LESSONS FROM BAD BITCHES + EXOTIC DANCING
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved bad bitches. I didn’t have the words for it back when I was seven, but from the second I saw Jessica Rabbit’s insanely proportioned cartoon body sway across my tv screen I was IN LOVE. She was hot sex in a sparkly red dress! But, even as a literal caricature, she was her own woman. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. By the time I was eleven, Jessica had some company in my pantheon of bad bitches: there was Catwoman, Wednesday Addams, Left Eye, Nancy from The Craft , and my number one, Lil Kim, to name a few. I loved their strength, intelligence, uninhibited sexuality, power, and total un-fuck-with-able-ness, and to this day I instantly gravitate wherever I feel those bad bitch vibes. Since then, and with the help of some of the baddest IRL, I started exploring and celebrating my own badness through teaching lap dance, floorwork, striptease, and other sexuality based classes. Now that I am almost six years into dancing and teaching, I want to share some of the best things I’ve learned through this journey:
There’s so Much We Can Learn From Sex Workers When We Just Listen
Even though sex work may sound like a blanket term, actual humans make a living under its cover. Humans like cis and trans women, people of color, and other real life marginalized folks have made the decision to participate in the world's oldest profession based on want, need, or more likely — a nuanced collection of reasons. And yet, it’s rarely their voices telling their stories... but this ain’t that type of party. Here you’ll find sex workers/advocates Ceyenne Doroshow, Mona Marie, and Akynos having real talk about the future of sex work and the very real dangers currently being created by FOSTA/SESTA legislation and ever present societal stigma and discrimination. Of all the things we can learn from sex workers (bravery, fierce loyalty, acceptance, and incredible entrepreneurship) what we stand to learn most is about ourselves. I owe literally everything I’m able to do for myself and others through dance— to sex workers. More than that, getting to know, love, and listen to sex workers continually teaches me how to be a better person, a better citizen, and to use my privilege to be a better ally. If you’d like to show your support but don’t know how, it can be as simple as just being kind to sex workers who are just people trying to do their jobs and live their lives. If you’d also like to do more, you can add your name to the White House petition to repeal FOSTA legislation.
Stay in Your Lane and Enjoy the View
When I first started exploring exotic dance, what I was really looking for were the steps to become one of the bad bitches I had always looked up to, and to leave behind the desperately insecure girl who was always looking back at me in the mirror. You can probably imagine how gagged I was when I finally realized that what I was really learning was how to be myself. The more I actually looked at the woman I was trying to avoid instead of at the size of my nose, the texture of my skin, or the size of my stomach, the more I started realizing that I was SEXY AS FUCK all in my own way. It was a huge weight off of my shoulders, and put me on track in my own lane. Over the years I’ve been teaching, I’ve come across dancers who are younger than me, built differently than me, who are talented and creative in different ways than me, and I’ve even had students who’ve become teachers for me. I won’t front and say that there’s never a time that these things don’t poke at the insecurities that are part of who I am. Of course they do. But loving the lane I’m in and working to be the best I can be in that lane helps me continue to see myself and enjoy the view of others’ success without being a damn hater. It’s changed my life.
Dancing (in 8in Platform Heels and a Thong) is the Real Chicken Soup for the Soul
Dancing like I fuck, unapologetically in my highest heels and as much or little clothing as I want has been more than just freeing for me, it’s been healing from the inside out. As a survivor of sexual assault and abuse, exotic dance constantly helps me feel present and in control of my body in ways that have, and sometimes still are, really difficult for me in the rest of my daily life. And being able to help other people, especially women, have similar experiences has been healing for my mind and soul. If it feels safe for you, I highly recommend everyone try dancing either completely or mostly naked, barefoot or in your favorite heels, somewhere you can have some privacy (speaking from experience, don’t get too crazy if you’re dancing in the shower). That’s also been one of my go-to’s when I’m feeling the shittiest about my body or life in general, and I’ve never failed to feel so much better afterwards.
I Belong to Me
The most meaningful thing that dancing and teaching has helped me learn is that my life belongs to me first. I’ve spent a lot of my life worrying about upsetting and disappointing people without even considering if I was disappointing myself. It almost always resulted not only in disappointment on my end, but often in being taken advantage of, and even abuse in personal and professional relationships with people I trusted. The urge to please is still something I have to check regularly, but the self-awareness, strength, and respect for myself that have grown from my time dancing are what lead me now. Dance has helped empower me to live on my own terms no matter what .
I love the shoes, the moves, the outfits, the music. I love defining my own sexuality and how I want to show it. But most of all, I love seeing other people find their own inner bad bitch. In whatever way that means and feels to them.
image post Antonio Lopez, Iris Chacon, 1976