Can I book a stripper to perform at my party?
Yes you can. We regularly take bookings for private events, so if you have an event and you’d like to book a stripper drop us an email or contact us through our social media channels. Under COVID-19 restrictions there are strict rules about social gatherings, and we take the safety of our members very seriously. We cannot perform at parties or gatherings of more than 30 people. We also cannot perform any contact lapdancing, due to risk of the spread of coronavirus.
Do you teach pole dancing?
There are many performers in the ELSC network who teach pole dancing, either online or in studios that meet current health regulations under COVID-19 restrictions. Lauren Elise, Sasha Diamond, Tequila Rose, Vee Slinky and Keri Gold are all strippers/ex-strippers are all members of our network who have become dance instructors who specialise in teaching exotic pole and chair choreography.
How do I know if a sex worker I meet is being exploited?
The honest answer is; you don’t. However, there is a unique fear reserved for sex workers that for some reason doesn’t apply to other workers. For example, how do you know the person who cuts your hair, cleans your car, delivers your take-away food or picked the strawberries in your supermarket trolley isn’t being exploited? Many sex workers will tell you they felt more exploited doing minimum wage jobs than doing sex work. It is true that exploitation exists in the sex industry, and to some extent there is no ethical consumption under capitalism. Anyone who is denied choice, options, labour rights, citizenship or access to power and advocacy is vulnerable to being exploited.
When it comes to the sex industry, sex workers are precarious and vulnerable to exploitation because their work is criminalised or, in the case of stripping, legalised, which means it is state controlled via licensing law. Sex workers rarely have any say in how and where they work, who they work for, or in creating their own working conditions. Our best advice if you meet a stripper or sex worker in the UK is to ask them if they know about any of the sex worker-led community networks and safety initiatives, such as National Ugly Mugs (NUM), English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP), X-Talk, SWARM, United Voices of the World (UVW) sex workers’ trade union branch, United Sex Workers, or ELSC. If they do, you can be confident that you are talking to a sex worker who is connected to a support network and has access to help and resources when they are needed. If they don’t then you have shared valuable knowledge with them, which may come in handy at a later stage. Bear in mind, however, it is not your job to save anyone in the industry, or to decide whether they have been exploited. We are demanding our rights, not asking to be rescued. And always tip!
Are strippers sex workers?
The short answer is yes. We use the term ‘sex work’ as an umbrella term that describes all workers in the sex industry, which includes (but is not limited to) strippers, escorts, porn performers, prostitutes, lapdancers, webcam performers, online content providers, pro-dommes/subs, phone sex chat line operators. Anyone who sells sex or sexual services is a sex worker.
Arguably there are people who work in the sex industry who are not sex workers, because they are not performing sexual labour. Photographers who produce portfolios for sex workers for instance are not performing a sexual service, although their work maybe very intimate. There is also a grey area regarding modelling/acting/performing burlesque and other work that borrows from or imitates sex work.
We believe that people are free to identify with the term, or not, but we would ask people to be mindful of the problem of whorephobia. If you perform sexual labour but you are distancing yourself from the term sex work, then be careful you are not contributing to further stigma by placing yourself as ‘above’ anyone or ‘better than that’. There has historically been tension among strippers and lapdancers about the term sex work, which has been made worse by licensing conditions and years of strip club bosses trying to separate their venues from the wider sex industry in order to keep their licenses. The ELSC are committed to using the term sex work to describe what they do, and to challenging stigma that affects all sex workers.
How can you be a stripper/sex worker and also a feminist?
We believe that a cornerstone of feminist ideology is the concept ‘My Body My Choice’. This is the same principle upon which a number of fundamental human rights have been founded e.g. LGBTQ+ rights, or the right to safe legal abortion, which is profoundly important to feminism. We don’t believe in cherry picking which rights are allowed for whom, and we don’t believe in policing people’s bodies or choices.
