Forget what you *think* you know about strippers and strip clubs. Beyond the garish cinematic clichés and pearl clutching narratives which conflate sex work with sex trafficking is a profession like any other. Through funny, incisive and oh-so feminist illustrated vignettes, Jacqueline Frances' new book Striptastic! undresses her kaleidoscopic world of sisterhood, stage looks, client-stripper shrink sessions, sexual mishaps, and everyday sexism.
Written for both civilians and rippers (as Jacq calls them), Striptastic! is 100 percent unapologetic. “If you’re looking for a redemption narrative about a woman who’s ashamed of her body and the choices she’s made, you’re fingering the wrong pages,” she pointedly explains in the introduction. “These pages are a love letter to the women who have inspired me to live brazenly, to always stand up for myself, and to turn all that pent up slut energy (I have a lot of it) into cold, hard cash.” And thus the tone for Striptastic! is set, shuttling between take-no-prisoners cultural analysis and playful, sex-positive banter.
A departure from Frances’ first publication — a memoir called The Beaver Show — Striptastic! is driven by Jacq’s inimitable voice, but bolstered by the stories of over 300 strippers from around the world that she spent years sourcing online and in person. The community that underpins Striptastic! is what makes it so universal in its scope. Stripper or not, if you encounter hetero, cis men on the regs, you’re likely well-acquainted with the hijinks, humor, and/or horribleness that can accompany their presence. But while this book does cover how strippers — and women of all stripes — contend with misogyny, to say Striptastic! centers men would be to miss the point.
Above all, Striptastic! is about female friendship, seasoned pros mentoring babes in the woods, female competition, and the power of sisterhood in all its diverse forms. That is the beauty of this uniquely partwarming coffee table book, and I dare you to read it and not laugh out loud and learn a thing or two about how to live life to the fullest while the patriarchy spins its wheels.
Here are five things I learned about ripper life from Frances' book.
1Being A Stripper Means Being Intimate With Rejection
Being part of the ripper sisterhood means getting rejected by customers 90 percent of the time, explains Frances in Striptastic!. That might sound harsh, but it does have an upside. "I think getting used to rejection pulls my head out of my ass," Frances tells Bustle, "and it also makes me try anything and everything, because you just don't know what's going to catch. Stripping has taught me to cast a wider net."
2Glitter Is Serious (And Sometimes Dangerous) Business
Civilians might associate glitter with the non-stop glamour of well-coiffed strippers, but Striptastic! teaches us that it's a major newbie faux pas — and that you don't have to be dressed to the nines to be ace at your job.
"Glitter gets everywhere, namely on married men who are going to have a hard time explaining why they got home so late," Frances says. "I love glitter, but I realized a long time ago that men don't care about all the bells and whistles of extreme grooming and face painting. Most strippers I know put their faces on for themselves. I love the grand orchestration of a stripper going all out on her look, but it's just not my thing. I'd rather take those extra 45 minutes to draw, lay in happy baby pose, or eat Cheeto puffs."
3Depictions Of Strippers Onscreen Usually Miss The Mark
When asked about her favorite onscreen strippers, Frances has a strong opinion about who makes the cut and who doesn't. "It's a tie between Nomi Malone, Cardi B, and Anna Nicole Smith," she says. "I really can't choose. They are (or were) all just unapologetically themselves, which, in my experience, is how strippers are. All the self-loathing and ashamed strippers onscreen are these lame-ass myths created by captain save-a-ho's disguised as Hollywood producers."
4Women Can Learn A Lot From Strippers About How To Deal With Unruly Men
All women can learn a thing or two from strippers about how to deal with the not-so-good, the bad, and the ugly behaviors exhibited by dudes in this world. Frances offers these two pearls of wisdom: "If a cis het dude is being a [jerk], I have two suggestions on how to deal with him: 1) Know that they are a dime a dozen. Pay them no mind. 2) If they're being especially nasty and you are feeling up to confronting them: Publicly shame them. There is nothing a man fears more than a bunch of women laughing at him (unless he's into that, for which he's usually willing to pay a hefty premium)."
5The Ripper Sisterhood Is Real
Although Frances initially started writing and drawing as a personal outlet, she soon found it brought her closer to her stripper community. "I think it was when I started illustrating comics when I really felt like I was connecting with rippers at large," she says. "Without really realizing it, I was distilling pretty common stripper experiences and turning them into a little doodle, and I feel like a lot of women related to it, and started sharing my work with their girlfriends and colleagues. It stopped being about me and my story, and started being a way to talk about experiences we all have with humor and empowerment," Frances says.
And if supporting fellow ladies in the struggle is what you're about, Striptastic! is sure to inspire, whatever your chosen profession may be.