Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My Life In a G-String: A Round Up of Stripper Memoirs

Here’s an interesting article that my friend Tanya told me about. It’s round-up of stripper memoirs.

I agree with the writer, Katie Roiphe, on a few points she makes, but also feel annoyed at the unfair treatment the stripper writers receive.

Are all naked women pretty much the same? Reading stripper memoirs would lead one to think so. It is a surprisingly rigid genre, with a set of rules and conventions as strict as those of sonnets or villanelles.

Of course, there are “conventions” as Roiphe points out, but what books about a certain group of people don’t have conventions? Alas, there are a lot of similarities to some strippers’ experiences.

You would think the subject would have a certain voyeuristic frisson, but something about stripping lends itself to cliché and obviousness, to the literary equivalent of fake breasts and caked mascara and silver thongs. Still a vast number of them have appeared on shelves, including Lily Burana’s good-natured Strip City, Elisabeth Eaves’ journalistic Bare, and Lacey Lane’s ditsy Confessions Of A Stripper.

True, I’ve read these books and there is a bit of cliché laid on, but that just reflects the job. And for there being “a vast number” of stripper memoirs out there, I’d have to disagree. How are a small handful of books “a vast number”? I’d say there aren’t enough (and not just because my memoir hasn’t found a publisher yet).

How many clichéd white male diatribes about the same old business thing are there out there?

We need more tales of strippers and prostitutes and mothers and clerks and waitresses. We need more stories told by women. Perhaps then we will begin to see the true extent of the similarities and differences inherent in women.


  1. Oh, AMEN to all that! The sci fi genre is all cliche and seems to be stuck in one strict convention too. All the "new" sci fi coming out is just old-fashioned chauvenistic tales of men going into space and romancing the one female scientist on the team. I'm so sick of it. And this crap is all that ever seems to make it into ASIMOV's magazine. For really unique sci fi, you're better off reading reviews on Amazon or catching a new book review in Time or Entertainment Weekly. I really fear that book publishing has turned into the movie industry - nobody is taking any chances on really unique, creative writing. They just churn out the same crap all the time. Who's to say that different points of view on stripping aren't already written? I bet they are - but no publisher wants to take the chance of going against the "trend" - which is a trend they created with their lame, wussy marketing efforts. Why doesn't Ms. Roiphe point the finger at the book industry for printing all these cliches instead of criticizing strippers and their career? You know, people do buy non-mainstream things. The book and movie industry should look into that.

  2. I just read Katie Roiphe's article, and my thought is: what does she want a stripper memoir to read like? Memoirs are just that - the story of someone's life. Do memoirs of firemen or doctors vary much in content? No, but I bet the lessons they learned - their personal experiences and their musings about them - are all different. To me, that's why you read a memoir. To say that "they all read flat" just tells me she's not interested in the profession.

    I don't know, Sheila - what do you think strippers have to tell us that isn't being said? Does it matter? I find the subject matter interesting. As a feminist, I'm interested in how strippers have to deal with chauvenistic attitudes, and it wouldn't bother me if all the memoirs sounded similar. I'd still want to know what each woman learned from it - their take on the profession and how they feel about society's attitudes towards their profession.

  3. Okay, one more thought and then I have to go because I really want to punch Katie after reading some of the reader comments that totally blast her - with good reason!

    Maybe some of these memoirs all sound the same because men have stayed the same. Why don't we talk about men can't control themselves when they see booty in their face? What makes them think it's ok to reach out and grab it? I'm sure all strippers have dealt with this and yet society still points the finger at them. Why aren't we chastising men? It's all fine and dandy to make money as a stripper. Stripping becomes seedy because of men's behavior - not the because of the strippers.

  4. Anonymous6:46 PM

    Sheila, why don't you post a bit of your memoir, and show how original and poignant your story is? To me, your book is about a real person making sense of how she got where she is today, and what happened along the way.

  5. Amen! Thank you for your comments on this issue. It's true that I'm having a hard time finding a publisher for my "stripper memoir" because it's NOT the norm. I've got great comments from editors, but it doesn't fit the mold!