ELSC is a group of women who wish to see an end to exploitation in the sex industry. We are not in denial of exploitation; we know it exists because we see it all the time. We don't believe that the only way out is to exit the industry, and campaign to shut down strip clubs. We have seen for ourselves how this pushes workers into unemployment or further into the extremely marginalised and precarious world of unregulated sex work. We know first hand what this means, since we have members in our own network who have experience of working at illegal/unlicensed and private parties. The more invisible sex workers are, the more at risk they are to violence and coercion. Criminalising the sex industry is therefore deeply un-feminist.
As feminists, we also believe that the quickest to empower women in society is to make them financially independent. Women are still underpaid and underrepresented in the job market, and women have born the brunt of austerity cuts since 2010; all of which means women are more vulnerable to poverty and social-exclusion. According to ECP, the main reason women go into the sex industry is to escape poverty; this means there are countless numbers of women doing sex work who have few other options. In this respect we see poverty as the problem, while the sex industry is merely a response. Shutting down the sex industry does not tackle the cause; therefore we think feminists should be campaigning to end poverty not the sex industry.
Isn’t all sex work abusive?
Again, there many other jobs that are abusive but don’t attract as much attention. It’s not anyone’s right to decide if another person is a victim of abuse. We think there are huge misconceptions about whether all sex workers are abuse victims, and we rarely have voice in the public dialogue about this. The greatest abuse of all is being denied control over our own narratives; we have very few channels open to us to demand rights and respect, especially when the rest of society is fixated on our victimhood.
We believe the quickest way to end abuse for sex workers is via harm-reduction, which is about enabling sex workers to access resources for staying safe and fighting back against workplace abuses. This cannot happen while sex work is criminalised.
While strip clubs are not criminalised, strippers are still denied access to our employment rights; in most cases our jobs are misclassified and clubs rely on our vulnerability and lack of workers rights to financially exploit us. It is precisely this form of abuse in the workplace that is driving the campaign for worker’s rights and worker status for strippers. The sooner sex workers can stand up in court and claim their legal rights, the sooner clubs will recognise their legal obligations to workers and change the cultural norms that have become standard industry practise.
I’m thinking of becoming a stripper; how do I start?
The stripping industry can be varied, with opportunities to work in huge chain clubs, smaller independent venues or strip at home via online webcams. Each has positive and negatives and will suit different types of people.
It is important to connect with dancer-led networks where you will be able to get up-to-date feedback and share experiences. Protecting your rights within the workplace is essential for working in any industry, so join a sex worker trade union such as the United Sex Workers. Your safety and bodily autonomy are of the upmost importance so the more access to resources and support networks you can have the better.
Dancing does not automatically give you a regular and dependable salary, as it is a form of self-employment, but can still provide opportunities to earn a decent living. It is also highly recommended that you seek advice from a sex worker friendly accountant before you start. However, the industry has been heavily affected and the earning structure varies from club to club, so the profits dancers can see are unlikely to resemble the life-changing amounts seen in movie stereotypes.
Do your research into the different clubs, stripper agencies and webcam providers before you start. Be prepared to audition for several places before you find a good fit, and large chain clubs may want you to work in a different branch. Each striptease venue has different opening hours and number of dancers on each shift, so shift availability and what hours you will be expected to work can vary wildly, from afternoons to 6am finishes. There is a lot of movement within the industry and many women will work at one venue for a few days before trying out another venue as they search for the right environment. Many dancers also have several webcam accounts although this will mean an increased workload, as you will have to produce more unique content for each site. The commission and payment structures for every club, strip pub or webcam agency are unique to them, so always read and keep a copy of any contract and be on top of your finances.
Whilst there is a stereotypical ‘stripper look’, you do not have to fit this ideal in order to audition successfully or attract clients. However, appearance is important to the job so you will generally be expected to maintain a high level of grooming, from well-applied makeup to well chosen outfits. The job can be extremely physically demanding so it’s a good idea to keep your body as fit and flexible as possible, eat a healthy diet that will fuel your body, and get enough rest and self-care. It is not essential to be a good poledancer but it can help you attract more customers if you put on a good stage show, not to mention a sense of personal achievement. Unfortunately, in most venues you do not get paid for your stage performances although you are expected to provide a stage-show at least once as part of your shift (the club will tell you this is to ‘advertise’ yourself, while they conveniently profit from your free labour). You make money from selling private lapdances and time in the VIP room. Stripping and sex work are essentially customer focused sales jobs in a highly competitive environment, so if you want to succeed in stripping, brush up on your sales skills and how to interact with customers, whether in real life or online.
