Badness and Reality

Once a woman wrote to me that for the entire month or two that she was a stripper she thought that the men were putting acid and poisons on their hands to burn her and make her sick. It was ironic because a few months before she had announced authoritatively to an email list I was on that she had stripped, and that stripping was bad and degrading and traumatic for women. She even said that she’d read books written by so called feminists who had stripped for years and found it empowering, and that they were all full of shit. I said that I enjoyed stripping, and she said that I was full of shit and brainwashed by the patriarchy. So when she wrote to me, months later, wanting to make up, and mentioned her delusions I saved the email as a special reminder for myself. I wanted to ask her if she thought the delusions might have something to do with her negative experience of the industry, but what would be the point?

I know when I started stripping it was horrible. It was traumatic. I would lay on the stage, back arched, legs slightly spread, and imagine every customer at the tip rail raping me. This had nothing to do with stripping. It had to do with my father raping me and growing up thinking that all men had violently abusive sexual urges.

Growing up took me years of self imposed trauma, but eventually I realised how little my own little version of reality had to do with actual, objective reality. That didn’t mean that I didn’t experience what I experienced – anything that you believe, daydream, imagine, hear, read, etc., is processed by your brain just exactly like things that really happen. That’s the best thing I learned in college. But it meant I had to start taking some responsibility for the reality of what I experienced. So I started stripping again and I talked to all my customers and got to know them and it turned out that most of them were pretty normal, healthy people. There was the odd asshole, one or two a week, but I just ignored them. At first, I wondered if I could just insist on having a positive experience of them, but having found reality I loved it too much to overwrite it.

Here’s something bad that actually, really happened in a strip club. It was at that little misogynist club that I’ve written about before. It was just before Christmas, and there were only two dancers staying in the dorms. After work one night the graveyard door guy, who’s job it was to keep the dancers safe, went upstairs and tried to rape my friend. She fought him off and he raped the other woman. My friend stood guard at the top of the stairs with the fire extinguisher for a weapon for hours. She wanted to call the cops, but the woman who’d been raped didn’t want to. She said that as dancers, as damaged goods, they should expect that kind of thing. Eventually they did call the police, and when the police called the owner at four in the morning she came down to the club and dared to blame it on the dancer for being too drunk to fight him off.

That really happened, and it is really bad.

Last week Hat-ma called me all upset. One of her favorite customers (another acquintances favorite ex) had found himself being trash talked on this newbie strippers blog. She described him as serial killer-esque, violent, and a wanna-be pimp. I went and read it. I was there, too, as a bitter old attention whore. A sweet Mexican girl I’ve danced with for years was there too, as an orphaned victim of the Mexican sex industry who snuck across the border in the dark. I was shocked. If the newbie stripper had taken time to talk to her, she would have found out that she’d actually flown to Alaska from Mexico, no sneaking, to go to college, and had stayed as a succesful business owner. The newbie stripper had told the whole club about her blog, so I can just imagine the girl reading herself described down to her smallest tattoos and then depicted as some racist victim stereotype.

Of course there’s no doubt that the newbie girl actually experienced those things. In her mind I’m sure the customers are all evil and the dancers are all victims, and that’s very real for her.

I believe it is real for her, but I am still shocked – how can we know what is real if writers mislead us? If writing is wrong, can I trust my own? A few years ago I spent time with a couple quasi-famous writers who, in reality, turned out to live almost nothing of the life they wrote about (strangely, they would often write about doing something, then go do it, then be upset that it was more magical when they wrote it). It’s a whole world of confusion, for me. I understand telling a big lie to tell a big truth, but what if the truth you tell is a lie?

I comfort myself with reality. Objective things that I know can’t be spun.

So here is another real bad thing that happened in a strip club. It was in that same evil little club that I used to dance at. There was (is) a very sexist, mean bouncer dude. Being sexist and mean, he perceived that it was his job to keep the dancers in line, and protect the customers from us unscrupulous bitches. So in the name of duty he would make dancers leave for talking on their phones, touching a customer, sitting in the dressing room, or whatever else he came up with. One day there was a new dancer all the way from the deep south. She was staying in the dorms, and she came here with nothing to get away from an abusive boyfriend. The evil bouncer got mad at her for being within six inches of a customer, which is not even illegal, and he told her to leave. She refused. He picked her up and locked her outside, half naked, and didn’t let her in until an hour later when the club closed and some of the leaving customers started to call the police.

