What Strippers (Like My Sister) Are Really Thinking


My sister Marlena Dee and I have a lot in common: we both love whiskey and Will Ferrell movies. We also both spend most of our nights onstage. The only difference is, I’m a standup comedian, and she’s a topless dancer at Pumps in Brooklyn. I sat down with her recently and asked her what stripping is really like, and what she wants you to know about going to a club. Below is a first-person account of what she told me during our conversation:

Being Sexy Is Having Power

I wasn’t always a nudist but I always admired women who were in Playboy. Beautiful women were very empowering to me as a young person. They represented freedom to me. I knew from a young age that being sexy is having power.

The Path To The Pole

Working at a strip club was just kind of a natural progression in my life. I had a burlesque teacher once who said that there was a difference between being naked and nude, and that really stuck with me. Not wearing clothes has always been when I felt the most expressive and like myself. I started doing nude modeling, and then I started doing burlesque dancing and working at an actual strip club meant making more money than both of those things. I always thought strippers were bad ass, powerful, fearless women and I love pole dancing as a dance form.

Stripping Is Way Better Than Most Jobs

Most people spend most of their lives being something they’re not. They wear a suit, they act a certain way, they play by someone else’s rules. In a strip club, you’re your own boss. You get to wear what you want to wear. You get to be naked. To make great money being yourself, to be naked when everyone else feels like they have to wear clothes… it’s incredibly liberating.

The stripper, the comic and their proud father in the middle

Never Feel Bad For Strippers

I hate it when people come in and say things to me like, “What are you doing here? You should be doing something else.” I love my job. I love where I work. I love the girls I work with. They’re hilarious and awesome. When it’s slow, we teach each other new pole tricks. It’s a party every night. We’re are all wild, free spirited people and we want to make it a fun time for everyone.

What Every Stripper Wants You To Know

Every stripper is a person with their own boundaries. You always have to ask someone if it’s OK to touch them. No matter how many clubs you’ve been to, or what you think standard protocol is. We are always the ones in power, and no amount of money you flash around will change that. See that 300 pound guy at the door? He’s like our big brother, and you will get booted by him if you make us uncomfortable. Also, if you’re someone who is offended by tits and ass (and this includes your girlfriend), obviously, this isn’t your type of entertainment. Other than that, enjoy the view and enjoy your drink.

The Best Thing You Can Do In A Strip Club

The best thing that happens in the club is when someone makes it rain. I love the theatrics of it. When one person gets rained on, other people start making it rain. It makes a more exciting atmosphere in the whole club. Everyone gets excited when it rains. It’s contagious.

Why Pumps Is A Woman’s World

There are so many places around the world where women aren’t able to express themselves sexually, and Pumps isn’t one of them. It’s one of the few places where it’s normal to be sexually expressive. It’s the epitome of sexual freedom for a female. Strippers are strong, amazing people who put up with a lot of bulls***t, and you respect them. And tip them well.

Photo credit: Jose Antonio Contreras

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Tess Barker (@TesstifyBarker) is a stand-up comic and co-host of the “Lady to Lady” podcast.