At Hustler, I befriended a baby stripper and advised her not to let any of the staff coerce her into giving them her hard earned money in the form of a “tip out,” or whatever other lawsuit-avoiding term they might call it. I informed her that strippers have sued clubs for things like that in the past, and won. She expressed interest in wanting a “revolution!” for sex workers. I thought we were on the same page.
I didn’t go to work for a few days, and in that time period, she had some conversations with the DJ who hates me for telling him I would never tip him. After that, the baby stripper said to me,
“Guy strippers tip their DJ too, so what’s the problem? It’s not just us. It’s guy strippers too. I’m just doing what everybody else does. The DJ controls everything, and I want him to play my music.”
She was correct; guy strippers usually feel pressure to tip their DJ too. Guy strippers are also exploited employees who are misclassified as independent contractors. They too can sue their clubs and win. This baby stripper misunderstood my argument against tipping. She was only able to see our exploitation as being something about gender. She felt less exploited after she was told that “guy” strippers are also pressured to give their money away. Tip out, stage fees and unpaid wages is a labor issue. It transcends boundaries of sex and/or gender, because “guy” strippers feel the pressure too. While guy strippers should also sue their clubs that exploit them, the stripping industry is overwhelmingly staffed by women entertainers at the mercy of an overwhelming amount of male managers and owners. The industry is gendered, and it is misogynist. There is no denying the misogyny, even as there is a minority of male reviews in the industry.
The baby stripper didn't converse much with me after that. She paled around with the DJ who I told to unionize with his employee status. She tipped him all the time and he played her all of the songs that she requested. For me, he played Nickelback, techno and 80′s hair metal, because he knew those are three types of music that I hate listening to. Playing me Nickelback probably won’t hold up in court as a form of retaliation, and the DJ knows that.
One benefit of having an overseeing body to protect the rights of strippers might be that we would be able to select what kind of music to dance to. As it stands now, DJs can play whatever they want while the stripper is on stage.
When I was a baby stripper, I knew it was wrong of the DJ to expect my money, and I did not give it to him. Back at Cabaret on Burnside, I had to sit in the DJ booth when I wasn’t on stage, because I was too young to walk the floor. Even though I told him I would never tip him, he still always played that song “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley for me when it first came out, because we both liked it so much. Whenever I hear “Crazy,” I still think of him. I talked to the DJ for most of the night, and sometimes I wonder if my rambling helped drive him to madness. My first DJ ever, Larry Bell, eventually shot himself in the head during a murder-suicide, leaving his girlfriend’s child motherless. It is a tragedy that he shot his girlfriend, but the world is better off without Larry Bell around, pestering strippers for their lunch money.