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Strip Clubs

by Luis Alberto, Marisol Rodriguez, David Seitz, Jr., and Rebeca Silva

Have you ever seen a swarm of ants attacking a forgotten half eaten chocolate fudge cake? Well if you have you will notice that the ants are everywhere, on the plate, on the counter, on top of the spoon, anywhere they can smell and taste the succulent rich sugar calling after them that are where they will be.  Like ants, that cover every inch of the surface as necessary in order to obtain there meal, strip clubs work in the same way.  No matter where you are in the world there will always be one there for your pleasure and entertainment.  However, there are over 150 strip clubs or gentlemen’s club’s located all over Southern California and this is excluding the strip clubs located in Tijuana, Mexico, and Burlesque clubs spreading from San Diego all the way up to Bakersfield.  Just like hungry starving ants, strippers and strip clubs are after something, one special very important something that we all crave, want, and desire; money.   The different ways in which strippers/dancers acquire money and the different approaches they have towards optioning and spending there money is our objective and goal. 
Strippers don’t have a great reputation, by just saying the word stripper one can come to the conclusion that a stripper is a prostitute, a woman that will do a sexual favor for money or for an exchange of any sort, therefore many prefer to be called dancers or entertainers.  However on more than many occasions a simple stripper dancing her way through college or dancing to just survive, they have no other choice than to perform acts of prostitution, if the money is right. 
However like any subject or topic strip has a history and it is not as new and recent as it may seem.  There is an evolutionary pattern of striptease. Stripping or striptease is dated back in the bible. In Matthew 14, John the Baptist was the one who baptized Jesus in the river of Jordan. John was “imprisoned for criticizing the marriage between King Herod Antipas and his brother’s ex-wife Herodias.” According to the bible, King Herod requested one of his daughters to dance for him on his birthday and in return, he would grant her on wish. Herodias made her ask King Herod for John the Baptist’s head on a platter, which the King Herod granted. The dance that she did, which is now known as the ‘Dance of the Seven Veils,” was mean to inflame Herod with incestuous desire so that he would treat John as she wished.”

            In Hinduism, erotic dancing is important to the practice of the religion. Within Indian civilization, there were dancers known as snake dancers, who were temple dancers. There job was to guide the souls of men away from suffering. It is believe that suffering can be rid of through prayer, meditation or through sensual enjoyment where the pleasure of sex frees man from desire and suffering. Also, in the Hindu religion, “the dances of the love affairs between Krishna and Radha are erotic dances…includes a description of the dances of the apsars, which represents the unity of masculine and feminine. These graphic descriptions of movements of the belly, breast, waists and thighs are accompanied by erotic gesture of hand, neck and head” (Stripping in Time, 2)

            Burlesque appeared the mid 1800s during the Victorian era. Burlesque was created through the culture clashing of both the aristocracy government and the working class.  Burlesque seemed to serve a purpose of leaving outside the rule of the government and life. Often culture life styles were mocked and always rejecting the norm lifestyle of dressing and behaving. In the 1880s, burlesque had created some rules such as: “minimal costuming, often focusing on the female form, sexually suggestive dialog, dance, plotlines, and staging, quick-witted humor, lacking complexity, and short routines or sketches , with minimal plot cohesion across a show.” One of the famous burlesque houses is Moulin Rouge located near Paris, France built in 1889. By the 193, people wanted to bring burlesque house down. They thought that it was immoral and wrong. Slowly, the number of burlesque houses decreases and they began to change from humor and mockery performances to plain performances mostly on striptease.  Striptease is born as well as various forms of pornography.
On March7, 2006 around 9:48, we went to Santa Monica, California to a burlesque house to do our fieldwork. There were a couple of burlesque dancers. One of them called Nicole was 27, had been working there since august of 2005. She got the job through connections. There was a bouncer at door who only let in people of 21 years and older and charged $10 for admission. The room was dark with a small stage on the right side of the floor. There was sultry music while we waited for the show to begin. The air was very smoky from the fake smog machine. The room was segregated. Couples sat at the booths while single men sat at the bar. There was another dance that was 22 years old.  The dancers got paid depending on the budget, and how much money the bar made. A tip jar was set out at the bar and the money was split among the dancers.
Some of the burlesque dancers were professional dancers, but the entire act was improvised. They never practice for a performance. When they perform, they manipulate men through dance. The first girl who was 22 wore a black dress with tassels. She began her performance while smoking a cigarette. The band was live. There was no dj playing some type of music while she performed. The music was jazz. She was singing and going from table to table while hold on to the chandeliers. The only thing that she took off was her gloves. Each performance is different from the next burlesque dancer.

