Sexing It Up for the Bad Economy

It used to happen every six months or so. I would be on my way home from the restaurant where I work to make ends meet, smelling of salsa and coffee and the tequila I didn’t drink, and wondering how over the past 14 hours of horror I hadn’t even made $100. And then it would come to me, this pleasingly simple thought: Maybe I could be a stripper. I would try to chase it away with cautionary tales of prostitutes in fishnets on the side of the highway in the dead of winter, but the thought would amble back with the easy confidence of a Clint Eastwood movie. “Not a prostitute,” it would say, “a stripper. An exotic dancer, if you will.” Then the thought would pull out its secret ace, a bone for my vanity to gnaw on: “Come on now, you’re a pretty girl…”

The sexualization of women is so commonplace, that if most of us got a call from Maxim to pose in our underwear, we probably wouldn’t mind. Some might even consider it a compliment. Stripping may strike some as less classy than being on the cover of a magazine, but essentially you’re still getting paid to be hot and nearly naked. In our current culture, sex appeal has attained a status that no other quality shares. So the thought of making money from it, especially in these tough times, may become increasingly appealing. And as Maxim seems to have misplaced my phone number, stripping is what I think about as my bills pile up. Since our economy formally began its downward spiral, I’ve started to have those thoughts almost once a week. And you know it: I’m not alone.

“With raunch-culture ever on the rise, sex appeal isn’t just one of the many cards a girl can play; it’s the ultimate trump, no matter how smart or talented she is.”

Applications in every job market have skyrocketed since this time last year, but unlike so many other industries, most strip clubs don’t have hiring freezes. They are doing better than ever. The New York branch of Rick’s Cabaret International Inc., an operation of upscale gentlemen’s clubs (one that’s publicly traded on NASDAQ), now gets an average of 40 to 50 job applicants per week, up from 20 a week this time last year. But the company also reported a 58% increase in total revenue from 2007’s last quarter to 2008’s. During that same period, the number of unemployed rose by 3.6 million in the United States. Disposable incomes are definitely shrinking, but sex is selling better than ever.

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