A week after I wrote “Stripper with a PhD,” I began stripping. Within four days I had made two thousand dollars.
I went into tiny rooms alone with men. I became whomever they wanted. I smiled until my face ached and I smoked cigarettes for the first time in years. I did things.
I remember thinking one night, as I counted 1K of twenties across the dressing room counter—“Finally, I am being paid what I am worth.”
I danced naked on tables the night I defended my dissertation. I became, officially, (perhaps the one-and-only) “Stripper with a PhD.”
I can’t beg my way into a permanent academic job with livable conditions and a good wage, but I sure can walk into that club tonight and come out with rent. “I’ll never make this much money again,” I think sometimes as I drive that dark highway at four a.m.
I think, sometimes, as I drive that dark highway at four a.m.:
What does it mean that, despite my education, despite my intellectual sophistication, despite my demonstrated ability to bring wisdom to the youth, my ass is worth more than the sum of everything else that I am?
What does it mean that even selling my ass is a privilege—available only to those of us young enough, thin enough, “attractive” enough to convince men to consider them a fantasy worth paying for?
Tell me—for this plagues me—tell me what it means that the sex trade leaves me feeling more accomplished and fulfilled than making peanuts grading papers? Tell me–should I be ashamed? I’ve been a feminist for years. Should I be ashamed? Please, I beg you, don’t tell me “yes,” because I love my house and I don’t want to lose it. I’m used to this money now. I’m used to this stability now.
I live a double life. No one knows who I really am.