Hustle*: Box Delivery

Sometimes clients don’t like to give girls cash. Yes, you heard me right. Clients feel like they have the right to look and not touch; that also means not tip. Inside a strip club where it’s a given that women take off clothing, bump and grind, and flirt for paper, some try to go against the grain. Some try to reinvent the wheel. Not today, old-timer. You are in the wrong place. You got the wrong girl –straight up, the wrong one. Seriously, customers really trip hard; but we all wished they tipped harder.

Often times I wonder if it’s a matter of control or what. Like they straight up say, Lemme buy you something. Like, no, please, don’t –just tip me. Others will be like, I’d rather buy you something than give you money. Like, dude, hell no. These men must be out of their minds, for real. They got some preconceived notions in their heads that can only be equated with ignorance –they think that strippers are users, that we’re some pimp’s property and the money will do to them and not us, or that women don’t know how to budget money. Further proving men don’t understand women. Further proving male privilege, further proving misogyny.

Whatever the reason, and regardless of any generational gaps, this concept of giving a stripper gifts rather than money is bogus. Whose landlord accepts gold chains, designer bags, and computers as payment? I swear, these are the same men who want to keep us in the trap. Giving strippers gifts rather than the money they are working for is demeaning, cruel, and counterproductive. Just because you give a stripper a gift does not mean she is financially better off than before; on the contrary, now she’s gotta grind out harder because she needs actual paper to pay her bills. I can’t stand clients who are about that gift life. I swear, some of those gifts are stolen or old joints from ex-wives or dead or missing lovers.

Although gifts are accepted and totally acceptable, first and foremost is the cash. For women in a strip club are not there to take off clothes for gifts. Gifts are not the goal. Gifts are in addition to the cash, in a-d-d-i-t-i-o-n. Yo, get these dudes on some math, please.

We work for tips. We are not given an hourly wage. If you don’t tip, we are working for free. We lock ourselves up, paint ourselves, primp, and parade for dollar bills, y’all. This is not a charity. We are stacking paper. And for whatever reason­­–– no matter the reason. For if the reason is worthy to us, it’s valid, period. Customers who come in with the save the child mentality get shut down quick.

We don’t need saving. We need to save money; or spend it. We need money. None of your business what we do with it, anyways. We answer to no one but ourselves. We may or may not have daddy issues, but the main reason we’re inside the black box is because we crave that cold, hard cash, big daddy. We got bills to pay and companies are not taking presents, gift cards, vouchers, or anything other than money, honey. Pay up or shut up. Matter of fact, pay up or get out.

The strip club is not a voyeuristic chamber where dudes get to gawk at beautiful women’s bodies for free. Y’all do that ish plenty on the street. Inside, inside here, we get to have the power and that means you follow our rules.

I say that with conviction, like I mean it with all my body, mind, and spirit; and I do, the gods and goddesses know I do. But we all know, you and me both reader, that even inside the stripper’s domain, a place that we run and that couldn’t run without our bodies, we aren’t granted the power we want or deserve. We’re just as vulnerable as ever. We’re just as fucked.

The first time I heard a guy say he wanted to buy me things and couldn’t fathom just handing over cash to me –I laughed. I was like what in the world are you talking about. My mind said, Lawd almighty, as if I was just sitting around doing nothing or with nothing to do, so I decided to traipse in here and put myself in this here outfit and then get half naked, and by the way I’m so pleased and even excited by the fact that creepy strange men were lurking about, no, don’t worry, don’t pay me. I’m here because I enjoy this black box, this fine line between empowerment and loss of power. I just stumbled in here off the street.

As if we’re all here by accident, as if we don’t have missions and aspirations and dreams and goals and vision boards. As if we’re all here just to serve man’s desire, let y’all look upon our glowing flesh, our divine femininity; let y’all get away with look-no-tip, but tip-yes-touch and other disrespectful acts. As if I woke up and said, I think I’ll find a job where I take my clothes off. And instead of money, customers will give me things like electronics or diamonds or shoes. Yep, that’s what I want to do; that’s how I’m going to make it in this world.

Before I said anything to this old man, I shook my head. Feeling real bad because that’s how he saw us and feeling bad because what I was about to say would probably not change his concept of us one bit. Regardless, I laid into that dude, I was like, What like I’m a bum, you wanna buy me a sandwich because you think Imma spend the cash on drugs or alcohol? Like you can’t trust me with cash despite the fact that my job is based on tips and tips alone? Dude, you don’t know me or what I’m about. I’m here to make money at a job where I dance and take off my clothes for money. This is not a donation center and it’s not a fair exchange house either. Tip or get the fuck out. I said something along those lines. And I’m sure I said a lot fucking more. Back then, I was feisty. Back then, I couldn’t walk away if I saw something needed to be said or done. Back then, I took on fights in seven-inch clear plastic platform stripper shoes.

It wasn’t uncommon for girls to get gifts, like jewelry or the latest phone or computers. Basically, girls were working for perpetual Christmas gifts. Like they were fine accepting those tokens, but I wasn’t. I accepted gifts if I had been paid first. So when a customer who came in weekly wanted to deliver a new bed, DVD player and an Apple computer to my home, I said yes. After all, he gave me enough money weekly to satisfy a financial need.

But then I got it, I saw through his plot. It thickened as I realized he had made his way from one girl to the next, dropping them as quickly as he picked them up. He was searching for a cracked door, a door in which he could squeeze into the life of a stripper at close range. I decided he was either a stalker or rapist, or both. I gave him the address of one of the bouncers and told him all goods could be delivered there. The bouncer got a twenty for giving me his address. The next time I saw the customer, he started asking me questions about the delivery, he asked if I needed help setting anything up. Then he began describing the building where the bouncer lived. So he was a creep, I thought. I knew it. My instincts were also so good to me. Then I began to wonder about other deliveries to other strippers’ apartments. I didn’t want to assume that they were not clever girls for all strippers are well-equipped with a certain level of cleverness, but I recall how some of them looked right through him even when he approached. And I wondered if something had happened after one of those box deliveries. I wondered if he had pressed himself upon one of us without permission. I wondered if he had delivered more than just a few gifts.


WORDS BY:  Jacklyn Janeksela

jacklyn janeksela, MFA is an artist and an energy. Find her work @ art mugre, jota cuadrada, &female filet. Her music with The Velblouds @ band camp.

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