None of us knew until he let her in, half naked and sobbing, mascara running down her face and arms and chest.

There are bad things that really happen in the sex industry. It’s so crazy for people to make up bad things, or project bad things from other parts of their life on the industry for the sake of art or some kind of feminist acceptance.


  1. Badness is out there, and plenty of goodness, too. Free will’s curse, right? I like your goodness as it is, Tara. You’ve got an old soul and your tales perpetuate that perspective … school year just started anew, so if I don’t check in much, nothing personal. I’ll still be reading, and praying positives your way. I’ve got yours and Hatma’s backs anyday. Take care, sister. ~ Irish

  2. This reminds me to write about the week or two I worked at Spearment rhino’s in Vegas. It was a baaaad baaaad club – especially compared to Crazy Horse Too ( I loved CHT after i got over the initial shock of being around lap dances).

  3. I think there is a presumption that if you are going to write negative things about people, you fuzzy the edges so they can’t recognise themselves. That’s still sharing my reality (I’m talking about the type and the scenario and the concepts) without being hurtful and attacking directly. To write publicly about recognisable places and expect the cast of characters to accept your caricatures is naive at best.

  4. You have a clarity that I really respect. You seem to be very good at seeing things for what they are. I feel like I need to work on that. Thanks for giving me something to think about.

  5. T, I don’t know, I haven’t seen them. I blocked her email address, phone number, and comments a few weeks ago when she flipped out and started sending me gazillions of abusive texts every day because I asked her to remove me from her site when she started broadcasting her location and stopped telling her where I was sleeping when she started telling customers where I was sleeping. Whatever she’s alledging, I’m not going to engage with it. Bunches of people on the blogoshpere have met Bro and can tell you that he’s very happy and healthy (well, as healthy as a 14 year old arthritic Border Collie can be) and not at all abused.

  6. Tara, I don’t know what to say, except that it’s sad and strange to be reading your blogs right now. I came to her beautiful writingspiel through your beautiful writingspiel, and this? This is blood-and-guts writing of the sharpest kind. It’s a fight, a bad breakup, the sort of thing that triggers me into wanting to run and hide until there’s only harmless pieces that aren’t hot to the touch.

    Your writing is as important to me as dewdrops balanced on the ends of cactus needles, and I will continue to read as long as you write.

  7. hi, just a reader who enjoys your writing. Great car living tips and wild plant info. Sorry you’re having such an ugly public breakup. I think to accuse someone of a crime and publish their real name on the web is pure assholery. If an animal is being abused and you do nothing, you are complicit in the abuse. It also makes you look like a less than credible person.
    If I were you I’d have someone (not you, stay away from toxins) print out every thing she’s ever written about you. Then, hope she writes a best selling novel/screenplay. Then, sue her ass for intellectual property theft. Probably will never happen, but it gives you a great excuse to wish her well.
    Mostly, stay away. And keep her nasty comments up, makes her look terrible.
    Congrats on buying land.

  8. Bro? Abused? Never.

    Not even capable of being entertained as a passing thought, once having met the bold barking vanguard.

    Heh. Vanguard. Guards the van. Issa pun.

    Gimme a call sometime, lets catch up. I lost your number, alas.

  9. I first started commenting on your blog a while back when someone was suggesting that your version of reality didn’t mesh with their version of it. In your version, the person in question was a naive racist. In her version, you were an obnoxious feminazi. (to grossly over-simplify). That person was really sad and offended by your portrayal of them.

    Really, it’s a silly fight. Who says that your version of reality is more true than someone else’s? Maybe the men really were putting poison on their hands. Maybe all men do have violently abusive sexual urges (any of the people I know well enough to ask about such things have them occasionally…I do). Were you with the Mexican girl when she flew to Alaska, or did you just believe someone else’s (or her own) story about her journey? Maybe you are attention-starved and odd. I certainly experience you as an odd person, though in a way that I like. And we are all more or less attention-starved.

    Your reality is only real for you. And the same is true for everyone else.

    Did you notice that both of your “true” stories are about women as victims without recourse? The same theme that you accuse the other stripper of creating based on her own perceptions.

