DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I was at a strip club the other day (my first time in a strip club) and i got a lap dance from a stripper. Afterwards we got to talking about stuff and she kept complaining about her job and i made a few suggestions for a career for her to pursue when she quits. She said i was cute and wanted my number and i gave it to her. She just called me not too long ago and we talked about college and what she should pursue when she quits. After about 30 minutes she said she had to go to work but we should get dinner sometime. My question is should i take her out to dinner or is there something i don’t know? My friend said that strippers just wants my money or she is a hooker. Is this true or is everything just fine?
– Strip Club Geek
DEAR STRIP CLUB GEEK: First things first, SCG: let’s drop “hooker” from the vocabulary, ‘k? Leaving aside whether or not the woman in question is a dancer or does any sort of escorting as well, the term you’re looking for is “sex worker”. Hooker is a derogatory phrase that primarily contributes to the marginalization and dehumanization of sex workers. If you like her well enough to consider going on a date with her, you can use terminology that doesn’t degrade her.
Now that aside, let’s address the elephant in the room: this is a complicated question under the best of circumstances. Strippers, like go-go dancers, shot girls, waitresses, bartenders and other folks who work in the service industry, work for gratuities. As anyone who has done a service industry job can tell you, your attitude and rapport with the customers makes a significant difference in your tips. You aren’t, for example, going to find someone acting like Dr. House while slinging drinks at most bars or restaurants. People who are more positive and friendly tend to get better tips.
Women, in particular, who work in the service industry have a financial incentive to be “professional” flirts. A lot of straight men will tip more heavily when they feel like their server, bartender or dancer likes them as more than just a customer. You could write an entire doctoral dissertation on the motivations behind this – are they flexing to demonstrate that they’ve got money to throw around, are they trying to curry favor by functionally buying her affections, etc. – but ultimately it doesn’t really matter. 9 times out of 10, when you think that your bartender, waitress or the person giving you a lap dance is flirting with you, they’re doing so because it benefits them, not out of romantic or sexual interest.
Put a pin in that number; we’ll be coming back to it.
Now, a lot of folks understand that this is exactly what’s going on. And in fairness, flirting can be fun, even when you know it’s ultimately about making money, more than actual interest in you. But just as many people… well, they have a tendency to confuse professional niceness with genuine interest. A lot of people – mostly, but not exclusively straight men – will mistake someone being polite for flirting, and round up a professional interaction to genuine attraction, particularly if they don’t have much in the way of social experience or platonic relationships with people of the gender they’re attracted to.
You can even see this dynamic in parasocial relationships with camgirls, Twitch streamers or YouTubers – people assume a far more intimate and serious connection with the creators who they interact with, despite the fact that they don’t have an actual one-on-one relationship with them.
This is especially true in sexually charged environments like strip clubs. “The stripper really likes me” is probably one of the oldest and hoariest cliches out there, and many dancers – for obvious reasons – will, if not outright encourage this belief, at least, not try very hard to dissuade it. Dancers, after all, have financial incentive not just to encourage their customers to buy dances or to tip them when they’re on stage, but also to become regulars, who will come see them with greater and greater frequency.
There are a number of ways to encourage or at least not discourage those beliefs, including giving the illusion of greater accuracy and intimacy. A number of dancers will give “their” number – often a burner or not their personal number – to repeat customers. While this can be a way of continuing to connect with them, it’s also a very effective way to encourage their regulars to come see them, whether through texting to say “hey I haven’t seen you in forever”, sending sexy pictures or flirting.
What this means is that it’s safer to assume that while the dancer may like you as an individual, they primarily see you as a customer, not a potential partner. If you’re someone who’s able to keep this dynamic in mind, then all is well. But a lot of folks… well, motivated reasoning is a motherf--ker, and it’s very easy for them to convince themselves that this is the real thing and not just someone doing their job.
So while your friend’s description is considerably mercenary in its tone… it’s not entirely wrong. Dancers in the club are working, and encouraging repeat customers and regulars is a part of that work. Especially since dancers in most strip clubs are considered “independent contractors” and not employees of the club itself. Having ones own steady base of regulars helps ensure financial security, especially if she leaves one club for another, starts an OnlyFans or other gigs.
However, people are people, regardless of what they do for a living, and very few people are so good at compartmentalizing that they can put an impenetrable barrier between their personal and professional lives. So if we go back to that 9 out of 10 times that I mentioned earlier, there can be times when you actually did make a legitimate connection with them and they’re interested in you as more than just another customer.
But those are the exceptions, not the rule, and you can’t bank on being the exception. Doing so is a great way to end up dealing with unnecessary disappointment and heartbreak, with the added sting of having paid a not-insignificant amount of money to learn this lesson.
Now, with that firmly in mind… if the conversation went as you said and if she extended an actual offer to get dinner and not a polite fiction, then I don’t see anything wrong with taking her up on it.
But that’s an extremely big “if”, and quite frankly I’d recommend taking it with a lot of salt. It is theoretically possible that you are currently the exception to the rule. However, I think the odds are better that this was her being polite more than anything else. However, if you keep your head about you – which is going to be easier said than done, especially since this was your first trip to a strip club – I don’t necessarily see the harm in at least asking.
Now, if she accepts, I wouldn’t recommend trying to impress her by taking her on a fancy date or to an expensive restaurant; if anything, I would recommend going to a place you already go when you’re getting dinner with friends. At the very least, you won’t be coming across as trying to woo her by waving your wallet around and you also won’t be out the cost of an expensive meal if a) she does accept a dinner date and b) this is a hustle to lock you in as a regular.
There is one more thing I would suggest that you consider, and that’s what it would mean if you did start a relationship with her. A lot of folks like the idea of dating a stripper… right up until it’s time to deal with what that would actually mean. Right now, you’ve got the fantasy of her leaving her job and becoming a civilian. I am here from the future to tell you that this is unlikely at best. Lots of guys think that once they’ve “landed” her, then things will change – she’ll quit dancing entirely or at least quit doing lap dances. In reality… that’s not how this works.
Leaving aside that dancing is often better money per hour than most “mundane” jobs, that fantasy says a lot about how much respect one has for folks who do sex work. A lot of people are cool with women doing sex work right up until they realize that sex workers aren’t going to stop just for them. At this point, they tend to get upset at the idea that someone who does lap dances for a living will still be giving lap dances to other people and will have very bad reactions to the idea that other folks will be touching and grinding “their girl” and thinking that the stripper really likes them.
Similarly, dancers tend to live dancer’s hours, which means late hours and working weekends, when the clubs are likely to be the most busy. If you work a traditional 9-to-5, dating a stripper means that you’re not going to have an easy time seeing each other; you’ll be getting off work right about the time when she’s going into hers. So if you aren’t working similar gigs – especially in the service industry, which tend to have similar hours – a lot of your relationship will involve brief snatches of seeing one another and lots of time apart.
If that isn’t something you’re going to be able to handle – and I mean without complaint – then my advice would be to let this go. Dating her would be a varsity level challenge for you, especially if you’re already having to ask if she’s really into you or not. While I’ve no doubt she’s a lovely woman, I suspect that the logistical issues alone would make this unfeasible for you. Add in the sex-work aspect and unless you’re very secure in yourself, I think this would be a poor choice for you.
So yes, it’s entirely possible that she’s genuine and likes you. But whether that’s the case or not… I don’t think this would be the best relationship for you to pursue. But that’s ultimately your call.
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