In our raciest edition yet of Students Who Do Cool Things, we sat down with Tanner, who works as a male stripper. Just because Valentine’s Day has passed, doesn’t mean we have to turn the heat down. Before we begin, just know that this Brunonian’s stage name is Tanner; don’t strain a muscle searching for him on Facebook.
BlogDH: Would you mind telling us what factors contributed to your decision to go into this line of work?
Tanner: Most people have the impression that strippers are doing it for the money and out of desperation. For me, I wanted to explore something new, something that has always–well not always, but has recently fascinated me.
BlogDH: When did your fascination with this start?
T: I started pole dancing at the beginning of last semester. I’d like to clarify that pole dancing and stripping are totally different things. I guess the crossover started to interest me after I went to a few clubs and people started suggesting that I should try this out, so I did.
BlogDH: How are you getting along with your fellow employees?
T: Actually, they are really nice, and we’ll go out to pizza after dancing. Some of them have really big personalities, as you might imagine, but we’re a diverse group. A lot of them give good advice about staying away from certain people, and we teach each other different moves. My first day, when I went to work and was meeting all of the other dancers, one guy said, “I’d shake your hand, but I’m putting on a cock ring”, and I thought, “Oh, this is going to be a fun group of people.”
BlogDH: Are there certain characters that you need to stay away from?
T: In the club, there is zero tolerance for acting inappropriately towards or disrespecting the dancers. At first, we’ll just alert the client that the behavior is not okay, or walk away. However, if it keeps on persisting, we have security guards that can help us if we become uncomfortable. My boss did send everyone at work a message that frightened me. Apparently last year, one of the dancers at the club was raped after work. Every time I’m coming back from work, I’m double-fisting pepper spray. It’s actually great that DPS handed out those rape whistles and grenades in the beginning of the year. Also, a lot of the dancers are actually from suburbs of Boston, and a lot of times they drive back or take the train together.
BlogDH: How is it managing this job and your schoolwork?
T: It’s very easy. For me, it’s only once a week for four hours, which is definitely easier than BuDS or any other job I can think of. The hours aren’t ideal (I end at 1 a.m.), but I haven’t had any problems with it conflicting with schoolwork.
BlogDH: Do you tell people about this job and do people treat you differently if you tell them?
T: I tell a few people, um, actually definitely more than a few. I tell people I’m friends with. It’s not something I’m ashamed of, but it’s also not something I want to brag about on Facebook for all of my friends and family to see. It hasn’t been very long, but I don’t think anyone has treated me differently because of it.
BlogDH: What kind of outfit do you wear?
T: Mostly just underwear, depending on the night. If there’s a theme it could be different, and sometimes I start the night off in shorts, and end in underwear.
BlogDH: When did you discover that you could dance?
T: Actually, only very recently, since I’ve been here. I can definitely thank Brown…I’m sure that’s what they want to hear. (laughs)
BlogDH: Where do you see this career going?
T: Not very far. I would be surprised if it continued for the rest of the school year.
BlogDH: Do you think there is a difference between your job (at an all male strip club, marketed for gay men), and a woman working at a gentlemen’s club?
T: This is a very tough question that I have been trying to answer myself. I can’t give you a complete answer, only because I haven’t met many female strippers, but I don’t see much of difference.
BlogDH: Do you tell your partners about your occupation?
T: I would tell my partners, if I had any since I started. I’ve been single. In the future, I plan on telling them. It’s not that it should matter, but I get that for some it might.
BlogDH: Have you ever had an awkward run-in with someone you knew from outside while at work?
T: Not awkward, but I have definitely had run ins with some RPLs, and they’d probably like to remain anonymous, too. There are some Brown students who come to the club, some I don’t know, and some I tell, like “Hey, you should come out and see me tonight.”
BlogDH: How do you feel when you’re on stage?
T: I would say that it’s very much a body positive kind of experience. It’s a nice stress reliever, because when I’m on stage, I don’t have to think about anything else. I don’t think about schoolwork, or if there’s friend drama going on. It’s somewhere I can escape and listen to the music.
BlogDH: Do you think that the club creates that kind of environment for its clients?
T: I would say there are two distinct types of people who come in the club. Half are young people, coming to hang out with their friends on the weekend, and the other half are people who are trying to escape. I would say that a lot of that group are men in the closet, and often married to women. For them, this is their once chance to embrace who they are, while still keeping it a secret from whoever. Hopefully, as our generation ages, being openly gay will be more acceptable, and there will be less of that.
BlogDH: Describe your average night on the job.
T: It starts out at around 9 o’clock. [The dancers] all hang out for a bit, because the club is open but not many people are there yet. Then, there’s a set rotation of 12 to 15 guys on stage, for like 5 – 8 minutes. I measure it as 2 – 3 songs. When we’re not on rotation, we can dance anywhere else in the club, check in on clients to make sure everyone is having a good time, give private dances, or join the guys on stage if they want company.
BlogDH: How do you feel about private dances?
T: They’re definitely different from being up on stage, because you never really know what the client is going to expect. For me, I won’t take my underwear off, I’m not going to touch them, and they’re not going to touch me. If a client expects too much, and isn’t understanding when I say, “Nope, that’s not me,” I just walk away.
BlogDH: Is there pressure to stay in really good shape?
T: I haven’t encountered any direct pressure from my co-workers or my boss, but I would say in general, yes. If you’re in good shape, you’re going to get more tips.
BlogDH: What’s your favorite post-strip snack?
T: Usually, when I get back, I’ll get a bottle of water (reusable of course, this is Brown, I can’t use plastic bottles), and a Power bar, and then I head to sleep.
BlogDH: Ratty or V-Dub?
T: Ratty, just cause there is more food to choose from, and they’re always serving it, which is nice.
BlogDH: If there was something you could change in the minds of others about stripping, what would it be?
T: I would say respect. In general, I think there should be more respect for it, because you never know why someone is there. One dancer at the club, I know that he’s paying his way through school, as well as all of his family’s expenses. He spends hours commuting back and forth to different clubs, and it’s a lot of mental and emotional stress for him. For some people like me, it can be a fun thing, and for some people it can be a necessity, but both of those mindsets should be respected.
T: I would also challenge people who hold negative views on strippers, but not on those who attend strip clubs. There is so much negative connotation around stripping, like “oh you’re disgusting, you sleep with all your clients, and you’re going to get diseases.” I’d like to clarify: the assumption that we sleep with all our clients is totally false. I don’t sleep with any of our clients. One of the dancers I work with is an escort, but that is a completely different career that he has outside of the club. He seems to like it. Once he got paid $300 to go to Buffalo Wild Wings with someone.
T: Regardless, you shouldn’t shame people because of what they want to do, or what they have to do.