Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

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9781644212271

Illuminating accounts of how stripping and sex work informs writers’ experiences of friendship, motherhood, teaching, working, creating art, and activism.

No one knows more than strippers about being looked at: as objects of desire, objects of curiosity, as angels or Jezebels or hookers with hearts of gold. In this anthology, twenty-three dancers whose careers span decades, geographies, and identities demand to be seen. Through stories from first nights on the job to the day they hung up their sky-high heels—or decided they never will—these writers offer glimpses into lives of camaraderie and celebration, joy, pride, despair, frustration, self-doubt, and fear.
 
Their unfiltered perspectives on their lives, onstage and off, are a powerful counternarrative to the whorephobia that shrouds the conventional portrayals of strippers in crime movies, TV shows, music videos, newspaper articles, and legislative debates. Each of these illuminating essays and interviews peels away tired myths and salacious speculation and presents the naked truth: that sex work is real work and strippers are real people.

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9781644212271

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“Strippers share stories of romps and riots, hard times and hard cash, shame and solidarity. This book is for everyone who wants to understand the success and struggle of women—some who have not survived—in the licit or quasi-legal sex industry.”

“A vivid, raucous, and disquieting set of stories told from the point of view of [mostly] “art girls” dancing in Go-Go and topless club. Fleeing low-paying women’s work in service, retail, and office sectors, the art girls treat stripping as a side hustle to support their own writing , dancing, or photography while also making it material for their art. They form tight sisterhoods with their fellow co-workers, while hustling men for cash. Written over the past forty years and accompanied by perceptive interviews, these stories document a changing gig economy in the “adult entertainment industry,” as strip joints became “gentlemen’s clubs” and augmented the over-charging customers for drink by under-paying the women who worked there. Whorephobia exposes the upside and downside of this history, leaving the reader with a lot of respect and empathy for the authors and their journeys.”

“Through a medley of entrancing stories and enlightening interviews, Whorephobia showcases the wit, wisdom, experience and sheer artistry of strippers. What they learned working for those folded dollar bills is all here as priceless insights into sex, gender, class, money, power, art and much more.”

“Delightful and memorable, Lizzie Borden’s wide-ranging collection shows us what has changed about the stripper experience over fifty years and what remains the same today. The intellectual and creative power on display in these pages will leave you in awe.”

“Lizzie Borden’s anthology takes aim at assumptions pervading a vast, global and varied industry. Tracing the evolution of the ‘new sex worker,’ Borden weaves a tapestry from early memoirs and recent missives to create a portrait of the modern stripper. Borden’s collection of iconoclastic, gutsy, and self-aware performers in our North American sex industry is a crucial survey of the diverse realities operating behind the screen of erotic labor. As an early leader in whores’ rights, I welcome this contribution to the sex worker canon.”

“Lizzie Borden and her collaborators/contributors bring an extraordinary ordinariness to the intimate economy. Here are the tools, the training, the skill, the workplace conditions and pay, the discipline and punishment, the quirks, and necessary illusions. Forget straitjacket tropes of empowerment or victimization; here are stories of working life, its magic and melancholy, pride and repression, its pleasures and dangers. Here is a book about sex and solidarity, the fraught alpha and omega of human existence.”

“Filmmaker Borden presents a diverse and authentic anthology of autobiographical essays by strippers. Drawing on her experiences making the 1986 feature film Working Girls, Borden begins with stories focused on New York City strip clubs in the 1980s and ’90s, where women made a precarious living by dancing on stage and persuading customers to enter seedy VIP rooms. As the collection progresses, however, Borden includes more recent and unusual accounts, including Reese Piper’s musings on how her autism is sometimes easier to navigate as a stripper than it is in regular life; the Incredible, Edible Akynos’s reflections on the sex industry and Blackness; and AM Selena’s stories of performing sex work as an amputee. Each piece is paired with an interview—conducted by Borden or another contributor—with the author (or someone close to her if she has died), providing intriguing details about each performer’s background and offering a window into the supportive relationships among sex industry peers. Most of the women featured are activists, writers, or artists, and they excel at narrating their own stories and evoking the atmosphere of the clubs and digital spaces where they’ve performed. The result is a humane, multidimensional portrait of an industry typically shrouded in artifice and shame.

LIZZIE BORDEN is a writer, director, editor, and script consultant. Her film Born in Flames was named one of “The 50 Most Important Independent Films” by Filmmaker magazine. Called “a feminist masterpiece” by New Yorker critic Richard Brody, in 2016, it was restored by the Anthology Film Archives and screened around the world. Borden also wrote, directed, and produced a controversial independent fiction film depicting the working lives of prostitutes, Working Girls, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in the Directors’ Fortnight, won Best Feature at the Sundance Film Festival, and was restored by the Criterion Collection in 2021. She is currently at work on several TV and film projects.