On nearly every viral video on #Striptok (TikTok’s hashtag for strippers), there are dozens of comments from people talking about how close they are to dropping everything and becoming dancers themselves. But though most of the highest-viewed videos feature female strippers and fans, men seem just as ready to leave their day jobs for the pole, too.
The only problem? They can’t because they’re “men.”
“I swear I’d do this, but I’m a guy,” one dude wrote beneath a TikTok showing the obscene amount of cash a male stripper claimed to make in a week. “I’m a guy, but 33K is 33K,” wrote another about a video of a Vegas stripper who alleges she made that much in one weekend.
The thing is, male strippers do exist (some sites claim that roughly 8 to 10 percent of strippers are men, though there’s no real data to confirm this), and they’re increasingly becoming the subject of fascination on TikTok. You just might not notice, because they don’t always look or act like Magic Mike stereotypes.
Jehsuam, 26, is a stripper who works in Portland, Oregon. He’s been dancing for two years, but unlike many of the male dancers popularized in media, he’s a gay and works for a primarily gay male audience. Originally, he started cataloguing his life on YouTube, but he’s recently started using TikTok, where he posts videos of himself twirling around the pole at work, his gym routine and fun little thirst traps. Most of the comments he receives are heart-eye emojis and compliments, though like other videos on #striptok, he gets plenty of comments from guys saying they want to do what he does, too.
At first, this surprised him. “I felt very alone being a gay dancer,” he tells me. “I never saw many guy dancers online, either.” Now, however, he’s noticed that more and more people want to see guys work the pole. Most of the obvious hashtags like #malestripper are blocked, but variations like #malestrpper and #malepoledancer have millions and millions of views, though the latter features both people who do it as a hobby and those who do it for work. On the former hashtag, dancers seem to be divided between Magic Mike bachelorette party dancers who perform primarily for women and guys like Jehsuam, who work in environments more similar to traditional strip clubs, but for gay men. (Besides Jehsuam, a Fort Lauderdale-based performer named @theepoleposition has become increasingly popular on TikTok. Same for Dallas-based @bouejai.)
Jehsuam considers himself more of a femme dancer, performing on the pole like a traditional stripper (though he often performs in sneakers rather than heels). As for the money, he’s not quite making 33K per weekend (which, for the record, the vast majority of dancers on #Striptok aren’t, either), but he’s certainly still doing well. “It’s different for all dancers, but on a good night, I can take home $500 to $1,000,” he tells me. “On bad nights, I can take home $20. Not every night is your night.”
From Jehsuam’s perspective, the most important quality for a male dancer is “having confidence in yourself.” While plenty of the bachelorette-party male strippers on TikTok are indeed built like Channing Tatum, he says the gay club environment is a bit different. While the former typically gets paid per gig or show plus tips, the latter often requires a specific hustle as money isn’t always guaranteed (which, of course, is also the case in hetero strip clubs).
“Presence is a huge thing,” he says. “How you work the crowd says a lot about who you are. I make sure when I’m off that stage, people know who I am. I recommend that dancers focus on that and have patience with their dance journey and the amount of money they’re earning. When you start, you expect so much money. I had to really work on myself and who my persona as a dancer is. Remember: It’s entertainment. That’ll help you be successful.”
That’s good advice, it seems, for both the pole and TikTok — and especially for the cash-covered floor where the pole and TikTok meet.