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Tales from the strip club: Damien

Updated: May 11



One of the reasons I and other strippers felt safe in the strip club, is because of the bouncers and other male staff we worked with. On the front line so to speak, bouncers or security staff are the first line of defense. Most of them have developed a keen and almost instinctive ability to spot trouble before it starts. Ideally, the entertainers are in control in a strip club environment. They run the show, good security is essential to making that happen.

Alcohol is a common component in any nighttime entertainment business, and alcohol is also the reason most problems start. But drunk doesn't mean that a customer is going to cause an issue. Sometimes a drunk guy can make a stripper's night, while other times a drunk guy has the potential to cause a serious disruption. A good bouncer can tell the difference from across the room. Damien is one such bouncer.

Damien grew up in a mostly one parent home. He and his brothers were raised by his father. His mother ran into trouble, and while he had contact with her, she was absent for most of his childhood. His father was with his brother's mother for 11 years, but when she left, she also left her children to be raised by his father as well.

Damien's father was a strict parent, or hard ass as Damien puts it. Emotions weren't openly expressed in his home, but responsibility and self-reliance were. And so Damien was an excellent student and even secured a scholarship. He went to college for about a year where he played football. But a love interest kept him from attending college for the whole four years.

"My mom was young when she had me and my brother, but she was also young-minded."

After school around 1996, he started working as a security guard for car shows while managing a fitness club. Several strippers and other staff worked out at his gym. He was approached by one of his regulars, a manager at a strip club, to come and fill in as a bouncer at a local strip club. He did both for about eight months before leaving the gym to work at the strip club full time.

"I made so much money. So much money. Like stupid money. So I was like call me anytime."

He worked almost exclusively at the club we worked at together, except for a brief stint at a newly opened rival club. Because of the taboo nature of the industry, the network of staff and entertainers in the market where Damien and I worked is a small one. So it wasn't a surprise when someone he knew asked him to come work at this new club. But he only ended up working a few days.

The drug and party atmosphere just goes with the bar and club scene. Strip club or not. Working nights, and around people who are on the hunt for a good time, can encourage and facilitate a culture that in some cases revolves around drugs and other illegal activities. It can be easy to become desensitized to it if you're not directly involved. It fades into the background like white noise. However, at this new club, the drugs and sketchy dealings, were not part of the background, they were right up front. Out in the open, and Damien wasn't comfortable, nor did he feel safe working there. So he left after only a few days and went back to his original club. Where he remains today.

"Most guys don't really drink or get high at work. Too much shit can pop off at any moment."

His instinct to protect women and even his male friends stays with him outside the club. Even growing up without his mother, he has an overwhelming impulse to care for women. Adult entertainers in particular. Bouncers and other male staff feel the same sort of comradery as the girls do. They're all part of the same tribe. For Damien, that sense of belonging fuels his need to take care of them. His compassion and empathy for the women he works with is as as striking as it is exceptional. He feels that way even way with girls he doesn't like on a personal level. He is there to care of anyone who may need him.

"I feel protective. It's like a good feeling and a curse at the same time. Pick any five girls from here and we go somewhere and have coffee. Something as simple as coffee. I feel like I'm always on the clock."

I asked him about the favoritism that some girls feel from bouncers. At most clubs, the dancers tip the bouncers. And sometimes dancers tip, not because they are appreciative of the service they get from a bouncer, but because they are hoping to get away with something. Like breaking a rule when it comes to lap dancing, or sneaking in drugs or alcohol. So tipping and the way that it influences the way that some bouncers may interact with a particular girl is different. For Damien, if a dancer is tipping because she had a good night he accepts that happily. But if she is tipping because she wants special treatment or leniency to break the rules, he is not ok with that.

The male staff at the club aren't immune to the stigmas and stereotypes that plague the women in the industry. Strippers, bouncers, and managers all feel the same weight of the judgement of those who don't work in adult entertainment. They get the same stink eye when they tell people where they work as strippers do. Many people assume that the men who work in strip clubs are all trying to date the dancers, or are as sleazy as they think the customers are. It is true that relationships happen between those that work in the club. But that isn't a motivation for most men to work there. But telling a prospective date that you are a bouncer at strip club can often end in an awkward silence and no second date.

"Tell someone you work at a strip club and it's like, 'Oh you work at a strip club? Oh you probably fuck everybody.' The dancers at the club know that's not true."

Damien sees the club as the ultimate in real life. It an atmosphere of abject honesty. It isn't just about sex. Everyone that works there works for a different reason. Not everyone is there for sex. Including the patrons. Damien witnessed and got to know many customers who come for companionship or just to talk and fell heard.

People that don't work in that environment see it from a different perspective. They don't understand what really goes on. It's this separation from more mainstream jobs that creates the need for a protective community. And is what can make leaving a job at a club harder to do.

Damien took about a year break from being a bouncer. And he found it difficult to adjust a more socially restrictive work environment. He worked at a shipping company and he said he just didn't talk most of the time. In the club, conversation is open and unfettered. You can talk about sex, how someone looks. There is less of a need of a filter. That doesn't mean that people are disrespectful, but it means that you are free to talk how you want to. You aren't bound to the polite conversation that you might be in a more traditional work setting.

"It's more honest. In hear this is like real life shit. Outside of here that ain't real life. The dudes that come in here, some of the shit that comes out of their mouths is how they really feel."

Working for twenty-five years as a bouncer, Damien doesn't have any regrets. Except that he wishes, he had been more careful with his money when he was younger. Which is a regret I feel comfortable saying that most people in the sex industry have. Especially those that got into it early on. The cash nature of the business makes it feast or famine. But during the feast times, the famine seems impossible.

Working as a bouncer, and more recently a manager and sometimes DJ, has allowed him to take care of his kids. Working in the club can be difficult sometimes. You can see people when there aren't at their best. Rather than become jaded or cynical, Damien has a fierce love for the people in his community of misfits. Damien is a hugger. He is a guy with a huge capacity to care for others.

Damien thinks that there are improvements that can make the industry better for women. One of them is to raise the minimum age to twenty-one start dancing. With dancers that start at eighteen, he feels like he's babysitting. Keeping them away from alcohol and drugs is much harder with someone who is that young. They are far more vulnerable to the predators that lurk in the clubs looking to exploit the young and naïve women that come in.

"They are exposed to so much. At eighteen, you're not ready for all that. Instead of eighteen, how about you come back a little more mature at twenty-one."

Damien thinks that the industry as a whole gives a lot of women the feeling of control and power. Especially when it comes to women who come from a background of abuse, which can make them feel powerless. Stripping can give that sense of power back. And with the right support and preparation, stripping and other adult entertainment can be a viable option to traditional employment.

*Originally published by Only Sky Media

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