Sexuality. Terrifying concept for many. Exciting, erotic, and sensual domain ripe for exploration to others. Today, more and more college women are finding a source of income through the sex industry, whether it is in a gentleman’s club or in front of a web cam. There are many misconceptions about the sex industry, where people often look down on those who willingly engage in sexual acts to pay bills. While I believe that sex trafficking is a horrible occurrence that needs to be stopped and it unfortunately linked to the sex industry, there are many women who are of age and who choose to be in it for their own reasons. Sex worker advocates are fighting for their rights while simultaneously fighting to end sex trafficking and sexual abuse against workers. According to a study by Dr. Teela Sanders and Dr. Kate Hardy entitled “The Regulatory Dance: Sexual Consumption in the Night Time Economy,” One in three women are dancing (stripping) to put themselves through college. According to an article published by Sam Greenspan entitled “11 Eye-Opening Statistics About Strippers,” one in eight dancers get health benefits and one out ten strippers are married. Many of these women believe that dancing is a legit form of work, and many of them are able to support their families and pay their bills. The sex industry is a complicated structure, so I decided to go out and try to learn more about it from different points of views.
On June 1st, I traveled to the Clarion Hotel on North Boulevard to attend Richmond’s first ever Adult Expo. This expo featured adult actors and actresses, featured dancers, adult novelty companies and much more. Upon arriving to the designated spot, I was pleased to find that this expo showcased more than just firm abs and twerkin’ butts (but there were plenty of those).
The venue was clean and boasted a great sound system, a bar in the public venue and a bar in the VIP area. It was filled with bustling and eager Richmonders, excited to bear witness to this iconic event. Some of the vendors there were Inked Angels, Bedroom Kandi, Condommania and so much more. The expo also boosted special appearances made by adult film stars Roxy Reynolds, Richelle Ryan and Courtney Cummz. There was representation from the gentleman’s clubs Pure Pleasure and Richard’s Rendezvous. I was also able to speak with male dancer Forbidden and have a fantastic and enlightening discussion with the President of Anastasis International Mission, a faith based organization devoted to ending modern-day slavery and to empower young women through their message of love and acceptance. I was a little disappointed to learn that the health group that was scheduled to come had not shown up, and that the expo was smaller than I expected, but all in all was a fun and eye-opening event.
I was able to sit down and discuss the message of the group Anastasis International Mission with the President and Co-founder Darla Strickland. The group had a part of the hall decked out with pink cloth everywhere and flowers and fruits in almost every direction. The group offered a foot wash to any exotic dancers as well as a gift basket filled with cute accessories. They wanted to ensure that these women who work in these types of places for any reason at all were to feel compassion and to know that they were not judged. Darla explained to me that they had been overseas to countries like Cambodia and Thailand to help put an end to human trafficking. They have teamed up with other organizations to try and fight the atrocity that is modern day human slavery. Here in Richmond, they try to go to various strip clubs to talk to the women working there and to ensure them that there will always be people who are willing to help and listen to them if they need it. Ms. Strickland told me that they want these women to know that they are loved and they don’t need judgment. She wants them to know that there is hope. She went on to say that sometimes in this particular life style, women get certain truths torn away from them, such as that they are worthy of compassion and respect and love. They are here to remind them that they definitely deserve it.
This is the first the organization has done anything on this kind of level (being at the expo). These women, who are part of Anastasis, love God and are here to spread His message.
“We’re women who come from real situations. These ladies need to be encouraged. It saddens me that this (helping out exotic dancers) is considered unusual. I don’t think it should be. We are developing a mentoring program right now. We know it is not easy transitioning (for the dancers). We want to empower them. They have to want it,” said Darla Strickland.
Anastasis mean to “Rise Up.” Some of these women’s lives need to rise again.
Their mission follows four pillars:
These ladies are kind, warm, compassionate and willing to help and listen to any woman who needs assistance. I am so happy I was able to meet them.
I was able to sit down and speak with some of the employees of Pure Pleasure, a gentleman’s club located near Midlothian.
Ginger, one of the managers at Pure Pleasure
Why did you decide to come out the expo today? Because we want to be with the people that support our industry. I think this is a good thing for Richmond.
How do you feel about the people who wanted to stop this (the expo) from happening? I feel that they are not being reasonable. At this expo, we’re able to let people express themselves. The expo should have cheaper tickets!
Kat, a dancer at Pure Pleasure
Why did you decide to come out to the expo today? To promote the club!
How do you feel about the people who wanted to stop this (the expo) from happening? I think that if they don’t like, they don’t have to be involved with it. It’s harmless. It’s absolutely fun.
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I was also able to interview an extremely charming and handsome male dancer that goes by the name of Forbidden.
Forbidden, Dancer for GHM
Mr. Forbidden has danced all over the world and I had the deepest pleasure of meeting and briefly interviewing him.
Why did you decide to come out to the expo today? The people here had invited me. I wanted to come out today so the ladies can have something to look at.
How did you feel about the people who wanted to stop this (the expo) from happening? To each their own. If you want to experience this, you should. No one should dictate what someone wants to do. Everyone should get this type of exposure when they want to do it.
I had the opportunity to interview adult actress, Richelle Ryan
Why did you decide to come out to the expo today? Been in this business for 7 years. I had to show my support for RVA.
How did you feel about the people who wanted to stop this (the expo) from happening? It’s 2013, it’s time to open up. Richmond is going to new heights (with expressing sexuality) and it’s really cool.
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I was able to speak with the expo’s coordinator and marketing manager, Anthony Mijares
Why did you decide to help make this expo happen? I thought it was a great idea. This type of thing needs to happen in Richmond. We need to open up RVA’s eyes. Things are changing, the newer generation is coming up.
What do you hope to gain?
This was my goal. Next year we want to put on something bigger and better. This (the expo) is our stepping stone, our foundation.
This was a friendly dancer from Richard’s Rendezvous.
As I wandered around the expo, clutching my notebook against my body, my oh-so innocent eyes saw bunches of people, friendly and open, laughing and dancing, taking pictures with the variety of celebrities that had come out to the exposition. There were also orgasm and twerking contests. I was enjoying free food in the VIP room during one of the orgasm contests, but I got to enjoy and cheer on the contestants for the twerking contest. Speaking with several workers in the industry, I have learnt that many of these adult actresses and dancers have either graduated from college or are currently attending school. They are business men and women in their own right. They deserve to have their careers be seen as legitimate work, instead of socially taboo actions. In a society with messed up view of sex, I believe it is a time for many to open their eyes and educated themselves on sexuality and what it means to different people. If sexuality is someone one prefers to be kept private and more conservative, that person has that right. The same goes for those who choose to flaunt it openly; sexuality should not and is not a black and white concept. I hope more people will become more open to an idea of embracing all sorts of jobs in this type of industry, as long as everything is consensual and legal. I hope to see this event become an annual celebration.