Author, as told to
In the latest installment of our anonymous interview series, we talk to a (straight) male stripper who shook his shit in gay establishments.
The last time I stripped was in January of 2014. I got into it because I needed the money. At the time, I was working a part-time job in Brooklyn and trying to make it as an artist.
One thing you should know about me: I’m straight but I stripped exclusively at gay clubs. As an offshoot of the gay club junket, I also did private events. I think I’ve stripped for women maybe, like, once in my life. It was a bachelorette party, and it was much tamer than anything you’d see on TV or in the movies, let alone in the gay nightlife scene. The thing is, men, gay or straight, are all the same—they’re the ones shelling out for strippers.
Back then, I was really into working out and walking to work. I was always on the buff side, and because I was doing so much physical activity, I got pretty ripped. I had great muscle definition. It was the best shape I’d been in my whole life. One day, my boss commented, jokingly, “You know, you’d probably make a lot of money as a male stripper.”
A lightbulb went off in my head, so I decided to look into it. I was curious about how much money these guys made and what the work was actually like. I started looking up male strip joints, like Chip ‘n’ Dales and stuff. They were all really far away and I didn’t have a reliable mode of transportation. My car would overheat quickly and break down. I thought, “Fuck, the last thing I want is to get stranded somewhere three hours away wearing nothing but a jockstrap.”
I brought it up to my boss, not expecting anything to come of it. We were out to lunch with my his friend, who was gay, and he goes, “Do you have a problem dancing for men?” I didn’t have to think about it for very long: hell no. So, he’s like, “You should dance at gay clubs. Gay men tip way more than women for strippers.” He goes on, “It’s because gay urban professionals want to let off steam after work just like anyone else but they generally have a lot more disposable income.” In my mind, I’m thinking, well, I should listen to him because he would know.
Weird sex stuff
Of course, I didn’t even know where to start looking. My boss’ friend told me to look up a spot called Splash. He used to know the old manager there. I called the number he gave me and the guy on the other end of the line was like, “Oh, I’m sorry sweetie, I’m living in Miami now. I can’t help you. You know what you could do? Call them up and leave a message.”
It felt kind of archaic. I mean, who uses voicemail anymore? But, whatever, I figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a shot. I was afraid to leave my real name so I made one up. “This is Jack Stark.” I don’t know why I came up with that name. It sounded like a Tom Cruise porn parody. I figured I’d never hear back from them, so I decided I’d scope out Craigslist in the meantime.
Craigslist has a lot of weird sex stuff, but I tried to steer clear of anything involving prostitution. I’m not comfortable with the idea of selling my body, but I have no problem with people looking at me. I found this one guy up near Central Park. He had a really nice place, and he just wanted me to clean it in my underwear while he watched. He paid me $200 bucks per session.
It usually took me about an hour, an hour-and-a-half to do the whole apartment. One of the requisites was that I had to be barefoot; I couldn’t even wear socks. He always had me drink a glass of ice water first, practically insisted on it. It was always served in the same glass. He would literally just sit there, on his computer, glancing up at me intermittently. There was even one day where he didn’t look at me at all! It was weird. I think he just liked having me around. I did that once a week for two months, so eight times in total.
He never made a pass at me, he never jerked off in front of me. Right at the beginning, he asked, “Are you gay?” When I told him I wasn’t, he was like, “Okay, good.” I thought that was pretty odd. Sometimes, we made small talk about my work and the weather. I had no idea what he did. He was always on a fifteen-inch aluminum MacBook Pro. That detail stands out in my mind because it was the same exact one my girlfriend had at the time.
He must’ve been around my age, maybe a little older. Late twenties, early thirties. I couldn’t really gauge how old he was because he didn’t have any wrinkles or gray hair or anything. Then one day he was like, “Stanley is coming back so I can't have you coming in anymore.” I never figured out who Stanley was. A family member? A significant other? After that, I didn’t hear from him again.
The name game
I got a call from Splash maybe like 10 days later, after I’d left the message. I had forgotten about it by then because I was doing my thing with this guy. An easy $200 dollars a week. Awesome. But then I got the call: “Hi, this is Dougie, I’m looking for Jack.” I’m like, “Jack?” He’s like, “Yeah, Jack Stark, I’m calling from Splash.” It took me a couple of seconds to register that I had given them a fake name. I had to play it off a little. He told me they wanted to try me out. “We’ll have you dance for 15 minutes and see how people react. Let’s see what you got.”
