The Sisterhood Of The Pole


When one writer recalls her days as a stripper, it’s not the sordid lows or the glam highs, but the sense of community. Or, as she terms it, “the sex industry’s scarcest commodity: trust.”

You can argue all day over the implications of voluntary sex work: empowerment versus objectification; reclamation versus institutional degredation; art versus exploitation. Lily Burana’s not here to do that. Rather, she wants to talk about the solidarity she felt between herself and the other dancers. As she writes in Salon,

How funny that, of all my stripper memories, the club I most vividly remember is not the notorious establishment in which I worked, but the sisterhood that formed inside it. In a business built on fleeting fantasy and illusion, that kinship is the one thing that has lasted over time.

And, she says, they’re relationships that have endured and rekindled. And their lives have taken tacks that don’t necessarily mesh with society’s image of the sex worker’s — which tends to wallow in a sordid, simplistic pathos, a la Kim Cattrall’s Monica Velour.

Turns out tragic endings have been few and far between…Since our dancing days, we’ve gained husbands, partners, kids, careers, college degrees, spiritual practices and homes, each wild child all grown up. I’m proud that our lives are so blessedly ordinary because what we have now is more fulfilling. Because after years of toiling in chaos, we deserve this peace. Because we survived. I will never look back on stripping as the best days of my life, but these women and I shared a unique crucible, strangely glamorous yet impossible to glorify.

She’s not glorifying those days here, but doing something more important — humanizing them. Taking away the tragedy as well as the judgment. And we can stand to see more of that.

When We Were Strippers [Salon]

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