Harlotry: My First Time In A Real Strip Club


Stanley and I broke up two days before I started work at my new strip club. If there had been any doubt as to whether I’d end up behind the bar or out on the stage, it vanished with our agreement to end things. I had felt so trapped for so long, yet now when we’d both decided the relationship was done for I was miserable, devastated, even. For once in our long, tragic relationship Stanley had been reasonable and it was in part because of that, I think, that I so easily mistook my inability to stand alone for love.

Oh yes, now that I was free I was sure I loved Stanley again. For a long time my resentment had been growing and growing, and by the last month of our relationship I hated him with a passion I hadn’t realized I was capable of. Now that I was free, however, I could only remember the good times, long ago though they were. I forgot that for years now the only times I’d really had fun with him coincided with the times when I was too drunk to have a bad time. I forgot the way my eyes had begun to wander and only remembered that there’d been a time when he could make me scream in ecstasy, rather than the fact that I’d been using sex as little more than an outlet to wail in my great and terrible anguish. I forgot the way he knew how to make me tie myself up in knots of guilt and self-loathing when I hadn’t even done anything wrong, and I forgot the way I felt as if I were walking along a tightrope above a pit of upturned knives. I only remembered that I’d given so much of my energy to Stanley that I didn’t even know how to be my own person, doing things I wanted to do.

I knew, though, somewhere in my head, that this was wrong. Doubt nagged at me. “This isn’t right,” said the little voice in the back of my head, “he makes you so unhappy, he doesn’t care about you, he doesn’t care if you’re happy, and he only wants to take everything you have.”

I hushed the voice every time it whispered doubt to me, but I would give it one thing, I really, really did not want to love Stanley. I knew, somewhere in my heart, that he was bad for me and though I did mental gymnastics which would make an Olympian shudder I couldn’t escape the nagging doubt that the whole situation would end badly.

But I was going to start stripping on Friday!

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    • SoI’mUpTight

      Sorry to sound like Tipper Gore over here, but the theme of stories on the feminist blogs lately about sex work as empowering are getting super old, and I think the entire trend is frankly misguided. I don’t have a problem with people choosing sex work to make money – it’s certainly lucrative, and every human may do with their body what they wish and does not need to be shamed for it. I see the feminist angle here in that women have agency over their bodies and should not be slut shamed for what they choose to do with them, and I agree. However, when I think of “empowering” young girls to be taken seriously and fight for their right to be treated as equals in society, I think of encouraging them to do something positive for society and themselves, not encourage people to jam dollar bills in their g-string. And every time I see one of these stories – which I really think are just written to shock and be in your face and get pageviews – I can’t help but cringe to think that this is where the exploration of modern feminism has ended up. Move on, seriously.

      • Lauren Lever

        It is a weekly column, and if it bothers you so, there is a simple solution for this. ;)

      • http://poorgoop.com/ Samantha

        I think the “shock” of Cathryn’s well-written weekly column has worn out by now, if it ever existed. She has a unique voice, and her stories are more than just salacious tales – they’re a fairly personal slice of life and a chance to glimpse into a world that most feminists, like yourself, often disregard. There will always be sex work, and I think it deserves a voice just the same as women who work in STEM fields deserve a voice. The Gloss does a pretty good job of balancing the Harlotry stories with other regular columns and stories about women whose choices fit your views. As Lauren said – don’t like it, then move on. But I, for one, enjoy reading work by good writers with interesting points of view.

      • Lo

        The personal POV is why I read them – learning about an individual. I don’t feel suddenly encouraged to take up sex work (more warned off, really), but it’s interesting to hear from someone who found it the best choice for her. Even then, it’s work that can be difficult and make you vulnerable, so I want to know how Cathryn deals with it and why she chose it.

      • Cate

        Thank you for your kind words!

        I actually, and I say this as a sex worker, agree to a fairly large extent with @SoI’mUpTight. While sex work has, for the most part, been very empowering to me, it really, really is not for everyone and I find it very troubling when it is celebrated as a thing every woman is cut out for. I have said it before, and I will say it again, sex work is not easy work, in fact it is sometimes extremely difficult work and it can often be terribly emotionally draining work.

        While I think it’s great that we sex workers are no longer seen as complete pariahs by not only feminists but society in general, I am not sure that this great celebration of various aspects of the oldest profession is that much better. I would like to see a time when the sex industry is viewed as most other industries are, a series of jobs, all of which have their own pros and cons, and none of which are intrinsically degrading or empowering.

        This is part of what I try to get across in my column: that I might make more money per hour (though not always, phone sex for example pays shit) and i might wear fewer clothes than most people who work in more widely accepted industries, but the various jobs I’ve held are in no way more glamorous or less respectable than, say, slinging coffee at Starbucks.

      • SoI’mUpTight

        My apologies for coming off as more of a jerk that was intended – I think I’ve just read one too many stories about sex work lately and was over generalizing how much is written about it out there. Clearly I do enjoy reading these kinds of stories (or I wouldn’t have read this), and I do enjoy this writing. Add to that that I’ve seen the insides of many a strip club in my time, and I’ll be damned if anyone judge me for doing so or those who work within.

        But yes, my gripe was with people over glamorizing or taking the work lightly, and also that sex work is finding its voice and making its case through feminist avenues as though this is something that feminists should be a-ok with. I know that’s not the message, but I know that that’s a message that some are receiving. I guess I find it conflicting that feminists have come so far in the quest for equality and to be seen as human beings and not chattle that it’s disconcerting to me that sex work – which is to me the most base form of objectification – would be something to consider as equalizing or empowering, and to be explored here. Like you said – I would see sex work more as a “job” than anything else, and I’m glad that you’re writing about it as such. I don’t think that sex work deserves to be degraded, but as you said, I don’t think it warrants celebration either.

        And to be honest, I’d be pretty bummed if my daughter (or son for that matter) grew up to work in the sex industry – which if I remember correctly from reading your columns was an issue for your parents, who are well educated, loving and liberal (I hope I am remembering the right columnist here – my apologies if I’ve mixed you up). I’m liberal – I really, really am – but I don’t want to ever get so liberal that sex work loses it’s taboo. And really, if sex work loses its taboo, I would think it would be losing it’s appeal in some respects?

    • lilmermaid

      Big fan of this column, as I think a lot of women wonder what it would be like to work in the sex industry. However, I feel like the Stanley element in these stories has run its course (much like the relationship did, as the author describes in almost every single piece). I would love to read more about the sex work and fewer redundant statements about how the author suffered through a bad time romantically. I loved reading about the relationship to begin with, since it made the author relatable, but I’m over it, so to speak. I am, however, very excited to find out how to effectively solicit a lapdance in next week’s piece!

    • Grant M

      One of the things I’ve always truly loved about sex work is the way it allows me to use nothing more than my body and my brain to make significantly more money than the average woman of my age and educational level could expect.

    • The Professor

      Wow, I can’t believe this topic is even up for discussion. Stripping, like all forms of prostitution, perpetuates the objectification of women and harms society as a whole. No one I know believes otherwise. The idea that this type of “work” is now somehow acceptable is ludicrous: Strippers continue to live in the shadows on the fringe of society.
      I will say Ms. Berarovich writes well, casting doubt on whether she actually works in the “industry”.