Walking into a strip club is a lot of pressure for the uninitiated. The workers offer a sexy service, but what do you do with your hands? What DON’T you do with your hands? To shed some light on the unwritten rules of interacting with strippers, and thus make the whole experience better for everybody, we went right to the source.
A couple months ago, photographer Amy Lombard and I spent nearly 24 hours in Show Palace, one of the only all-nude clubs in New York City. Although we spent the entire lifecycle of a mayfly there, we sensed that the stories we heard were only the tip of the iceberg. So we decided to go back to learn more from the strippers and the club manager about their job, their clients, and how to behave in a strip club.
Over the course of a lazy Sunday night (lazy because who goes to a strip club on Sunday?) we hung out in the dressing room with the dancers, who told us their best stories, advice, and tips from working in the industry. These are their words:
1. DON’T TRY TO HAVE SEX IN THE STRIP CLUB
A lot of guys get mad—they don’t understand that I’m a dancer. I don’t have sex for money, and some guys get very upset about that. They won’t shut up. “Oh have sex with me, I’ll give you money. I’ll give you however much money you want.” That’s probably the most annoying thing.
A lot of the guys are from Asian countries, or they’re Middle Easterners or South Americans. I think there might be cultural differences. Very often, in the clubs in those countries, if the woman is in the sex industry, she will have sex for money. There may not be a subset of women that only dance like there is here.
I don’t know if they’re serious or not, but I’ve had guys offer me like $1,000. And I’m like, Listen, I don’t have sex for money. If you would just sit back and relax, you could enjoy your dance. It’s very irritating. Men need to just try to understand the limits. Enjoy the club for what it is instead of wishing it was a brothel. — Jennifer
I had a girl in the private dance room. We have cameras, you know; we watch the private rooms. She was bent over and she broke the cardinal rule: Never let the guy stand up. So the guy was standing up pretending to like dry hump her from the back, and then he pulled his dick out like he was going to put it in and I was here watching the cameras and caught it. But she was scared. We immediately grabbed the guy and let him out (not so nicely). You can’t violate the strippers. You cannot do that. — Mike Diaz, Manager
A guy will pull his dick out a couple times a week, usually in the private rooms. I just go, “You got to put that away,” and some guys won’t. So I just go, “I’m walking out if you don’t put that away,” and that tends to work. I think I’ve only had one guy I’ve had to walk out on in the six years I’ve been dancing. Most guys are good about it and do what you say. — Jennifer
2. BE NICE, NOT CREEPY
I turned 18 on January 17. There was a 70-year-old guy here my first night. He was like, “Just don’t give me a heart attack.” I was like “Yeah, I’m going to try not to.” There was another old guy—he was like 63. He was like, “I would so take you out on a date. Are your nipples pierced? I want to suck on your nipples and fuck the shit out of you right now.” And I was just like, “What?!” I always end up with the weird ones. And then a lot of guys will tell me that I look like their little sister or something.
There’s a guy who came in once. We went to a private room and he was like, “You’re so beautiful.” And as I’m dancing on him, he goes, “Oh my God, you remind me of my daughter, I’m going to tip you all night.” I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say. I stopped. I was like, “Excuse me.” He was like, “Oh, I didn’t mean to say that. It just slipped out.” I was like, “Oh… OK. I’m just going to proceed with what I’m doing.” But after that there was this weird tension. He knew he fucked up. So, he just stayed quiet.
But today he brought me cupcakes! He said, “I was at my job, and I was thinking about how precious you are, and so I made you some cupcakes.” — Asia
3. WEAR DEODORANT
I had this one guy who really stunk. He was a college boy. He didn’t wear no deodorant. He was sweating nasty. He smelled like onions. I was in there an hour with him and I had to deal with that smell for so long. I kept, like, rubbing my nose trying to give little keys like, you need deodorant. It was horrible. — Asia
4. YOU’VE GOT TO PAY FOR FETISH PLAY
There was this guy who liked to smell butts. We go to a private room and he goes, “I got this freaky fetish. I’ll give you a lot of money for it.” I was like, “What is it?” And he was like, “I like to smell butts.” At first I was kind of creeped out, but… what happens in the champagne room stays there. He just wanted [me] to bend over and catch a whiff. One whiff and that was enough. — Ruby
There was a guy who liked to dress up as a woman. He put on one of the dancer’s clothes, G-string, everything. She let him wear them. Recently, on the day that they changed the law where homosexuals could get married everywhere, he walked around the club in a G-string and a dress and he got on the pole and started dancing. Everyone left him alone though. He had a lot of money—like a few thousand. — Paloma
5. Lap Dance Etiquette: Don’t Come In Your Pants
I hate when guys come in their pants. It’s nasty. You can just dance on them, like you’re dancing on their lap, and they come. And it has gone through and soaked someone’s pants before, and you’ll feel it on the back of your leg, and you’ll be like, “What is that?” And they’ll look embarrassed and they’ll tell you, “Oh, I just came.” But I leave after that. It’s not funny! Give me a warning sign so I won’t sit in it!
