Bare: The Naked Truth About Stripping by Elisabeth Eaves
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
"Somewhere behind my desire to be both a reporter and a stripper lay an impulse to conceal. Stripping - in competition with acting and espionage - is the ultimate job for someone who's instinct is to present different facades of who she might be. There is nothing more illusory than a woman pretending to be a sexual fantasy for money." - p. 5
This book was on the wrong shelf when I entered a university library about a year ago. It has been reminding me it is there waiting to be read for many months and I decided to pick it up over the holiday season. It was on the apartment shelf as a classmate, during my first year of my Master's degree, announced in class one day that she was completing a PhD about women, their bodies and stripping because she stripped to pay her way through her bachelor's degree several years earlier. I work hard to be an open person and I easily delight in meeting people whose lives are vastly different than mine and who are willing to share their stories of their life experience. This book was perfect after I had spent several hours talking with my classmate to begin to build a healthier and more realistic perspective of stripping, the why, who, for what reasons, etc.
"I learned that no one is neutral about female bodies. If they aren't sex objects used to sell every conceivable good, they are political objects, causing bitter debate on how to manage their fecundity. And where not sexual or political, they are imbued with society's ideals with fears, turned into Miss Liberties, Virgin Mary's, and Wicked Witches. Everyone had an opinion on what to do about female bodies, and sometimes it feels as if the only people who get in trouble for holding such opinions are young women themselves. Some of us, though, have to live in them, and we each get by in our own way." - p. 6-7
Eaves explains how she first became involved in stripping and we meet several of her colleagues, who become friends, and their work as strippers, what purpose is serves in various lives, for some the cycle of dependence that is created in this industry, and the rules of safety that are continuously broken by purchasers and strippers alike. Eaves teaches the reader that every woman had a line that she has drawn about the sexual work she is willing to perform, and sees many women move and bend this line under pressure from others and due to economic circumstances.
"And I was tempted to see sex work as more of a symptom of social illness than a cause. The sex biz was nothing more that a sophisticated arbitrage operation, dealing in morals rather than financial instruments...At some point women had become artificially divided into two types - the good and the childbearing ones, carefully trained to disdain sex so that they wouldn't stray, and a separate, pro-sex class. The second group were despised and disparaged so that the good women wouldn't want to join them. One group of women ended up with respect but no freedom, and the other with freedom but no respect. But economics abhors a vacuum, and the whore class...rushed in to fill the chasm between men's actual desires and the social structure that they, with women, had built. I don't think the divide between the two types of women would go away until all the girls were raised to be free, responsible and unashamed of sex. And until society had bridged the sex-ed gap - porn for boys and religion and romance for girls - there would always be Lusty Ladies [the stripper club Eaves worked at]." -. p. 138-139
A book that was telling and a strong mixture of social and political commentary shaken together with the lives of women and how their work infiltrates all aspects of their lives. Give it a read!
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