Photo: alexbcthompson via flickr
We’ve all heard the stories about strippers: A bad childhood, maybe an abusive relationship here or there, a vulnerable mentality and, finally, a struggle for money. In every situation, it seems selling their sexuality is the best bet they have for a better life.But what if you went to one of the most sought-after universities in the nation and have a public, professional job, but at the end of the day, you rush home, get dolled up and undress for a night shift where you take the stage in a dimly lit world filled with lonely men looking for companionship?
Meet Laine Durr,** a 20-six-year-old woman trying to establish a career in journalism. She works at a reputable news organisation in New York City and strips at night outside the city. Born and raised in New Jersey, Durr is what most would call a driven girl. She paid for graduate school with her own money and acquired no financial aid.
So how did a small-town, attractive and well-educated woman become entangled in an after-dark, behind-closed-door profession? Simple. It all comes down to money, or the lack of it.
It started when she was 20 years old, broke and living in Brunswick. At the time, she was going to school full-time and working full-time as a pizza delivery girl making $10 an hour. Then her roommate became a heroin addict and left Durr with rent she couldn’t afford.
“[My boyfriend at the time] and I couldn’t afford the rent on our own so we put an ad on a college listing. Someone contacted us. She wasn’t there half the time.”
It wasn’t long before Durr and her boyfriend broke up and she was struggling for money — again.
“The pizza place I worked for was owned by a Lebanese couple who took three weeks off every summer. So during that three-week time, I didn’t have a job. I didn’t make a lot of money so I tried my hardest to save up. I didn’t have any money. I saw that at the time, my roommate was making a lot of money as a shot girl at a Go-Go bar and they needed another girl. With $200 a night, I’d only have to work 2 nights a week to make what I was making for the whole week at the pizza place. So I started as a shot girl. I was about to turn 21.”
It wasn’t easy at first and Durr hated the “creepy” men she had to give lap dances for. She also had a hard time connecting with the other girls — most of them were Russian and couldn’t speak English well.
“I was like, ‘Just two more years of this and I’m done. I’m going to grow up, I’m going to have a real career.’ [The men] would spend a lot of money, but they’re used to going into a place like that and receiving $20 [sexual services]. That was really hard. That mentality is one of the biggest problems in the industry. So I burnt out.”
Durr took some time off and started working for a small, local newspaper. After three of four months, she decided she would go back to dancing, but this time, at an all-nude strip club.
Photo: Cap’n Monkey vai flickr
“I don’t want to say I’d always wanted to be a stripper, but I guess I was always curious about it. I wanted to make money. I didn’t want to work so much. I wanted to concentrate on school. School is expensive.” Especially at the private Manhattan university where she enrolled in journalism school.But Durr was making money — a lot of it. Right from the start, she was making $400 to $500 during five-hour shifts. It was consistent money, she says. On Saturdays, she would leave with an average of $1,000 or $1,200.
“You’re making more money than you ever thought you could make. Sometimes you’re making more money than your parents ever made. If you’re dancing and going to school for a profession, but you’re already making more money than you’ll ever make in your profession. That’s a scary thought. I mean, you’re 18 or 20 years old, you can make 150-grand a year. It’s crazy.”
“And you don’t have to be the most gorgeous girl. I see some of the most gorgeous girls not make any money because they don’t have the personality. I see some girls who are heavier around the middle, make a ton of money. It’s all about personality. You’ve got to convince guys that you’re attractive. They aren’t just going to find you attractive. The only way you can do that is by being confident. They can tell right away. I mean, sales people believe in their product. They believe in what they sell.”
Durr was relieved she didn’t have to deal with the drunk men anymore like she did at the Go-Go bar. In New Jersey, it’s prohibited to sell alcohol at all-nude strip clubs.
“So many girls think that you’re going to make more money off of drunk guys, that’s not true. If you’re a sober person and you’re around drunk people and you’re trying to get money out of them, it’s very hard. It takes people time, not to decide whether they want you to dance for them, but to remember where he put his money. But with sober guys, it’s ‘Yes, they want a dance, no, they don’t. OK, we’re done.’ It’s great.”
Immediately after she started stripping, Durr decided she wanted to buy a house.
“I knew I was eventually going to go into a professional career that didn’t make a lot of money. I knew I would never be able to afford a house. Having a house was really important to me, because when I was with my ex boyfriend, I was kind of trapped with him because I couldn’t afford to move out of my apartment. I couldn’t just get up and say, ‘I’m leaving.’ I didn’t have anywhere to go. It was scary. So I never wanted that to happen again.”
“So once I started dancing, the thing I really wanted was to buy a house. I didn’t want to, in a way, rely on a guy again. If I ever needed anything, I don’t have to ask anyone. I can walk out of [that club] with enough money usually to solve whatever problem I’m having.”
Photo: soindywaits via flickr
Three years after she stepped foot onto the strippers’ stage, she bought her first home in New Jersey. Then, two dogs and two horses joined the picture. The next year, Durr was accepted into a prestigious, expensive private university, although the news distressed her. She hates school.”When I came out of college, I didn’t have the contacts or the career I wanted and I couldn’t find a job. I started feeling bad about myself. I was like, ‘Look at me I have a college degree and I’m a stripper.’ I never pictured that being my career forever. I mean, it can’t be my career forever, right? I didn’t want to look back on my life and think, ‘Really? That’s all I did with my life? I was a stripper?’ So I went back to grad school. I got the contacts I needed and then, I dropped out. It got to be too hard.”
In between her graduate courses, Durr continued stripping, but was stressed because she wasn’t making as much money. She had undergone breast implant surgery shortly before embarking as a student again and lost a lot of customers who didn’t appreciate the change in her body.
The balance of school and work lasted more than a year before Durr got a part-time journalism position in a organisation she’d proud of putting on her resume, although it barely pays. So she continues stripping full-time.
She isn’t sure when she’ll completely stop dancing: “I don’t know if I’ll go to back to dancing someday after quitting to use it to do other things or to get to where I need to get. That’s the greatest thing about this business — you can always go back. And I’ve been at the same club for a while now. Everyone is really close and we’re like family here.”
Although right now, she can’t imagine not stripping, she’s certain she doesn’t want to do it forever. She wants to move up the ladder in her journalism career. She doesn’t want to depend on pleasing a man to make her means. And one more reason?
“It’s hard to date when you’re just a stripper. I really need to become more than that.”
Editor’s note: This person in this story is not the author.
**Durr’s name has been changed to protect her identity. The rest of the story has been accurately reported.
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