At the end of September this year, The Independent published an article called The Truth About Student Sex Workers. In true national newspaper fashion, we were exposed to sufficiently terrible views of the sex industry – the sleaze, the shame, the list goes on. So imagine this reporter’s delight when she was offered the chance to interview a UCLan student working as a stripper at one of Preston’s lap dancing bars.
Rachel (we’ve changed her name), has worked at Room 32 for a year now and spoke to PLUTO about her experience as a student stripper. I had read the Independent’s piece just before the interview and when I asked her about the seedy image associated with her job, I was greeted with a knowing smile. It’s not the first time she’d been asked such a question. “If I don’t want to dance for someone, I don’t have to dance for them. The guys aren’t allowed to touch you. So I don’t find it that seedy because I’m the one that’s in control, not the guy.”
For Rachel, stripping is just a bit of fun with the added bonus of some extra pocket money and the myth of the shabby lap-dancing bar and its controlling manager is just that – a myth. She enjoys going to work and says the owners of the club are some of the nicest people she’s worked for. She went on to comment on how she’s never felt threatened or at danger while at working at Room 32, commenting on how she’s fully within her rights to throw a guy out of the bar. “We’ve got bouncers that will kick them out – they’re mainly there for our safety. If I said I want that guy kicked out, he’s being inappropriate and rude, the bouncers and the manager would not question any of us – they would just kick them out.”
There’s been a massive stigma surrounding the sex industry for as long as it has existed. It’s a world of shadow and intrigue and yet at the same time, it’s shameful and sordid. I asked Rachel about how she came to be a stripper and the story I got was very different to the one I was expecting – “I always joked about being a stripper and then one day in my second year, I just called up Perfect 10s.” Rachel isn’t ashamed of her job or how people may view her – her job is just like any other. She has to go to work on time, she has to fit it around her course load and her work life is kept separate from her home life.
I’m quite a self-conscious person but it can give you a massive confidence boost.
On the question of whether she’s judged by her peers, then yes. There are people on her course and acquaintances that know she is a stripper and she has noticed a change in attitude since they find out what she does but she shrugs them off. She has come across students who comment and degrade her for her job, often viewing her job as prostitution but she finds it’s often through ignorance. People often don’t consider that stripping may be a choice and so they judge based on the image that they have been fed by the media. It’s Rachel’s complete control over when she works and who she dances for that gives her a sense of empowerment in being a stripper.