‘I’m An Activist Stripper’

Stacey Clare*, 29, is a dancer at some of London’s top clubs, where she can earn up to £600 a night. She’s also co-founder of feminist organisation the East London Strippers’ Collective

Picture credit: Rex. Posed by model

‘I don’t like to see women exploited. I also believe that women are agents of their own bodies, and have a right to decide how those bodies are portrayed. If other women like me have what it takes to earn a living from stripping, then I say, go for it. No one has the right to judge.

I learned to pole dance when I was an art student. I knew men found me attractive, and I enjoyed it. When I was 19, a friend of a friend, who was a stripper, got me an audition. They liked me, but I was a rebel and refused to cut off my white dreadlocks and shave my legs. I was 22 before I was ready to become “Stacey”.

I came into the industry from being a student, and the earning potential and the kick I got from performing in front of a crowd were both a revelation. I love seeing people’s faces light up when I prowl across the stage – it’s empowering.

The money is unpredictable. When I started out, stripping was about the audience appreciation of the performer. Now, most clubs use the American lap-dance model, where it’s all about hustling your client for money. Strippers pay the venue a “house fee” every shift and, although earnings on good nights can be in the hundreds, on bad nights strippers can go home with an empty purse, or worse, owing the club money.

Strippers aren’t recognised as employees under the law. This means there’s no job protection and we can be – and often are – sacked at will. At the East London Strippers’ Collective, we’re campaigning to have written contracts of service, and to be given the right to take legal action against exploitative clubs. My dream is to set up a co-operative club in London, where the girls own and run the venue and share in the proceeds.

I’ve danced in high-end clubs, such as Spearmint Rhino and Stringfellows, and I’ve travelled and made lots of money, but it hasn’t all been a bed of roses. It’s not easy being surrounded by drunk people, trying not to absorb their negativity as they look for a quick fix. My activism has empowered me to stand up for myself.’

Watch Stacey Clare’s Ted Talk at tedxcoventgardenwomen.com; visit ethicalstripper.com, @ethicalstripper

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