    I read your blog, and generally find you fabulous and interesting, because I like your version of reality. I like you and your version better than the other stripper’s version, so I choose to operate within that reality, making it my own. But I don’t think that makes it Real. There is no such thing.

  10. DeAnna, strangely that same person just accused me of being a naive racist on another site. 🙂

    No, I wasn’t with the Mexican girl on the plane, but I have known her for years, know her ex-husband, etc., and I know that she would not be happy about being portrayed that way.

    You said: Did you notice that both of your “true” stories are about women as victims without recourse? The same theme that you accuse the other stripper of creating based on her own perceptions.

    Of course. All I was trying to say was that it’s sad for people to make up bad things when there are so many bad things that really do happen. If even you didn’t get that then obviously I failed miserably.

  11. re: the naive racist accusation: I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately about those ironic turnabouts where a person does the thing that they accuse other folks of doing…I wonder if I should check my own shit about that, since it’s been coming up a lot.

    I get what you’re trying to say. I don’t think you’ve failed at saying it. I am questioning your premises. What does it mean to “make up bad things” and what does it mean to say that things “really happen”? You are making up bad things too, when you tell a story about women as victims, even if that story “really happened”. There is no such thing as things that “really happen”; there are only stories that we tell. The story that the bouncer tells about the woman who he locked outside is probably different than your story. The story that that woman tells is probably different than yours. None of those stories are more true than any of the others. You are no less affected by your perception filter than anyone else. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, just that you can’t claim to have cornered the market on Reality.

  12. Whoa there. There is such a thing as reality. Me and epistemology have a close working relationship. I’m a scientist.

    Reality is that which is directly observed. Empirical observation is the, and the only, cornerstone of a rational attempt to understand the physical world and to find a way to live in it. Inferences are theories, some of which have a lot of predictive value, and some of which have less.

    I’m just saying, don’t get all post-modernist. A sharp stick in the eye will remind you what reality is in no uncertain terms.

  13. Oh Jeff,
    a MAN of SCIENCE.

    We quiver and beg you to teach us of reality.
    Jeff, if you are indeed a male as implied by your user name, know this:
    A man’s perception, whether he is “scientist” or not, is not holding the only true perception of reality.

    There are many realities, even in that knife in the eye.
    That experience exists on many planes you wont learn about in a patriarchy based education.
    There are things you will never see, not with the training your comment suggests you’ve had.

    About these two women who were friends and are now dissolving that friendship on the internet. It’s their friendship to end, not ours.
    It’s their reality and we are witnessing some ugliness they are sharing with the world in order to clearly burn the bridge. Or perhaps they continue the disrespect of each other to hold on a little bit longer. When we harbor ill feelings toward another, we harbor.

    Both women are storytellers.
    They write from their perspective and we listen with ours.

  14. Observed by whom? Observation is a slippery way to define a term. Ask 5 bystanders what happened in the car crash they witnessed and you’ll get five different stories. Which one is reality?

    I do agree that there is such a thing as consensus reality. We all pretty much manage to drive on our own sides of the road and show up at the movies at the agreed-upon time. That reality is based on consensus, not on any Capital T Truth.

    When people operate outside of that consensus reality, we call them one of three things. Lyers, Lunatics, or Artists, depending on how we feel about the outcome of them living their own stories separate from mainstream consensus. I’m guessing that the other stripper was going for Artist, though of course I’m filtering that through my own perception, and she could certainly have been just flat Lying, or she could be Crazy, or any combination of those things. Each person is free to come to their own conclusion about whether she ended up with Art or just a big fat Lie (cuz, you know, you get to choose your own version of reality).

    I also fancy myself a scientist, and know just a little about probability and collapsing wave forms and the role of the observer in the outcome of an experiment. There are more than the 3 dimensions that we can see; “reality” bends the same way light does, though in less measurable ways.

    Epistemological theory itself acknowledges that it is possible to fully experience something as true that is not Actually True. Sorry to get all regressionist on you, but if it’s possible to directly experience something that isn’t true, then how can you ever claim to have the market on Reality? And to take it even further, we aren’t even talking about something like a car wreck, where there is a high level of consensus reality (though still not any access to Reality) to work with (physical evidence of damage to cars and/or people, etc.), we’re talking about really subjective experiences and guessing about people’s intent and internal thought process and whether or not someone meant to portray something made up or something real.

