“DORIS DAY: THE SLUT VERSION” AN INTERVIEW WITH JACQUELINE FRANCES, A.K.A. JACQ THE STRIPPER

ANTIGRAVITY-OCTOBER-2017-Jacq-The-Stripper-Comic-3
Published  October 2017

There have been nights I’ve come home from the club despondent, only to laugh myself to sleep while cruising Jacq The Stripper’s Instagram, full of deep banter and comics to match. Her books, from zines to long-form memoirs (with titles like The Beaver Show, How To Not Be A Dick in the Strip Club, and STRIPTASTIC! A Celebration of Dope-Ass C*nts Who Like Money), are stacked on my nightstand. She’s cornered the market on a style of satire only sex workers can truly understand, but any civilian can learn from. She is a comedienne, illustrator, writer, designer, educator, and hustler, touring the United States this October on a Sex Witch Tour. I finally had the good fortune, at the unholy hour of 9 a.m., to talk with Jacq. She used the word “fuck” 13 times, I laughed 142 times, and we contemplated winning the lottery thrice. Between us, we have 19 years in the business (the age I was when I started). Some lucky numbers from a couple of blondes in a champagne bubble bath.


In your newest book, The Inquisitive Stripper, was there one question that bothered you enough to start drawing?
The first question was a girl in the doctor’s office asking, “Are all the other girls crazy bitches? How much money do you make?” I’ve been stripping for seven years; I’m so used to invasive questions. And the longer I do this job, the more frustrated I become with how inappropriate they are. I started creating different scenarios that show how entitled people are being by asking that information from someone.

Especially at the doctor’s office. For veteran strippers, the health of our spirits and bodies is so important. Do humor and comedy have to do with the health of your professionalism?
It’s everything. I’ve always been a humorist or comedienne: that predates pretty much everything I’ve pursued. I see the world as a hilariously tragic—well, a hilarious place. Laughing through everything is how I’ve always done it. And it’s especially helpful in our industry. If they took humor away I don’t know if I could survive, and not only as a sex worker but as a human being. There’s so much bullshit you have to deal with as a woman. Turning those shitty stories and traumatic events into money: that’s called performance… and here we are! [laughs] I saw a quote on a cereal box somewhere: “Writing is turning your worst moments into money.” That always stuck with me.

My favorite comic of yours reads, “Being hot is only fun if you get to disappoint people by being disgusting.”
That is my mantra! I said that randomly one day on stage at a comedy show. It got a really big laugh. It was an honest feeling that hadn’t been a fixed joke before. I love performing hotness, but it is something that is for other people. Again: people are so, so entitled. People treat women like shit. And we have to take that seriously; but we also have to be able to laugh about it as we’re going through it. Because otherwise what do we have? We’re fighting all the time and we don’t get any rest. We need to commiserate, celebrate each other and work through it all together. So, be disgusting, do what you absolutely need. I hate pleasing people all the time. Pleasing people is only fun if you get to let them down. At the end of the dance, if I get to say, “No, I’m not going to your hotel room,” it’s really liberating—and, I think, righteous self-care—to say that “no” and fart. [laughs]

In the club, there are moments when negotiations break down, where I’m totally disgusted by a customer and can’t deal. Do you ever reach your strategic limit?
Oh, all the time! If I don’t want to deal with something, I absolutely will not—I walk away all the time. That’s our right to exercise freely. I’m not the kind of person who says, “I’m gonna stick with this guy.” Those are my Sagittarius stripper friends. Those are the hardest hustlers I know. They say, “I’m going to take all his money, because he said things I don’t like.” [laughs] Girl, you go. You have a beautiful hustle; you’re going to be so much richer than me one day.

Do you think sex work is a form of magic?
I know it’s within me, and I know it’s a choice to wield it. Strippers choose to wield it. We can acknowledge that sex is a form of power, and sex work is a very controlled, specific, distinct way of using power.

I’ve heard it said that “Magic is the art of changing consciousness at will.” Customers are coming in to alter their consciousness—
Totally. They want to be swept up in somebody’s magic. There’s a lot of trust in consenting to be taken on a ride. That idea isn’t commonplace to non-sex workers. I teach it in my class, “How to Hustle Like a Stripper.” People want to go on an adventure with you, so you have to know what the adventure is that you’re selling. Invite people on, and don’t be apologetic about it—bring them. People want to share in your experience and your magic and bask in your light. That’s what hustling is, that’s what’s magic about hustling. The hustle is within you, and if you feel good about where you’re taking this person—the experience you’re giving—they’re going to be along for it and they’re going to pay for the ticket.

I’ve been stripping for seven years; I’m so used to invasive questions.

