May 19, 2014 -- Maggie is a straight-laced, straight-A student studying to become an international affairs lawyer, who will graduate debt-free all thanks to the unusual way she pays her tuition.
Maggie, 23, a double-major in Spanish and political science, is a student by day and a stripper by night.
Every other weekend, Maggie, who asked that her last name not be used, takes the three-hour ride from her college in Maryland to Manhattan, where she performs at a dance club called Scores.
“I have a class that ends at 5:30, hop on a bus at 6:00, and be at work by 8:30,” Maggie said.
Maggie is part of a new generation of women putting themselves through college by taking their clothes off, and they are unapologetic about it.
“This takes a lot of brains,” Maggie said. “A girl can be really pretty and not make any money in this field, or she cannot be pretty and make a lot of money because so much of it is about interpersonal skills.”
Maggie is one of 24 women at Scores who are putting themselves through school and stripping to make as much money as possible before they get their diplomas. A fellow dancer, who asked to be called "Jade," is also a college student in New York, studying for five finals, who strips to pay for school.
“When I grow up, I’m hoping to become a forensic psychologist for the judicial system,” she said.
One thing these young women would agree on is that they only have a few years to work as strippers, which is why they are taking advantage of what some now call the G-string scholarship.
With college tuition bills up to $60,000 a year, today’s grads are often saddled with crushing debt. Economists say student loan debt is slowing down our economy because young adults can’t afford to pay the cost of college.
But Maggie found a solution, working just four nights a week. She said she makes $180,000 a year stripping, and she will actually take a pay cut when she becomes a lawyer.
“[People] assume that we’re damaged and it’s like, no, we just want to make three times the amount of money we’re going to make when we graduate, before we graduate,” Maggie said. “That’s why I’m trying to save now.”
But her decision to strip to paying down her college debt is not always met with enthusiasm.
“My parents, when they found out, were totally horrified,” Maggie said, acknowledging that stripping isn’t be the biggest resume booster.
“[My mom] always tells me to be really careful about what I post online,” she said. “[But] I think that I wouldn’t want to work anywhere that would judge me based on [stripping]… and I think that times are changing.”
Maggie admits that there are times when she feels degraded in her line of work when some of the male clients at Scores are disrespectful.
“I’ve had guys try and do all kinds of crazy things,” she said. “They don’t view us as women sometimes. They think that we are degrading ourselves by doing this job at all so they don’t have a problem degrading us further.”
Nonetheless, Maggie said stripping affords her the precious time to study, and she can make more in one night at the club than working 40 hours a week waiting tables.
“I have felt so much more disrespected as a waitress than I’ve ever felt as a dancer and it is constant,” Maggie said. “You get disrespect from management, you get disrespect from customers, you get disrespect from everyone because your job is to serve them and in [stripping], your job is to accompany them, to entertain them. It’s glamorous.”
Even still, Maggie said she sometimes get the cold shoulder those who know what she does for work. Unlike male strippers, whose chiseled bodies make them seem like “semi-gods,” Maggie said, there is a double standard with female strippers because they are seen “as sluts.”
Dino, who asked that his last name not be used, said his good looks and love of performing are two reasons why he turned to stripping. Another reason: he too is a college student with loans to pay. Dino, 21, who attends college in New Jersey and studies international trade and transportation, is a performer at New York City’s Hunk-o-Mania, but one of the few in college.
“I started doing this just to pay for the books,” he said. “Then I realized how much I could make from this, and just as a part-time job, it’s great.”
And, unlike Maggie who might be shunned for her line of work, Dino said his buddies lauded him when they discovered his extra-curricular activity.
“My friends think it’s awesome. They say, ‘oh I wish I could do that.’ They really admire that I do it,” he said.
The double standard issue doesn’t seem to bother a female performer named “Egypt,” an 18-year-old working towards a degree in criminal justice, Egypt performs at Show Palace, a club in Queens, N.Y., and said she started dancing after reading about Belle Knox, the Duke University student who suffered backlash on campus after she went public about doing porn to pay for college.
“I was thinking about dancing,” Egypt said. “I totally wasn’t for it and then I read a part of an interview about Knox in a Rolling Stone magazine and I’m like, dude she’s 18 and doing porn why not? Why not me become a stripper? So that’s exactly when I decided to call up Show Palace.”
Egypt met Knox one night when the Duke porn star came into her club. The two chatted and when Egypt told Knox she was stripping to pay for school, and Knox said her dream was to be a lawyer.
“There are many of us working hard to go to college,” Egypt said. “Doing this means proving to people that strippers aren’t always the stereotypical slut. We work hard, even if it is showing our bodies. We work hard. We are about our business.”
Maggie sees a distinction between doing porn and stripping. The lawyer-in-training said she sees herself as an entertainer, not a sex worker, though she acknowledged that her work feeds into the same sex-crazed culture.
“When I’m dancing on the stage and it’s athletic and artful, but I’m naked, and I’m naked for a reason,” she said. “It can be sexual without sex.”