Inside the Lives of Exotic Dancers

195 pages

May, 2006

ISBN: 9780814799338



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Bernadette Barton is Professor Sociology and Gender Studies at Morehead State University in Kentucky. She is the author of Pray the Gay Away: The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gays.

All books by Bernadette Barton

What kind of woman dances naked for money? Bernadette Barton takes us inside countless strip bars and clubs, from upscale to back road as well as those that specialize in lapdancing, table dancing, topless only, or peep shows, to reveal the startling lives of exotic dancers.

Based on over five years of research and from visiting clubs around the country, particularly in San Francisco, Hawaii, and Kentucky, Stripped offers a rare portrait of not just how dancers get into the business but what it's like for those who choose to strip year after year. Through captivating interviews and first-hand observation, Barton recounts why these women began stripping, the initial excitement and financial rewards from the work, the dangers of the life—namely, drugs and prostitution—and, inevitably, the difficulties in staying in the business over time, especially for their sexuality and self-esteem.

Stripped provides fresh insight into the complex work and personal experiences of exotic dancers, one that goes beyond the “sex wars” debate to offer an important new understanding of sex work.


  • “Makes an impressive contribution to the sociology of work and its intersection with sex and gender studies at the theoretical and applied levels. It is an excellent examples of the rich data and critical methodological insights that can emerge in the course of engaged field research.”

    American Journal of Sociology

  • “The thrust of stripper scholarship is that both dancers and customers are more like your next-door neighbors. Some are your next-door neighbors.”

    Philadelphia Inquirer

  • Stripped is a revealing book about a revealing (and controversial) trade that focuses on a philosophical clash between old—and new—school feminism.”


  • “Compelling. . . . This accessibly written, matter-of-fact book makes important contributions to what is known about the lives and experiences of the growing number of women who ‘dance’ naked for money. . . . Throughout, the author listens attentively to the shifting, insightful, diverse voices of women with whom she has a palpably respectful connection. Barton uses the complex picture that emerges to engage longstanding debates over the meanings of commodified femininity and sexuality.”


  • “Fascinating, insightful, and surprisingly balanced. This book will take you way beyond Hollywood's clichés and into the realities of stripping, and you'll emerge with a deeper understanding of the pleasures and the costs of being the object of male fantasies.”

    —Susan Bordo, author of Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture and the Body

  • “A terrific read! Stripped is the best kind of feminist work: original, honest, and deeply engaging. Barton’s remarkable insights into the work and private lives of exotic dancers move far beyond notions of strippers as exploited or empowered to uncover more hidden aspects of this world—its burdens of emotional labor, social stigma, exhaustion, and boredom as well as experiences of athleticism, ego-gratification, intimacy, and even spirituality.”

    —Kathleen Blee, author of Inside Organized Racism: Women in the Hate Movement

  • “With Stripped, Barton makes an important contribution to the ongoing conversation about the effects of stripping on the women who actually take their clothes off. The polarized nature of the debates sometimes makes it difficult to say anything complicated about sex work—it is either said to be empowering for women or degrading to them. Yet, of course, things are never that simple—and Barton’s arguments provide a significant alternative to such binary thinking.”

    —Katherine Frank, author of G-Strings and Sympathy: Strip Club Regulars and Male Desire

  • “Barton presents [exotic dancers] as open-minded ‘intelligent risk takers’ who are ‘comfortable exploring things other people are scared of.’”

    —Carlin Romano, Philadelphia Inquirer

  • "Written clearly with very little jargon, this volume sensitively explores the lives of exotic dancers."

    —Noralee Frankel, Archives of Sexual Behavior