Now that it’s happened to me before, I’ll tell them, “Listen. When I’m dancing you need to not do that. If you are going to come, please give me a warning so I can stop dancing.” — Ruby
6. RESPECT THE DANCERS
Some guys come in with the wrong idea and they want to treat the dancers like garbage. I had a guy come in the other day, a well-dressed kid. He comes out of the cab and I was standing at the front. You know those guys who get overly familiar right away? He was like, “Hey, what’s going the fuck on?” I’m like, “Kid, what are you talking about?” He’s like, “You got fucking bitches in there?” I’m like, “All right, first of all, you come in here with that kind of attitude and I’m going to end up throwing you out. Second, you come in and talk to these girls like that, I’m going to throw you out. And you’re not getting any refunds either.” The guy looked flabbergasted. But you got to defend the girls before they even come in sometimes.
Some of these guys—they just look at them like they’re nothing. Nothing. Some of these girls are mothers. Some of these girls are students. My ex-girlfriend, she became a world-class surgeon, but she started as a stripper. There’s articles about her. — Mike
7. DON’T ASK STRIPPERS TO MARRY YOU
Of course I get the guys who want to marry me. They say I shouldn’t be doing this job. It’s a bad job and I should go marry them. And it’s almost always Indian guys. They say it’s not good that I’m here; that I should be married.
I just tell them that I don’t want to be married, and then they tell me that it’s terrible that I want to be single. I should be home and having babies. And I’m like, “Nah, I like my independence.” — Jennifer
8. BE COOL AND KEEP IT PROFESSIONAL
Sometimes, if you give a customer your number, they’ll call like they’re dating you. They have no chill. I’ll block them and they’ll call from other numbers. There was one I met that I liked. He liked the fact that I was very nice, but he got on my nerves because he talked a lot, but he was spending a lot of money. The first time I danced with him, I got $1,200 from him. I gave him my number the second time I saw him. But once he couldn’t get in contact with me, he was actually coming to my job to find me. He tried to pull “I’m going to stop going to the club, we should hang out outside.” He wanted pictures in his phone of us together like we were dating. — Paloma
“If I went out with everyone that asked me, I wouldn’t have free time.” –Jennifer
I get asked out five to ten times a night and I’m just like… I tell them they have to come back if they want to. They got to see me here a couple times first because otherwise how do I separate the good from the bad? I can’t tell who you are in a half-hour. If there’s a genuine chance I might want to see them again I tell them to come back and we’ll see. I try to be pretty honest about it, and guys that I would never see outside I’m like, “Sorry, I don’t see customers outside of work.” Plus, if I went out with everyone that asked me, I wouldn’t have free time.
But I have a couple people that I’ve made friendships with inside the club and I see them sometimes. I used to have a customer who, on my birthday every year and at Christmas, would take me to a Broadway play and a nice dinner at one of the restaurants around Broadway. That was cool. — Jennifer
9. BUT IT’S OK TO MAKE A PERSONAL CONNECTION
The hour-long private rooms are always a lot of talking. You almost never dance for a straight hour. I have a bunch of customers who come in who just like to talk to me. I have guys who I don’t even get undressed for. One of my best customers here is a French guy. He’ll do like two hours with me and we mostly just talk. Guys love to confess to us things they wouldn’t tell other people, like their sexual secrets. They like the affection. They like the attention.
Once or twice, someone has gotten emotional and started to tear up. I used to have this customer who would come see me. One time after he got some stuff out of his system, he told me about his life, his childhood—he teared up a little and was just like, “I had a really good time, that really relaxed me. Thank you.”
Part of this job is practically being a therapist. It’s funny, but as a dancer you don’t make the most money because you’re the prettiest. You make the most money because you can connect with people. I’ve seen gorgeous girls not make any money at all and girls who weren’t traditionally good-looking do really well just because they knew how to talk. They knew how to connect with people basically. That’s what they come here for. These men just want a connection. — Jennifer