I Was a Stripper Librarian
Publication date: July 30th 2021
Genres: Adult, Memoir
No one at the library she worked at knew about Kristy Cooper’s other job.
On the surface, it seem that being a librarian and a stripper are polar opposite jobs, but in practice Kristy found that they were not nearly as different as most people would think. Strip club customers and library patrons both produce wild stories, and you have to be good at working with people in both professions (whether your clothes are off or not).
In this first-hand account, Kristy describes her decision to get into stripping to make her student loan debt more manageable, overcome her introversion to learn how to hustle customers, learn about sex worker advocacy, and finally transition into full-time library work. For years Kristy hid her stripping history to fit into the mold of a respectable librarian, but as time went on she realized this wasn’t something she should feel ashamed about. Telling these kinds of stories helps destigmatize sex work, which makes it safer for current sex workers.
Librarianship is changing, especially as the profession begins to evaluate itself through a greater anti-oppression lens. Librarians can learn a lot about class struggle and privacy advocacy from sex workers.
I got involved with a former stripper before I ever became one myself.
Lillian had gorgeous long red hair, tattoos, and wore glasses. She was working as a barista at a coffee shop in my college town, Champaign, IL. I was twenty-three and finishing off a year of fucking around partying before moving to Ann Arbor to pursue a Master of Science in Information at the University of Michigan.
One day, I went into her coffee shop and, as I often did when ordering things, I became annoyingly indecisive about what I wanted. “I want a green tea, or wait, maybe a chai… I think I’m hungry… I’m sorry I’m wasting your time.”
Lillian just looked at me coyly. “Don’t worry about it. I don’t have anywhere else to be.” I smiled and felt more at ease as she winked.
I finally picked a chai and enjoyed the feeling as her gaze lingered on mine while she handed it to me. Then another customer popped up behind me, and I realized I had to move along, but I knew I wanted to see her again.
Later, I found out from mutual friends that she was newly single and, like me, was hitting the bars like a fiend. We formally met when our friend groups started coalescing at all the local watering holes. After our drinking group finally reached critical mass, we declared ourselves a girl gang, named ourselves Pussy Control, after the Prince song, and convinced ourselves that we were a serious force to be reckoned with. Most guys quickly learned not to mess with us, because we would cackle at them or mock their ridiculous attempts to approach us. We were not the toughest or most organized gang ever, but we did at least manage to decrease the number of random guys hitting on us.
Maybe Lillian’s risqué past was part of what drew me to her. I don’t know. I had never thought there was anything wrong with stripping, but like most people, it was something I didn’t think I would ever do. At the same time though, I was intrigued with her previous job and wondered what it was like to do something considered so socially deviant and potentially stigmatizing. I had actually done sex work before, but it was working as a dominatrix one summer in Chicago. That kind of work had its own stigma, but there was no audience, I didn’t have to get naked, and I also didn’t have to be nice.
Lillian would tell me about the stage and the pole tricks that would leave calluses on her hands. There were her quirky customers, like the man that just wanted her to sit still like a doll on his lap while he spoke to her. She explained how different customers liked different looks for their strippers and how she avoided working at clubs that only featured what she considered Barbie look-alikes. Lillian described living in Baltimore and how she would walk around half-naked all night, make good money, and then go home to her apartment. It sounded so normal, like being a waitress who happened to forget to put the rest of her clothes on.
Kristy Cooper is a librarian single mom in Michigan. In her spare time, she fights politicians for libraries and will eventually get around to finishing writing her YA series.
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