This is in response to criticisms and judgments against any woman who's ever been an exotic dancer.
The other day I wrote an article for yourtango.com that got picked up immediately by Shine! for Yahoo. It was about how being a stripper made me a better lover. Immediately, women began posting comments about what a horrible person I must be.
The reaction in my body made me feel like a witch about to be burned at the stake. I began sweating profusely, my heart rate went through the roof, and my breathing became fast and shallow. I was really angry that people automatically assume that because I was an exotic dancer I was having sex with men for money. I felt their judgments like arrows through my heart.
I understand that in some strip clubs, the dancers do have sex with customers. That didn’t happen where I worked. In fact, we often said, “I’m an entertainer, not a hooker.” Of course I was occasionally propositioned, but not only would it have gotten me immediately fired, I happen to be in a monogamous relationship. I don’t have anything against prostitution, in fact I think it should be legal, but I wasn’t getting paid for sex. I was getting paid to dance. This morning I decided that whether or not I had sex with customers is beside the point.
This morning I had a different reaction. This morning I want to own my stripper shadow. I want to own the part of me that holds cultural shame for having been an exotic dancer; the part of me that doesn’t want my mother to know I was a stripper. (sorry mom, no parent wants to know their daughter was a stripper, no matter how old she is) The shadow is the part of the subconscious mind where all the things you were told were bad and unacceptable live. It’s a part of you just as surely as your eyes and your nose.
This morning I want to hold a mirror up for all the women who judge me. As they judge me, they also judge themselves. I want to say that if we can’t own all aspects of ourselves, we can’t fully and completely love ourselves. That means that we own not only the aspects we like, but the ones we don’t like. Not only do we need to own the aspects we express, but we also need to own the unexpressed. Own your inner stripper. Own your inner whore. Own your inner dominatrix. Own the part of you that wants to be raped. Own it all, and love it all, or you will be susceptible to being manipulated by people who judge you for being yourself. When you deny your shadow, it wreaks havoc in your life. What you don’t own, owns you.
Who says that being an exotic dancer is wrong? Who says that being paid to have sex is bad? Who decided your morality? Have you ever really explored what you think about strippers and prostitutes, or did you just accept the morality of your parents and teachers? Is it possible that strippers and prostitutes serve a positive purpose in our society? Even if you genuinely and thoughtfully believe that the answer is no, and that strippers and prostitutes are plagues of the earth, they exist. And because they exist, they do have some kind of value. Even if they exist to show you how you definitely do not want to act, they have value.
The subconscious mind doesn’t deal in shades of grey. It deals in black and white. You’re good or you’re bad, period. If there’s any part of you that your subconscious mind judges as bad, you’re bad to the bone. Unredeemable, in fact. Surely, you don’t want to feel that way about yourself. It will impact your love relationships, your friendships, and your ability to be successful in your work. It is the root of all of your excuses for why you’re not completely happy and fulfilled in your life.
I offer you this exercise to own your inner stripper. (You can insert something else you judge to be bad if you don’t have a charge about strippers.) Write down all the things you believe about strippers. Circle the one that gives you the strongest emotional charge. Then ask yourself these questions.
- When have I ever acted like that?
- What would be the benefit of behaving in that way?
- Can I conceive of any possible scenario where I might be willing to act like that?
- What are the benefits of choosing not to be like that?
Spend a few minutes focusing on your breath. Inhale acceptance, exhale judgment. And remember, there is a stripper and a whore inside every one of us, and she deserves to be loved.