I recently found out that two female students of mine were both 'exotic dancers' -- one is currently working and the other used to work at the same club.
This came as a surprise to me, as these are average looking girls who are excellent students.
I'm not sure what I expected exotic dancers to be like, but it wasn't two brainy girls with perfectionist streaks and lofty academic goals. These women are bright, articulate and have excellent senses of humor.
and, they either do or have taken their clothes off for money.
For some reason I'm having a hard time connecting these girls and exotic dancing. It is difficult for me, I know, because I know them in a very different context.
I think the other reason I'm having a hard time with it is because it is sooooo outside of my range of experience. I've worked all kinds of jobs, but they have always required that I keep my clothes on.
Don't get me wrong, I really don't want to judge these women and the choices they've made. In many ways I admire them, they are very comfortable with their bodies in ways that I will never be. They have the courage to do what it takes to support themselves and go to school at the same time.
The ethicist and part of the feminist in me says that there is nothing wrong with what they are doing. They are using their bodies and taking advantage of the system which has placed them in a difficult financial situaiton. They are using society's ideas about sex to their advantage and taking advantage of a culture so sick that men (mostly) would pay them a pretty good amount of money for nothing more than taking off their clothes and moving on a stage.
On the other side, I worry about the morality of being a sex worker. They are exploiting their sexuality -- the most intimate aspect of themselves -- to make a living. Further, are they exacerbating the body-image issues of US women?
I think in the end I'm going to keep treating them the same way I did before I knew about their dancing. I liked them both before and I still enjoy working with them on our common academic pursuits. They deserve no less from me -- additionally, they deserve the help and respect I can give them in the non-stripper part of their lives so that it will become their only life. If that means helping them to get scholarships so they can transfer to other schools to finish their degrees -- then great! It may be the only way the will be able to end their dancing lives.
The sad part of all this is that I can't even give them the girly-girl kind of advise on hair and make-up because I'm not good with them... their excuse is that stripper make-up is a lot different than normal make-up --- and they only know the stripper proportions and techniques :)... I have no such excuse.