The first time I ever took my clothes off onstage was for charity at Halloqueen 2, in support of the AIDS Committee of Ottawa and the Village Initiative Project. The events organizer, Glenn Crawford, was having trouble wrangling male volunteers to perform amateur burlesque, and emboldened by the fact that I had been hitting the gym regularly at the time with a personal trainer, I said yes when asked.
I remember trying to calm my nerves beforehand by drinking Smirnoff Ice, and juggling with finesse the attentions of two men I had been secretively simultaneously dating, who both showed up to support me unannounced. I remember little about the actual performance though, other than trying to not make eye contact with the crowd, and remembering to hit my marks, and as the music died down and the applause rose, I swore I would never do something like that again. That is, until seven months later when I organized my own amateur burlesque show to raise money to help fight cancer….
I have never been so much a sexual person I think, as I have been sexualized. Years working as a bartender in a gay bar taught me how to harness sexual attention, commodify it, and talk about sex in a positive way that grossly overemphasised my own interest in the actual carnal act of fucking. Like Boy George once famously said, I’d rather have a cup of tea. But like anyone else, I do have some base sexual needs, and stripping turned out to be bit of a revelation in that respect.
I had unwittingly discovered that night up on stage a medium that was ideal for shameless cockteases like myself! People who had little interest in following up their sexual suggestion with action, but who still craved at least some sexual validation and expression! I got to be creative, have fun, and live and preach my values in a public forum that showed I didn’t just talk the talk, I walked the walk of sex-positivity. I felt like a sexual rebel, a sexual educator, and a valued member of my community all rolled up into one! Every time I stripped or performed terribly amateurish burlesque on stage I found it empowering! When I could overcome my own body fascism, I found I really enjoyed the art of Burlesque and entertaining people onstage!
Inspired by reading Tits And Sass ’s Stripper Music Mondays posts, and my own love of mix-tape culture, I decided I wanted to compile my own stripper/burlesque music mix-tape to share with all of my lovely HIV+ readers, fellow Go-Go boys, Burlesque stars, and closeted bedroom mirror strippers in honour of the upcoming International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers on December 17th.
Of course none of these suggestions will ever replace strip club staples like “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails or anything by Peaches, but hopefully everyone reading will discover a new song or two for their next stint on the pole! As for my next appearance on stage half dressed? Look for me at this years Mister Leather Ottawa on November 13th as part of a fetish wear fashion show in support of the AIDS Committee of Ottawa!
Michael’s Stripper Music Mix-Tape Playlist
The Faint "Erection": The first song I ever stripped too. It’s sexually explicit, comically masculine, and this erection is only 2:45 minutes long , which means you won’t find yourself up on stage for what might feel like forever. Trust me. For your first time pick a short song!
Ween “The HIV Song” : Love using this song to promote discussions of sex and STI’s!
K's Choice "Not An Addict": A love song about heroin featuring some very sexy humming.
The Tea Party "Release (Radio Mix) [Alt Version]" : Slow songs are a dangerous game, especially for a rank amateur like myself. When I’ve performed to this song in the past, I’ve enlisted help, made it theatrical, and usually referenced some S&M themes.
Duran Duran "Come Undone": A failsafe classic. Remember your crowd might be multi-generational. It’s always good to pick a song many will know.
Xiu Xiu "Only Girl (In The World)": Sometimes throwing in an indie rock track sets you up nicely for conversations with the patrons later. They’ll stop and ask you, what was that great song you just performed too, and you’ll share with them what a hipster you are, maybe write the name of the song down for them, and the next thing your dragging them to the Champagne Room or collecting a donation for the cause you’re promoting. Score!
Lykke Li “Get Some (Beck Remix)”: It’s all in the lyrics.
To learn more about sex work and how you can get involved in your neck of the woods supporting International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers on December 17th, be sure to visit P.O.W.E.R., the Turn Off The Blue Light Campaign and St. James Infirmary. Sex work is an umbrella term and it includes everyone from amateur, shitty Burlesque dancing wannabes such as myself, to phone sex line operators and rent boys. When we talk about sex workers, we're talking about their advocates, friends, families and allies too. Get involved, and help end violence against sex workers.