What Strippers Know and Do: Substance Use and Sanctions at Mell's Belles

Date of Completion

January 2011


Sociology, Individual and Family Studies




There is growing literature and academic attention focused on strip club settings, namely regarding the interaction between stripper and customer. Other areas that have been examined in the growing body of research to date on strip clubs include emphases on stigma management, gender performances and hierarchies, power and social control, and socialization processes. There has been little direct attention paid to drug and alcohol use in strip clubs and, more specifically, what use patterns mean to setting actors. Whenever drugs and alcohol are mentioned in both the deviance and gender literatures on strip clubs, scholars reduce sex worker drug and alcohol behavior (either directly or implicitly) to either further evidence of stripper "deviance" or pathology, or as "the only way that a woman can do this sort of work." Both of these approaches to sex worker drug and alcohol use are incomplete. By centralizing women's accounts through interviewing, and using these interviews to supplement my complete-participant fieldworker role, I build ideas about context-specific drug and alcohol use. My ethnographic work, through participant observation, depth and casual interviewing, and an overall acquaintance with this subculture for 12 years; first, as a stripper, then a researcher, and now as a researcher/stripper, examines these matters from a singular and triangulated vantage point. ^