Is working as a stripper honestly empowering? I hated the popular belief that sex workers men oppressed and without agency, victims in need of rescuing. When I started stripping in the back bar of a Christchurch brothel at 18, I was in control of my decision to get nude — or so I thought. An arts undergraduate, I had no pressing need for money, the reason usually cited for stripping into the sex industry — an umbrella term that encompasses stripping, web-camming, escorting, prostitution and porn.
My parents paid my rent, my Kentucky Fried Chicken and my living expenses.
Rather, I was seeking transgression. I also wanted the independence to make my own choices. Stripping delivered, on all counts. On the neon-lit stage of that back bar, I let loose my inner extrovert. I got paid to dance, front fit, wear fabulous costumes and entertain people.
I felt totally empowered. With hindsight, what appeared to have been a conscious choice might have actually been heavily influenced. Since puberty, I had been aware of women staring at me in public. Then I had been date-raped. While stripping provided an opportunity to launch blowjob tv show into the big wide world on my terms, it was also a chance to capitalise on my feelings of powerlessness.
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