In the Life

Sex, work, and social justice

About Platform

A new documentary on exotic dance.

From the silver screen to rap videos, images of exotic dancers aren't hard to find in American pop culture. But in real-life clubs, selling fantasy is a job—a way to pay bills and support families. For some, shedding clothes for cash is inherently exploitative. For others, the real exploitation lies in business models that require dancers to pay stage fees and share their tips without having access to employment benefits afforded to employees. (indiegogo.com)

In recent years, dancers across the United States have taken their complaints to court. The most common argument is that clubs classify performers as independent contractors—meaning they pay a stage fee to perform and receive tips rather than a minimum wage—but regulate their schedules, apparel and appearance as though they were employees. From coast to coast, plain to mountain, dancers have sued and won. But will these class-action suits lead to better working conditions for dancers? Or is this $7-billion-a-year industry set in its ways?

At the same time, faith-based groups have turned their attention to the experiences of exotic dancers. Rather than picket outside of clubs as their predecessors may have done, advocates like Harmony Dust and Natasha Hurt have chosen to go inside clubs offering support and love to women working in an industry they view as what they view as sexually exploitative. According to Ms. Dust's organization, Treasures, there are over 140 such ministries in the United States today. Why is this work of interest to Christians, and what kind of support do the groups offer to dancers?

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Platform explores these issues through the personal stories of former and current dancers, advocates and lawyers, club managers and support staff. From prayer in a Denver club’s parking lot to the dressing room of America’s only worker-owned peep show, it will explore the fantasy trade through lenses of labor, faith, and neon.

Jenise Morgan is a graduate student in New York University’s News & Documentary program. An aspiring television correspondent and producer, she’s drawn to stories about American women’s diverse experiences. Born in Colorado and raised in New Jersey, this daughter of North Carolinians now calls Brooklyn home. Check out out her work at jenisemorgan.com.

Cultural anthropologist Susan Dewey, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Wyoming.

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