Thursday, May 9, 2013

Book Review: Think Like a Stripper: Business Lessons to Up Your Confidence, Attract More Clients & Rule Your Market

To say the least, Erika Lyremark, author of Think Like a Stripper: Business Lessons to Up Your Confidence, Attract More Clients & Rule Your Market, is witty and funny and has a unique business brand. Regardless of what someone may think of the book title, the essence of the book is giving helpful, insightful business tips on selling, money, hustling, delegating, being productive and a whole lot more.

My favorite tips address some of the more important issues in business and in living life such as being our authentic selves, handling rejection and dealing with failure.

In full disclosure, I have hired Erika as a business coach and participated in two of her programs. So no doubt I am biased in appreciating her fun and direct style of coaching.

While I recognize that this book is about business techniques with stripper stories incorporated into the lessons (have I said that Erika’s branding is unique?), I cannot review this book without looking through the lens of my work as a sexuality educator and writer.

Erika does a good job in the introduction and throughout the book of explaining why she chose the title, what led her to do nine years of stripping, what were the valuable lessons she learned and what were some of the more difficult parts of having that job.

My sexuality education work gives me one of the most important lenses through which I read this book. Erika admits in the book that stripping is a job most people would never do. I too have had a job that most people would never do.

One of the things I have done for money is let future doctors, nurses and chiropractors practice breast and pelvic exams on my body, teaching them how to do the technique so that it will not be painful to future patients and also teaching them the importance of skills like communication, sensitivity, being nonjudgmental and showing respect.

Before and after my five years of experience working as what is called in some parts of the country a gynecological teaching associate, I have done sexuality education on a range of topics. I’ve educated people on unlearning homophobia, biphobia and sexphobia for five years. I’ve presented on the importance of self-pleasuring, healing the entire body and looking at pleasure, touch, intimacy and sexuality as being complex.

I have always asked questions as a part of my work in trying to delve into solving some of the complex sexuality problems that exist in the United States. In one workshop, I even included dying as well as sexuality when exploring the concept of consent in how we live all parts of our lives.

In particular, my experience as a gynecological teaching associate got me asking even deeper questions. What did it mean that I got paid money to let people touch my genitals? When did it feel most respectful, and when did it not feel respectful?

Soon I was asking questions such as: How was my letting future doctors and nurses practice pelvic exams on me similar to or different from sex work? And what was sex work anyway?

These questions led me to present at a conference for sex workers. I also presented at a conference held by the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance in Washington, D.C., an organization that supports a range of sexual freedom issues, including sex workers’ rights.

So, from all of these perspectives, the part of Erika Lyremark’s book that resonated the most with me was Stripper Tip #65: Don’t strip off the clock. She writes (p. 121):

But the one thing I didn’t like was the expectation that I would act like a stripper outside the club.
            At work, indulging someone’s fantasy was my job. Period. Outside of work, I was college-bound, book-loving Erika. I was not a topless exhibition waiting to happen and I was not pleased when strange men at a party would ask me for a dance.

These are the topics I talk about the most in my sexuality education work: the importance of honesty, respect, consent and the fact that it does not matter as much what we do or say as how we do it or say it.

I’ve learned about what is important after years of searching for answers to our serious sexuality problems in the United States, which include incest; rape; HIV/STIs; unplanned pregnancies; relationship problems and problems with intimacy; touch deprivation; discomfort with the body, emotions and sexuality; the lack of pleasure in our society and difficulty in experiencing orgasm.

It does not matter to me if someone exchanges sex for money. What matters to me is that there is respect, consent and dignity in every situation. It does not matter to me if someone is a stripper, exotic dancer or burlesque performer, or takes their clothes off in public for an audience or for money. What matters to me is that there is respect, consent and dignity in every situation. It does not matter to me what someone wears or if someone is in touch with sensuality or eroticism or sexuality in how they express themselves in the world. What matters to me is that we find a way to treat each other with respect in all situations—at home, at work, out in the street, at social gatherings, in relationships and in dating.

It does not matter to me if I am talking about sex and sexuality publicly or in my writings or undergoing pelvic exams for money. What matters is that I am shown respect.

I am a sexuality educator. I know that sometimes we start at zero with learning these skills of communication and respect and how to manage intimacy and consent in all parts of our lives. I find myself talking to people at bus stops, at temporary jobs and at parties because I feel so passionate about these issues. So it does not matter to me if someone needs to learn these skills from scratch or whether we make mistakes when trying to have fun and find love, sex and intimacy in our lives. What does matter to me is that we have an intention to learn, grow and do our best. We need to show respect and have consent in all situations in and out of the stripper club.

Stripping may have been mostly a job for Erika Lyremark, as she makes clear over and over in the book: her purpose for doing it was to make money. However, as a sexuality educator trying to solve some of the most serious sexuality problems in the United States, I will go on record as saying that I support people doing what they choose for work and money as long as it is consensual. The problem is not sex work or stripping or an exchange of money for sex or for anything else, including business coaching. The problem is when people feel they can be disrespectful for any reason.

Think Like a Stripper is officially for sale!

Copyright 2013 by Susan Miranda.  All rights reserved.  No part of this writing may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright holder. For reprint permission, email