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The Tasteful Nude The Tasteful Nude

Inside the Sorority of Stripping

Inside the Sorority of Stripping: Hair and Makeup by Emma Parkes

Hair and Makeup by Emma Parkes

Playboy.com proudly presents the third installment of The Tasteful Nude, a new series in which stripper, comedian and writer Kasey Koop gives us an unvarnished and often hilarious look at life onstage and backstage in L.A.’s strip club scene. Check back every Thursday afternoon for more.

Working in an all-women environment can be as daunting as it is rewarding. Having always been a girls’ girl, I have enjoyed bountiful female friendships—but a strip club full of confident, beautiful tattooed women intimidated the hell out of me at first. Would I be able to handle a room full of me’s? Could I put aside my alpha mentality to assimilate to this matriarchal jungle?

I wanted to join the tight-knit sorority of strippers more than I had ever wanted to be a part of Greek life in college, and the fear of not belonging ran through me like the liquor I drank to overcome it. Back in school, many of my friends joined sororities but I stuck to hanging in the fraternity where my boyfriend at the time was president, which taught me more than I needed to know about Greek life. Unlike in actual sororities, the girls at work weren’t paying for friendship but, instead, were forming friendships while getting paid. Becoming a part of the sisterhood of strippers has equipped me with the female support system I craved in adulthood.

Here are the basics of how the sorority of stripping functions.


PLEDGING
Coming from the boys’ club of stand-up comedy, the only way I knew how to get respect was by acting bigger and cockier than I am. This turned out to be the exact opposite of how to assimilate to strip-club life. Strippers can detect bullshit like none other—we are professional bullshitters, after all. It didn’t help that I was bottoming out in my addictions when I started out. I made every novice mistake, from giving one girl’s stage money to another girl, to spilling a customer’s wine all over her during a performance. I quickly learned that being sloppy and arrogant is not conducive to fitting in; I made enemies of nearly every girl at work. If there’s one thing a suicidal addict doesn’t need, it’s 30 angry strippers trying to get her fired.

Pledging the sorority of stripping taught me how to keep my head down, which is difficult when you are simultaneously trying to keep your chin up. For any stripper newbie, the girls will eventually come around to you but, for your own sake, don’t walk into the joint like you own it.

EARNING MY RANK
The strip club functions less like a sorority than it does like a prison, although Greek hazing actually seems more dangerous. Save for a night in jail, I haven’t spent much time behind bars, but I have heard that club dynamics are not far from being locked up. “Earn Your Rank” was scrawled on the ladies’ room door when I started dancing.

Strip clubs are somewhat lawless: Dancers typically do not receive an hourly wage, so we are independent contractors and it’s up to us to self-regulate. HR protocol at a strip club is an older stripper shoulder-checking a new girl. (Thankfully, the dancers at my club are polite enough to use their words when one of us gets out of line.) Strippers who have worked in the industry longer and at more clubs have more clout. They have loyal regulars and seasoned dance skills. A higher position affords these ladies perks like arriving later, choosing when they go onstage and the general respect of both management and new girls. The killer pole dancers hold a higher rank for the sensational show they put on. Any hustler who consistently makes good money has also “earned her rank.” Other sex-work experience can increase your bad bitch clout. One of my co-workers is a porn star and the other girls and I marvel at her gangbang photos as if they were her wedding pictures.

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LEARNING STRIPPER ETIQUETTE
Like any sorority, the strip club has rules for its sisters. They are unspoken until they are screamed.

A cardinal rule of most strip clubs is not hustling customers sitting at the stage. If you’re sitting stage-side wondering why no one is offering you a lap dance, it’s because pulling guys away from the rack deprives the girl onstage of a tipping customer. Stripper etiquette is all about making the most cash we can without reducing anyone else’s earnings. Greek life philanthropy at its finest! Likewise, seasoned strippers ask customers if they are sitting with someone before taking a seat next to them. You do not want to swipe a co-worker’s client while she is away.

Lap-dance protocol is an especially touchy subject, pun intended. Because private dances are our primary source of income, it’s tempting to let customers break the rules in order to sell more. When I was new to stripping, I made the fatal error of making out with a longtime crush I was giving a lap dance to, only to have my honeymoon cut short by a stripper telling me to knock it off. I didn’t realize that allowing some extra contact sets the standard for the other girls to compete with. If you tell a customer there is no touching and he sees a girl letting a dude feel her up, you’ll soon be babysitting a grown man asking why he can’t do what someone else is doing.

JOINING THE SISTERHOOD
My best female comic friends, whom I lovingly deemed the “Pussy Posse,” moved to New York shortly before I started dancing. I needed to surround myself with the energy of a new group of fearless women, and I loved that strippers were comfortable enough in their own skin to show it off. The Instagram photos I saw of the dancers snuggling up and goofing off reminded me of my high school years on the dance team, although exposing even our navels would get us in trouble back then. I look forward to work, knowing that I will be surrounded by the humor and honesty of my sisters.

Sometimes guys tell me that strip clubs make them sad—maybe because they don’t see us in the locker room, laughing our asses off while counting their money. I consider my co-workers to be family, a much-need source of tough love and wisdom. When I started stripping, one of my co-workers told me never to let the job define me. What she meant was don’t let anyone deprive you of your wholeness by diminishing you to one thing. I think that is a lesson we could all take home.


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