Click! A College Grad Strips on Bourbon Street

I was dancing in a G-string and pasties when I first realized I was a feminist. Backtrack: I was a young woman experimenting with the boundaries of freedom. It was the sexual revolution, the time after Roe v. Wade and before AIDS, and there was enormous confusion about what it meant to be free.

I met a lover with whom I discovered mutually gratifying sex. We took off in a potato-chip truck on a journey to the southern U.S. and on to California. I was sure I’d be back in the East Coast within weeks. I have never gone back, except to visit.

On our way out west, my lover and I landed broke in the Big Easy–New Orleans. So I was intrigued walking down Bourbon Street to see this sign outside a club: HIRING EXOTIC DANCERS.

I was exotic; I hadn’t shaved anything on my body in three years. I had dark, curly hair, almond eyes and a distinctly “ethnic” appearance. I had been in dance class since I was little. This must be the job for me.

The owner hired me, told me to shave everything but my head, gave me a ratty, red peignoir set and filthy, red high heels and told me where to purchase my own pasties and G-string. I was a little concerned. Still, I shaved: legs, underarms, pubic area. It was itchy, but I needed money.

It soon dawned on me that the job was not going to involve my Martha Graham training. I had to quickly get my peignoir off and hop around on the narrow bar. This was annoying, but not the real problem. The revolution broke out inside me between dancing chores, when I was forced to serve drinks to the customers.

One poor schnook assumed that any stripper was available to service him.

HE: “I’ll have a bourbon, and a piece of what you got under them pasties.”

ME: “Hey asshole, I’m not a whore, I’m a college graduate!”

HE: “Well shit howdy! You sure look like you’re for sale.”

ME: “Did you even go to college?”

HE: “Yeah, I went to U-FUCK-ME!”

I was still screaming that I was a Brandeis graduate as I was fired. My eight-hour career as a Bourbon Street stripper was over.

Today, I write documentaries about the Taliban and about untested rape kits in the U.S. I write plays that pose complex questions about where women (and men) are in 2011.

There are women who have led me past despair at the world’s treatment of half the population. And there are women who I find mean, venal, self-hating. We are after all, people. And I am, after all, a feminist. Proud. Unstoppable. Clear about my path. Bourbon Street is still with me after all these years.

This post is a part of a week-long blog carnival in honor of Feminist Coming Out Day.

Photo of Bourbon Street sign from Wikimedia Commons


  1. Wait, I thought "whores" were allowed to go to college too?

  2. As a self-described "whore" in several aspects of my life, I take slight offense at your derogatory position regarding us. I may not be emancipated, but I know an opportune use of my time when it raises its needy head. Seems that you do also, answering your call to be a stripper. That being said girl, I love your adventurous spirit… I love the way that you write about it… and I love that your epiphany came when serving up drinks and not when serving up your body, if only in dance. Keep writing, sister. I'm sure that there are more potato chip trucks in your past, and I want to read about them.

  3. Nancy B Rubin says:

    As Susan's sister I can testify to the truth of this story. I've known about this episode in her adventurous life for years. We don't talk about it often, it isn't a particularly comfortable story for her tell and I am extremely proud of her for finding the strength and courage to share it. I remember the potato chip truck stopping to visit me on its way west, and the lover who was travelling with Susan. I'm nine years older than Susan and my adventures in life have been quite different I doubt that I would ever have had the courage to try to be an exotic dancer. Eight hours was enough and it should be enough for any woman to drive her away from the work and the sleazebags who run such places and who the lost lonely men who end up patronizing them. It took her eight hours to figure out what was wrong with that scene and change direction. I only hope that more women can learn that fast and can reach out as Susan has across class lines to find ways to express is feminism, humanity and generosity.
    Thanks, Susan, love you, Nancy

  4. I am withh Kendra in wanting to hear more of those stories. We all need to hear those beautifully poignant stories told with humor, and you do it so masterfully. Keep on truckin'..somina

  5. Debbie Lahlor says:

    how shocking; dirtbags in a strip club. did you think he would ask you your thoughts on Foucault?

  6. Hmmm…what drove Susan from the club in question was not the sex part but serving up drinks.

    That doesn’t sound like an indictment of strip clubs but of being a waitress.

  7. Your story made me tear up with pride!

  8. Susan please watch “The Scarlet Road” and don’t judge sex workers so. She had her Masters and was planning on going for her Ph.D. Prostitution is legalised here. Men and women who choose this path are entitled to the same protection that any other legal workers have.

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