Elle Elizabeth sent this #MeToo story and poem about her journey through lap dancing via our Share Your Story page.
Please keep the stories coming. They are powerful, moving and courageous and shine much-needed light on what it’s really like to be in the sex trade.
In what feels like a long time ago, which in fact was not long ago at all, I was a stripper. Exotic dancer, pole dancer, lap dancer, whatever. I stripped naked for money three or four nights a week. It paid well, most of the time. Some nights I would be lucky to leave with £20, other nights I could make £1000 simply by chatting to strangers in the VIP room and giggling at their stories whilst sipping mediocre champagne. Believe it or not, it’s not all about stripping.
Before I go any further I should probably mention that I’ve not blogged before and I’m unsure if I’ll attempt it again. Right now all I know is that I feel compelled to put this out there, maybe it’s some form of therapy, maybe I’m over worked. Who knows?
Things have changed since I stopped stripping, things have changed a lot. I won’t go into the why’s and how’s of getting into it, except to say that I had my reasons and it served its purpose and now, finally, I’m done with it.
So what’s changed? Like the stereotypical image of a stripper, and in all honesty in some cases the stereotype is visible in reality, I wore heavy make-up. Not only whilst working. I wore heavy make-up in public, wouldn’t be seen visiting the local corner shop without it. I wore high heels, tight-fitting clothing, wore my hair long and thick, sometimes with big waves, I wore fake nails, fake lashes. I was the image of glamour, or so I liked to believe.
I was used to attention in the club and so I craved attention outside of it. I felt validated by the attention, validated through the compliments. I told myself I was powerful, I was the one taking advantage of the men, those poor souls. I was the one in charge.
Since I stopped stripping I slowly moved away from that identity, I traded the huge glass stilettos for trainers, swapped the heavy make up for mascara and lip balm, I even cut my hair short. The fake nails and eyelashes were filed in the bin.
The transformation felt good. For the first time in a very long time, I felt like myself, my authentic self. I felt like I’d finally found myself.
The most interesting thing I’ve noticed though is how I feel I’ve become almost invisible. Now I go to the shops and I don’t turn heads, with baggy clothes, a bare face and boyish hair, nobody looks. I’m another face in the crowd. I know this may sound vain but the fact is whilst I was stripping I had rather low self-esteem. I lapped up the attention, it made me feel real, feel worthy and more often than not it also made me feel hollow. I took the good with the bad. It was worth it. Yet now, I feel invisible, like I’ve suddenly woken up and I’m a frail seventy years or something.
The one thing I didn’t expect to feel is relieved, yet that’s how I feel now. I feel free. I’m invisible and therefore safe from judgement. Nobody looks so I don’t need to concern myself that a fake eyelash might have fallen off or my nails are chipped or my eyeliner is smudged. I can be me and be comfortable in my own skin at last.
I’m not a stripper now, it served its purpose and I’ve been able to trade my old identity with something much better. I’m now a PhD student, I’m doing work in academia.
I feel validated through my work and my research. I feel strong, capable and worthy. I no longer require the validation of men, of strangers that pay to watch me dance naked. In the club the dancers and management refer to the strippers as girls, we are not women, we are girls. Girls to be bossed around and told what to do by the men.
I am no longer a girl playing dress up. I am a woman with a career to be proud of. I am invisible in ways I previously could not bear, yet I am happy. I have many friends that still strip. They claim they love the work. I know they don’t. They love the money. They tell themselves sweet lies to cover up the truth. I hope with all my heart my friends find their way out, find their own validation, find their own freedom.
The lost soul, a poem by Elle Elizabeth
Feeling so empty, feeling so bare
Leave my heart at the door and I’m ready to work.
I walk round in circles, I’m not really there. It’s all a big act, though no one would care.
The way that they look, the way that they stare. It makes me feel dirty, I just cannot bear.
Why do I do this? It goes round my head. I know it’s for money but inside I feel dead.
I want to escape though I have no way out. It’s what I am good at, what I know inside out.
I’ve no way to describe, the way I feel, how hollow and empty it is in my world.
To them I’m just naked, a dancer a thing. Inside I’m a person and I’m needing one thing.
To find a new life away from it all, and not have to hide behind make up no more.
One day I’ll escape it, one day I’ll be free. Until then I will face it, to them I’m just meat.
Share your story
If you’ve been in the sex trade, or have been affected by it in other less direct ways, and would like to share your story, we’d love to hear from you.