You seem to have an honest outlook on the strip club, but you also stay more positive than a lot of our colleagues.
Yeah, I try to! I don’t see that much darkness at the club. I see darkness everywhere, and the club is actually where I feel safe. I’ve really found a lot of really strong, beautiful people in the club. I’ve never felt I’ve belonged more. I also know that I’m pathologically optimistic, this annoying ball of sunshine. [laughs] But that’s who I am! I’ve also been very attracted to darkness as well. When I was a kid, I knew I always wanted to be a stripper, but I wanted to be a very sexy, swarmy stripper. I wanted to have dark brown hair, and I always fantasized about having a nose job: a really long, pointy nose. My nose is adorable—it is not sexy. I wanted a long nose and almond-shaped eyes with the perfect cat eye. You see me put a cat eye on, it’s very embarrassing, like, what did this bitch do to her face? My disposition is Doris Day: the Slut Version.

This alter ego, does she have a name?
This is basically me telling you who I wanted to be, or thought I was supposed to be when I became a stripper—it’s embarrassing. I was gonna have cut-off fishnet gloves, dark hair, fishnet ripped everything, heavy-heavy eyeliner, maybe a studded belt (it was 2004)… and her name was ROXY.

I think we have a ROXY at my club.
I know that girl too, she’s somewhere… But she’s not me! My stripper now: she’s bubbly, and her hair is really bouncy, smiles a lot, and her name is a non-threatening white girl name: Summer or Anna or Heather. That’s my hustle: the girl next door, smiling all the time.

Inside you’re Halloween, outside you’re Fourth of July.
Totally. And I can get away with anything. I put on my cute little non-threatening, unburdened girl-voice, and my life gets a lot easier when I do it.

Do you feel that this persona in particular is a form of class drag?
I love talking about classism; it makes me so uncomfortable—and everyone else too! [laughs]

ANTIGRAVITY-OCTOBER-2017-Jacq-The-Stripper-Comic-1I’ve found that stripping allows me (and a lot of my colleagues) to have not only the money, but the flexibility and the time to move away from working class options and lifestyle and not become “upscale,” but to enter this “special” millennial “freelance” class, become an “artist.” But the only way to do that is by performing another class, the one that kind of relies on “a certain man and his certain tastes.” Have you experienced that as well?
I love this question for so many reasons. I could unpack it forever. In pop culture, glamorous women, sex bombs, all these women, all of them are performing class drag—Marilyn Monroe for example. These kinda poor girls growing up who wanted to feel glamorous. I think that’s how sex work is pervasive everywhere. If you’re a sex worker, you’re a woman who’s trying to get some shit. We’re putting on this fantasy, letting this man believe how glamorous he really is, to support a woman who is super classy… I grew up middle-class so, for me, the reason why I was so reticent to strip was, well, “middle-class girls don’t become strippers. That’s not allowed. We go to university. That’s not what you do with a university degree.” And I had that. I was totally classist. And then you start stripping and you realize. I went to a private school for my last year of high school, and I always joke that they’re mortified about not being able to put me on the alumni list. They’re terrified… I think it’s definitely “class drag” but I think it’s always been that way. Because it’s also drag in general. The men are in drag, performing a more expensive, successful, important version of themselves. I think we’re all doing that. But I really enjoy calling bullshit on men who say, “I bet you make so much money.” One guy said, “I bet you make so much money” and I said, “You’re being so fucking classist right now. Because you know that I don’t. You know that I don’t have as much money as you do, and you’re also refusing to pay me right now. And you’re being so condescending and you’re a piece of shit.” And he got so uncomfortable. “No, I’m not actually living in a six bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side. I look that way so I can make money, asshole.”

A stripper has to have a lot of nerve to stand up to some of this stuff.
I think the nerve comes with time. You get it, or you don’t last. I don’t know any stripper who’s been in the business for more than five years who’s still a pushover.
 
One thing that strippers can talk about forever is what the strip club would be like if we made the rules. Do you have a utopian strip club in your mind?
Well, there was some stupid Powerball lottery happening here, and I wrote a blog post about it: “If This Stripper Won the Lottery.” I’d buy all the strip clubs, fire all the management, and only hire former sex workers to run the establishments. Customers would sign a guestbook: “I will respect the entertainers.” Get it in writing. Get an emergency contact, the nearest of kin who’s female-identified. You can come in here, but you have to trust us. And if you fuck up, somebody you love—who would be horrified at what you did—is going to find out about it. I have so many fantasies about blackmail. So many. I don’t want money. I want shame. I want their wives to know… The cover charge would be a hundred dollars. A hundred of those dollars would be “funny money” that the customer spends on the entertainment. People need to value women entertaining them as much as they value men entertaining them. When they go to a basketball game, they’re like, “Wow this is amazing! I love my nosebleed seats and I love this $24 Pepsi.” I want people to attribute that much respect for the women that are here: explicit respect. For the rest… spinning pole, static pole—I don’t even care about that kind of stuff. [laughs] We would not have to wear gowns. I hate gowns. If you want to wear a gown, you can. I’ve been at gown clubs for too long. They’re stupid prom drag.

