The novel coronavirus pandemic, quarantine, and social distancing measures affected working conditions for a variety of workers. Exotic dancers were distinctly impacted due to the stigma of their work which, prior to the pandemic, often involved the sale of close-proximity lap dances. This paper explores exotic dancers’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide insight on the unique challenges they faced.
Data were gleaned using ethnographic methods with modifications informed by phenomenology. Existentially-engaged participant observation was performed in a small, Southern strip club, identified here as Flare. Two rounds of formal, recorded interviews were conducted with six exotic dancers, and unrecorded, informal conversations were carried out with several other dancers and club employees.
Despite the taxing emotional work dancers perform, they were excluded from pandemic financial assistance, prompting many of them to temporarily work in lower-paying jobs during the two-month quarantine period in which Flare was closed. Upon Flare’s reopening, dancers faced a decrease in customers, an increase in new dancers, and the elimination of lap dances as an earning method, all compounding to cause increased competition among dancers to sell expensive VIP rooms. Dancers experienced a lack of benefits, reduced opportunities to earn money, and changes to their working environment that made it more difficult for them to predict their earnings. This is representative of the precarity in the exotic dance industry that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sturdivant, Danyelle, "Dancing through COVID: An Ethnographic Exploration of Exotic Dancers' Experiences during a Pandemic" (2020). Anthropology Undergraduate Senior Theses. 5.