, and also -- I'm not bragging here, just stating a fact -- manage to do so without using any of the witheringly obscene words I uttered when I first heard of it.
Plague take the six-hour time difference 'twixt my apartment and Britain! I can't possibly address every individual point commenters have raised here, but let me focus on the main ones:
--Yes, some of my bouncy colleagues back in the day were there for less-than-noble reasons: not to further their futures, but because they'd made bad decisions in the past. But the same holds true for any job open to people without formal credentials; walk through my local Wal-Mart or fast-food joints and I doubt you'll find many workers saying "Being here is the realization of my childhood dream."
--No, working in strip clubs wasn't a feminist utopia where we'd all hold hands and sing "I Am Woman." Sure, there were annoying customers and obnoxious co-workers. Still, I found stripping vastly preferable to the restaurant jobs I held in high school: if a customer was a rude obnoxious jackhole I had to simply deal with it, rather than gesture to the bouncer to remove the rude customer from my presence. Stripping was also a lot safer than, say, being the sole night-shift clerk at a convenience store.
-- I didn't have space in my article to address this, but: I'm not even convinced "sex industry" is the right term to describe strip clubs; there was no sexual contact going on, merely men looking at body parts generally not seen in public. And those parts change over time: I just glanced out my window and saw a woman walking down the street, wearing a short-sleeved top and above-the-knee shorts. By modern standards she is merely an ordinary housewife, but a century ago, if you wanted to see a woman's bare knees you'd have to go to a burlesque house. Yet for all the many things I find wrong with my country today, I don't think any of them would be resolved if only bare knees were no longer seen on public streets. If a woman a century ago had found men willing to pay her good money to look at her bare knees, would that have meant she was exploited? I would not say so, even if those men memorized the appearance of the knee to aid in their later self-pleasuring (ahem).
-- It is true, in a way, that "Something's wrong with society, if an 18-year-old could ONLY support herself as a stripper." Consider: these days I make my money with words -- either writing my own things, or editing the writings of others. Most of my current income derives from a gig editing manuscripts for a vanity publisher. I could've done that job just as well at age 18 -- except without a college degree to list on my resume, I never would've even had the chance to take the editing test, let alone do the job. And I could've written almost as well then, too, but without that college degree I never would've been hired at the little daily paper where I built the clipfile that led to me getting better writing gigs now than I did a few years back.
But these problems have nothing to do with sex or stripping, and everything to do with America's love of "credentials" -- doesn't matter whether you can do the job, what matters is having a piece of paper with "College degree" and some Latin words written on it. I could not hold the jobs I have now if I didn't first spend several years and tens of thousand of dollars buying that expensive, suitable-for-framing piece of paper. Thank goodness strip clubs were there for me to earn the required funds.
-- In some alternate universe, where my parents had the means and desire to pay for my schooling, and I only had to work to earn pocket money -- I suspect I still would've danced because, compared to fast-food jobs and waitress gigs, dancing was a lot more fun. Doll up and dance around to my favorite songs? And make anywhere from ten to a hundred times as much money as a burger-flipper made in that same amount of time? Hell, yes! It's been a decade now since I last set foot or any other body part in a club, but I will STILL hear new songs on the radio and think "My God, that song would be fun to dance to."
--Had I been a man instead of a woman, and my 18-year-old self still needed to make much-better-than-minimum-wage working only part-time to pay for college and living expenses, perhaps I'd've taken some job requiring heavy lifting. There were plenty such jobs available. Such young men make far less money than the average dancer, and furthermore such men run a much higher risk of doing actual long-term damage to their bodies, but I doubt anybody would be arrogant or stupid enough to suggest "Hey, let's outlaw heavy-lifting jobs because the men who have them would be better off unemployed! Besides, since it's a job only young men can do, not the elderly ones, that somehow means the job is inherently exploitative."
And I see I'm approaching the boundaries of the [Guardian's] 5,000-character comment limit, so I'll have to stop typing now.