Economy nudges women into strip-club dancing

Fresno BeeJune 12, 2009 

Like many working women, "Charlie" is expected to wear a uniform to work: Heavy eye shadow? Check. Micro-miniskirt? Check. String bikini? Check. Eight-inch platform heels? Check. And not much else.

Charlie - who spoke on the condition that only her stage name be used - is among a small but apparently growing number of women who, because of a lousy job market, have turned to stripping to pay the rent, go to school or feed their kids.

No one compiles statistics on exotic dancers, but club managers in Fresno and across the country say more women than ever are seeking economic security by grabbing on to a brass pole.

For some, as unemployment in Fresno County lingers above 15%, desperate times call for desperate measures. Dancers say it's better than no job at all - despite the social disapproval, physical danger and psychological stress.

"Women who are doing this because they're desperate for money, the ones who find it morally repugnant … will feel the toll immediately," said Bernadette Barton, a sociology professor and author who has studied the business. "No one should have to violate their own moral center to make a living."

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