It is important to think about the future, but as much as possible we recommend you seek and take advice from other sex workers so that you can learn from them and avoid making similar mistakes; stripping and all forms of sex work are, unfortunately, still heavily stigmatised. Be aware that you may have to justify or even hide your career choice from friends, family and financial institutions such as HMRC and banks.
Many sex workers use stripping to fund studies or artistic creativity as the flexibility of working schedules can give you time to pursue other projects. As there is little or no career progression within stripping then it is important to think about how you can use dancing to improve future career prospects in different industries. However, dancing can be a fantastic way to gain new skills and improve your confidence whilst collaborating and performing with a wide variety of goddess women, so we wish you the best of luck.
I’m a stripper/sex worker and have had problems in the workplace; where can I go for help?
Unfortunately strippers have very few rights and protections in the workplace and there is often little or no provision for workers to bring up grievances with management without the fear of losing their jobs. However, stripper activism and sex worker led organisation have been created to address this.
It is recommended that you join a sex worker friendly trade union when you begin working in the industry, such as the United Sex Workers branch at the United Voices of the World trade union. Through collective action and individual casework they have been successful in resolving a range of workplace problems, and winning compensation for dancers in a number of landmark legal cases in the UK. Once you are a member you can approach them anytime for help, (as well as retrospectively – this means of you have been sacked or mistreated at work, the union can still help you as long as you contact them within two months) and they will be able to inform you of your rights and provide legal advice and representation. You can also contact ELSC directly and we will be glad to connect you directly with support.
If you want support and guidance check dancer forums and seek advice from your fellow sex workers. There are many excellent resources for sex workers to access support and advice safely and anonymously, without putting themselves at further risk of criminalisation or deportation. X:Talk is a sex workers’ support project for migrant sex workers, which promotes safe spaces to share knowledge and experiences. The Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement (SWARM) is a national network of sex workers who share advice and information that affect sex workers. National Ugly Mugs (NUM) is a sex worker safety initiative, focusing on harm-reduction by creating a national database of unsafe clients and sharing vital information about violent perpetrators with sex workers to help them screen clients and stay safe. English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) are a long-established sex worker led organisation, who can also offer advice, support and information.
What is happening in the strip club industry under COVID-19 restrictions?
Covid-19 has had a huge impact on the industry. All live striptease venues are currently closed and government guidelines have not indicated precisely when they can reopen. Licensed venues such as bars and pubs are beginning to reopen, but all forms of live entertainment are still currently prohibited.
Private events in peoples’ homes are currently legal but not advised by the government, however private striptease agencies are still functioning as normal.
In response to the pandemic, unionised strippers have quickly self-organised and formed CyberTease, an online virtual stripclub run entirely by strippers themselves that holds fortnightly themed events. During the first phase of lockdown we saw a flurry of events held online and invitations to perform striptease online via Zoom and other video conferencing software platforms, presenting us with a whole new set of challenges regarding digital security and online privacy. ELSC have managed to transition online, moving our life drawing classes to Zoom which has allowed us to reach artists all over the world, with people joining our events from Taiwan, Hawaii, Atlanta and LA.
Vast numbers of sex workers have transitioned to doing sex work online, to the point that existing platforms such as myfreecams.com and Onlyfans.com have become saturated with content creators. While performing sexual labour from the comfort and security of your own home is arguably the safest environment to work in, it also makes online platforms such as Onlyfans hugely successful; profits for online sex content platform companies have swollen hugely under quarantine. The bigger and more powerful they get, the more they can discriminate against users they don't like. Onlyfans has come under fire from sex workers for deleting and banning full service sex workers, and confiscating their earnings with no accountability. Of course, a company which grows rich from the labour of sex workers can easily turn their backs on their original client base once they become big and powerful enough to.
