What’s the Next Step for an Exotic Dancer?

This is a few months old, but still well worth a listen: an NPR interview with Lia Scholl of Star Light Ministries, an outfit in Springfield, Va., that counsels exotic dancers.

Here, from Star Light’s Web site, is its mission statement:

Most exotic dancers are young women who come from varied socio-economic backgrounds. Their education levels vary — some have not graduated from high school, others have post-graduate degrees. Most of the women do not expect to be working at the clubs for the rest of their lives, but they have no idea what they will do when they leave the club.

These women face many challenges. Many times their support systems of family and church have abandoned them because of the work they are doing. Star Light believes that these women need support and love, like all women. Star Light walks alongside these women.


CA

This ministry reminds me of the line from Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams' _Streetcar Named Desire_ - when someone shows her some kindness: "And suddenly - there's God." We're all created in God's image; we all need unconditional love; and we all can - believe it or not - share that love and healing peace with others. I believe that many exotic dancers are already doing this (not in the ways most people automatically assume) - whether they actually realize it or not. As another poster noted, it can be a very rough world in which to live and work - and many of these women experience the worst humanity has to offer; despite all of this, many survive and hang on and desperately desire another way . . . the best that humanity has to offer: our God-like qualities of grace, kindness, forgiveness, authenticity, honesty, generosity, empathy, equality, reconciliation, healing, and sweetness . . . . Life is so full of bittersweetness; we all need help cultivating the sweetness. Star Light is a beautiful ministry - and very aptly named.

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Kevin White

Star Light Star Bright
First dancer I see that's right
I wish I may I wish I might
Meet her after the show tonite

Good luck to all who want to change their lives.

= Kevin

Michel

The dancers I've known, mostly escorts who used to dance, might kill me for saying this, but dancers need more help and support than escorts. Dancing is hard physical, mental and emotional work. Even a middle of the road escort screens her clients or works for an agency that screens for her. Her clients won't show up drunk and they won't be in a pack whose behavior tends to the lowest common stupidity. (If an escort wants to work parties, that's her business but the average one doesn't.) An escorts client may be ugly but it's her choice and every job has its bad parts.

An escort's clients come to her, but a dancer has to approach men to make money. Imagine walking up to people, almost naked, and selling your product, yourself, each time. The anti-escort crowd doesn't understand the escort has the final say about having you as a client. Dancers have to sell themselves to each guy in person, not through email or over the phone, and the guy has the final say. Some dancers can't imagine having sex for money and many escorts can't imagine standing up in public every night to sell lap dances.

Dancers' hours are terrible. It's very difficult to hold down a non-sex job if you're pulling lunch shifts and then nights. The money in sex businesses is addictive. The hours in dancing isolates them from the straight world and locks them into the trade.

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Greta

It is wonderful and much needed work that Starlight does for these women. I often think of the women at the well when I hear of this type of ministry. Clearly, God's hand is in this ministry. I pray that all women in the sex industry find their way to peace.

Avalon

Actually, the organization does not aim to "change" dancers, but rather to support them with whatever choices they decide to make. Hence the reason I am affiliated with them. Dancing has been a very positive life experience for me. I strive to encourage and inspire all entertainers to grab this industry by the horns and take advantage of it!

Amy

I'm in the nonprofit management field, so I know how much easier it is to focus on more palatable community issues (sheltering animals, etc) than address the needs of women like those Starlight reaches. But these women are members of our society, like it or not, and helping them find a better path if they choose to seek it is noble. I was delighted to see that this organization exists.

terry

If some exotic dancers are old women or men, or even birds or fish, then the most makes sense.

Shaun G

To Dan: The "most" does have a reason for being there. Most of them are young.

TylerDurden

When are services ?

Finally a church I'd go to every Sunday.

Dan

The first statement of their mission statement sounds ridiculous. Drop the most. It doesn't make any sense with it in there.

infopractical

Hey, for every potential flock, there's a shepherd looking to round them up. I just wonder wonder what the power incentive is.

Was that cynical? Did I just come off as cynical? Like...Economist cynical?

Ginger

With respect to the "power incentive" mentioned by "infopractical" above, all you have to know about Lia is that she left a secure job to follow the maverick (and faith-filled journey) of reaching out to dancers. Yes, infopractical, sometimes people do follow their faith without respect to the consequences (and trust that God will take care of the rest). Thank you, Lia, for your example of reaching out in faith to those who are often ignored by the church.

Ginger

Also -- to Mr. Dubner -- thanks for putting the NPR interview on your blog -- Lia is a friend of mine, and I think her ministry really needs the publicity b/c the folks she ministers to are really neglected. I tried to get a subgroup going at my church for her ministry, but it wasn't something a lot of folks could identify with. Yet the folks she ministers to really are left out of the church and society, and they need to hear that God and the world hasn't left them behind completely. So kudos to you for finding her interview and posting it (you don't have to post this comment on your blog -- I just wanted to give a shout-out to you for drawing attention to these folks).

