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Sex Work

Money on the Table: A Stripper’s Code of Ethics

"At that moment, a hoe-letariat uprising was born in me."

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Written by Holly Gofuckyourself.

Art by Samantha Stewart.

Once upon a time, when I was a little baby stripper, I noticed that a drunk (middle-aged, white) man had stopped paying attention to his wallet.  He was enraptured as he talked to a beautiful Dominican woman who called herself ‘Winter’.  He and his group were leaving, so Winter began walking with them to coat check. He left the wallet on the bar top.


        For a moment, I was conflicted. My heart seized in my chest. I was a week late on rent and I needed 700 dollars. There was easily three times that amount in crisp, blue hundreds, stuck in the money clip on the outside of that wallet. The wallet that this man had forgotten on the bar. If I had over 2K in hundreds, I would have been clutching it to my chest like Gollum.  


        I thought about the $80 I had strapped to my ankle with a rubber band, at least $40 of which was already spoken for, to tip out the House Mom, the DJ, and the hair and makeup people. I thought about the 20 minutes of sexual harassment I had endured to get that $80, giving lap dances to a ghoulish man who kept trying to pull my top aside to expose my breasts. No tip.


        
I thought about snatching that wallet, running upstairs to the dressing room, emptying it of its contents, packing my bags, then leaving the now empty billfold exactly where he forgot it, as I waltzed out the door in sweatpants, never to return again.

I thought about snatching that wallet, running upstairs to the dressing room, emptying it of its contents, packing my bags…never to return again.


        I would pass a handful of bills to Winter, then I’d take a yellow cab home and tip my driver well. I’d order $100 worth of Thai takeout and eat it in bed with my cats while watching Futurama. I would roll a FAT joint and sleep like an angel. The next day, I would pay my rent AND my next month’s rent. I would buy my mom a really nice Christmas gift. I would pay my beautiful queer friends FULL PRICE for their art and still have enough left over to buy more weed.


        I grabbed the wallet and started to walk towards the elevator when I suddenly became aware of how many security cameras were everywhere.


        Though I was an “independent contractor” at this club (and I paid THEM to work there, mind you), they still had a copy of my social security card and driver’s license, and the fingerprint of my right index finger. Even though I didn’t think it was stealing to take this careless man’s forgotten money, I doubted that he would feel the same way.


        So I didn’t flee to the elevator.  


        Instead, I took a deep breath and followed him and his group to the coat check.


        “Excuse me I think you forgot something,” I said.
        “Oh thanks,” he said, taking the wallet and sticking it in his interior coat pocket. He turned to leave.
        
I cleared my throat loudly. “I just saved you like 2K and you’re not even going to tip me?” I asked in disbelief. I had expected him to be grateful, gracious. To toss me at least a few of those hundreds.  But he was already one foot out the door.

I cleared my throat loudly. “I just saved you like 2K and you’re not even going to tip me?” I asked in disbelief. I had expected him to be grateful, gracious. To toss me at least a few of those hundreds. But he was already one foot out the door.


        “Here you go,” said one of his friends, handing me a measly twenty. “What’s your name?” he asked.
        “Riley,” I said, and his face went ghost white.
        “That’s my daughter’s name!”
        Pissed, I snapped back, “I’m probably your daughter’s age too!”


        He still had another twenty in his hand so I snatched it, then stomped back out to the floor in my hot pink Pleasers.


        
If someone were to ask me if I have any regrets about sex work… the stigma and disrespect, the harassment, misogyny and sometimes even terror that I have endured, I would still say that my only clear regret is not taking that man’s left-behind money.


        I had it in my hand. The bag was mine, and instead of keeping it like I probably deserved to, I decided to do “the right thing” and return it to a man to whom it clearly meant nothing.


        Twenty-five hundred dollars at that time would have been a life-changing amount of money for me.  And yet, like an obedient serf, I returned it to the rich man who could casually leave it sitting on the bar without a second thought.

In that moment I knew that it was now my sacred duty to seize the means of seduction.  To understand the value of my time and energy, to demand my worth and to encourage others to do the same.


        
At that moment, a hoe-letariat uprising was born in me. A fiery knowledge that what we do at the strip club, is seize capital from men who use their money to treat other human beings like their playthings. We redistribute that capital in our communities so that we can survive, and maybe one day begin to build a new world in alignment with our values.  


        
In that moment I knew that it was now my sacred duty to seize the means of seduction. To understand the value of my time and energy, to demand my worth and to encourage others to do the same.


        Let this be a prayer: to any man who is about to leave the club with a wallet full of crisp blue hundreds… may you be stripped of your superfluous wealth and may it be redistributed as reparations amongst the communities of every woman you ever underpaid for her time and attention. Amen.


About the Author

Holly Gofuckyourself is a veteran member of the Twerking Class in NYC, as well as an advocate for all sex workers everywhere, and their rights.

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