When I tell people that I used to be a gogo dancer, they look at me with a sense of bemusement, followed by intrigue and then a strange mixture of disgust and humour. Perhaps I should take this chance to explain myself, for those of you reacting similarly.
I’ll begin with a reference to that age-old, tried and tested institution – Urban Dictionary:
Gogo Dancer: Dancers who are employed to entertain crowds at a club, to hype up and entertain the crowd.
That’s what I did. I danced, usually semi-naked, to impress men, usually older than myself. And let me tell you something, it couldn’t be more boring a story. Stripping is glamorised by the media as either this ultra-sexy, chic lifestyle choice or drug addled grim existence. Usually, it’s neither.
What you don’t get from the newspaper is that strippers are – to many people’s dismay – normal people. They have issues like you. They’re trying to feed their kids. They need to do the weekly shop but they’ve got the school run. They’ve got a patch of eczema which is particularly annoying. They’re not just strippers: they’re mums-of-two, cartoon-fanatics, medical students, wannabe teachers and bookworms. They like raspberry jam, organic shampoo and Listerine mouthwash. They hate brie, adore Ugly Betty and want a bath desperately but the boilers broken. They’re pretty regular, not that you’d know it.
And for me, stripping is a particularly boring story. People usually expect trials, tribulations and sex. What they get is someone trying to have a good time at a young age, who took clubbing to a slight extreme. I lost my virginity during my A Levels to a boy I quite liked, I ate peanut butter sandwiches rather too much and I danced two nights a week. It doesn’t get much more interesting than that – unless you want to talk about my spectacular obsession with British art films.
This isn’t to say that the sex industry is easy, and by no means am I trying to represent all sex workers through my experience. Because that’s the point really – you can’t. We’re all different. We’re individual people with individual needs. And the media need to stop glamorising the industry as if it’s so different from working in M&S (which, by the way, is a lot more fun.) In fact, what actually needs doing is a stripping away of the glamour, so we can talk about the boring, the nitty-gritty, the detail. Remove the lip gloss and the headlines and what you get is the need for workers’ rights, better pay, safety measures and legislation with approval from the government (decriminalisation, in my opinion.)
So here it is: one ex-stripper and their opinion on the matter: it was b-o-r-i-n-g, for me. And we need to talk about the boring more. We need to remove all of the fuss, the rumours, the playground gossip and we need to get down to statistics to make things easier. We need not to deal in tittle-tattle and hyped up stories of one night out in Newcastle. We need cold, hard, boring, pencil pushing admin, rather than zshused-up ridicule from The Sun. We need Unions and boards and support systems, not Julie Bindel throwing her carnivalesque style of dismissal about.
So yes, maybe I’m boring, but sometimes boring is good. Boring goes beyond headlines that shame women and distract the public with ridiculously raunchy, and often completely fictional, tales of infidelity, obscure sexual practices and footballers. Boring gets shit done. And boring doesn’t leave people behind when a new story comes along. Viva boring – we all need it now and then.