I had a good friend from church who started dancing when we were young. One of my friends (also female) and I went to watch her at her request b/c she just loved dancing so much. It was disheartening looking at the hard faces looking back at her, a hardness reflected in many of the comments above. I'm glad folks are reaching out in love to people that many dehumanize as they view them.

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Tegan

Hi. I am struggling financially. I can't afford to rent anymore as I am finishing my degree. My job doesn't pay well and I need to move out of home or I'll go crazy. At times when I get desperate I contemplate stripping or something that requires the least form of contact with the 'client'. I will never be able to earn as much as my bf, who is a tradesman and my other option is to be more financially dependent on him. Strip? Or dependent on bf? I don't know which one's worse.

What kind of things does your organisation do to help women?

John

Interesting comments by all i must say. As the owner of a Chicago based bachelor/bachelorette party agency - i find humor in how little most average folks know about the struggles that sex workers face. In that, i do applaud the work of Star Light.

Layla

I started dancing when I was 19, to pay for an abortion and to pay for college. While in college I probably made 20,000 a year, working part time (800 hours a year). Today I am 25 and I am still dancing. I paid my way through college and got a BS in Business from a NY state school. Today I make as much as my former supervisor at my last corporate job, if not more; and am happy working eight months out of the year and pursuing my art dream the rest of the year.

I know the fun won't last forever, but I have met very amazing women in my profession who inspire me to work smarter and save more money, and plan ahead for a brighter future. Many of these women are modern day amazons that that extremely intelligent. There are women who pay their way through ivy league schools or who pay for their boyfriends/childrens' college education. Yet, those that start dancing at the age of 18, or 19 get a rough course in ethics, religion and male psychology within the first weeks of work. They have to grow up fast and grow thick skin or the industry will consume you - drugs, prostitution. The naive girls who think that being a stripper is glamorous (you are so silly!) don't need Lia Scholl, they need to stop dancing. You're not cut out for this job and should leave it for someone who really needs the money and has fewer options that you. You;re not here to finance a household, or an education, or a dream. Stop rebelling, make peace with your parents and go to college. The hard working women who have children to support, no high school degrees, and/or are in abusive relationships, have no support group or no family behind them - these women need Lia Scholl. These women work full-time without much inspiration and health care. They cannot allow themselves to take vacations or any healthy breaks from work because they don't want to get behind. Eventually the job will burn them out. A burnt out dancer needs sleep, a nutritionist, a psychologist (who will then need a psychologist), and a physical therapist for a start.

To Lia Scholl, you are wonderful and so generous. Please come visit some clubs on Bourbon Street. What you are doing is very much needed, as I see many of my fellow coworkers break down mentally and lower their standards due to a slow night at work and financial demands at home. So many young women are dancing without any financial goals and end up with a nicer wardrobe, exciting night life, drug addictions, and at the same place the next day - the club. There are many who ask themselves the question of what their next career step should be and draw blanks because they have no family, no support group. many dancers support their families and/or abusive boyfriends, and are degraded and shunned by their families for dancing. It is ok for us to bring home the bacon, but when it comes to an disagreements the fact that I am dancer will always be the lowest blow. Supporting a family is a burden that disables many dancers to seek out other careers that might not pay as much today but could pay more in the future. whereas, others have the financial ability to pay for a college education but no longer see the point in paying for an education, when they are already making as much money are your boss right now.

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Romana

I have been a cocktail waitress for over 17 years in a popular Vancouver strip club and for the past year and a half I have interviewed over 50 dancers, compiled their stories into a book titled, "The Life of a Stripper" and had it published.
I totally agree with you that this industry is physically, mentally and emotionally hard on a woman. Of course it would be! With the long hours, heavy dance schedule (plus pole tricks) and dealing with the stupid comments from some customers, no wonder it can be stressful at times. Almost every strip bar serves alcohol, so many of the patrons will have a little too much to drink. But, most of the dancers see this job as a numbers game...they just want to give the dance, grab their money and move on to the next customer.
Many of the girls who I have interviewed and chatted with (for many, many hours) come from normal families and have friends that are not working in this industry. I have to say that most of the dancers are intelligent women with good hearts. They work in an job where they are constantly being stereotyped as drug addicts/alcoholics/prostitutes (this is far from the truth!).
Most of the girls admit to getting in some crazy situations at work but they made some smart decisions to get away unharmed.
Yes, the money is addictive. I was also told that if a girl can't handle the party lifestyle (being around alcohol and drugs all the time), then she shouldn't get into this business.

Romana Van Lissum
Author of, "The Life of a Stripper"
www.thelifeofastripper.com

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