So, I went in. I had no idea what I was doing. I got there at 9:00 PM. I was the first guy there. I was wearing a shirt, slacks and my regular boxers. Dougie was this tall, thin, blonde dude. He was openly gay. I thought I would just gyrate onstage for a little, and that would be that. But then he whipped out all this paperwork and told me he needed to see ID, so that everything could be properly documented. I realized I couldn’t lie about my name much longer. I told him “Jack” was just an alias. Obviously, I didn’t want to use my real name because I didn’t want my friends and family knowing I was dancing in a gay bar. Also, my real name is ethnic and Muslim. I’m not a religious man, but I could see how it might be a problem
Dougie was nonplussed. I mean, it probably happened all the time. So then we just had a laugh about it. After about a month, I told everyone I knew I was doing it anyway.
of exotic dancing in Britain
of dancers were between ages 22 and 29 (the age range was 18 to 53)
started dancing when they were under 25 years old
Of dancers were in a relationship while 45.5% were single
Of dancers were single
of dancers were married
of dancers had children
of dancers had completed the British equivalent of high school while 23% had a college degree
of dancers had a college degree
After all the papers were signed, he had me go in the backroom to change. He took one look at my boxers. “Those aren’t going to do.” They had this locker with sealed underwear in it, kind of like a vending machine. If you’ve ever been inside an adult novelty store on Christopher Street, they sell those there. I think the brand name is actually “Gay Boy Underwear.” They’re literally booty shorts for men.
The thing is I have a huge ass. As soon as I put them on, Dougie flipped out. He was like, “Oh man. This is going to be great.” Then, he pauses, “Can you dance at all?” I’m like, “No, I can’t fucking dance.” So, he’s like, “Whatever. Just wiggle.” “Don't worry about it, just go up there and have fun.”
At that point, some of the other guys showed up. Everybody was super clean cut, super clean shaven. It was like being on the set of Magic Mike times five. Everyone was hairless. The other thing is, being an ethnic dude, I’m covered in hair. I didn’t know whether that was gonna work for or against me.
First time for everything
Right off the bat, Dougie goes, “Listen, are you gay?” I told him I wasn’t but he didn’t seem convinced: “The only reason I ask is because we have a lot of guys that mess around with clients on the side, and I just want to know you’re being upfront with me.” He goes, “A lot of guys claim they’re not gay but then a month later they’re making out with the clients, the staff, the delivery man, everyone. I just want to know where you stand. I don’t want the drama.” Then, he adds, “If you’re not gay, I’ll make sure the other guys don’t get too handsy with you. But I don’t want to go through the trouble of announcing it only to catch you fucking around the next day.”
As it turned out, I was the only straight dancer there. They said there had been one guy before me who allegedly was too, but then like three months later he decided he was gay after all. My shift was on a Tuesday, so it was pretty dead. There was one guy who showed me the ropes. He was slim, white, collegiate. I was pretty bummed to find out I wouldn’t be working with him anymore because all the twinks performed on “College Night.” He asked me, “Are you a dancer or a wiggler, honey?” “Oh, I’m a dancer,” I said, lying through my teeth.
The way it worked, he explained, is you dance for 15 to 30 minutes, then take a 15-minute break to give others a chance to make money. Because it was my first time, they told me to keep it short.
So, I changed into my Gay Boy briefs and made my way to the stage. Like I said, I was a little buffer than the other guys, and considerably hairier. Most of the guys wore sandals or flip-flops. Some were barefoot. I was wearing a pair of Timberland boots. Plus, these underwear, which were like blue and white sailor shorts.
Apparently, it was “Disco Night.” The clientele was on the older side, real West Village types who weren’t afraid to get drunk or rowdy. The minute I heard the sound coming out of the speakers, I was like “Alright... ” I grew up on music from the sixties and seventies, like all the shit my mom listened to. So I was really digging the vibes.
Backstage, everyone was nice and welcoming. Patting me on the back, like, “You’re gonna do well, kid.” Literally, the second I got onstage, someone stuffed a $50 bill into the waistband of my briefs. A couple of days earlier, I had done this gag video with some of my family members for my cousin’s birthday. It involved shaving the letter “O” into my chest hair. The customers went wild for that. I had guys coming up to me all night.
In total, I danced for 45 minutes. Not bad for a first-timer. I wouldn’t have stopped, either, if Dougie hadn’t come to get me. In the end, I made $310.
Strike a pose
When I went backstage again, the other guys were like, “Wow, you’re a natural.” I was out there twerking because I didn’t know any actual dance moves. I was just like pulling out all of the vintage Arnold Schwarzenegger bodybuilding poses I used to do as a child in front of the mirror. In retrospect, it was a lot like being a kid again. There was nothing particularly sordid or vulgar about it. I looked goofy and aloof, like a hairy toddler in oversized footwear. I think what they responded to was my rugged outward appearance coupled with my utter lack of experience.
One thing I noticed on my first day was that some of those dancers were really packing heat. I must have made an offhand comment about it, because one of the guys was like, “Oh yeah, you just have to get a cock ring, man.” I had no idea what that was. They all chimed in, “What you do is you have to jerk yourself off a little to get the blood flowing, and then you put the cock ring at the base of your shaft so it looks nice and meaty. It shows through your underwear. The clients really love it.”
