“Let’s get the journalist up here!”
The girls giggle as I climb onto the quiet stage. Of course, I’m wearing my reindeer sweater and argyle socks. It soon becomes apparent that pole dancing isn’t my forte. As instructed by the platinum blonde manager, Alex*, I wrap my right leg around the pole and brace myself with my right arm. I spin downwards and my left leg juts out at an awkward angle.
It’s Thursday night and I sit sipping bottled water in cheap vinyl chairs with women who have chosen to make a living in a less than conventional way. Morgan*, the newest and youngest dancer, who reminds me of an ‘80s aerobics queen in her legwarmers and bright blue and green swimsuit, sidles up to me. The little yellow ducks in her death-defying heels swish back and forth.
On the other side of me slouches Carmen*, a dancer wearing an elaborate black and white skull-print bikini. She has the classic look of someone who has seen too much too soon. She seems ready to defend herself and her reasoning.
Both Morgan and Carmen have similar opinions about working at Dangerous Curves. Both recommend dancing to any young woman. Money is obviously an impetus, and for Carmen, the appeal of giving lap dances without taking her clothes completely off also drew her into working at the establishment.
“It’s no different than dancing in a club. I’d recommend this job to anyone,” says Carmen with a toss of her painfully straight hair.
“I don’t really care if people look down on me. It’s good money, so why not?” agrees Morgan.
The girls enjoy a sense of camaraderie at their job. Morgan compares it to “just hanging out in bikinis with the girls.” I witness this as the girls practice their pole tricks, some manipulating their bodies around the pole as deftly as a yoga master, but in four-inch heels.
Both Morgan and Carmen have plans to move past working at Dangerous Curves. Morgan wants to someday move to Texas and become a tattoo artist and body piercer. She also aspires to achieve an art degree at some point in her life. Carmen, a mother of two children, works a double job as a dancer and satellite company employee. She hopes to be self-sufficient and to own a house one day.
Despite their collected attitudes, I can’t help but wonder how the girls deal with the inevitable unwanted male attention. There are several rules at Dangerous Curves to protect the girls; for example, they all must choose pseudonyms to use at work to protect their identities. There are also security procedures taken to monitor the actions that take place in the VIP room.
I’m still skeptical, however. Especially when the “regulars” arrive and the dancers begin to give lap dances. Though there is a bond between some of the regulars and the dancers, there is a more stereotypical feel to the atmosphere.
Most of the men at the club are middle-aged, Midwestern, and middle-class. According to Bill**, a regular who I speak with as he sips beer at the edge of the stage, he makes an appearance at Dangerous Curves once or twice a week. He doesn’t make eye contact with me the entire time, but for a bikini bar regular, he seems fairly well-adjusted and polite. I ask if his wife knows about his after-work trips to Dangerous Curves and he assures me that she knows he isn’t going to be inappropriate.
“That’s the difference between young and old. We just know that if we get drunk at a bar and we’re home by 10, we can still go to work in the morning.”
Bill seems to be convinced that Dangerous Curves is basically like any other bar with cold beer and pool tables. Though the dancing, scantily clad ladies seem to be a glaring difference, Bill just shakes his head and says, “After 27 years of marriage, parts are parts.”
Later, I witness one of the girls sitting on Bill’s lap with his arm around her. Though it seems hypocritical, I feel as if everyone is, in one way or another, getting what they need: the dancer is making money and the customer is getting affection, in one way or another.
According to Morgan, she has realized that “there’s two different types of men: those who can’t get [attention] anywhere else and guys who want to get it from someone they love.” It seems that most of the clientÃ¨le here are the former.
I put out my cigarette and make my way to the bathroom. I look behind me and see a dancer in a complicated bright blue bikini lead a customer by the hand into the VIP room and the two disappear into the pale blue light. I peer over my shoulder and a group of regulars scold me in saying, “Hey, don’t write about that!” I just laugh nervously and nearly trip over a chair.
Before I leave, I watch Morgan gyrate across the stage to OutKast. She crawls over to a potential customer and they sing the lyrics to the song together. They lip-synch as Morgan wraps her legs around him to begin the repetitively sexual routine. When she finishes, she gives him a hug and returns to the stage.
* Names of the dancers and manager have been changed.
** Name has been changed.