You’ve designed the most important part, the entrance. Would people bite?
Would people bite? Yeah, they would. They need to be trained. By the time I actually have the funds, time, initiative to open up a strip club, hopefully there will be a slight shift in what people expect from women. Or at least how much that shit costs. Objectify the shit out of us! Just: bring your wallet.

It’s all we ask. But they’ve gotta want it. There’s something that is so painful about talking to someone in the strip club and realizing they don’t want to be there: the grumpy guy at the bachelor party, the designated driver with his corporate work team, the girlfriend who is—
So uncomfortable.

Exactly. One thing I love about your work is that you keep bringing it back to the idea of respect and consent. They should all want to be here!
They should! If people paid cover with funny money, it’s more like an arcade, or a carnival: “Welcome. Here are your tokens, this is what you do with them…” Whereas, if it’s hot cash in their pocket, that’s cash that they would otherwise spend: “Shit, this is my lunch money.” Or, “What else could I be using this money for?” But once it’s funny money, it’s only good in that establishment, so it encourages them to play with it. I hate funny money because the club takes from it. As a stripper, when someone hands you funny money instead of cash it’s [whispers] “fuck you.” But if the club didn’t take 20% of it—if it works out in our favor—I would love to use it.

ANTIGRAVITY-OCTOBER-2017-Jacq-The-Stripper-SketchYou’ve toured a lot and worked internationally. You worked up in the oil fields, in Canada. Can you speak to that?
It was fun. I went twice. They fly you up there for two weeks, and you entertain laborers, drilling dudes. They’re called “rig pigs.” Going out to the oil fields, you feel really special, cuz you’re not from around the way. You’re from an exotic place, like—Ontario. The club is owned and operated by a woman who is not a stripper, who did not dance; but it was managed by a woman who had stripped for 25 years. She was a riot and she was a great hustler. She helped me make money; she was really fun. The club was really a repurposed barn, with a little wooden stage. But I found when you’re that far away, you’re really appreciated by the people who are there. There’s not really the same sense of entitlement you have in New York. The men are so grateful to see a woman—to smell her hair—and they have so much money and they don’t know what to do with it… And they’d die without us. They’re so sad and needy, and they all cook noodles in their coffee pots. This guy really broke down his favorite recipes to cook in a coffee machine, cuz that’s all he had. It was a mix between mac’n’cheese and ramen. I sat around listening and he kept slipping me 20s. I had a good time out there; I really did. It’s hard, though. You drink a lot. All you’re doing is working and sleeping all day. It’s exhausting; it’s not sustainable.

That’s what I’m after. The work the men are doing isn’t sustainable, and it’s also not sustainable for the Earth, and it’s not sustainable for you. But there’s this sentiment, “get it while you can.” There’s something apocalyptic about that—do you agree?
Capitalistic?

Apocalyptic.
Apocalyptic. Absolutely. Most of the money we take from people—I want to speak for myself—most of the money I take from people is not from people whose work I admire. At all.

Yes.
Look around: rich people suck! They’re so awful. And yes, I do give to them… so it’s all part of the problem and no, it’s not sustainable. But if you are a dreamer and if you also come from working class people, that’s what you do. You know that you have to work hard physically. You’re not thinking about your 401(k). Not once in my high-schooling or in my college did any instructors sit down and say, “So here’s how you’re going to invest for your future.” It’s such a privilege to learn about that; nobody teaches us that. The customers in the oil fields aren’t thinking about that either. They’re trying to “make money now” and buy a jet ski and a truck, and oil is how they can do that. It’s how we want the bag. If I’m going to be a heaux at least I’m going to proudly stomp around with a stupidly expensive bag because I already have all of this… class shame. I might as well enjoy it.

