The smell of perfume, makeup and baby wipes fillsthe locker room which opens up to an impossibly long stairway. With all of the drinks the girls are bought a night, it is a wonder how there aren’t more injuries. It’s a Saturday, which means there will be about 10-20 girls working the floors and two dancers on the stages at any time – it also means that it should be busy enough to walk away with a good amount. I didn't mind the dancing or the being basically naked at all times, it felt pretty freeing. If you disassociate the entire night and focus it on yourself, it gets easier to ignore the drunken men who think they own you and the other girls who seem like they are competing with you.

Working a full-time co-op in tandem with stripping was the only way I could afford to continue my education at RIT – and I am not the only one. There are plenty of students who have turned to jobs in the sex industry in order to afford ever-increasing tuition in universities all over the country.

This article will take a deep dive into the bad of working in the sex industry, primarily stripping. I want to preface that this is not the case for many, many workers in the industry and that this article only lightly brushes over the good that can come from working in the industry.

The Sex Industry

When we think and talk about the sex industry, there is a negative connotation and stigma that seems to surround even the idea. It is true that in some cases, the industry can be incrediblly toxic or dangerous, however, there are so many other examples thatprove the industry can be fruitful and beneficial to those who use it.

The sex industry is an all-encompassing term which includes any business activity that provides sexual services or entertainment, such as stripping or exotic dancing, online services like OnlyFans or Porn and in person sexual acts such as prostitution or sugar baby relationships.

A study published in The Guardian claims that 1 in 20 college students has worked in the industry in order to assist in paying college expenses. There have also been many examples of individuals who have taken to OnlyFans and stripping. I have known a few friends who have even paved their way through school with performing in porn and swear by it as the most efficient way to make money quickly.

One thing this school fails to realize is that students may be able to afford tuition their first year, but as it increases, students need to find ways to make up this deficit.

The Bad

There are a lot of benefits to working in the sex industry, and the work itself should be normalized so that safety regulations and precautions can be put in place to protect the performers. It can be an incredibly efficient way to make money and a source of confidence, friendship and a creative outlet. However, since the work is looked down upon so much, there is a lot of malpractice, danger and stress that can come into play.

By now, many of us are aware of the sexual assault that takes place in the porn industry and the differences between ethical and unethical porn. Ethical pornography is porn that uses better production practices and focuses on consent in recording. Though many do have safe practices, there are also many that do not keep the performer's interest in mind. There have been instances of sexual assault and abuse on many sets that have carried on to online streaming platforms.

As far as stripping goes, many people consider it a gateway into the industry as it does not encompass performing sexual acts and instead focuses on performance. This being said, assault lingers in every club nonetheless.

As a dancer you do not just make money on stage, in fact, most of the money you make is through private dances. The club that I worked at had private dances at 25 dollars per song and private rooms that started at 160 dollars. I would give anywhere from four to twenty dances per night, take to the stage about twice an hour and have the occasional private room. I don’t know what it was about the private dance lounge that made customers believe they could control what went on back there – but they did their best to force it upon the dancers.

I do not want to be too explicit, but the number of men who would attempt to hold me down, take off my clothes or even stick their fingers in me was disgusting. To know that many men think 25 smackaroos is enough money for a woman to allow for a man to assault her is insane, and I believe a lot of it stems from a lack of knowledge of what exotic dancing actually is.

Each state has different laws regarding stripping. Some are completely no-touch, some are touch allowed, some are completely nude and for many your nipples (yes your nipples, even though you can be fully naked from the bottom down) cannot be shown in the club. This being said, sexual acts or services are never allowed in any club or bar, and there are many instances where stings have happened which get entire enterprises shut down. 

The Why

With all of this risk, why work in the industry at all?

For me, the answer was due to necessity. I was in a place where being at RIT was my only option. I could not go back to where I was before university, and I would not be able to support myself by dropping out. At the point I was in my life, the only out I could see was to make enough money to pay my tuition bill and continue on in my degree – and many students are in the same boat. At this point, I was already working a full time internship and three jobs each semester in school and still was not making enough to afford the increase in tuition.

One thing this school fails to realize is that students may be able to afford tuition their first year, but as it increases, students need to find ways to make up this deficit. Many have a support system which is able to cosign loans or assist in tuition payments, but so many others do not.

To know that many men think 25 smackaroos is enough money for a woman to allow for a man to assault her is insane and I believe a lot of it stems from a lack of knowledge of what exotic dancing actually is.

Aside from university students, people go into the industry for a multitude of reasons. Some love the work that they do and find joy in performing and working in the industry. It is a completely viable career and can provide an incredible income.

The Bottom Line

The sex industry can be a wonderful career full of a lot of flexibility, income and other benefits, but it can also be dangerous if the right safety precautions are not put in place. If you are interested in dipping your toes in the industry, I encourage you to research and be safe on your journey. Remember that your body is yours and no amount of money or direction can take that from you.