When we speak about laboring bodies in class I am instantly aware that my relationship to labor is vastly different than that of my classmates. While I have worked in retail, food service, and other odd jobs, the majority of my work experience has been in sex work. I want to flesh out some of these differences, specifically in my experiences of being a stripper for the past four years.
There is nothing subtle about how capitalism and labor are so intensely tied to your body as in sex work. You get hired based on how your entire body looks without clothes on and if you stray too much in a “negative” direction from that initial look you lose your job. Most clubs have a low threshold for this and these negatives can include gaining weight, major hair changes, tattoos, and pregnancy.
The first thing you learn on the job is how to handle the various body problems that may arise. You work with injuries, scars, birthmarks, disabilities, and when you have your period. Dressing rooms are filled with the secrets needed to hide that any of these have ever existed.
Different bodies have different earning potentials. There can only be a certain amount of women of color at a club and its important to not have too many repeating colors. You are constantly in competition with other bodies that you are sizing and resizing yourself up to throughout the shift. You are always working to improve your own body in a manner that often doesn’t line up to your own aesthetic preference but what you think will sell best.
This sounds terrible but you do this because it is the only job that will be flexible around schoolwork, parenting, and disability. Hard work actually pays off and you can achieve a livable wage. Once you leave though, labor really never looks the same.