Archive | January, 2010

White Goddess

27 Jan

By midnight on my first night of work, I was feeling pretty euphoric.  Contrary to my fear that I would be painfully inadequate for this type of work, and despite the fact that I had had no idea how to perform a lap dance, I had already pocketed more cash than I had ever seen in my life.  And although the several glasses of Chardonnay I had downed definitely helped, talking to customers was shockingly easy.  There was a certain mob mentality about the whole thing – you could take any reasonably attractive girl, clothe her in a skintight black dress, and tell customers that she had been deemed good-looking enough to be here – and they would accept it blindly.  Customers didn’t seem to assess the girls the way men would at a regular bar.  You were obviously beautiful because you were here. And if you were smart and well-spoken, too?  You were a fucking goddess.

I was chatting up two men at the bar when a third, their friend, joined us.  At well over six feet tall, he dwarfed my 5’4 frame.  He had obviously been drinking.  I was about to introduce myself when he spun me around, bent me over the bar, and straddled me.  “White goddess,” he growled.

I looked quizzically at his friends.  “What does that mean?”

One of them shrugged.  “It means you’re surprisingly curvy for a white girl.”

“You ever been with a black guy before?” the straddler whispered lasciviously into my ear.

My aforementioned first boyfriend was black, and even though we had kept all our clothes on during even our most heated make-out sessions, I decided to embellish my past.  “Yeah.”

“What was his name?”

I told him.

“Did he have a big dick?”

“Huge.”

“You liked it?”

“I couldn’t get enough of it.”

This seemed to excite him.  I could feel him hard against my back.  He had, at this point, almost completely flattened my upper body against the bar.  He stepped away suddenly and nodded at his friends.  “Look at that ass.”

I turned around and looked at him.  “I’m going to assume you want a dance?”

I had just stripped off my clothes and climbed onto his lap when his hand flew abruptly to my nipple and twisted it – hard.  I yelped in pain.  “Don’t do that,” I said.

“Shut up, bitch.”

I turned around and ground my ass into his crotch, because the expression that had overtaken his face – one of resentment – unsettled me.  I focused all my attention on the beat of the song that was playing and coordinating my movements to it.

“I’m gonna think about you later tonight when I fuck my wife,” he offered.

“That’s hot,” I murmured distractedly.

“I’m gonna pretend I’m your stepdad.  You want me to be your stepdad?”

Focus on the song, I reminded myself.  “Uh-huh.”

“Gonna imagine I’m raping your white mother and then raping you.  You like that?”

I didn’t answer.  He threaded his bloated fingers through my blond hair and pulled me roughly against him, so that my bare back lay flush against his chest.  “Smile, bitch,” he instructed me.  “Smile while I’m raping you.”

Keep dancing.  I gritted my teeth and forced myself to contort my lips into something resembling a smile.

When the song was over, I didn’t ask whether he wanted me to keep going.  I hastily pulled on my clothes, snatched the $20 bill lying on the table in front of us, and clomped angrily to the bathroom.

I took a few deep breaths to center myself.  In a sick way, I didn’t feel like I could blame that man for his behavior any more than I could blame myself.  I knew that despite the respectful – and even reverent – way the other men had treated me that night, I couldn’t be surprised that there were men who believed that as a stripper, I didn’t need to be shown any sort of consideration.  I knew, also, that interracial sex carried a certain amount of taboo, and that some people obviously fetishized it.  I understood – and should have anticipated – his behavior too much to have been that upset by it.

But my mother?  My sweet, Jesus-loving mother who, at that very moment, was probably in bed, wearing a puritanical nightgown and watching Wheel of Fortune?  Could she please be left out of this?

Taking Control

26 Jan

I was an awkward teenager.

I didn’t weigh 100 pounds soaking wet.  For a couple years, my naturally blonde hair was dyed black.  I scoured consignment shops for used Catholic schoolgirl uniforms, which I wore with ripped fishnets, combat boots, and gobs of black eyeliner.  I looked like hell.

I didn’t receive my first kiss until I was 19.  It was from my first boyfriend, an endearingly gawky boy with an adorable gap-toothed smile and a refreshingly simple outlook on life.  He had, like me, taken the “virginity pledge,” so he was only interested in going to the beach and drinking milkshakes and making out in his truck.

Once, I felt his erection on my leg while we were kissing.  My body stiffened, and he apologized immediately.  I never felt it again afterwards.

During the first few years of my 20s, I started to grow into my looks.  I put on a little bit of much-needed weight; I replaced the black hair dye with honey blonde highlights; I swapped out the schoolgirl uniforms for tight mini-dresses and the combat boots for heels.  Transitioning from a graceless youth to an attractive woman was a process I went about completely methodically.  There was no luck involved; I decided that I wanted to be beautiful, and I applied myself steadfastly to making it happen.