At the clubs, it was never completely nude. You always had to have something covering your junk, even if it was just a thong. At private parties, I would flash my dick sometimes. Like, if a guy is handing me a hundred and wants to see some cock, I’m going to show him some cock. Most of the time, nobody ever tried to grab, nobody tried to touch. So that was kind of cool. I think it’s really interesting that it doesn’t bother me when women try to make physical contact with me but it does when it’s men, you know? With women, it feels less threatening. Paradoxically, I feel like I sympathize with the average female in the world, who is frequently being bombarded with unwanted male attention.
EXOTIC DANCING BY the NUMBERS
THE AVERAGE SALARY of a stripper in the United States
THE MEDIAN SALARY of a stripper in the US
of strippers who are female
of strippers who are male
THE PERCENTAGE of strippers with 1-4 years of experience
THE PERCENTAGE of strippers with more than 20 years of experience
THE AVERAGE SALARY of a stripper in the United States
THE MEDIAN SALARY of a stripper in the US
THE PERCENTAGE of strippers with no health benefits
Shifts and shafts
The problem with Splash is that it was super friggin’ hard to get a shift there. It didn’t matter how good you were because everybody was trying to dance there. One Thursday, I called Dougie and was like, “put me on.” He’s telling me, “We’re all booked up tonight and tomorrow is looking pretty tight too.” So I say, “What about Saturday?” He’s like, “Dude, you just started I can’t give you Saturday. That’s our best night.” So I backed off.
Then, Saturday rolls around. I was in the city all day, cleaning that guy’s apartment and chilling with some friends. I was about to head home to New Jersey. It was around 6:00 or 7:00 PM. I was getting on the bus when I got a call. It was Dougie from Splash. “Listen, somebody couldn’t make it tonight. I know you wanted to Saturday and I don't have any other big guys right now. You want the shift?” In my mind, I’m like, “Yeah, fuck it. I’ll do it.”
So, I get there and it’s all these guys I’d never met before. Huge fucking guys. Some big-ass motherfuckers. Jacked. Ripped. I mean these guys were swole. I was the only white guy there. They were all black and Hispanic. Totally different scene.
We’re all getting prepped backstage, and I’m trying to shimmy on a cock ring. But it was weird, I couldn’t get an erection around a bunch of dudes. I went to the bathroom and tried to watch porn on my phone, but it wasn’t working. Finally, I had to call my girlfriend and have her talk dirty to me. I was good to go. I’d dance for 30 minutes and take a 15-minute break. That went on for four hours. The base salary was $50. You got that just for showing up.
That night, I think it was a combination of my hairiness and pastiness. That, and I still had the weird “O” shaved into my chest. I made a shit-ton of fucking money, like $800. But nobody made more money than the bartenders. One of them went home with $1200, and that was just in fucking tips.
It was insane. Insane! I only danced at Splash one time after that. Like I said, I couldn’t get any shifts. They already had a stable of Dancers who were first in line. Then, Dougie just stopped returning my calls. I found out later that they had closed down.
I guess they knew they were going out of business, so they were giving all of the longtime employees all the shifts they could get before the place shuttered for good.
Magic Mike moves
Splash is how I got into stripping. But I also danced at another bar uptown that shall remain unnamed. In between gigs, I would go on Craigslist or hit up some of my former coworkers, and do private parties. I’ve probably danced at like 40 private parties and only one of them was for women. Every other single one was for guys.
I saw the new Magic Mike, and I loved it, but I have a one major gripe. Contrary to how they bill it, it’s not a movie for girls. It’s a movie for guys who think all they have to do is work out and hang out with their dudebros, and they’ll get to perform in front of hordes of attractive women who all want to fuck them. That’s not the reality of it at all. Most of the time you’re dancing for dudes because dudes are the ones who spend money on strippers. That goes for both gay and straight men. A guy is guy whether he fucks men or women. We’re visual creatures, you know? That movie is a male fantasy, pure and simple.
When I did the bachelorette party, I went with a former colleague from Splash. It was somewhere in Soho. He was a tall, built Dominican dude. And, he was gay, but the ladies loved him. He also brought along his cousin, who was shorter and stockier. There was no theme. We just went there and did our shit. We weren’t like firemen or cops or anything.
When we got there, the women were already sauced. Sometimes, in the gay clubs, people would try to slip their hands down my pants and grab my cock. What was so remarkable about these girls was how shy and polite they were. “Is it ok if I touch you?” “Yeah, sure. No problem.” They would kind of just caress my arm or chest or something. I didn’t feel flustered in the least. There’s a difference between a 120-lb. woman putting her hands on you, and a 200-lb. dude.