ANTIGRAVITY-OCTOBER-2017-Jacq-The-Stripper-Photo-by-Rachel-Lena-Esterline

photo by Rachel Lena Esterline

Knowing how to “make their money make money” is so different than how we make money with our bodies. We mix with the rich. They tell us about the steak they ate, their travel—I kind of start to want it.
Yeah, so you can relate to them. There’s this amazing zine that Chase Kelly (of SurviveTheClub.com) released, called How to Talk to Rich Men. She sees past the systemic oppression, through everything that is going on, into what you need, and says, “Forget that shit right now get paid.” I do watch what’s happening, holistically, with the world. Sometimes I’ll take my righteous integrity and smash it in their face. But she’s the kind of hustler who says “Nah, I’m going to take his money instead.” I admire that. I have to tell him why he’s a bad person. She says, “Hey girl, what do you really need? Do you need to pay your rent or do you need to be right?”

Sagittarius. [both laugh]
That’s why we need all kinds of attitudes towards the business. We help each other through it because we all have totally different opinions on what we do and how we do it and what makes it right and what makes it complicated.

Beyond luxury, are community and intimacy the way to be a happy stripper?
How to be a happy stripper… Totally different for every single person. I never felt I was home until I became a stripper. I find a real solidarity after work. I find it online, the women I’ve met through the internet. I find it at the community events that we host. I’ve met really great friends at work, too. I’ve never felt that in any other community. I really struggled with the queer community when I came out… At the time, when I was 21, I felt I had to look a specific way, which is not who I really am… I was trying to fit in. Then I became a stripper and realized: oh wait, these are my people—these are the hot and disgusting girls—that’s my crew.

I don’t know any stripper who’s been in the business for more than five years who’s still a pushover. 

Sometimes it feels like our work upholds “straightness;” sometimes I feel that sex work is queer work.
Well, we’re acting like we like someone when we don’t, so… that’s pretty much betraying our actual sexuality… I identified as extremely gay when I first became a stripper. I thought it was the best fucking secret. I thought I had won the lottery: “Oh my god, I don’t get upset when all these men are trash, which is a lot. I’m around a bunch of hot girls; this is greatI still feel that way. Now, my sexuality is more fluid; I identify more as queer. I find any stripper who does it long enough starts to think, “What even is sexuality, and what is heterosexuality, besides some sort of doctrine?” I love how queer sex work is. When customers say, “What’s your boyfriend think of this?” I always tilt my head around; I go, “Which one?” As far as being a sexual being, our clients… they don’t expect us to be straight. They certainly don’t want you to be gay; they don’t want you to not like dick… because they all wish they could suck a dick without being shamed about it.

YES! [laughs]
They do want to so badly.

[both laugh] And I want that for them! Do you think it’s possible for a strip club to be a safe place for queer people and trans people, on the stripper side and the customer side? To be truly as enjoyable as it is for the “straight” customers we have now?
Yeah, in my utopian one! Absolutely. Today, tomorrow, in ten years—probably not. But again, changing the way we see the club, the experience of it, treating it like a performance, celebrating the individuality of each performer—that could be a really nice shift, instead of, “Look at all of these chattel. Which one do you want?” They do this in New York: at the top of the hour, every hour, they play “Girls, Girls, Girls” and we walk across the stage, thinking, “This is so humiliating.” The customers pick their favorite; it’s very much like we’re all farm animals. Ultimately the venue, the way that it’s run, has to change. I’m definitely going to do it one day: a pop up. And the men have gotta get the fuck out of management.

From an interior decorating standpoint alone
The bad, slutty art work. A woman in a pearl thong: yeah, art. Whoa…

I remember signing a contract; and in the manager’s office, on the wall, was that black and white poster of “two women kissing” that goes on college freshman dorm walls.
I still love that, but I loved that when I was 15…

Exactly. [sighs]
Because I am a queer girl, and that’s why I loved it.

What can New Orleans look forward to with your tour?
I’m touring with Kristen J. Sollee. Her book [Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive] came out in June. The Sex Witch Tour happened this summer, and now we’re kicking the act back up, in Brooklyn, Salem, and New Orleans. These cities are bubbling with witchy sluts who I’m stoked to have perform with us. Every city we go to, we’re surrounded by smart sluts who we’re celebrating. We’ve been overwhelmed with support and talent.

What are you working on now?
I recently picked up watercolors. They were a surprise from my wife, Danielle. She brought them home from the Giant Tiger discount store. I immediately fell in love with the medium, so I’m really enjoying that, and designing merch for sluts in my store, strippersforever.com. I’m building a fempire. It will have many iterations, new media. I can’t really talk about it yet, but it’s going to be collaborative and it’s exciting and I want to keep doing exactly what I’m doing.

What’s your favorite medium for the watercolor?
The melted ice from my vodka soda.

Jacq the Stripper will be hosting the Sex Witch Talent Show at Sidney’s Saloon on October 23rd. For more info, check out jacqthestripper.com and @jacqthestripper on Instagram.


comics by Jacqueline Frances

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