Ava Hennessey Interviews Me
I can’t begin to explain how excited I was to interview Elle Stanger for the blog. I’ve been an Instagram follower and podcast listener for a few years now and If this is your first introduction, I can promise you that you’re in for a treat!
How long have you been stripping for and how did you start?
I auditioned for my first club on June 12th, 2009, and I’ve been working 5-3 shifts a week since then, taking off only six months to have my daughter in 2011-2012. Stripping and working in the club is a huge part of my person at this point, which is interesting when you factor in all of the constant stigma and social obstacles to the job. I studied the MySpace accounts of clubs in the area, because many of them did not have websites yet, and I went to one that looked less imposing, with a smaller staff and more freedom to choose our own music and attire. I got stuck in my underwear while trying to take it off because I hadn’t considered that thigh highs shouldn’t fasten on top of your britches. New girl stuff that I have since figured out. I didn’t know how to pole dance yet and hadn’t ever touched one, but I had practiced some poses and had a background in ballet and modern dance. I thought I did terrible, but I made $7 in tips and was on the schedule the next week.
You seem like a busy lady, how do you manage juggling mom life and being an entrepreneur?
I get really frustrated when I don’t have projects, art, creations, or movement in my life. I remember asking my mother, “Do you ever feel like you get depressed when you don’t have something to look forward to?” She seemed surprised at my odd question, but years later and after all of the ADD/ADHD information that we have gleaned, I’m pretty sure that I function best when juggling multiple balls. Pun not intended, ha! Although I must give credit and acknowledgement to my ex-husband who is the father of our child, because he is an excellent co-parenting and support, and his childcare frees up my ability to tackle these endeavors and to work more.
Do you feel that other parents judge you for being a sex worker? If so, how do you deal with it?
A woman once told me via Facebook that, “you’re going to give your child HIV from kissing them” — which isn’t possible, but also knows the intense fear and ignorance that surrounds contact work relating to sexuality. I’ve also been asked many times, “how would you feel if your daughter grew up to be a whore like you?” to which I truly believe that I will not be concerned as long as her work is chosen, lucrative, and on her own terms, which is more than many parents can hope for in our current state of imperialist capitalism. I began hosting a podcast called “Strange Bedfellows” to talk about the industry and how it intersects with politics and society so that I could combat my frustration, and also to offer support and ideas to the rest of “us” who don’t usually see ourselves represented, or represented well.
Can you tell us a bit about ‘Slut Walk’?
Slutwalk is an international movement against sexual assault and victim blaming that began in Toronto Canada in March 2011. A Canadian cop was speaking to a group of college students when he stated, “women can avoid being raped if they would stop dressing like sluts”. This statement is flawed and inaccurate for many reasons, and a worldwide movement against this line of thinking began. I have been a co-organizer of Portland Slutwalk since 2014. Slutwalk is unique in each participating locale of the world, and we here in PDX focus on addressing the peoples who often are ignored when we talk about sexual assault — these people are sex workers, queer folks and homeless youth, trans folks, and of course People of Color. We host guest speakers and resource tables, give away sex-positive prizes, and march peacefully in downtown Portland.
What advice would you give someone thinking about a career in stripping?
Keep your day job, if you have one. I get a lot of messages from young women who ask me this, and they usually preface it with a desire to leave their current place of work. I understand having a shitty job and being compelled by the piles of money pics that you see posted on Instagram, but I know strippers who leave a night shift with $30 after six hours of very physical and emotionally stressful work. Try your hand at sex work or adult entertainment, but don’t rely on “easy money”. I do well because I have actively promoted myself in a secure club environment, not everyone is so fortunate to have the privileges that I do.
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself?
I’ve never done cocaine, or smoked a cigarette. Caffeine and weed is enough for me. Which, as I was just saying about privileges, is partly because I’m fortunate to live in a region where coffee is good and cannabis has been legalized.
Are you working on any interesting projects at the moment?
I just wrapped schooling through a sex educator’s program, and I’m continuing my education in order to appeal my graduate status to a higher certification in the sex educator world. So I’m learning how to teach sexual health and healthy function to people of ages 18-65+. I’m learning how many of us have inherited shame from culture that prevents us from being honest about our bodies or how they function. Otherwise, I will most likely be hosting “#Thanksstripping” on the Friday after Tofurkey Day at my local club, this is my yearly event where all stage tips from that shift are donated to a charity. And yes, I am still doing private dances for my own funds that night, because momma’s gotta put food on the table.