When The Lusty Lady shuttered its unionized peep show doors last September, I thought my days of stripping were over, too. I've moved on to other genres of sex work, but the thrill of the stripper pole and the rush of the hustle have always stayed with me. Escorting and porn are more profitable and less taxing on my body, but I would be lying if I said I didn't miss being a stripper. Women spend a lot of our lives being told our bodies aren't good enough, so getting naked and having people cheer and throw money into the air can feel like nothing short of redemption.
So when a friend asked me if I wanted to work a stripper gig for some guy's birthday last month, I jumped at the idea. I had already said yes to the gig by the time I found out that the party would be held at a motorcycle club. Motorcycles don't scare me; my dad used to take me to school on the back of one when I was a kid. But motorcycle clubs carry a reputation of violence and organized crime that is perpetuated by some of my favorite television shows, namely Sons of Anarchy. In 2008, Hell's Angels club president Mark Guardado (who served as a consultant on Sons of Anarchy) was shot and killed by a member of a rival club near 24th Street and Treat Avenue in the Mission.
I was more than a little nervous. But I swallowed my fear, dusted off my Lucite heels, and headed to the gig.
When I pulled up to the remote roadhouse, I gulped. It definitely looked like an opening shot from the last season of Breaking Bad, with a line of intimidating bearded men hovering around their motorcycles out front. The doorman checked my backpack for weapons and booze, and the night began.
I was third in the rotation of dancers, so the crowd was warmed up by the time I hit the stage in my American flag bikini and trucker hat. As I strutted my way around the small stage in time to Steven Tyler's shrieks, I took note that I was not as sure-footed in my 6-inch heels as I once was, and climbing a pole was much harder than I remembered. When I exited the stage, I peeled dollar bills off my sweat-soaked, naked body and struggled to catch my breath — it had been over three years since I'd done this, and I was feeling it. A club member who was working the party came backstage with a pitcher of ice water and told me with twinkling eyes that he thought I was just amazing onstage. I smiled so hard I could barely feel the throbbing in my knees.
Later that evening, I gave a lap dance to a sweet-faced guy with a beard who smelled of cigarettes and motor oil. He blushed and giggled like a teenage boy when I nibbled on his ear and told him he smelled like America. I find men can often be surprisingly timid when interacting with strippers one-on-one, and even tough guys in motorcycle clubs can be shy while getting a lap dance. I had assumed my night spent stripping at a party full of motorcycle club members would be terrifying, but at the end of the night I thought these tattooed tough guys in leather were more endearing than scary. Everyone there, from the president of the club to the DJ, treated me with respect and gratitude throughout the night.
Motorcycle club culture isn't all meth, metal, and murder. MC's have a rich history in this city, and San Francisco counterculture founding fathers like Ken Kesey, Jerry Garcia, and Allen Ginsberg all hung out with Hell's Angels now and then. When I tell people I'm a sex worker, they make all kinds of assumptions about what my life looks like and what kind of person I am, often based on portrayals of sex workers they've seen on television. I had done the same thing to these guys. But as I spun around the pole to my last song and the men cheered and threw money into the air, I think that perhaps they forgave me.