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The Tasteful Nude The Tasteful Nude

A Different Kind of Grind: Why Stripping Can Be a Viable Career Option

A Different Kind of Grind: Why Stripping Can Be a Viable Career Option: Hair and Makeup by Emma Parkes

Hair and Makeup by Emma Parkes

Welcome to The Tasteful Nude, in which stripper, comedian and writer Kasey Koop gives us a point-blank look at life onstage and backstage in L.A.’s strip club scene. Check back every Thursday afternoon for more.

I never imagined I would write off sexting on my taxes. But last April, I listed my phone bills as a deduction, along with manicures and massages. Objectification wasn’t so bad! I used to consider myself unlucky, growing up in a middle-lower class home where pennies were pinched so hard that, if they were coal, they’d turn into diamonds. My wardrobe was a mix of Costco couture and hand-me-downs, and I earned everything with the bootstraps mentality of my parents—but I was sick of working twice as hard for half as much. After putting myself through college, the only work I could find was in restaurants where co-workers would steal from the tip pool. Eventually I caved to the seduction of stripping’s quick cash, swearing I’d quit as soon as I bought a car.

I ended up sticking around for the quality of life it afforded me. For some women, profiting off our looks can be life-changing. Here’s why.


THE TWERKING CLASS
When I tell people I’m a stripper, one of the better reactions is, “Strippers are so nice!” I concur–there’s a deeper sense of compassion and patience amongst my sisters, in large part because most of us don’t come from privilege. This is a generalization, of course, but strippers tend to grow up in a lower socioeconomic class and are the least entitled and most generous people I know, despite our battle cry being FUCK YOU PAY ME. Some of the dancers and I have hoarding tendencies, due to growing up with little. A few of my co-strippers were raised in foster care while others have been homeless. I work with a number of immigrants. And for me, the money offered numerous firsts, including a savings account, a decent apartment and the opportunity to travel.

In other words, stripping provides a comfortable life to women who have never experienced one.

I didn’t particularly think I went without until arriving in L.A., where the comedians who complained about being broke told tales of the Europe trips and sailing hobbies of their youth. They say 30s are the new 20s, but I see 20s as the new teens because of the shocking amount of twentysomethings who are financially supported by their parents.

THE GRIND
People used to ask me why I don’t simply get an office job. Well, if I wasn’t covered in tattoos and could sit still for more than a few minutes, I might be able to. I made all the “office job” life choices: getting straight-A’s in high school, joining clubs, working a part-time job, being captain of the dance team and receiving a full academic scholarship to college. My parents were high-school dropouts who told me that I had to get a scholarship and go to college, so I worked myself to the bone.

In college, I maintained a high GPA and full course load to keep my scholarship—and I was miserable. Between panic attacks over my grades, hospitalizations for diseases I hadn’t even heard of (my immune system was shot from sleep deprivation) and nearly drinking myself to death, I was ready to die. Following the traditional path isn’t for everyone; it nearly killed me. By the time I graduated, I felt the relief of a convict released from prison. Putting khaki pants on a tie-dyed soul didn’t even pay off: The only work I could find was in restaurants splitting tips with other degree-toting artists. We were the class of 2011, the face of the failed economy as façade of college being anything besides a financially exploitative business began to crumble. I saw my university fire professors and eliminate classes they supposedly couldn’t afford while erecting showy new buildings to attract more students. I wish one of my courses had taught me how to scrape gum off the bottoms of tables.

MONETIZING THE PRETTY
Smarts were of paramount importance in my family. Meet the Press was our Saturday morning cartoons. (Politics seemed at least goofy as Animaniacs, anyway). I had a love-hate relationship with vanity since I hated how much I longed to be pretty. Sometimes I resented it so much, I’d get a Miley Cyrus buzz cut back when she was Hannah Montana. Women are told that our successes are the result of our looks or sexual prowess, so female comics stuff down both in order to be taken seriously. Male comics said I got booked on shows because the booker wanted to get in my pants, unaware that the host was a girl who probably just wanted my pants. Monetizing the looks I had finally grown into went against everything I knew. Then again, dudes constantly told me that girls are given advantages for looking good. (I had only found this to be true for a free drink at the bar that came with an expectant man.) My appearance had been used against me so much that I figured I might as well harness its power.

Our entire lives, women are fed messages that our value lies in being hot and sexual, and yet we are vilified for owning either. Stripping is a job where ladies can directly profit from our beauty and sexuality in a world that tells us not to. And you know what? It’s invigorating. My only regret is waiting so long to start.


Find more installments of the Tasteful Nude here.

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