I’d been dancing in bikini and topless clubs for over two years when I decided to try taking it all off. Nude clubs were a different animal, but I’d danced in enough clubs to have been exposed to some pretty dank places. I’d learned to hustle with the best of them. I knew how to handle myself and how to deal with misbehaving patrons.
Tampa is home to two very famous nude strip clubs – I’d never been to either, but I knew which one I wanted to try working at. So I went in one night to audition.
Some clubs don’t require an audition. But the decent ones do. At the good clubs (i.e., places where dancers can make a lot of cash), managers and house moms will watch with a critical eye during auditions to make sure a dancer presents well… and that she’s good enough for night shift. Girls who don’t make the A-team are usually relegated to day shift (not all – some just prefer days).
With my pink Nike duffel bag in tow, I entered the small, cramped entrance room of the club. A pretty blonde in a tight corset was sitting behind a counter with a cash register and large glass tip jar. “Door girls” check IDs, collect cover, and explain the rules of a club — they also serve as preliminary eyes and ears to alert bouncers and managers of potential problem customers – as well as those who have lots of cash or large credit lines.
The room was dimly lit and I could hear the DJ’s voice bellowing over loud, thumbing bass inside the club. There was a group of young guys in front of me, showing their IDs and scraping together the $20 cover to get in. One of the guys turned to me and asked if I was going to be dancing that night and I told him I’d be on stage to audition. “Sweet!” he exclaimed, turning to high-five his buddies.
This was going to be a big hurdle for me to overcome – dealing with 18 year old boys. The crowd I was accustomed to was more typically men in their 30s through 60s. Topless and bikini bars served alcohol, so people had to be 21 to get in. Nude clubs in Tampa did not serve alcohol, so they were 18+.
After the boys made their way in, I told the door girl I was there to audition. She explained where the locker room was and instructed me to tell the house mom I was there for a job.
As I made my way into the club, I was struck by how tiny it was. There was one main stage and two small cage stages near the club entrance. Black lighting caused the patterns on the carpet and chairs to glow different hues of neon – a tacky style of interior decoration you will only find in strip clubs. There was a small bar; even though there was no alcohol, there was still a one-drink minimum (so customers were forced to spend $8 to $10 on a bottle of water, red bull, or soda). The stage had two poles and a small tip rail area.
I saw a black door at the back of the club where the locker room was and headed that way. When I got there, a sweet older Asian lady greeted me and I told her I was there to audition. Her name was Ming. She was the house mom. She told me to get dressed and let her know when I was ready to dance my set.
It was early on a weeknight, so the club was pretty dead and only a handful of girls were in the locker room. All the dancers I saw were gorgeous. Beautiful faces and sexy bodies. This was going to be another adjustment – the girls at my other club were all very pretty, but I’d become a queen bee there. I was one of the top girls and I knew it. Here… all the girls were queens.
I sat down at a vanity bar that stretched across a large mirrored wall and retrieved my outfit from my duffel bag. I had a black halter gown with sheer cutouts on the sides and a sequined silver bikini set to wear underneath. I had already done my hair and makeup before I arrived.
I undressed and slipped into my outfit. Ming asked what my stage name was and showed me the door to enter the stage from the locker room. She said girls were doing two-song sets and were expected to be nude relatively early into the second song. Some girls chose to strip down almost immediately – others did more of a tease. I was going for the latter. I slipped on my shoes and found an empty locker to lock my bag in. I didn’t know these girls… it wasn’t a good idea to leave my bag out while I did my set.
A few minutes later, Ming told me I was up next. I walked to the stage door and waited for the previous girl, who came busting through the door completely nude, clutching a pile of crumpled money, a bikini top, and a g-string to her chest. It was my turn.
Here goes nothing, I thought.
I stepped onto stage as the DJ announced my name, approaching the pole to begin my first song. I hadn’t picked out any music, but a pretty EDM song was playing, so I let myself fall into the music and just… dance. A couple of guys immediately came up to the tip rail, but I stayed at the pole toward the back of the stage for the first minute or so of the song. I stopped, leaning my back against the pole as I untied the halter part of my dress and slipped it off my body, down to the floor, gently kicking it off to the side of the stage. In the mirrors that lined the back of the stage, I saw the sequins on my bikini sparkling magically in the lights. I walked toward the far end of the stage, where the second pole and the tip rail were, dropping down to do a floor routine and collect tips.
As the end of the first song approached, I took off my top, tossing it toward the back of the stage where my gown was. A few more tippers approached.
So far, so good, I thought. I wasn’t in new territory yet.
Song number two began playing… another electronic track. This was a good DJ. He was able to look at me and take a pretty good guess of what kind of music I preferred to dance to. I scanned the crowd and saw the bartender had come out from behind the bar and was standing toward the back of the room, next to a man in a suit. I presumed he was the night manager. I knew the expectation, so I reached for the sides of my g-string and slid my bottom down my legs, stepping out of it and tossing it toward my pile of clothes.
My first time being completely nude in front of a bunch of strangers wasn’t uncomfortable or scary – it was just kind of bizarre. In my adult life, the only people who had seen me completely naked were lovers. I thought I might feel like I was giving up whatever sanctity was left by letting strangers look at my naked body. I thought the good girl in me might feel ashamed by my exhibition.
But I didn’t.
The experience of stripping is rooted deeply in one’s perceptions of it, as with just about any experience in life. I believe that almost always, people have the freedom to select how they’re going to perceive something. Without understanding this power, they typically default to whatever perceptions their past conditioning and circumstances have created for them. If I’d defaulted to my past conditioning about dancing… about nudity and sex, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.
