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Should You Try Stripping?

Faced with increasing economic woes, some women are asking themselves that question.

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Randi, like Elena, is more confident in her decision to strip than I am in my decision to waitress. Her upcoming book is memoir-meets-business guide. And, as she points out, there would be no book had she never started stripping. Her forthcoming book is already guaranteed to be a success. It has what sociologists call "deviance points."

"You earn the right to be deviant by other things you do. For example, if I write the great book on American history and then I go strip, I still wrote the great book on American history. So now I'm an eccentric historian, as opposed to a stripper with pretensions," says Dr. Pepper Schwartz, a sociology professor at the University of Washington and author of "Prime, Adventures and Advice on Sex, Love, and the Sensual Years."

"We're biologically programmed to be interested in sex," she says. "Some of it is very cultural, but we're fascinated by sexuality, whether we see it as spiritual or sexy or raunchy. And we're titillated when we go past taboos. Strippers can alternately be seen as sexy or boring or sad or powerful, depending on where you want to come from. But putting them on the pages of the New York Times is new and therefore fascinating. It's testing the boundaries of a lot of things at once."

But the danger when sex and sexiness are up for sale and only one person is footing the bill is that you lose the vendor's voice. In "Female Chauvinist Pigs," Levy explains that while she doesn't think there's "anything inherently wrong with stripping (or porn for that matter)," our focus on it is "testament to what's still missing from our understanding of human sexuality with all its complexity and power." In other words, the idea of using sex appeal may very well be encoded in our DNA, but the way we go about it has everything to do with the images our culture is throwing in our faces. By selling our sexuality short we women sell our potential short.

After spending time with Randi, I consider my stripping-cures-all fantasies. I'm still not sure if I could fit in -- or if I want to. But I don't have to figure it out anytime soon. Everyone has their own path and, in Dr. Schwartz's words, "you use what you have." As I make my way up the career ladder, I may never play the stripper card myself. But ask me again after my next double shift.