Besides, I could hardly put stripping on my fledgling resume. My parents paid my rent, my Kentucky Fried Chicken and my living expenses. Tony Ryan Is working as a stripper honestly empowering? My family, friends and society at large saw it as shocking. Sex workers were stigmatised as morally bankrupt, lacking in self-respect, so not worthy of respecting. And still I told myself it was my choice. The goal of making money became an end in itself.
On the neon-lit stage of that back bar, I let loose my inner extrovert. Putting myself up onstage and demanding payment for being watched were exertions of control. My parents paid my rent, my Kentucky Fried Chicken and my living expenses. I fought hard to prove otherwise. I saw stripping as liberating. I did it by default. And still I told myself it was my choice. I hated the popular belief that sex workers were oppressed and without agency, victims in need of rescuing. An arts undergraduate, I had no pressing need for money, the reason usually cited for entry into the sex industry — an umbrella term that encompasses stripping, web-camming, escorting, prostitution and porn. Besides, I could hardly put stripping on my fledgling resume. I know now that male-dominated society needs this stigma to maintain the status quo. I worked alongside fierce women paying off mortgages and masters degrees, raising children and starting charities. Looking back, that possibility, coupled with the superficiality of the work and its instant reward, meant I never had to go deep and figure out what I truly valued. I got paid to dance, keep fit, wear fabulous costumes and entertain people. I could choose my hours, take time off and still have a job to come back to. I had the right to choose. With hindsight, what appeared to have been a conscious choice might have actually been heavily influenced. Often it was worse than the work itself, where I could, by and large, control my exploitation and maintain my boundaries and self-worth. Tony Ryan Is working as a stripper honestly empowering? When I started stripping in the back bar of a Christchurch brothel at 18, I was in control of my decision to get nude — or so I thought. The goal of making money became an end in itself. My family, friends and society at large saw it as shocking. I also wanted the independence to make my own choices. Stripping offered endless possibility. Since puberty, I had been aware of men staring at me in public.
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