Unlike me, the Dominican guys could actually dance, as in, they were legitimately trained. They’d pull crazy Magic Mike type moves. They’d pick the girls up, fling them in the air, put them on their shoulders, simulate fellatio, the works. Meanwhile, I would just kind of like grind up on them. People liked to touch me, that’s all. The big thing they liked to do was to grab or slap my ass. It didn’t bother me.
Anyway, that bachelorette party was pretty tame. It was the farthest thing from that classic porn fantasy of, like, a giant orgy with hot babes. Whenever I told my boys what I did, they’d be like, “Oh man, you must be getting pussy left and right.” I mean, I guess could’ve gotten my fill of male ass, but that’s not my thing. I had a girlfriend at the time, and she trusted me. That’s all I needed.
Club going up
on a Wednesday
I once worked at a bar in the Bronx. It had a capacity of maybe 140 people. Technically, I was working as a barback not a dancer. But I still had to wear my briefs and boots. The shift was on a Wednesday. I was thinking, easy enough.
I’m 6’1, 215 lbs, not a small fucking guy. They had one of those circular bars—you had to crawl underneath it any time you wanted to take out the trash or fill the ice bucket or whatever. Turns out Wednesday is their busiest night of the week. Busier than Saturday even.
By 10:00 PM, there were 300 horny dudes in the place. They had gold chains and were covered in tattoos. They’re smoking weed or Hookah, drunk out of their minds. It was crazy. So, I’m crawling under the bar like every four minutes. I had to squeeze past throngs of people because the ice machine was in one part of the club and the garbage cans were in another. People are touching my chest, snapping my underwear, grabbing my ass, going in for my junk. One guy tried to put his hand up my butt crack! No thanks. The whole time, mind you, I was saddled with two gigantic, leaky trash bags filled with bottles.
I’m winding through the crowd, and finally somebody managed to put his hand down my pants. At that point, I had just had enough. So, I fucking grabbed his hand and turned his fingers up and back. I think I broke a couple. All I hear is, “No, papi no! I was just trying to give you something.” And, sure enough, I look down and there’s a twenty in my elastic band. When I went back and counted it up, I had like $120 in sweaty bills. After that, it didn’t really bother me as much.
At this particular place, everyone supposedly pooled their tips at the end of the night and split them equally. Being the idiot that I was, I agreed to go in on it. I mean, I’m not going to be the fucking guy who dissents. It’s good money—I’m going to share it, I'm not greedy. I threw in. I had started my shift at 9:00 PM and by the time I was done it was 3:00 AM. I was helping them clean up. I was drained, just drained. If you had put a Fitbit on me, I would have probably walked like nine miles back-and-forth. Like I said, I was usually 215 lbs. at that time, but when I went home and weighed myself that night, I was like 206.5. I sweat out nearly ten pounds.
Then, the manager goes, “You did great, but this was a practice run so we can’t pay you.” That really pissed me off. How much practice do you need to be a barback? Are you fucking kidding me? Meanwhile, the bartenders are walking away with $500, $600. A couple of them were really cool. They each gave me $200 from their own tips. They said, “Listen man, you busted your ass tonight, you deserve this.” So, all along, that guy wasn’t even planning on paying me. I still came back there, because the work was good and consistent, but it was nuts.
You’d always see guys getting cut off or thrown out. We had a couple of 350-lb. bouncers working round the clock. It was a completely different atmosphere than Splash, which was campy yet somehow classy, exactly what you think of when you think of gay New York.
This spot was like ratchet as fuck. I got in even better shape being there because it was so much physical labor, carting stuff around and batting people off. I could eat as much ice cream as I wanted because I was burning so many fucking calories that it didn't matter.
The economics of exotic dancing in Britain
were dancing to put themselves through school
reported they simply wanted to be dancers
stated they were seeking better pay than their previous position
said they found exotic dancing work through friends or the internet
reported dancing 3 to 5 shifts a week
had been working less than 5 years
Kick down the door
Another one of my duties was to monitor the bathrooms. The owner of the club told me, “Listen, sometimes the toilets overflow, you have to keep an eye out for that.” Then he goes, “Also, you have to make sure nobody is spending too much time in the stalls, you feel me?”
It was the worst when the toilets overflowed. The water from the urinals would literally spill over onto the fucking dance floor, which was carpeted in certain spots. Unbeknownst to them, people were dancing on what was essentially sewage. I was going into the bathroom to try to fix the urinals in my underwear and boots. (Thankfully, I always wore boots, especially when that shit flooded.)
There was always someone going at it in the stall. I’m standing around like, “Guys, just trying to do my job here.” One time, I literally had to barge in and kick down the door. One guy was sucking off another dude. I was like, “Get the fuck out! I have fix the toilet!” But inside, I’m like, “How can you suck dick when the fucking toilet is overflowing right next to you?” Granted, alcohol is probably the answer to that question, but still.