Photo by Darren Black.
I do many things in life, I explore many areas and disciplines and I span across many boxes. Some would say I have fingers in many pies, I certainly want to taste them all.
But when it comes to one of my favourite things I do, STRIPPING, I find that many people are all too often trying to skip around the word and instead come up with a label to somehow dampen, soften the edges and make Stripping into a more manageable concept for a tame palette.
I have been called a drag queen, a dancer, a host, a freak, a weirdo, a scary monster and an “eugh wtf is that?!”. But the one that I think is most frustrating is the term “Performance Artist”.
The difficulty here is that this may in a literal sense be a fairly accurate term to describe what I and many other strippers do. We perform a form of Art. We question, we provoke, we please and displease and we are aesthetically interesting. Further to this, because I do not present as a “normal”, looking stripper, crossing genders and wearing “non-sexy” and sometimes “scary” items, it must somehow be, “more intellectual”, or “less sleazy” than “normal” strippers? When really I’m just stripping / exotic dancing all the same.
The problem, however, is the social understanding of the term, “Performance Art”, and all the extra baggage that comes with it.
There can be an air of pretence around the phrase; “Performance Art”, is something that can only be understood by “Art” people from “Art” backgrounds and “Art” institutions. It is hierarchied and exclusivized, and sticks it’s nose up at those who don’t relate. It adds excitement and mystery where it is not due and simply leads to disappointment to those expecting me to cake myself with acrylic paint to grunge or to bleed for 900 hours in a gallery space, (all things which are interesting and legitimate also), but are not stripping.
I take my clothes off and dance in a sexually provocative way for the pleasure of myself and others.
Most of the time I love it. It fills me with adrenaline, I feel sexy, I feel powerful, I feel desired and I, (even though it earns a lot less than a gender normative stripper), I can make more than a minimum wage doing something I enjoy, all whilst listening to great music and meeting new people.
Like anything that makes one feel this way, it can also be addictive and it requires a strong set of boundaries to make sure you are still doing it for a motivation that spiritually suits you and sometimes we need a break to reset and replenish.
Stripping is sex work. It is making money from your sexual energy and your body. It is an exchange of pleasure and desire and is completely and legitimately just as ok as any other job.
For many queer people, sex work, drag or performance is like the equivalent to a waitressing or reception roll in a corporate environment. The difference is that queer people are not free to be themselves in those environments so they found other ways and means to make enjoyable basic livings.
Most importantly, we should understand that Stripping is not a gutter job; at least not in the context in which I exercise it. It is fine, it is not all of my wildest dreams but it does not destroy me and make me sick like other minimum wage jobs that give zero hours contracts and don’t pay you on lunch breaks and give you late/early/late shift patterns and ask you to constantly lie and disrespect your needs and still you can’t pay your rent let alone buy lunch.
It is OK to be SEXY! Dancing around a pole and undressing IS SEXY; it is not “just for fitness purposes” and we should not have to oppress our sexuality because society has for some reason deemed sex evil and wrong and sordid and backdoor and underground and alternative and nasty.
Being slutty can be fun, it can be healthy, stripping can be cathartic and freeing, it can also be abusive and corrupt but so can all areas of life. It all depends on how you exercise it and who you’re trying to shunt the blame on to. Office jobs exploit and kill too. And it is up to us to take individual responsibility for our actions as much as possible.
And it is therefore OK to call it Stripping!
I am a Stripper.
I make art too. I also write and converse and dance and send emails and eat broccoli and binge on milkshake like every other cunt.
But please can we stop trying to make something socially acceptable with masking terminology that detracts from the core of what something actually is.
I am sexy, I am naked, I am dancing, I am a human.
I have boundaries, I am learning, I am growing and though some people may not respect this and instead of attempting to understand it they instead abuse you with (spanking) = HITTING you, the work is still ok.
But constantly being swayed and diverted from your truth because society can’t cope with it is so frustrating and exhausting. How are we ever supposed to progress if everything is recycled back into the muck of homogenised, capitalistic, hate driven conservativity?!
I AM A STRIPPER, I AM NOT A PERFORMANCE ARTIST!
And ya’ll can deal.
Thought and expressed by Ted Rogers “Artpornblog”