Finding Sexual Liberation via The Strip Club
By Dani Weaver (she/her)
| Illustration by Yi Jong
Kia Ora lovelies! I’m Dani, a first year comms student (who isn’t?) and dance teacher/choreographer at my recently established business-baby, Honeypot. Basically, I love to dance, and I draw inspiration from my hip-hop dance-crew years, as well as my more... exotic experiences. In other words, my classes pack a mean punch, and they’re hella sexy. I’m a big advocate for open sexual expression, embracing and celebrating the body, particularly the female form, and creating safe spaces for self-exploration to take place. If you’re interested in taking a class or just checking out the vibe, @honeypot.akl on Instagram is ya bestfriend. Or if you wanna see my own w(ho)lesome content, @lavendertheone.
When I saw that Debate were asking for writers to talk about all things sex, I salivated. Maybe it was the eggplant covered in blue jizz, or the deliciousness of the word ‘fetish.’ Or maybe it was the opportunity to over-share my sex-worker story with an audience of strangers. Or perhaps, a culmination of all of the above.
My relationship with sex has been a topsy turvy one. As a teenager I struggled with sexual shame, both internally and externally. My earliest encounters with sex were publicly shared through gossip and social media, making the last years of high school a living nightmare. I remember attending parties where students from other schools would approach me and ask “Are you Dani?” They seemed to spit my name, a now rumour-filled novelty and almost overnight it held a new meaning. One that was dirty. One I learned to be ashamed of. Teens these days seem to carry with them a level of ‘wokeness’ and self-awareness that honestly blows me away, but ten years ago, my peers' attitudes resembled that of Regina George.
It wasn’t fetch.
I left school insecure and deeply troubled. I found myself in the most promiscuous phase of my life, partying every weekend and fucking different guys on the reg, completely oblivious to the underlying emotions I was supressing. So, where to from here? How does a young woman find sexual self-acceptance after experiencing such shame and ridicule? How can one embrace their sexuality, gender expression and the juicy, juicy goodness of their body? Spoiler alert, I found it all. And in the most unlikely of places: The strip club.So you hear the word ‘strip club.’ What comes to mind? Probably a dark seedy bar blasting AC/DC, naked women slinking over men in suits and the faint smell of Britney Spears ‘Curious’ wafting off some big ol’ fake tiddies. Now, I’m not saying this perception is incorrect. In my personal experience, it’s quite accurate! But dive a little deeper, past the sweaty tipping-dollars and you’ll find some very important hidden gems, and some very liberated women.
There’s something about being naked in front of a complete stranger that is incredibly empowering. It was in lap-dances and stage shows that I found pride in my body as well as the bodies of other women. Every inch of skin was beautiful, every curve was something to be marvelled at, every movement powerfully feminine. Pussy Power is a real thing, by the way. The polarity is, in a taboo environment that is enriched in social judgment, I was able to release my shame, which propelled me into a life of flourishing sexual expression, and eventually into a career designed to empower women through dance.
Please don’t read this and think the only way you can connect to your body is by stripping. That is totally untrue. Intimacy is so important and can be found in a variety of different ways, but stripping was my gateway. Like any job, working in a strip club obviously has its downfalls, and because of the nature of the role, those downfalls can be quite intense.
As a stripper, you make your moolah from sweet talking a customer into a lap dance. I personally find power in knowing a man is willing to pay $50 for 10 minutes (the average going rate in Melbourne) for a dance from me, but others may view the power dynamic in this situation differently. I’ve also known many women who develop a hate for men after experiencing rejection after rejection, ‘no’ after ‘no’, which on some dreaded nights is simply unavoidable. I’ve seen this hatred linger and follow girls back into the ‘real world’, where this perception becomes projected onto all men in society. This rejection can also manifest in other damaging ways. The “what’s she got that I don’t have?” mentality, where comparing yourself to other dancers who seem booked n’ busy, can eat away at your self esteem. Stripping is based on the premise of beautiful naked women, and while beauty comes in all forms, with little clothes worn it can be hard not to over analyse and compare, to measure beauty by currency. It can be a dangerous place to be if you’re not feeling up to it, or if your mental health is suffering. I’ve seen many a nervous breakdown in the changing rooms backstage and it’s not uncommon to see multiple women in tears each night, which now that I think about it, is pretty fucked.
Many dancers I’ve known have thought of stripping as just a job, and they find little to no enjoyment talking to customers or giving dances. But surprisingly, it was while giving lap dances that I discovered the true essence of my sexual self. In a dance I always conjured the same feeling. It was soft, sexy, horny, feminine, strong. Physically speaking, it feels like a warm glow where my womb is, that sends a gooey hum through my body and oozes like honey. No matter who was sitting in that chair, I’d have that same feeling. It didn’t matter if they were male or female, young or knockin’ on heaven’s door, rich or broke af. I had that same feeling every time. 100% embodied. So what did that mean? If it didn’t matter who I was with, what I was wearing (or not wearing) or what environment I was in, if I could still feel completely at home in my body, then what did that tell me about myself and my sensuality?
It feels like a warm glow where my womb is, that sends a gooey hum through my body and oozes like honey.
I found that evidently I was in control, and this was the key. I was the only person who had any influence over my energy, over how sexy I felt and ultimately, over my womanhood. The sense of empowerment I felt was my own, created by me, for me. Sexual power wasn’t a fleeting resource and there was no external force turning the tap on and off. It was metaphysically boundless and endlessly flowing. And so, it became a spiritual practise for me. An opportunity to connect with myself, to feel my oats, to touch my body, to create intimacy and to be a slut. A word that no longer disempowers me. In fact, quite the opposite.
Now I bring this energy into every dance class I teach, with the intention of giving women permission to express and unleash it within themselves. When I returned from Melbourne last year, I started teaching hip-hop burlesque at a dance studio in Auckland. It was a real shock. I went from seeing women strutting their stuff in teensy bits of lingerie, to some of the shy and timid women who would come to my classes and I remember thinking, “wow, this is reality. This is how most women feel in their bodies” and I wanted to change that. Every woman deserves to feel good about themselves. Every woman deserves to feel sexy. The saturation of certain aesthetics and images fed to us through social media have an undeniably negative affect on how we perceive ourselves and our beauty.
It pains me to think that young women in particular see themselves as anything less than perfect. When I look around at my Honeypot girls, I feel extremely proud. I’m like that overprotective Mum that smothers you in cuddles and tells you she loves you every five minutes. It’s the most fulfilling feeling in the world to see the walls come down, the hair shaken loose and to feel the room shift into an atmosphere that reeeeks of confidence. A lot has changed since high school. This time, as their faces beam with pride and they speak my name, it sounds like music to my ears.
“Thank you, Dani.”