‘It’s feminist’: Female strip club owner on building her business – ‘girls are in control’
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Amy, 33, owns a strip club called Rude on Duke Street, in central Liverpool. The mum-of-four has worked in the stripping industry for 11 years, opening Rude with her partner when she was only 22 years old. Now the sole owner of Rude and the one who does everything – from the finances to ensuring the dancers are prepared for their shift – Amy spoke to Express.co.uk about why she feels “very very lucky to be part of the stripping world”.
Amy had no experience as a stripper when she first opened Rude 11 years ago.
But as a former model, she claims, she knew what it was like to be judged for the way she looked and held herself.
For Amy, that was important. She felt her identity could help the strippers she employed feel comfortable and that, in turn, would make her clients comfortable.
There are 576 registered strip clubs in England and Amy believes most of them are owned and ran by men.
Berkshire has the highest concentration of strip clubs per capita, with an average of 11 strip clubs per 100,000 people with its 17 registered venues.
Surprisingly, London has only 104 strip clubs, averaging at 1.3 clubs per 100,000 people.
But the number of sex establishments in general is in decline.
In 2018, responses to a Freedom of Information request by the BBC England Data Unit showed that sex establishment licenses issued by councils had dropped from 386 in 2013 to 256 in 2018.
Although it is not known how many strippers are in England, or if this number is also decreasing, workers within the industry have struggled in recent years.
In addition to fewer establishments being created and existing ones closing, the financial strain of Brexit, as well as the recession before that, has also negatively impacted strippers’ earnings.
Research published in 2015 by the University of Leeds found that strip club workers’ average income had dropped since the economic crisis in 2008, with strippers making an average of £232 per shift.
According to the website Strip Club Guide, strip clubs in England and the UK run on the lap dance system.
There is often no drinks commission and never a fixed salary.
The dancer pays the club either a “house-fee” or a small percentage of dances sold, while the rest is theirs to keep.
Sex entertainment businesses and those who work for them are also looked down upon by the British public – a fact which could cause damage to a stripper’s mental health and perception of themselves.
A survey conducted by YouGov in 2015 found 64 percent of people in Great Britain said strip clubs were a negative part of British culture.
Barbara Santini, a sex and relationship adviser and psychologist based in London has worked with clients who have dipped their toes in the strip club industry.
She told Express.co.uk that “the mental health effects of people working in the stripping or sex industry is a commonly ignored topic”.
“The sex industry as a whole can lead to low self-esteem and low confidence in performers, and survivors of the sex industry can leave with feelings of stigma,” Barbara said.
She added: “Most of the stripping and sex industry survivors develop mental health disorders associated with the previous sexual problems they encounter, and post-traumatic stress disorder the most common mental health disorder that affects them.”
However, Amy said her job is to ensure her employees at Rude are supported and well taken care of, making it her priority that they are safe and enjoy what they do.
The Liverpudlian strip club owner also said she aims to crush stigmas and smash stereotypes surrounding the stripping industry.
One perceived misconception people have is that stripping is all about beauty and aesthetics, according to Amy.
But in fact, personality is “the biggest thing” and “more important than their looks”.
“The most successful and popular girl in that room is not the best looking, and she’s older than me,” the 33-year-old said.
“It’s about confidence.”
Amy went on to explain that when she holds auditions for strippers who want to work at Rude, what she looks for is “confidence, a big personality, and a good dancer”.
She added: “Diversity is also important. I want all the girls to look different – I don’t want all of them to be white and blonde, for example.”
Then, when she has decided to take on a girl, Amy will train her and ensure she is ready for her first shift.
She said: “There is a lot that goes in to being a good dancer or stripper – one of the things is knowing who to approach, who to get money off, and who not to.
“Some girls don’t grasp it, but it definitely comes with practice. It also comes with personality – some people are naturally great strippers.”
As well as running the club, Amy said her role is “what you would call a house mum”.
This is the person who supports the strippers and, essentially, makes sure they are okay.
Amy said: “It’s like having 40 or so daughters.
“We have very close relationships and I even offer advice with anything in their personal lives too.
“I’m in the changing rooms with the girls at the beginning of the night, making sure everything’s okay and making sure they look the part.”
Amy went on to explain that she makes sure “each girl is fully confident, and she knows what she wants to do”.
“She has to know who she is, who she’s doing her show for, and understand what her limits are, such as, you don’t talk to a man for free after a certain point.”
She added: “The way it works is that the girls are in control and men throw their money at them.
“The girls are then laughing all the way to the bank with no feelings towards the men.”
“I make sure the girls know they’re in control,” Amy stressed.
“And they know their worth.”
The girls help each other with their self-worth and confidence too – “bigging each other up” at every opportunity.
“All the girls stand up for each other and there is no judgement whatsoever,” the strip club owner said.
“No one has got your back like a stripper does.
“They’re always looking out for each other and telling each other how stunning they are.
“It’s sad that in the real world not enough girls tell each other how great they look.”
As for stereotypes about the stripping industry, Amy said: “People think these girls are stupid.
“But no one can run rings around you like a stripper.
“They also think it’s just about taking your clothes off, but 50 percent of the time in Rude, no clothes come off.
“People really enjoy having conversations with the girls – they’re more interesting than a lot of people you’d usually meet.”
For Amy, being a stripper, as well as going to a strip club, is “a great experience” and there’s no better place to “tick it off your bucket list” than at Rude.
“It’s a feminist strip club,” she said.
“It’s owned by a woman, obviously, but also, the girls are very much a part of how the club is ran and what we do.
“If the girls are happy then the clients will be happy.”
Speaking anonymously to Express.co.uk, it seems the strippers working for Amy are indeed very happy with their manager, their workplace, and their colleagues.
One woman who has been stripping for six years – four of which have been at Rude – said: “Rude is a whole team and I love that family unit that I’ve never known anywhere else.
“I’ve been so lucky to meet some really beautiful and intelligent girls whilst I’ve been stripping, and I always say a good stripper is a smart one.”
As for the clientele at Rude, she explained “there’s no such thing as one kind of customer”.
“We have groups of guys on stag do’s, lads weekends, just some local lads who are on a night out, people travelling to Liverpool for business, football tourists, couples, lesbian women, straight women who are just curious – the lot!
“There certainly isn’t any such thing as a standard customer demographic.”
Another woman, who said stripping has completely changed her life as she was “depressed and in and out of debt this time last year”, told Express.co.uk: “I love my job.
“The girls are in control the entire time. Nothing happens that you don’t want to. If anyone starts acting up, they’re dealt with.
“Also, the way the stage is elevated, when you’re on the pole you feel on top of the world.
“It’s very empowering.”
She explained that she enjoys talking about her job with people who have no idea what being a stripper entails, adding that she has a plethora of memorable anecdotes from just the past year alone.
One of her favourites? “I was doing a VIP with a South African guy once who had a toe missing. Turned out he was family friends with Steve Irwin and when he was younger, Steve passed him a baby crocodile to get a picture with but he was only four at the time, so he dropped it and it bit off his big toe.
“I thought this was a big elaborate lie until he showed me the picture.”
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