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Lap Dance Liberation: How Stripping Helped Me Shed My Shame

Lap Dance Liberation: How Stripping Helped Me Shed My Shame: 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.

“Are you ever going to stop dancing?” sneered my exceptionally heinous Tinder date last week.

Why would I? Getting comfortable enough with myself to become a stripper was no easy task. I grew up in a small, religious hick town called Canby, Oregon. Instead of sex education, my high school had a nursery for students’ babies. Modest clothing was trendy amongst my many Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Russian Orthodox and Catholic peers. We even had abstinence-only assemblies where students signed a pact to save sex for marriage. It was like growing up in the town in Footloose that banned dancing.

My sexuality was buried under so many layers of shame that I couldn’t even look at it until I got to college. My sex drive set me on a path—one lined with humiliating hook-ups—that led all the way to sex addiction. Stripping has helped me find a way beyond that dead end by giving me a healthy outlet for my sexuality while helping others explore theirs.

Here’s a scenic tour of my path to sexual freedom.


SEX ADDICTION
Being a female sex addict is like being an alcoholic who owns a liquor store. The four-year stretch between college and stripping was when I really got acquainted with my sexuality. Though I had lost my virginity to my college boyfriend, we seldom fucked and I dreamt of the day I would be an unattached wild child spreading free love. In LA, I got to be that PLUR raver girl who was too high on molly to feel the guy’s cigarette singeing my thigh as we made out. Intimacy still scared me shitless so I would pre-game before hook-ups, alone in my car with Two Buck Chuck. I once drunkenly invited a dude over, only to pass out and sleep through his arrival. Sex started taking over my life. I wasn’t having fun anymore; it was just something I did compulsively, along with booze and drugs, to escape my flesh prison. In the haze of bottoming out, I lost the ability to create boundaries with people.

When I started stripping, my boss reprimanded me for letting customers touch me. In order to keep my job, I had to start making boundaries. Ironically, stripping gave me the tools to say no.

LOSING THE SHAME
To paraphrase Marc Jacobs, everyone should aspire to be shameless. Although I was getting there through my inebriated misadventures, the shame from my small-town upbringing lingered. Getting sober a few months into stripping forced me to be present in my own body and get comfortable in it. These days, it’s not uncommon for me to crack jokes or crack up during lap dances because I see the glorious absurdity of my job. When I give a double lap dance with another stripper, we usually laugh at how unsexy we look, crawling over each other while faking orgasm. I’ll even mess with nervous-looking customers by asking, “Are you my daddy?” while batting my eyelashes. This silliness seeps into my actual lovemaking, which I often commence with a firm handshake.

The shedding of shame extends to my sexual orientation too. Growing up, I was constantly called a dyke. Any lesbian leanings I might’ve had were so repressed that I didn’t even know how I sexually identified. Getting cozy with my co-workers has been key in finally laying to rest my homoerotic discomfort. The praise strippers shower each other with has made me okay with my fluid sexuality.

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GETTING AROUSED
My oh-so-tactful Tinder date couldn’t help but ask if I ever get turned on giving lap dances. The answer: very infrequently. As with any job, I’m usually going through the motions. I might become aroused if the guy is super cute or if we have a special connection, but that’s contingent upon my daily levels of sexual frustration and/or him worshiping me. But even if I’m not turned on, stripping is a healthy outlet for my sexual energy. I can’t say that the job affects my love life, which is practically nonexistent, but I can say that I get the porn-star stuff out of my system at work so empty hookups are no longer appealing. The loving I crave involves heartfelt connection and affection. Still, crawling across the stage or bending over and spanking my own ass certainly doesn’t hurt my libido.

CATERING TO FETISHES
Experiencing strangers’ kinks has given me peace with my own. It’s hard to feel shame about your fetishes when someone is paying you to smell your sweaty armpits. In the lap dance room, I’ve had my fair share of guys who mash their faces against my feet, as well as fellas who go on about how perfect my small breasts are or how smooth my skin is, how beautiful my mouth is or my eyes, face, tattoos, butt, legs, hair… You name it, a man has fawned over it!

The sheer amount of different porn categories has made it clear that people have all kinds of fetishes, but getting up-close and personal with them is humanizing. When men ask to be slapped or choked, I feel like I have the most feminist job on the planet.

One time, a customer got off on saying demeaning things to me, which I abruptly shut down. I’ll cater to fetishes so long as they don’t cross my personal boundaries—boundaries I’ve thankfully learned how to create working as a stripper.


Find more installments of the Tasteful Nude here.

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