Updated: A previous version of this article was printed in error. The Mercury regrets this error.
At the start of his shift, he comes in, flirts with potential customers and changes into nothing but a pair of tight underwear. For the rest of the night, he woos patrons with his dancing and pole tricks amidst the neon lights and churning smoke machine.
During the day, he works on his academics and enjoys various athletics. At night, he goes to the club to dance and make a little extra money. Shane – who asked that his real name not be disclosed – is a part time psychology student and part time exotic dancer.
It all started as a joke. His friends noticed that he was always pretty comfortable without any clothes on. He was an athletic swimmer for several years, which gave him the courage – and the body – to do it.
“I was used to wearing very little clothing around a lot of people and I had to get comfortable with it. Changing in locker rooms never really bothered me,” Shane said.
After some thought, he decided to go to a strip club with a friend to see what it’s like to work as an exotic dancer.
“It was a female strip club and I saw what they were doing there. I saw what was expected there and I remember I walked up to one girl I found attractive and she’s up on her stage and she starts doing what strippers do,” he said.
He asked the dancer how she got there. At first, she was taken aback. She thought he was just another rude customer. But once he told her he was interested in working in the industry, her personality completely changed. The two spent the whole night talking about what it’s like to work as a stripper. Later on, he went to a male strip club to see for himself.
“I asked about dancing there and they told me that I could get on a pole and try it out. So, I did for about half an hour. I made good money and they hired me,” Shane said.
It took some time for Shane to get used to it. At first, he felt disoriented. People came up and approached him in a way he’d never experienced before.
“I remember the first night when I got home, I had to jump right in the shower,” he said. “It just felt weird, it felt dirty. Some of the parts were really fun but there were also some really rude customers.”
After a while, he learned how to deal with those customers to make sure he’d get his tips. He’s got some pretty weird stories. He’s danced for all kinds of people: lawyers, corporate executives, even semi-celebrities.
One night, a customer kept giving him dollars while making airplane noises, as if he were hand-feeding him. The man continued to do this for the better part of the night. He said that’s just one of the stranger experiences he’s had. For a while, Shane took a break from stripping after watching the film “Magic Mike”, which was about the life of a male stripper. The film highlighted the pressures of the industry: being able to spend money frivolously, illegal drugs and just plain debauchery.
“I realized that my life was becoming too much like that movie. I was being extremely irresponsible with school,” he said. “ So, I took some time off.”
He realized he’d been making some bad choices. Late nights, drugs, alcohol and splurging money on things he didn’t need were taking a toll on him. So, he dropped out of school for a semester and afforded a trip to visit his girlfriend in the Caribbean. He spent the time to reflect on his life. He said he’s been clean for about a year now. Eventually, he went back to dancing.
But Shane doesn’t want to be a stripper forever. He’s a transient stripper, meaning he doesn’t want to work as a dancer for the rest of his life. His work is simply a means to an end. He has hopes of someday working as an occupational therapist.
A study written by Mary Nell Trautner and Jessica L. Collett titled Students Who Strip: The Benefits of Alternative Identities For Managing Stigma suggests that transient strippers are becoming more common in the industry.
The study looks at the lives of ten females strippers, some who pay for their tuition and some who don’t. It sheds light on the stigma of living a double life: the danger, disruptiveness and dilemma of being seen as a deviant.
Shane said he’s careful about who he tells about his work and hasn’t told his family about it. While it’s something that some people might frown upon, he said he keeps good values in tact. He also said that there are big differences between being a male stripper and a female stripper. He said that he doesn’t have to do full nudity, take body tests or pay the club a major part of his tips.
“Part of that is because it’s a strip club in the gay community and police visits are common. So, it’s less sexual to be a male stripper,” he said.
Often times, the police come to the club to make sure the club is not soliciting intercourse with the dancers. Knowing the ins and outs of the industry, Shane has learned a lot about dealing with unusual, sometimes even aggressive people. On the bright side, he’s helped find work for a friend and enjoys dancing.
As for his future, he said there are resources for people like him to find jobs elsewhere. For now though, he’s sticking to the pole for a decent source of income and a fun time dancing.
“It’s not a bad thing. It’s not a dirty thing,” he said. “As long as you keep yourself safe and responsible.”
It’s Shane Damico, isn’t it?