By the time the opportunity to dance presented itself (I’ll get to that eventually, but for now I’ll say that it was a case of being in the right – or wrong, I’m still not sure – place at the appropriate time), I was 22 and felt secure about the way I looked.  Once, I caught sight of myself in a mirror at a bar and marveled at how I had pulled off such a complicated sleight of hand.  I gawked at the image of the petite, blonde girl – grasping a Heineken in one hand and the shoulder of some blandly attractive boy with the other – and it was like an out-of-body experience.  I had successfully manipulated reality.

I knew, vaguely, that I had reached a point of culmination.  I had taken control of my appearance but had yet to take control of my sexuality.  I knew that this was a crucial next step in my transition into adulthood, but having been raised in an environment where sex essentially didn’t exist, I had no idea to go about it.  I had the distinct thought as I navigated an unfamiliar part of the city on my way to work that first night that maybe dancing was an important – albeit unorthodox – first step toward becoming a sexually liberated adult.

As it turns out, it was much more complicated than that.

The First One

25 Jan

“You know, you’re not like the other girls.”

I resist the urge to roll my eyes.  It’s barely midnight on my first night of work; I’ve only been dancing for three hours.  And already I’ve heard some variation of that statement at least half a dozen times.

“Thank you.”  A vaguely familiar pop song comes on, and I stand up, ready to take off my clothes.  But he takes my wrist and pulls me gently back onto the sofa.

“I still want to talk to you.  Here -” he fishes a $20 bill out of his wallet and hands it to me – “Let’s just talk.”

“You… you don’t want me to take my clothes off?”

He ignores me.  He asks about my life, my past, and I answer honestly: from the West Coast.  Senior at NYU.  Yes, I use my real name here.

Another song starts up, and before I can ask he produces another $20 and, without missing a beat, keeps talking.

When he asks where I hope I’ll be in five years, I tell him I don’t know.  He frowns; this seems to worry him.  “In an ideal world,” he presses.  “Answer instinctively.”

Okay: in five years, I hope I’ll be creating work – writing?  Acting?  I’m not sure – that I find emotionally and artistically (and, in an “ideal world,” financially) fulfilling.  Marriage.  Babies.  “I want everything,” I say earnestly.

He seems pleased.  A third song starts; another $20.  “Now you can take your clothes off.”

“I knew it; you’re stunning,” he tells me as I stand before him wearing nothing but an absurdly insubstantial thong.  But as I move to climb onto his lap, he stops me.  “No, I’m sorry.  I can’t.  You’re too real.”

As I pull on the black dress I had been wearing, he asks what time I get off work.  “Three,” I answer.

“Would you like to grab a cup of coffee afterwards?”

I can’t believe this.  In the three hours I’ve been working, a shocking number of men have produced their business cards – after I had been writhing almost completely naked on them – and requested expressly that I call them should I ever want to hang out.  As in, outside of work.  Clothed.

Maybe even more bizarre is the fact that most of these men are young, attractive, and seem perfectly normal.  This guy is no exception: tall.  Blonde.  Charming British accent.  Had I met him in, say, a normal bar, I wouldn’t think twice about giving him my number.

But I just shrug.  “I can’t.”

We get up and start to make our way back into the main room when he takes me by the shoulders and gives me a meaningful look.  “Please, promise me that you won’t do this for too long.  Okay?  I understand it; if I were a girl and I looked like you, I’d do it too.  But I’d hate to see you become hardened.”

“Okay.  I promise.”

I ended up dancing for six months.  And it’s true – I was different from a lot of the other girls.  Not because I was intelligent or articulate or motivated – I met plenty of strippers who were these things – but because, at 22, my sexual history consisted of one awkward blow-job.  I was a virgin.

Working in such a hyper-sexualized environment with my hymen intact was a dichotomous experience.  On one hand, the sharp contrast between my personal and “professional” lives created a disconnect that probably made it possible for me  to dance naked for money in the first place (well, that and a lot of alcohol).  And most customers assumed I was very sexually experienced, so working was a lot like playing a role.  But on the other hand… while I don’t think stripping did any irreparable damage to my psyche or anything, it did ultimately make me loathe being treated as a sex object.  Particularly when sex wasn’t a part of my “real” life.

The reason why I quit is also atypical: I fell in love… with someone I met at work.  Yes, I fell in love with a customer.

I’ve had some unusual experiences in my 22 years, and I’ve belonged to a couple very distinct subcultures: evangelical Christian.  Sex worker.  And now?  I’m pretty happy and normal.  But I’m ready to share some of my stories – not only because few people have experienced what I have, but also because I’d really like to figure out how I went from handing out pamphlets about Jesus in Bryant Park to grinding naked on men who could be my father in a few short years.