I saw this article on salon about a woman who was bullied in the course of her work day as an exotic dancer. I just shrugged and thought her situation wasn’t all that bad considering what I’ve experienced in my years in the club. She wasn’t drugged or poisoned or physically assaulted. She wasn’t publicly humiliated by management. She wasn’t drummed out by the staff and dancers. No cops or ambulances were ever called. And she managed to make a successful business despite an initial hazing.
When exotic dancers set their mind to taking out a coworker, there is no way this woman could have been a top earner for long. Eventually she would have to find somewhere else to work, or starve. For the most part, when a stripper doesn’t quite gel with her environment, management will take her off the schedule before the other girls set about “convincing” her that she should work somewhere else.
Since sex work is so marginalized, there isn’t a lot of recourse when this kind of work place harassment occurs. Many club managers don’t care what their dancers think of each other and will let the situation work itself out.
I will take this moment to describe the most horrific bullying I’ve seen while working.
I used to work at a small club in rural Montana. A bartender got a bee in her bonnet about the girls she worked with. Mind you, she was not willing to get on the stage herself, but she had some serious jealousy about the kind of income these girls were making. She would regularly steal from the dancers when tallying up the lap dance sheets at the end of the night. If a dancer wasn’t good at managing her time or money, this bartender would make a clerical error in her own favor.
If a dancer had a moment of “Wait a minute, I thought I did a lot more dances than that?” but didn’t have proof of the number, the owner would always side with the bartender. Especially if the dancers were drinking.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this particular bartender was stealing from the dancers. The girls cut off her cash flow, by keeping a visible tally sheet of all dances sold so that there was no argument at the end of the shift.
As you can imagine, this bully of a bartender was not pleased with her now reduced income and began actively trying to convince customers to NOT buy dances. Not that it worked. If something the customers want is for sale, why would they not buy it because a bartender didn’t want them to?
Eventually, she got frustrated enough to poison the dancer’s drinking water. I wish I was joking. She put Visine eye drops into the communal water cooler that both dancers and customers drank from. The reaction wasn’t what she expected, probably after watching the movie “Wedding Crashers” where the Visine prank created hilarious diarrhea and vomiting, but seemed otherwise harmless. In real life, people feel like they are having a heart attack and this situation can be complicated by other substances the person may have ingested such as alcohol or prescription medications.
None of the dancers got sick, but a customer left the bar on a gurney from drinking from the poisoned water. He made a full recovery, but spent a couple of days in the hospital due to being poisoned. When the doctors suggested that the customer was likely poisoned from consuming a spiked drink, the police reviewed the security tapes and there she was, spiking the water with Visine.
The bartender got fired and arrested for poisoning someone. You can rest assured that she’ll not be serving drinks again any time soon.
Yes, this kind of work place bullying is common in strip clubs. Just be glad that it isn’t the Zombie Apocalypse.