Taking From Patriarchy to Build a Fempire: A Conversation with Jacq the Stripper
By Daniela Jungova
Photos by Rachel Lena Esterline
Jacqueline Frances is a Canadian stripper, writer, comedian, illustrator, and goddess of hustle living in New York City. Her self-published, self-illustrated books include The Inquisitive Stripper, How To Not Be a Dick in a Strip Club, Striptastic!, and a must-read memoir called The Beaver Show, which she also recently narrated as an audiobook. In addition, Jacq can be found touring with her Venus Fly Trap show, and sharing sex-positive insider memes, photos, and illustrations with her 91k+ followers on Instagram.
Having danced at strip clubs in Canada, Australia, and the U.S., Jacq’s work stories are all that you’d want them to be, and more - they’re hilariously sarcastic yet kind, nervous yet bold, and graceful yet very much TMI. Refusing to judge and be judged, Jacq is the queen of keeping it real. Here, we talk about Robin Hood, female patrons with offensive manners, and what gives her life.
Jacq -- your job has taken you so many places, each of which offered an opportunity to reinvent yourself. What do you like better - being a veteran or being the new girl?
It’s funny you say that, because the more I travel, the more I feel deeply in tune with myself. I find I don’t re-invent myself at all when I explore new places; it’s when I’m geographically stuck where I feel most pressured to reinvent who I am - often with superficial things like new clothes, or a haircut, or a new shade of lipstick.
At the club, being a new girl is great because I’m especially motivated to work hard. I’m not jaded by the stingy regulars or corrupt management; the entire club is like a shiny new toy for me to play with and explore. That said, being the new girl is also pretty lonely, so I like having my work wives around to shoot the shit with.
My hustle now, as a veteran, is much more refined. Not that I’m quite a veteran yet - I’ve been in the game for seven years, but when I meet colleagues who have been in the game for two decades, I really can’t claim the title of veteran. But I am a much smoother extortionist now that I’m in my 30’s ;)
What was on your mind when you first started this job?
I was terrified. I had no idea what to expect beyond all the terrible things mainstream media had assured me would happen if I became one: that I would be raped, murdered, and chopped up into tiny pieces on Law and Order: SVU. It took me 15 minutes to realize it’s not like that at all, and that it’s just a job that people do. In plastic shoes.
So what do you think of now at the beginning of a routine shift?
I just try to visualize a fun and profitable night with kind strangers.
Is there a general difference between female and male patrons? What do you think of the idea of a women-only strip club?
First off, strip clubs are super hetero spaces. Everyone is performing gender. So there’s not much room for non-binary folks, which I would like to see change.
I’m not keen on a women-only strip club as I am to see a club that is staffed and operated by actual sex workers.
Female patrons don’t have the best rap in clubs because they can be more entitled than men. They think that because they’re women, they can touch or slap or grab without asking. It’s infuriating and shitty and I see it as a sad projection of them treating us the way men have treated them. It’s a total bummer. It’s not all the time, but ask any stripper, it happens more than it should. On a positive note, a babe came in the other night with a bunch of bros and shouted at each of them to “PAY HER.” It was amazing. And holy fuck do men ever love being told what to do.
Are strip clubs a site of a direct redistribution of wealth?
Fuck yes. Cash is King. I mean, the club does take a lot of money from dancers. We pay a lot to be there, and management skims a little (and sometimes a lot) off of every credit card that is ever swiped. But yeah, sometimes I feel like Robin Hood. Taking from shitty old rich men who voted for 45, and using that money to make radical feminist art and donate to Planned Parenthood. Every night I’m stealthily taking from patriarchy to build my Fempire.
Power to you! Since you mentioned the unwanted groping, it reminded me that several of my mother friends confessed to me that as soon as they got pregnant, their bodies and lives became some sort of public matter. Everyone suddenly felt entitled to touch them, give unsolicited life advice, and ask intrusive personal questions. In this respect, is being a stripper similar to being a mother?
I’m not a mother, so I really can’t say, but yeah -- everyone wants to paw and suck on your tits so it’s pretty annoying and tedious.You do need to be firm (but gentle) about saying no.
I relate stripping to being a kindergarten teacher, since there are dozens of man-children, who, at any given moment, are going to try to challenge your boundaries, whine for attention, and possibly piss themselves.
I see. A lot of times, strip clubs are a place where gross and glamorous casually intersect.
I fucking love it. I deeply identify with being gross and glam all at once.
What are three rules of strip club etiquette you wish everyone knew, regardless of gender?
Ask first. (For example, ‘Will you please dance for me?’ ‘Can I touch you?’ ‘Will you please explain the rules to me?’)
Set a reasonable budget before you go. Hit up the ATM before you get to the club. Inside the club, the ATM fees are criminally high.
When in doubt, TIP HER.
Got it! I also want to know more about your book Striptastic! that includes narratives of over 300 strippers from all over the world. Is there a story that particularly stood out to you?
I was most touched by the volume of women who reached out to do the survey. I put out a call to participate on Instagram, not expecting much. This was a year ago, when I wasn’t as popular on social media, so I was only anticipating a handful of women who would be into it.
But the response was overwhelming. Strippers from all over the world wrote essays in response to the 30-page questionnaire. A few women said that it was cathartic to share, which means a lot. Strippers see a lot, we feel a lot... Part of what makes a great one is to be an empath.
The lives strippers live are intensely colourful. But there aren’t a lot of spaces for us to share openly about our experiences without fear of judgement, or worse. So to know that I’m creating a narrative of support and pride for the work that we do, that’s really what’s driving me.
And what do you like to do on your days off?
I love to make art, eat everything, and sing the entire Elton John discography (poorly). My wife bought me watercolours a few months ago, so that’s been my latest craze.
I also make a concerted effort to travel great distances to hang out with my stripper wives. They live all over the place, but I’d be lost without them. We wear soft pants and talk a lot of shit. They give me life.
To learn more about Jacq and her work, go to strippersforever.com.