Most sex workers would not define themselves as sex workers, however this term is becoming more frequently used in the public eye. Roxy, an exotic dancer, has been a victim of social stratification since the beginning of her career performing two years ago. Roxy opens up about criminalization of sex work causing health and safety mishaps in the underground business.
What “sex work” have you been involved in or are involved in?
Roxy: Currently, I am only dancing. In our management, the girls tend to degrade one another based on their aspect of the industry. Stripping is not dancing, and dancing is not stripping. I have done prostitution before, I even tried porn at one point but it wasn’t my thing.
What made you pick the stage name Roxy?
Hmm… I guess I was inspired by the song Roxanne. I thought it sounded sexy.
Anything you’d like to share on how you’re treated at work by clients and/or management?
I don’t think a lot of the clientele realizes we are dancing to make a living, we are not there to have fun. I’ve had clients treat me with tremendous amounts of disrespect to the point where I quit one club. In order to be in the sex business, you have to be tough. You have to know your worth if you’re going to be okay with guys gawking at you like that. My whole job is about customer satisfaction, and that is all management cares about. There is always the risk of sexual assault, and the hard cold truth that management does not care nor will assist in any way if you are sexually assaulted. Every girl is expected to protect herself. I know workers who experienced abuse every work day. The management does not care about your well being, you are a money machine to them.
Knock on wood as I say this, it is also not uncommon for management to sexually harass us. The other girls at the club are your protection and who you run to when you’ve been violated.
What’s the worst experience you’ve had as a dancer?
I’ve had a few, men will try to push their limits to get what they think their money is worth. I’ve dealt with some disgusting, creepy men who have called me names and yelled because I was not offering penetrative sex. I’ve had couples attempting to seduce me into threesomes. I’ve had men with strange fetishes too, but most of the time they just whip their dicks out expecting me to do something with it for free. I’ve had angry clients tell me I’m “not worth the money” and stuff like that.
Favorite song to dance to?
I don’t have a favorite song or dance surprisingly, Anything that sounds like a show tune I’m into though, I like to pretend I’m in a musical. More like a musical porno.
Do you feel unsafe or that your health is at risk while working?
When dancing on stage, I feel safe because other people and bouncers are around the club. Bouncers will walk us to our car after our shift. There’s always the risk of a stalker or meeting some creepy guy whom falls in love with you and tries to get in on your personal life. When it comes to outside the public club stages, such as private sessions, none of the dancers are really safe. Management is around, but they could care less about your emotional state. It is far too easy to get away with sexual assault with a dancer because in the white male authoritative eye, we are asking for it. I’ve known co-workers who were harassed and attempted to come forward, with no luck. If you are offering sex services, there is high risk of HIV and other diseases. If any of us come forward about contracting diseases from a client, we are told we are asking for it and denied health care. The current state we are at regarding laws and sex work, you have to come to accept that you are on your own to put yourself at risk. The state and authority will not support you, because we are viewed as criminals.
Sunrise or sunsets?
Definitely sunrise, if I bother to wake up for that.
How do others perceive your job as an exotic dancer?
There is absolutely no respect for what we do, we are looked down upon. Dancers have the negative stigma that we are drug users, uneducated, and unclean. Sure, there’s some of those in the general mix of dancers, just as in any job. We are put into the same category as drug dealers. Rarely do I ever get called my title as a dancer, unless by other dancers. To everybody else, I am a stripper or sex worker.
What’s your astrological sign and do you follow astrology?
I’m a scorpio, funny to say I’m involved in sex work. Yes, I do follow astrology, which is how I know we are supposed to be sex-obsessed.
How do you think these generalizations affect your experiences working?
Like I said, sex work is in the same category as drug dealing. Criminalizing sex work makes it nearly impossible to go to the police about any assault or safety violations, without also making themselves vulnerable to further assault. When I was prostituting, I had been taught to never carry condoms to remove any evidence that could be held against me. Laws treat sex workers as criminals, pushing us further away from safety and health services. For god’s sake, we are denied basic health and home services. These are not workers rights, these are human rights.
How do you feel when speaking with others about your job?
It’s tiring to convince people all the time that sex work is real work. I keep my job and life separate because it feels vulnerable to defend sex work to people who are not sex workers. In this movement, there are not many pro advocates. There are not many sex workers speaking in general
Photography by Parker Day.