My dancer persona, Belle, was instrumental in creating a perception of the experience of stripping that was empowering. When I took off my bottoms, I glanced at the tip rail, which was now lined with men eager to tip me for my performance.
The stage is always the centerpiece of a club, elevated above all the seating in the room. When people approach the stage, even while standing, they are far shorter than even the tiniest of dancers. They are forced to look up at the girls. When they sit at the tip rail, they are in a physical position of submission – lower, seated, waiting for the dancer to decide whether she wants to approach them. It’s always up to the dancer to select who she’ll approach and whose tips she will accept. Over the years, there had been many times I’d snub a man from stage if he made a scene, shouted for my attention, or waved dollar bills at me. I hated when people waved dollar bills at me. If they were going to wave a bill, it had better be at least a $20.
I was a goddess when I was on stage, and I realized it made no difference whether I was fully dressed or completely nude. When I had the stage, the room was mine. It was my stage and my audience.
I also viewed the exchange of money, whether when I was accepting a tip on stage or getting paid for a champagne room, as a power exchange – one in which I had the upper hand. The receipt of money was simply an offering for my inner goddess, that powerful divine feminine that resides in all women. For me, letting people watch my body as I danced was an art form – and that’s why I never, ever did crass moves. Going spread eagle or kicking heels against the stage were cries for attention that shifted the power to the customer. Instead of saying “come to my stage, appreciate my art,” it screamed “please, please, please give me a dollar!”
My stage was usually quiet, intense. The young party boys would clear out, making room for the older, more established gentlemen who wanted an experience beyond boobs being shoved in their faces. This was why I did so well at the topless place that I considered my home club. The club was expansive, with dark corners and comfortable seating where I could sit and chat, sip on fake martinis, and create the illusion of the girlfriend experience my customers had come for.
My home club was completely different from this place.
When my set was up, I gathered my tips and clothes, and made my way through the back stage door to return to the locker room. I retrieved my bag and returned to the vanity area where I’d gotten ready. Ming approached me as I was slipping back into my street clothes.
“Beautiful, Belle, that was beautiful,” she said.
I smiled and thanked her.
Chris, the night manager in the suit I’d noticed during my set entered the locker room with a clipboard. “Belle?” he asked. I turned to him.
“You’re good for nights. When do you want to come in?” I told him I’d like to work the next night and he nodded, scribbling something down on the clipboard. “Ming will explain everything – we’ll see you tomorrow,” and he walked out. I was almost jaunted by how cold Chris was — really, by how cold the entire club felt.
Ming told me there was no schedule, that I could just come in and work when I wanted. There was a sliding scale for house fees; the earlier I came in, the less the fee was. The latest I could arrive without paying additional late fees was 10pm, but I could work two hours, leave the club for an hour, and come back to work the final two hours of the shift, which seemed pretty sweet.
I worked at the club the next night and began rotating my shifts between there and my home club. The money was better at the nude club, but the environment was callous. It was a club where tricks were turned, drugs were rampant, and many of the girls had pimps. My ideal customer was rare – this was a loud, obnoxious party club. It was also a club with some very kinky customers.
The freaks come out
On a busy Friday night, a man in a suit approached me. Finally, I thought, a decent customer. After a minute or two of small talk, he told me his “slave name” was Sebastian. I looked at him, slightly puzzled and incredibly curious.
“Slave name?” I asked.
“Yes,” he replied. He was a tall, handsome man in his late 50s. “I’ve been watching you,” he said. “You’re the most powerful woman in the room.” He paused to see if I knew where he was going. “I want to be dominated.”
Interesting, I thought. “Okay….”
“Can you do that?”
I wasn’t quite sure what he was alluding to by asking to be “dominated.” At this club, there was no telling. “If you’re looking for any favors, no. But if you just want to be humiliated and controlled… I can give it a try.”
He smiled. “Perfect, let me go get a hostess.” Sebastian walked over to the bar to request a champagne room and came back to let me know which one he’d secured. This wasn’t his first rodeo. I nodded and started walking toward the room.
“Wait!” he hollered. I stopped and turned back toward him. The club was packed, standing room only.
“Yea?” I shouted over the music. He walked up to me, cupping his hand near my ear so I could hear him.
“Do you want me to crawl?” he asked.
“Crawl?” I repeated. “Like right now… on the floor?”
“Yes,” he said. “I probably don’t deserve to walk, do I?”
I saw where this was going and immediately shouted: “GET ON YOUR KNEES, YOU PATHETIC EXCUSE FOR A MAN!” This was going to be fun. Sebastian’s face lit up and he got on his knees. He then proceeded to crawl across the club as I walked next to him, leading us to the champagne room he’d just paid $850 for.
Moments later, I found myself in a dimly lit room with a fake bottle of champagne and a man who was deeply into BDSM. I found out he was a wealthy banker – a millionaire many times over. He explained that all day, he had to tell people what to do. His fetish developed because he desperately wanted opportunities to relinquish control and it turned him on to be bossed around (to put it *very* mildly) by beautiful women.
I’d enjoy this play as a dominatrix, exerting my power over a powerful man. I’d never done this before and had no idea where the boundaries existed. How far could I go? Did we need a safe word? This was brand new territory for me. I asked Sebastian for the ground rules before we got started.
His response was simply “Don’t make me bleed….”