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Dancing at the Peep

I walked by the Lusty Lady the other day. Sex-work jobs come and go, but the LL is right where it was when I danced there, years ago, and that's oddly reassuring somehow. I'd already had a varied and lengthy sex-work resumé when I auditioned, but I had never danced in a peep show, and I was curious.

The setting intrigued me. A peep show is a completely different setup from, say, a strip club. A customer stands alone in a small, darkened booth, drops money into a slot, and a window in front of him opens to a brightly lit room with nude women dancing. The customer usually jacks off, but not always. There is no touching--when I speak of the window being "open," I only mean that the customer can see the dancers. There is always glass between them.

With the glass and loud music, there is little talking between the dancers and the customers. But there is a lot of nonverbal interaction. You're told to focus your attention on one window, one guy--make eye contact with him (while he jacks off), smile, flirt, and encourage him.

When he comes, and his window closes, you pick another open window and do it again. I found it relatively easy, compared to hustling table dances, and the camaraderie between the dancers was a pleasant change from the more competitive atmosphere in strip clubs.

We didn't need to be competitive, because the Lusty pays dancers an hourly wage, something unique in sex work. It's rare to be a legal employee in the sex industry--you're usually an independent contractor. I knew going in that self-employment was really what suited me best, but for a time, I was charmed by the novelty of a sex-work corporate culture.

Inevitably, of course, the charm wore off: Early-morning shifts. Lesbian lovers' quarrels in the dressing room. Employee meetings to address the issue of shaved pubes versus natural--and what about genital piercings? It got old. I decided I was ready to travel fast and alone again.

But there is a certain group of women who still greet me as "Marcella," and I don't correct them. Because Marcella the dancer still lives in me, and even though she doesn't get much airtime, I like having her around.

matisse@thestranger.com

 

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