a rather more overtly sexy shape, with the sort of waist-to-hip ratio scientists have concluded affects men like a drug. It’s the kind of body that, as they used to say, could get a girl in trouble

Surely class is more relevant than waist-t0-hip ratio in determining what career options are more open to some people than others? But class is not really discussed, and that’s a shame, because it’s one of several nuances that could have been developed here, ones that could have made a rich story even richer.