I noticed that when people were consumed with lust, they’d forget about everything else: the crushing weight of their debt, their loveless marriage, their children who hate them, the shitty job they settled for.
The following article appears in the Fall/Winter 2022 print issue of Petit Mort, available for preorder here. Join us at 7pm on Wednesday, November 9 at Bowery Poetry Club to celebrate the launch of their latest issue.
“Only whores wear those, you’re not getting one,” my grandfather barked at my grandmother when she begged for a gold cross to wear on her neck. This was back in ‘66, twenty years before I was born. Gram only told me this story after I bought my first cheap gold-plated cross at a trinket shop in 2012. She knows what I do for a living
“Pop would have known about whores and their fashion choices,” I joked. He spent his life as a long haul trucker, I’m sure he met a lot of sex workers. I bought my little Christian trinket because it looked slutty in a very “save me” kind of way, the particular way that men who fantasize about themselves as heroes get hard for. Pop and I agreed on most things, except I think looking like a whore is pretty cool, and I was getting good at monetizing it.
Early on Sunday shifts at the club where I worked, the church ladies would bring in religious pamphlets and Christian propaganda disguised as care packages. They hated us. They were coming to our work so they could position themselves as experts on our business so they could leverage the cities to shut us down.
“If you don’t want me at your Sunday service in lingerie, please don’t come to mine with pamphlets!” I’d say while adjusting my g string. “I’m an atheist.” We did not need roses, lip gloss, or an opportunity to be saved. We needed money.
It would take a couple of hours into the night shift for customers to start coming in. Once I started wearing it, I would let the cross work its magic. It made everything easier. Instead of seeing me as a fast-talking, street savvy, heavily tattooed saleswoman, clients started to believe me when I told them a fictionalized life story. I was homeschooled. I grew up on a ranch in Texas.
“If I’m honest, I don’t really know what I’m doing here.”
They loved that. I’d co-opt plotlines from 1960s television shows that I grew up watching in my grandparents’ living room and sell them as digestible fantasies for men to apply to a real human body.
Some customers wanted a lap-dance from a trained professional, but an overwhelming majority wanted access to someone they believed was easy to outsmart – someone relatable, someone slightly off limits. When I would gently finger my cross and say, “No one knows I’m here, my mother would have a heart attack!” a smile would stretch across their aging faces revealing teeth in various conditions, and the sale would unfold without a hitch.
Up in VIP, they’d feed me champagne and ask me questions about myself. Bouncing up and down to distract them, I’d make up details using skills I’d learned in improv class. “Yes, and!” I’d yell, and the waitress would bring two chilled tequilas with pineapple juice on the side. Customers would take shots with me on the assumption that they could outdrink me. They wanted me to loosen me up a bit, as if I wasn’t already accessible enough. They didn’t know I could drink two bottles of champagne in a night and that I usually spit my tequila out into my chaser.
Nothing here is real, baby. Except my tits.
The boys were hungry for a fantasy and I was feeding them. “Jesus Christ,” they’d grunt while I reverse-cowgirled in their lap. They’d be drunk and assume I was, too. That’s when the fingers would start folding into my flesh, searching around for a point of entry, pinching the bits of me that protruded. I’d squiggle away and pretend to get shy. When they’d tell me, “Don’t worry, no one’s watching,” I would smile innocently, rotating my pupils upwards, pointing at the ceiling and explain, “You’re in the South baby, He’s always watching.”
It wasn’t that I had any problem telling someone to fuck off and keep their hands where I could see them, I just found it was much easier if I shifted the blame of defending my boundaries onto someone else. Something biblical. Men hate being told no by a woman, especially one they’re paying, but who can argue with Jesus? That’s why I always get the money up front. Jesus is a boner killer.
Time would inevitably run out and the VIP host would come in and break the news. After shaking my customer down for a tip and clasping my bra back on, I’d escape to the dressing room, away from the customers and back with the girls. The Sunday crew was always the best crew because young dancers wore themselves out on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, leaving Sundays and Mondays to me and my other veteran stripper friends. The same went for the customers: Friday and Saturdays the main floor was full of spoiled college frat boys with their Daddy’s AmEx and bachelor parties for guys named Kyle. The youngins could rarely afford my time.
Those first days of the week were reserved for men whose holy matrimony was a distant memory. By Sunday, they’d be exhausted from family time and ready for some action that their wife was not interested in participating in.
They’d wait all week, and then after the game or when wifey went to bed, they’d saunter into our windowless promised land. Tired eyes, wandering hands, searching for salvation between our tits and faith between our thighs. The men who came into the club alone were not there to party. They’d worship, confess, and sin. Some would atone, and nearly all would beg for the opportunity to disappear into the vague promise of an imagined paradise. I noticed that when people were consumed with lust, they’d forget about everything else: the crushing weight of their debt, their loveless marriage, their children who hate them, the shitty job they settled for. This is what made their submission so powerful. Being able to supplicate yourself to someone stronger and bigger than you can feel like the most comforting thing in the world. Almost like worshiping a god.
So there I was, strutting the line between innocent and demure, powerful and ruthless in exchange for some cash in my basket. It’s funny to think about how much being a sex worker reflects Christianity on every level.
Some days I was allowing grown men to suckle my breast, the Virgin Mary to their tiny Baby Jesus. Other days I was calling them my bitches, kicking them between the legs with my 7 inch heels, and reminding them that there was “No Goddess Above Me.” I would assure them that I would not judge them, and then, inevitably, I did, cackling with my girlfriends about the guy who wanted to be squished like a bug.
Back in the convent-like space of the dressing room, Eve was eating mozzarella sticks while Naomi was anointing herself with cheap body spray that smelled like coconuts and jasmine. Delilah was FaceTiming with her boyfriend, and Priscilla was blatantly annoyed about it. “There shouldn’t be videos in the dressing room,” she said to me under her breath.
I shrugged, “Eh, whatever. Do you have headphones?” She rolled her eyes.
I grabbed her face in both my hands, kissed her forehead, and said, “Don’t stress baby, there’s no money up here anyway. Let’s go sell a room.” We took a last look in the mirror. I purposefully slid the clasp of my chain to the back of my neck where it belonged, saying a little money prayer to myself.
Chase Kelly is a veteran stripper, sex worker, and mentor to bad bitches worldwide. You can see more of her work and read more of her writing at www.survivetheclub.com.