    I’m just saying that it doesn’t make any sense to me to try to claim that one has access to the One True Story in this context. Each person’s experience is experienced by them as true, and that is well and good. Your experience is valid and true. It’s just silly to argue about whether it reflects Capital R Reality.

  15. Hi Hobostripper,
    I just wanted to say that I am sorry for the falling out, but also tell you that I too know the quasi-famous writers you were talking about and had the exact same impression of the them. It was a little satifying to hear that someone else found them to be full of air as well.

    If a person were not prepared to take on some predetermined role that these writers dreamed you could fill, then out with ya.

    It was sad because they write so beautifully about connection and sound so even keeled, unfortunately it seems that they only write evenly and feel like that is enough.

    It was just reassuring to hear someone else have the same impression of them. Thanks for your beautiful blog.

  16. DeAnna, I get what you are saying about people telling different stories about the same event. But sometimes people tell lies or falsities, either intentionally or no, and so stories can have different levels of truthfullness.

  17. Woman, wouldn’t it be funny if we were talking about different people? I disguised mine a bit (there’s really more than two of them), but some other one’s I’ve heard about match your experience. Gurus, they’re all the same. 😆

  18. Hi. I’m going to leave the debate about epistemology alone and just say: I’ve had the same thought. When people throw their assumptions (made up reality) in my face about what stripping is, I always think how much interesting stuff they’re missing by insisting on a pre-feb version of the truth.

  19. I suppose we could be talking about different people. Three of them down in a canyon, they spoke of you to me so I just assumed. But anyhow, your right all gurus are the same , even if they claim they are not gurus.

  20. When I said I was a scientist, It wasn’t my intent to pull rank, so to speak. (Though I have been told I’m arrogant enough times to believe there’s something to it.) I said it in order to tell people what my perspective is.

    I posted because very real hurts were being discussed in a very relativistic way. There are definitely many perspectives to consider in every situation, but as I read, I felt a growing fear, like vertigo, that this generosity of perspective could get someone into trouble through neglect of the here and now. I posted because I needed to act on that fear. But groundedness and awareness are some of the things I appreciate most about this blog, and I’m sure our hostess knows how to run her life.

    Incidentally, this morning I started reading an article about phantom-limb syndrome. From it, I’ve learned that the medical community now believes that experience is not 100% direct perception (nerve sensation input) at all. Rather, it’s more like 10% perception and 90% memory. Our experience of the world is only partly the world, it’s mostly our brain’s best guesses at filling in the blanks. This is the best argument I’ve ever heard against my brand of empirical rationalism. I’ve never believed I have all the answers … but this definitely pushes me back a notch.

    And I love these conversations, but they seem more appropriate for an evening with beer and music than for a comment thread on an unrelated blog. Peace.

  21. Henry David Thoreau–

    “What demon has beset me that I have behaved myself so well”

    Seems appropriate that now as our hostess enters her Thoreau stage that I toss in my two cents here on Badness and Reality.

    Seems with the two women in question the issue might be more a matter of Behaving not Reality.I read Tara’s HoboStripper blog because she tells the truth, a severe personal truth…but maybe, too, because she misbehaves looking for the truth, looking for herself; pays a social price for living full throttle with her own soul, wanting answers and joy along the way, even if there aren’t any answers…believing there are.
    Questions about the truer truth go back before Plato and his forms and ideas and shadows on the wall of the cave. More important, perhaps one lady has outed another lady on this or that matter. My opinion: I think it is only OK to out politicians.

    Tara is wise in keeping her visage and other personal matters to herself, holding something back. This is why men pay to see women take something off. It’s no fun when she isn’t willing or you do all the taking. It is a gift she gives wherein lies the value. Point: No one can tell another’s truth; especially when they have chosen not to reveal it…like where you park your van. There’s something wonderful about stripping, peeling the ol’ onion; whatever it is that keeps us from seeing the truth. But it is only something we can give ourselves first; a gift we then give others as we deal with our own stuff.
    As to a mean spirit…God save us from this. It never leads to the truth–neither the inward or the outward kind…if there is such a difference.

  22. Dan, you’re very perceptive. 😉

    This post, though, was about Reality, not Behaving. Other people’s Misbehavior is not particularly a topic for this blog (although, perhaps, Sarah Palin…).

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