5 Feminist Strippers To Celebrate

Our culturally-inscribed narratives about strippers are as limited as they are dangerous. They're discarded bodies at a crime scene, they're victims of sexual abuse, and they're bad girls beyond rescue — damaged goods. But while the mainstream media shames strippers, it is endlessly fascinated by them, simultaneously celebrating strip clubs and dancers in music videos and film without deigning to provide many humanizing depictions of the women who do this work.

Showgirls may be a beloved cult classic and pole dancing classes a wildly popular form of fitness, but would half the women who indulge their "naughty" side learning to do a basic spin on Saturday afternoons be caught dead at a real strip club? The answer is a likely, "NO," but that doesn't mean things aren't slowly changing.

Thanks to the sex-positive movement that began in the 1960s, there are pioneers who have challenged and continue to challenge problematic representations of sex work and stripping through activism and art. And with sites like Tits & Sass providing platforms for sex workers to tell their own stories, women are able to counter the spin that male writers and the male-dominated media have set in motion for decades. Here are five strippers and former strippers changing the ways we view women in the industry.

1. Annie Sprinkle

Known as the first porn star to receive her Ph.D., Annie Sprinkle has been a highly influential stripper, burlesque dancer, sex worker, sex educator, environmentalist, and feminist activist spreading the gospel of sex-positivity since the early '80s. Sprinkle paved the way for many of the other women on this list to openly identify as both feminists and strippers.

2. Amber Rose

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

When asked about her seven years stripping, entrepreneur and Slutwalk organizer Amber Rose described the career choice to Cosmo as "the best time of my life!" An outspoken advocate of intersectional sex-positive feminism, Amber Rose is a vital voice countering hegemonic narratives about the horrors of stripping.

3. Antonia Crane

Evan Karp on YouTube

Writer, professor, and performer Antonia Crane is perhaps best known for her book Spent, a moving memoir about sex work, addiction, and redemption. Crane remains an unapologetic advocate of stripping, and continues to work in the sex industry. In an article for CNN she writes, "That I make more money stripping at 42 than I ever have teaching, writing, counseling homeless youth, waiting tables or tending bar is a problem of sexism and living in a sexist culture, not a problem of the sex industry."

4. Diablo Cody

Academy Award winner Diablo Cody penned screenplays for Juno, Jennifer's Body, and Young Adult and chronicled her year as a stripper in the book Candy Girl: A Year In The Life Of An Unlikely Stripper. Although she has hardly dedicated her life to sex work in the ways other women on this list have, Cody still brings visibility to the profession through her high profile career.

5. Jacq The Stripper

Brooklyn-based writer, artist, comedian and stripper Jacq The Stripper recently released The Beaver Show, a feminist memoir that follows her from dance floors in Sydney and Melbourne through the wilds of Alberta, and into New York City. On a mission to "humanize sex work and spread the gospel of happy sluts," Jacq (full name Jacqueline Frances) also infuses her strip club savvy into stand up routines and her incredibly witty drawing series regularly posted Instagram.

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Images: alswart/Fotolia; Annie Sprinkle/Wikipedia; Getty Images; Evan Carp/YouTube; Diablo Cody/Wikipedia; Jacqueline Frances/Kickstarter