Episode 25: A former exotic dancer reflects on the power of stripping and unionizing

Jenny Worley, Author of Neon Girls

Jennifer Worley

This week we have an interview with author and professor Jennifer Worley, who recently published a memoir called Neon Girls: A Stripper’s Education in Protest and Power.

It’s intriguing anytime you get a peek into a somewhat private, secretive world. But this isn’t just any stripper or any strip club. We’re talking about the Lusty Lady in the grunge-era ‘90s where there was a small but important revolution happening. The Lusty Lady was known as sort of a feminists’ strip club. They allowed things like piercings and tattoos, while other clubs didn’t allow such things. They encouraged a range of body types, not just the blond bombshell archetype. There also were no lap dances, which as you’ll read in the book really differentiated the Lusty Lady from other clubs in terms of the vibe of the place as well as the relationships between the dancers.

Despite its plusses, there were also some inequities and, alarmingly, hidden cameras discovered at the Lusty Lady. When management didn’t address their concerns, Jennifer and a cohort of her fellow strippers started a union. And they didn’t stop there, they went on to buy out the whole club and became the first worker-owned strip club. They were basically a stripper co-op and the story of how they did it is fascinating.

Both highly personal and searingly political, Neon Girls: A Stripper’s Education in Protest and Power is a thinking woman’s exploration of sex work, labor, and collective power. It’s also a page-turner! I honestly could not put it down.

Jennifer went on to become an English professor, and she continued her labor-activism continued later in life as President of the faculty union at City College San Francisco.

I loved this conversation with Jennifer and I hope you do too!

As always, if you would like to be on the show, or know someone who would be great, please hit me up!

Audio editing by Sofija Jovanov.

Relevant links:

Jenny Worley

Neon Girls: A Stripper’s Education in Protest and Power

City College San Francisco

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