To Thine Own Self Be True

Joanna-Paula - Goleta, California
Entered on May 12, 2008

I am what you might call a leper of society. My nighttime occupation has me cruising the floor in six inch heels and finding ways to be erotically creative with a stationary brass pole while dancing to my music of choice; usually of a Doors, Beatles, Hendrix, Zeppelin variety. There have been several occasions, due to my own doubts or the ignorance of others, when I felt the disastrous effects of guilt and shame about my decision to be a stripper. But over time those feelings of doubt and indignity have ceased to exist. I have learned to draw energy from and be comforted by the many brazen women in history who were likewise unafraid to be bold and “inappropriate.” Besides, too much persecution of women and our sensuality has occurred for me to be apologetic about what I do and who I am.

Perhaps I am a statistic. Like many strippers, I am the product of a terrible and abusive father. But I do not offer that as an excuse or explanation for my job for it is not sympathy that I seek. What I seek is understanding. Let it be known that I am a stripper simply because it is a great job opportunity. Who wouldn’t want this job? I make my own schedule a week in advance and can go on vacations that last as long as I need them to last and I didn’t need any education or previous work experience to get hired. Also, it is the only job I know of that offers all those “benefits” and is always available nearly everywhere in the country. The only requirement is a little nudity.

Unless you’re a woman who simply cannot or will not dance naked in front of a multitude of men, why not take advantage of this opportunity? I did. I was not going to let societal standards which can often be damning and hypocritical keep me from doing something smart like making the money I need to put myself through school. I asked myself these questions: Is the majority of society happy? Do most people have their lives together? Does pleasing a certain standard fulfill people’s lives? Am I willing to deny myself in exchange for the illusion of respect? The answer I got was no. Therefore, I consider it to be bad decision making to heed the majority with regard to taking care of my personal affairs and my pursuit of happiness.

The dream that has been in my heart since I was 15 is to be a high school English teacher. I have a deep passion to be available to young people as a positive role model and to be a sympathetic presence to the ones who are in need of self-confidence. I want to spread the philosophy to young minds that it is much more imperative and fulfilling to pursue their passions rather than to pursue financial or material security. These are my motives and I am at peace with them. Therefore, I am not shamed by the fact that I have to dance naked a couple nights a week to make it happen.

To be honest, sometimes it’s kind of fun. I embrace my strong sense of sensuality and the friendship I’ve made with my body. It’s important for all women to make this friendship. What woman hasn’t felt a magnetic pull towards a brass pole? What woman doesn’t want to feel sexy or desired? I choose not to ignore that essential part of what makes up my soul as a woman. I will not deny the fact that I am sensually liberated, but sophisticated. Nor will I apologize or feel guilty about being this way. It is ignorant and of a provincial nature to assume that all women who strip are drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes, porn stars, lesbians, lacking of an education, have convicts for boyfriends or have multiple “baby-daddies.” None of the above are true or have ever been true for me. I am an Army Veteran and a college student who doesn’t remember the last time she got drunk. I am also in a serious relationship with a wonderful man who is a college graduate and has a great job. Granted, due to my job’s accessibility, it does attract many troubled and desperate women who have no other options. But what is so hard to believe and accept about a level-headed and driven woman wanting to take advantage of the conveniences being a stripper offers them? Is it a morality issue? Since when did clothing define morality?

As a stripper, I may not have the support of our society, but what I do have is a profound understanding of the necessity to truly embrace myself. In the words of Veronica Franco (a 15th century Venetian courtesan and poet), “I am a woman of deep and lasting passions, wild and impetuous, more often than not ruled by my heart instead of my head. I was not made to live life tamely, but to seize it with a vengeance and bend it to my will. My emotional heights are rapturous, my depths all too filled with despair. Yet now that I see all that life has to offer, I am glad I am not other than what I am.”