A Woman’s Story

Author: Erin Louis

Dirty Money: Memoirs of a Stripper sounds like a salacious read, but in truth, it’s more of a life story than a sex filled, dingy club romp. Erin comes forward with her story for a purpose: to disprove the stereotype that all strippers are maladjusted, drug addled, and used by the men whom they entertain. It’s not entirely successful, since Erin constantly refers to herself as the exception and talks of distrusting and disliking other strippers due to their behavior, drug dependencies, and lifestyle.

But let’s take a step back for the moment. I came to this book from my Facebook pole dancing group. Pole dancing in recent years has become quite the fitness rage, but it still engenders a certain misconception, since it does have its roots in the world of stripping (thus the heels). In my pole group, someone was looking for books about pole dancing and dancers and this one was recommended.

Surprisingly, though, Erin only mentions the pole briefly as something she did not like. She was not into pole tricks, like the other girls, and instead used more of her charisma by chatting with lonely customers. The rest of her stripping life, including the ins and outs, is largely hidden as well. We hear a bit about the talk, a bit about the heels (sadly, not enough), but mostly Erin is sharing her thoughts and feelings and her story and not revealing anything about the intricacies of a career in adult entertainment. It’s kind of disappointing. Other than a humorous bit about forgetting to check her nether regions for toilet paper before a fully nude black light dance, most of the stripper life remains distinctly background. No secrets are revealed, and very little of the learning to dance (pole or otherwise) is mentioned.

Erin also starts at the beginning of her life – her childhood. From here, we learn that this story is not what the title proclaims – a stripper’s story. This is a woman’s story, a woman who happens to strip sometimes (in between dead-end jobs that she sabotages.) What we learn is that Erin, despite her self-esteem issues about her looks, disrupts her stripping career a lot too. Despite her claim that strippers are just as well adjusted as the every-woman (or man), she proves quite otherwise and even admits, continually, that her own rebellious nature gets her in trouble. Erin is filled with rage and hates authority and being told what to do. In a job about charm, this can be a plus with some customers and a distinct negative with managers who want their cut and have their rules. Erin claims to have gotten away with a lot of attitude, though, because she stayed clean. I wonder….

Image by Julia Zimmel from Pixabay

Erin also starts to delve into the world of religion, another surprising side story for a book ostensibly about stripping. We learn about the deaths and tragedies in Erin’s life and the lives of those around her that impact her worldview, making our fiery red-headed hero even more bitter and independent. It isn’t a worldview I, myself, hold or one that I agree with, despite the trauma Erin described, but I appreciated the author’s vulnerability and wiliness to share. Another reason that “stripper” should be removed from the title and the focus be put on memoir, because this is one woman’s complete story covering every aspect of her life, not just her job.

We also get to know Erin’s accident-prone husband, a man with a seeming death wish. We watch as the system judges Erin when she has her first child, insisting on an illegal after birth blood test, following up on the assumption that a stripper would be a bad mother, ignoring prenatal care and taking drugs. There’s a lot of social commentary here and moments where the readers root for Erin, or at least feel sorry for her.

However . . . there are other moments. Erin is nothing if not honest, and her jealousy and rebellion sometimes make her a challenging person to follow. When discussing how the strippers are not used by the system and the men they entertain, she takes on a certain cruelty, noting that it was the strippers themselves who use the men. The reversal is meant to be empowering, but her talk of using people, deliberately lying for money, reduced her in my estimation.

In one story, Erin and another girl do not get along. This other girl has a spider that she likes (I know, weird). Said spider hangs out in a window on its web every day, and the girl and her friend talk to it and about it. Erin, being jealous, quits her job, and then sneaks outside, finding and killing the spider. Call me a bleeding heart, but this made me so sad. It’s animal abuse. What did the poor spider ever do? It was just living its life. I can’t stand cruelty to any animal, and there was no need to harm much less kill an innocent creature.

Image by Victoria from Pixabay

Erin’s anti-God nature also did not appeal to me. While she has her reasons for her bitterness, it becomes brash and in your face at times, the anger putting another wall between the audience and the woman with whom we want to connect. Indeed, there is a lot of anger and bitterness, wrapped together with a pride that can be off-putting at times, and sarcastically amusing at others.

Overall, Dirty Money: The Memoir of a Stripper is both more and less than its name. It’s not really about stripping, the job or the culture. Instead, it’s a jumbled but entertaining memoir that just so happens to occasionally mention stripping and dancing. It’s an interesting story, but not what I expected, and it doesn’t really reveal anything about this “naughty job” despite the write-up. It’s ok, but not fantastic.

Also, in the cover picture of the book, where are the woman’s arms? I spent way too much time trying to figure this out, and it bothers me.

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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