Strippers and sex workers have been heavily affected by Covid-19 restrictions, not merely by making their work illegal, by in effect banning all contact between people outside households and support bubbles. There is also very little government financial aid available, since nearly all strippers and sex workers do not have employment status and do not salaried contracts, so are not entitled to be furloughed. Several emergency mutual aid funds have formed to support sex workers in crisis with access to cash grants; these include the SWARM emergency fund, Umbrella Lane emergency fund and the ELSC Sustainable Support Fund, all of which are welcoming donations from the public.
What’s an SEV license?
Strip clubs are also known as SEVs, which stands for Sexual Entertainment Venue. Strip clubs are not allowed to operate without an SEV license. Sexual Entertainment is defined by law as:
“Under the Policing and Crime Act 2009, SEVs became heavily regulated due to strict licensing conditions. Sexual entertainment is defined by law as entertainment which “must reasonably be assumed to be provided solely or principally for the purpose of sexually stimulating any member of the audience (whether by verbal or other means)” – this is regardless of whether there is payment involved. The same law also specifies that any premises or venue (pub/nightclub) may allow sexual entertainment up to 11 nights per year without any SEV license. This means strippers can form their own collectives and run their own pop-up parties without needing a license.
SEV licensing has placed weird and strict conditions on strip clubs. For example, in Hackney dancers must perform at a distance of 1 metre away from the customer, also known as the 3 foot rule. In Camden stripclubs are strictly forbidden from having any private areas or booths for dancers to perform in. We think these rules are patronizing and paternalistic, and we were never consulted by the lawmakers who wrote these rules. ELSC demand better consultation practises with dancers, and a place at the table when it comes to making decisions about our workplaces.
Is it ok to culturally appropriate from the sex industry?
There has been a lot of conversation in the public domain recently about celebrities using the visual language of sex work and borrowing imagery from the sex industry. Examples include the film Hustlers, which saw J-Lo playing a stripper and learning the craft of pole-dancing. We think that while on the one hand it is a positive thing to see sex work represented in mainstream culture, it is essential to think about how it is represented.
Cultural appropriation can be thought of as borrowing; if you wanted to borrow your friends jumper, would ask them first? Or would you just take it? Would you give it back afterwards, having carefully looked after it? Or would you trash it and fail to properly apologise? We think it’s similar with culture. The definition of cultural appropriation is defined as “the adoption of an element or elements of one culture by members of another culture. This can be controversial when members of a dominant culture appropriate from disadvantaged minority cultures.”
We think it’s fair to say that sex workers are a disadvantaged minority culture, so when a pop star or film producer (who ultimately has more power and privilege) adopts elements of the sex industry, without asking, consulting or engaging with sex workers and their lived experience, this is problematic.
If you are using the visual language and imagery of sex workers’ culture in your art, craft, work or performance but you are not a sex worker, then be considerate about how you are representing sex workers. Please make sure you are interrogating your artistic process and asking yourself, what are the power dynamics? Does this give sex workers more power or less? Are sex workers being silenced or do they have a voice? Is sex work being centred or imitated? And as much as possible, consider employing sex workers to perform the labour that they already do for a living on projects that are about sex work.
How can I support sex workers’ rights?
There is no quick fix, but there is a lot you can do to contribute. Consider donating to organisations that are led by sex workers, a list of which can be found on our SW orgs page. Listen to sex workers’ voices wherever possible to educate yourself on the basic demands, such as decriminalisation and employment rights. Follow sex worker led orgs on social media. Challenge stigma when you see it, and show up as an ally for sex workers in the public domain; join marches, sign petitions. Like any human rights movement, the first step towards supporting a marginalised group is to humanise that group. Sex workers are some of the most objectified people in society, not just as sex objects but also as victims. Using sex workers’ victimhood as a narrative for political or social clout is not helping – if you think you are supporting women’s rights by signing a petition to shut down strip clubs, consider contacting an organisation that works with or is lead by strippers themselves (such as the union UVW), to get their take on things and find out what their demands for women’s rights looks like. When you see sex workers misrepresented or maligned in conversation, call people in when you can and point them towards resources such as this page or other SW orgs to help enlighten people in your circle of influence. And always tip!