Two great assumptions underwrite a lot of the negativity around what we strippers do for a living. First - we (the girls) are weak and vulnerable. Second - they (the clients) are predatory, sexist, outwardly strong, inwardly weak, and so on. But when you deal in the realities of the business there are complexities to it. I was thinking about the negative paradigms recently and it occurred to me that what a lot of the anti-sex trade lobby either choose to ignore or have never considered is how our work offers something to those whose physical status limits the scope of their sexual interactions in regular scenarios.
It's common to see guys in wheelchairs in the club, sometimes with carers if need be who take care of the money end, sometimes in groups but often as not on their own. In a club where I once worked one of the most reliable and lucrative punters was a paraplegic. He was a very smart guy, there were lots of rumours about what he did for a living, and certainly he wasn't short of money. He was a foot fetishist, his thing was to get you to take your shoes off and put your feet up on his shoulders, he'd go through this with about half the girls in the club, get them to dance and pay them to sit and talk as well. No danger to anyone, and not feeling exploited himself (he came in regularly for years and for all I know is going there still and getting girls to take their shoes off) I honestly fail to see how instances like this fit in with any sort of prohibitionist argument.
I've danced for blind men, which might sound somewhat counter intuitive but it happens. The first time I didn't realise until the man had sat down, and then I started apologising (I'd pulled him out of the crowd) to the point where he was embarrassed for me. He said he some vision, and I did what I hope was one of the best dances I've ever done (partly to make myself feel better admittedly) and tried to take less money than usual but he wouldn't hear of it. Since then it's happened again but I've been aware of what was going on from the beginning. The idea of what is happening can be as important as the spectacle it seems - a lesson there for all those who think that male sexual perception is hopelessly rooted in visual stimulation.
There was a regular gang of deaf lads who used to come in together and make a beeline for me as I could do a bit of sign language. They were a great laugh and good business and there are times when the place is so busy you can scarcely make yourself heard anyway, so it didn't bother me at all. In fact if everyone could sign the place would run a lot more smoothly.
One of the more unusual clients I've entertained was thought by many of the other girls to be drunk and was creating a bit of stir. Girls kept walking out of the table dance area, yelling at him and he was yelling back at them, swearing. Never let it be said that you can't learn anything from reality television as this was back in 2006 and it was entirely due to Pete Bennett's appearance in Big Brother that year that I recognised him as having Tourette's syndrome.
He'd come in on a quiet shift, I think he knew his condition wasn't going to be handled well and wanted to freak out as few people as possible. But if anything it heightened the impact of what he was doing. He and I got on fine but one of the other girls complained and in the end the poor guy was almost thrown out. I put his case to the doormen, but he was embarrassed enough already and left of his own accord while I was still arguing on his behalf.
While such tales aren't without their lighter side, I bring them up, I hope, to make a serious point. To perceive the sex industry as a resource for those who desires can be judged as abnormal is to miss its role as a facility for those who are sometimes seen as being abnormal themselves, and so find themselves coming to us for a form of social sanctuary. If it weren't for this rush to judgement that seems to drive so much of modern perception, the world would be a far better place all round. Once you address your own prejudices about what is different, and whether it matters to be so, then you might find the urge to prohibit the activities of others diminishes too.