               One of the dancers, Nicole is a professional dancer. For her, this is a part time job. She works at the club on Tuesday nights, while other nights she baby-sits. During the day she auditions for parts and she is a hair model. She is a professional choreographer. She graduated from high school and wanted to pursue professional dancing so she moved to Los Angeles. She won a professional dance training scholarship at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Hollywood. The scholarship program is a year long program, where they take a select group of dancers who are aspiring professional dancers. They but them through 40 hours a week of dance, with added acting, voice, and gymnastics classes. At the end of the year they go out to the world and begin to compete for auditions.

               She works at the club in Santa Monica on Tuesday Night as a burlesque dancer. The money that she gets from this job, she use it to pay bills among other things like clothes, makeup, bills, yoga classes, going out to eat, movies, and music. She keeps her money in a bank account. She doesn’t use the money for drugs, alcohol, junk food, excessive material items or expensive clothing or jewelry. When she decided to become a dancer, it wasn’t because she needed the money but because she wanted to since the “80's days of FAME on TV.”  However not everyone becomes a dancer with these reasons, some have to become dancers and at times even more than dancers as a necessity; a way to live.

Many people say that stripping is just an easy way to make more money, instead of working at McDonalds and flipping burgers yes, one might agree.  However, if you think that dancing half or in some cases completely naked on six inch platform shoes, while a being smothered and molested in a way by a man that could be your grandfather, I something hard to overcome but many women choose to do it, while others have to in order to live.
In a regular strip club in California the mood and atmosphere of the club is very similar to one that you would find at a bar or a night club. It’s dark, maybe some dim lighting and always there has to be some sort of music. Depending on the club the stage is usually in the center, it is the main attraction or in other words the focus point, the spot where everyone should be looking.  Strippers start off dancing a little slow, slowing taking off their small articles of clothing and entertaining the gentlemen that sit along the stage.  The dancer moves from one man to another strutting her stuff and arousing the men enough in order for them to slip a few dollars in between her breasts or in the elastic straps that ride along her g string.  In an interview from I had with “Candy” an erotic dancer from Pacers in San Diego, Candy mentioned that just like in any other business, she had her usual customers, and if she saw any of there, they would be her priority because they always give the biggest tips.  “ I have a usual, I call him Oli, each time I dance for him, which is two to three times a week, I end up leaving with at least 100 dollars.  Oli pays for my nails and accessories!”    The money that Candy makes while dancing for Oli and some of her other regulars, she spends it on herself.  She treats herself to things that she doesn’t necessarily need but things that she wants, for example a Douney & Bourke hand bag with the matching wallet, and coin holder, and she mentioned that she bought a couple weeks ago.  Candy only works four nights a week, and with Friday being the busiest, Candy makes approximately six hundred to eight hundred dollars on Friday nights alone.  With that money she pays half of her rent and she buys her groceries and necessities, because she lives with a roommate who is also a dancer they split everything fifty-fifty.  “It‘s a very comfortable life, as long as your young and you like to party” (Candy).  Due to the ties and connections Candy has with her regulars she also does house calls, either for her regulars and his friends or for people that he has referred her to.   For example her relationship with Oli, Candy has created a sphere of exchange with him, due to the fact that he is her regular client and he helps her get more clients, therefore more money for her.  I also must add that due to Oli’s profession at the hospital he works at, he is an orthopedic tech, and Candy like many dancers has had her number of injuries that have eventually lead to fractures, Oli helps Candy out and simplifies her appointments and gets her in with the doctors in a time effective order.  He also does special favors for Candy, for example if she needs a new cast or a brace for her fractured leg, and in return when Oli goes to the strip club he can touch extra things that other men can’t touch!
