Stripping, like any other job, comes with a retirement date. People leave the sex industry for many reasons. These could include: injury, weight gain, illness (mental or physical), burnout, relationships, school, significant life changes (e.g., having a baby), wanting more stability, workplace conflict, or age (Law, 2011). Whether you’ve had one too many bad experiences, or you’re simply ready to move on, transitioning from stripping to mainstream work can seem like an impossible task.
We believe that stripping is real and valuable work that does not require an ‘exit’ strategy. However, if you feel like it’s time for a new career, we’re here to help. The infographic below gives a brief overview of what transitioning to mainstream work can look like. Read on for more things to consider when making the transition from stripping to mainstream work.
Consider going back to school
Whether you choose to attend college or university or choose to learn a new trade, going back to school can give you the time to figure out what you want to do and gain mainstream work experience. Experience can be gained from working part-time jobs related to what you’re studying, working with professors as a paid or unpaid research assistant, volunteering with school and community organizations, or co-op placements and apprenticeships associated with your program. Stripping can supplement your income while you learn and gain experience in your chosen field.
Anticipate changes to your schedule
Mainstream work generally requires structured hours on a stable schedule. This could require you to reset yourself to a daytime schedule and sacrifice the flexibility and freedom that usually comes with working in strip clubs. It’s important to remember that unless you’re starting your own business, mainstream work means working for someone else. Mainstream work is generally more stable, but expect to work longer hours for less pay, especially at the beginning.
Get ready to wait for payday
Mainstream work rarely pays as quickly (or as well) as stripping. Don’t get me wrong, many mainstream careers can be quite lucrative, but gaining access to professional industries at a higher pay grade requires time, education, and work experience. Regardless of the pay grade, no mainstream career will give you access to cold hard cash as quickly as stripping. Transitioning to salary and hourly pay means letting go of the instant gratification stripping provides and becoming comfortable with waiting for a biweekly or monthly paycheck.
Take care in disclosing your history as a stripper
While there are some industries and specific workplaces that would not only accept, but support your previous work experience as a stripper, most mainstream workplaces continue to stigmatize stripping and sex work. If you can get into a mainstream position without disclosing your work history, it may be best to keep this information to yourself until you feel safe in disclosing, and you feel that disclosing will serve to benefit your work. Your decision about disclosing your work as a stripper also doesn’t have to be an absolute decision – some people choose to disclose to only some people; others disclose at some workplaces but not others. In other words, the way people manage their identities can change across different contexts or over time, and it’s ok to go in and out of the ‘closet’.
Understand what you are capable of and what can help you succeed in your future career
Transitioning into mainstream work is a significant lifestyle change for many strippers. It’s important to take the time to practice some self-awareness and consider what could make you happy and successful in mainstream work. As independent contractors, we have a lot of control over our work schedules, workload, work environments, and pay. Think about how this may affect your happiness with mainstream work. If you enjoy stripping, consider industries that are related to stripping. Some of the strippers we talked to have moved on to being a sex coach, peer support worker, working at a sex shop, or owning a business selling sex toys and accessories. Consider jobs that could find your stripping experience to be an asset, such as healthcare or social work. Also consider industries where you still have a lot of control over your own schedule and work output, such as starting your own business, careers in social media, or careers in finance or web design.
Transitioning from stripping may be a longer journey than expected
Finding success in mainstream work will not happen overnight. Be prepared for rejection when looking for jobs. Remember, rejection is only a setback, not the end of the road – and it is something you are prepared for, since it happens regularly with guys at the club. So keep working towards your goals. Everyone’s journey is different; take steps towards mainstream work that fit your needs and capabilities. It’s okay to move in and out of stripping during your transition – in fact, many sex workers do, for example by dropping in to the club occasionally to supplement their mainstream pay, or by keeping appointments with regular clients.
Remember: You are skilled!
While stripping may have a reputation amongst outsiders as an ‘easy job’, we know that’s not true! Strippers employ communication, performance, entrepreneurship, public relations and other skills at the club every shift. These skills are also relevant and valuable in mainstream jobs. See our post on how to make a resume to consider your skills and experience, and whether and how to describe them in your resume as you look for mainstream work. The resources below can help you figure out where to start, and what other people have done.
This is a blank, fillable resume template. If you want an example, check out our resume-building post.
Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers Action Project is one of Canada’s oldest sex worker justice organizations. They support local sex workers through legal advocacy, political organizing, peer support and education.
Maggie’s can assist sex workers with accessing training programs and volunteer work.
Sistering is a multi-service agency for at-risk, socially isolated women and trans people in Toronto. They create a safe, welcoming, and non-judgmental space for women and trans people; this includes sex workers. They offer practical and emotional support to those who experience social isolation, homelessness or precarious housing, trauma and violence, discrimination, substance use, or need mental health support.
Sistering hosts a weekly Employment Group over Zoom, in which some of our current members participate, and provides ongoing practical supports such as:
- case support
- path to employment services
- medical and psychiatric services
- advocacy work
- harm reduction services
- skills training
- limited emergency accommodations
- free breakfast and lunch programs
- 24/7 drop-in for sex workers
Contact: Tina Shapiro (she/her), Program Coordinator, Drop-In Weekend and On the Path to Employment, firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: 416.926.9762 ext.: 245
Sistering address: 962 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON M6H 1L6
Other useful links
references and recommended reading
Bowen, R. R. (2013). They walk among us: Sex work exiting, re-entry and duality. (MA Thesis, School of Criminology, Simon Fraser University). https://ir.lib.sfu.ca/item/12899
Ham, J., & Gilmour, F. (2017). ‘We all have one’: exit plans as a professional strategy in sex work. Work, Employment and Society, 31(5), 748-763.
Law, T. (2011). Not a sob story: Transitioning out of sex work. (MA Thesis, Department of Criminology, University of Ottawa). https://ruor.uottawa.ca/handle/10393/20095
Rickard, W. 2001. “Been there, seen it, done it, I’ve got the T-shirt”: British sex workers reflection jobs, hopes, the future and retirement. Feminist Review, 67, 111-132.
Sanders, T. 2007. Becoming an ex-sex worker: Making transitions out of a deviant career. Feminist Criminology, 2(1), 74-95.
Cover image photo credit: Sarah Jickling on Unsplash
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