Dancers deserve benefit of doubt

By Anita Doberman: CNJ Columnist

The joke goes that there are three things you can find around any military base — tattoo parlors, pawn shops, and strip clubs. It’s the last one that interests me and this week I interviewed an exotic dancer, though she did prefer the more simple term, stripper.

I met “Bambi” inside the club during non-working hours, before the 1 p.m. opening lunch rush. She gave me the grand tour of the club, showed me the poles, the lighting, the best spots to dance, the rooms where they have private dances, and the girls’ dressing room.

Bambi is tall, blonde with a gigantic chest (she tells me she is a size F). She is also friendly and seems like a normal girl. I felt kind of guilty for being surprised by that, but I found myself at ease talking to her.

I have my list of questions and she agrees to answer them. As a germaphobe, I ask first if the poles are sanitary, and she laughs at this and says, yes, they wash everything after 4 a.m. when everyone leaves. I ask her how she got into this business, and whether she likes the work. She replies that she’s been dancing since she was 17 years old. “At first you get this rush, especially when you start, of being able to get anything from this man in front of you. You feel powerful and high, but then it becomes more routine. Sometimes it’s tough if there’s a creep, and it’s not as glamorous as people think.”

We chit chat about her family life, her boyfriend and her daughter and she says that she is comfortable with her life choices. She says her boyfriend doesn’t get jealous of her work. I ask her what really goes on in the private rooms and if dancers have to push lap and private dances to make more money. She says that yes, that’s really the way to make money, “Really, there is lots more going on than just a ‘dance,’ yes even sex. It’s up to the girl and the man who is paying — although I would never do anything illegal. But I know of many girls who do.”

She has lots of regular customers, most of them married and many military folks. I tell her I don’t want my husband to go to these clubs and she laughs again, says it’s not as big a deal as I think, but she respects that opinion and takes no offense.

She shows me some moves around one of the polls — she is good (I think) and she offers to teach me but, I pass. When we say goodbye other dancers are coming in as the club will open soon. Some of them look really, really young, or maybe I am getting old.

I’m relieved, and maybe a little disappointed, to find that she’s “normal.” And I’m conflicted, because I feel sad for the women who use their bodies as a commodity, but talking to her, I wonder, who am I to judge (as long as she stays away from my husband, and vice versa)? I think my new friend is also conflicted. She says she wouldn’t want her daughter getting into this business, and though she says that’s because it’s such a tough way to make a living, I’m sure there’s more to it than that.


Anita Doberman is a freelance writer, mother of five and wife of an Air Force pilot stationed at Hurlburt AFB in Florida. Contact her at:

anita@anitadoberman.com