At a house call there is liberty, the dancer has the choice to do what she wishes and she has the power to charge for her work.  During a house call, Candy mentioned that it is usually her and another girl, accompanied by two other males from the club to watch them.  For this service they charge up to five hundred dollars an hour for two girls, but the difference here compared to the strip club is very different.  “At someone’s house, I take all my clothes of and depending on what the guys want we will do it, we take toys and the guys love that! They give us more money if we start getting dirty with each other!” (Candy).  Candy stated that the most popular game they play with each other, which also gives them the most tips is the double sided dildo game.  In this game the girls get a double sided dildo and they have sex with each other while all the guys watch with desperation.  The most that Candy has received for one of the double sided dildo games was two hundred dollars, and that is on top of the fee they charge for coming over and dancing for them.  At the house call the guys at the part give the money to the “pimp” or the other man watching over them, but the tips are given directly to them by means of placing in there clothing or they are even thorn on the ground as well.  She also said that she would make more in a couple of hours than she makes in a week at the club, because the guys would want them to stay longer and play more games to entertain them.  After the show and the games are over, there were times when Candy as well as the other girl would do “extras” for example performing fellacio (blow job), however just one session would cost a guy  three hundred dollars and it’s not just everyone that she does this with, she mentioned that it had to be safe.  With the money collected at the house call, the girls would split it in half and they would pay the guys watching them a flat fee of fifty to one hundred dollars for the night.  The rest of the money earned would go to paying rent and other utilities.   Candy like many other dancers started dancing part time because she could use the extra dollars, but she had been dancing for almost six years now and this is her life, dancing is all she does.  “As long as you’re young and pretty dancing is great it will work”. 
Just like the dancers in a local strip club in San Diego, if you drive just twenty five miles south, you are in a different world when it comes to adult entertainment.  In Tijuana, the strip clubs are similar, the atmosphere is almost the same, music very similar, and however the names of the clubs just to start are very risqué.  The Pussy Cat Club in Tijuana is not your ordinary California strip club, at this place the women are nude and the men are allowed to fondle them and touch them anywhere they like. A big difference here was that not only was it only three dollars to get in for men, if you negotiate but for women to come in, it’s free.  Something else that caught my eye was that whenever the dancers were given the tips, either if they were clothed or naked they would throw the money behind the stage, and after the dance they would pick it up.  There were also private dance rooms, about the size of a bathroom stall, and if the men wanted a private lap dance, they would choose a girl and each girl had a Madame, and they would pay the Madame.  The girl would proceed to a room covered by a translucent lace cloth used as a door.  Before you enter the room you had to pay twenty dollars to the Madame and the girl was yours for ten minutes. Inside the room, the girl was yours, there was no sexual acts performed there, however your hands and fingers could go anywhere, for just twenty dollars.  I later spoke to another girl at the Pussy Cat Club, Rosalinda.  She stated that she was a single mother and needed to take care of her kids.  She works during the day ay a local department store and dances on the weekends.  On the average weekend she earns approximately one hundred to two hundred dollars on the weekends.  With the money she earns on the weekend, Rosalinda spends it on food and on clothes and necessities for her children.  However there have been times when life does become hard for a single mother working alone to raise her children on her own; Rosalinda has had sex for money on more than one occasion.  When it’s converted to US currency Rosalinda charges about fifteen dollars to have sex and with any guy that wants her services and has the need. “In Tijuana, everyone is cheap, that is why they come here, if they see money on us, they won’t give us any” (Rosalinda).  Life is for a stripper/dancer isn’t as easy as it is painted out to be, just like with everything we do in our lives there are consequences and in order to meet those special needs we have to look the other way and take our chances, just like Rosalinda and so many other girls do.
We have to do whatever it takes to live, and in order to live, money is a necessity and we all need it to survive and live healthy luxurious lives if we can afford it.  Money is that special little thing that brings us all together, if it wasn’t for money we wouldn’t have connections to others and to the world and most importantly to people we probably would never have meet if it wasn’t for this little thing called money, or tips for strippers.  Sex is a powerful industry when money is involved, some people will give anything for sex, they will pay any amount to see or feel pleasure in any way they desire,; and there is also those on the other side that will do anything just to get that money that they so crave.  Just like ants that cover and smother that chocolate fudge cake you left on the counter last night, strippers are everywhere and anywhere, anywhere in the world where you may be and when there is a need for them, they will be there; ready to take all you money for the exchange of sexual stimulation and arousal, as well as entertainment!

Prof. Bill Maurer
Dept. of Anthropology
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-5100
email wmmaurer at uci dot edu