Like many identities pushed to the margins in public life, a digital subculture of sex workers thrives online — and of course, that means there are memes. In fact, a few different Instagram content creators have cornered this niche market, which is for dancers, by dancers. But customers and non-dancers alike could learn a lot from them about what life is like at the strip club beyond the lucite heels and dollar bills.
@PleaserProblems, a dancer living in Portland, Oregon, with 23,200 followers makes these memes in the classic style: stock photo and caption, sometimes throwing in a photo from reality shows like The Bachelor or Real Housewives. (The account name is a reference to the brand of heels most dancers wear.)
PleaserProblems, also known as Mel (no relation), has been making stripper memes since December 2017. “I started this page as a way of coping with and laughing at some of the more annoying things I had to deal with on a nightly basis,” she says. She estimates that about 80 percent of her followers are dancers, with the rest being “men/customers/curious minds.”
Her inspiration is basically anything that makes her roll her eyes at the club. More often than not, though, it’s her customers, like the men who say they won’t buy a dance but ask for the dancer’s cell phone number; the young women who come into the club with a group and act insecure; or the guy who thinks he can get a free dance if he tells his dancer it’s his birthday.
In response to a post in an anonymous, private Facebook group for international dancers, women shared with me what they thought men could learn by taking the time to go through these accounts. The biggest message, not surprisingly, was to tip. Or as one woman counted down:
- Don’t be a dick.
- I don’t care if you can get it for free elsewhere, YOU came in HERE.
- I don’t care if you used to date a stripper.
Another woman commented, “Many things can be said [about these memes], but I think it comes down to respecting us. Remembering that although it’s a fun, lighthearted environment, we’re also there to make money, so respect that.”
For that reason, PleaserProblems doesn’t like to make memes that tear down other dancers. “I’m lucky enough to work in a place with a very strong community of dancers that support and uplift each other,” she explains. “Also, I feel like creating content like that perpetuates the stigma that we’re all catty and hate each other.” That said, by calling out the bad behavior she’s experienced from men at the club, she’s experienced some hate from disgruntled club patrons. “Customers used to be really vocal about their anger, but my signature combination of education and public shaming has gotten the point across that if you don’t like what I have to say, go elsewhere,” she says.
Some dancers, like Mae from Vancouver, aren’t sure customers should be allowed to interact with stripper meme accounts at all. This isn’t just because the accounts should function as a safe space for dancers, but also because it could ruin their mystique. “So much of the job hinges on creating this kind of fantasy,” she explains. “If a customer gets all the nitty-gritty insight into what it’s like to be a dancer, there would be pros and cons to that. Dancers have in many ways worked the mystery of it all to their advantage. I also don’t need customers opinions showing up in the comments when I’m just trying to laugh at a meme. So maybe just have alternative pages and ways to inform men how to treat dancers that don’t inadvertently give away too much of our trade secrets.”
Trade secrets like the recent PleaserProblems meme about the DJ calling a dancer onto the stage while she’s in the bathroom pooping.
@JacqTheStripper is attempting to find a middle ground between what PleaserProblems does and what Mae is suggesting. Jacq is a dancer, comedian and artist who has been creating illustrations about the dancer experience for years. With 139,000 Instagram followers and frequent standup performances in NYC, her audience is broader than just dancers. And so, her work often functions as a type of PSA, with merch that states “TIP HER” and a book called How Not To Be a Dick in a Strip Club: A Patron’s Guide.
Many of Jacq’s posts also are a celebration of stripper life (one of her other books is called Striptastic: A Celebration of Dope-Ass Cunts Who Like Money). It’s a sentiment PleaserProblems shares. “It’s definitely been important to me to cultivate an online community where we can all share in our experiences and uplift each other,” she says. Adds Mae, “Doing what we do is a unique experience, and many people who don’t do this kind of work just don’t get it.”
So strip-club patrons, take note from meme accounts like PleaserProblems: Tip well, don’t ask too many personal questions and definitely don’t lick your dancer. Also, try not to think about whether or not she just took a shit before sitting on your lap.