Making Choices: Getting Naked? Stay in School?

Okay, friends, this one is a mess. In large part, because I am a mess.

I was asked by my professor (the one who told me a few months ago that my experience as a stripper could be an ethical issue) to meet with her before winter break. I practiced deep breathing as I walked into her office, still feeling happy from J and I getting married (this meeting happened about an hour after that). As I sat down, I reminded myself to stay calm and collected.

Basically:

She, as the department chair, along with the other three core faculty and the dean, met at some point during the semester to discuss whether or not my stripping experience is an ethical issue. They filled out some sort of professional evaluation form, and as a group (she maintained), they see my occupation as a serious boundary violation and ethical issue in conflict with the code of ethics for marriage and family therapists. Why? Because of the potential for future clients to have seen me dance, the potential for current clients of mine to see me dance, and the potential for the former clients to see me dance. To her, this constituted a seriously problematic multiple relationship. In addition, for some reason, she sees it as a “conflict of interest” (what? am I going to sell lap dances after a therapy session?). This serious ethical issue was held by her regardless of whether I stop dancing now or not.

I can’t disagree that it would be a multiple relationship to have a concurrent therapist-client and stripper-customer relationship with someone. I also would not do that. I also feel it is paternalistic and arrogant to say that I am responsible for making sure that any potential client of mine never sees me out in public doing something that is not mainstream.

I didn’t go into this program to be a cookie-cutter therapist. I went into it with the explicit goal and intention of serving the queer, kinky, poly, and sex positive community (including sex workers). I’ve been completely open with my cohort and professors about my experiences and motivations, and now the message I receive is: sorry, too much. As my friend said to me today: They are grinding you down.

She said: It’s not about exotic dancing! We want you to dance, we want you to feel empowered and to feel empowered sexually. But this is a serious ethical issue.

Is is possible for me to truly understand the code of ethics and continue to dance? I asked.

No, she replied.

If it was up to me, in my personal opinion, she said, I wouldn’t place you next year [for an internship] if you were still dancing.

Think it over during your winter break, she told me. Then in January, I want to meet with you again. If you agree, then we can move forward. If you disagree that this a serious ethical issue, then we will need to convene an Academic Review Committee and investigate further. You will probably need quite a bit of mentoring to fully understand why this is such a problem. It is possible that the result from the committee process that you won’t be allowed to continue in the program.

I left that half hour meeting boiling. I hardly had a chance to speak, to ask questions, to present my case.

I literally feel stuck. I feel angry, boxed in, aggravated, irritated, helpless, hopeless, disheartened, defeated. Defeated.

Pick my battles, figure out my goals, move forward. Give up stripping? Give up school? I’m sure I’ll be writing about this again when my thoughts are more clear.

And yes, I am writing this from the strip club. (My nice way of saying: Fuck. You.)

6 thoughts on “Making Choices: Getting Naked? Stay in School?

  1. Fuck them is right.

    You would (I assume) not have a professional relationship with someone you had a personal relationship with. The assumption is that you would know who all of the people you have a personal relationship with are known to you, so you can self-monitor this. You may not know all of the people who have seen you strip, so you cannot self-monitor. What if you were to disclose stripping to potential clients up front? The onus would be put on them to disclose whether or not they had seen you strip, which may not be ideal, and it may be more disclosure than you would normally give a potential client, but it might solve the practical problem.

    All of that said, having had a very difficult experience with a personal and marriage therapist who did not understand or condone alternative sexual lifestyles, I am saddened that your advisor is putting you in this position. What comes through in this blog is an incredibly open-minded, thoughtful, intelligent, caring person, with the highest ethical standards. Fuck them for not seeing that because they can’t get past the stripper issue.

    • Thank you for the supportive comment :) I have actually considered self-disclosing stripping to new clients as a way to further mitigate risk. I do think that it would greatly impact my client base, but I have also thought about working primarily with a population that doesn’t crossover with strip clubs (like children in residential treatment facilities). I sort of doubt that my professors would support me in disclosing stripping as a means to mitigate the risk… we’ll see. I do think it is an option- thank you for reminding me of that :)

    • J suggested that too (switching schools). It’s definitely an option. But then I face the decision of whether or not to disclose stripping at a new school. My inclination at this point is to not disclose it so I don’t have to deal with all of this again, which isn’t ideal but probably what I would do.

      • I don’t know what state you live in, or what kind of professional license you need for the work you want to do, but not disclosing this to your school might not help. I studied law in California and here we have to pass a “moral character examination” to practice after graduation. I don’t practice law (I’m a writer) but withholding that kind of information from the school will just get aspiring lawyers in trouble if the details ever come out (which they will).

        On the upside, here in California, I don’t think stripping would be a bar to practicing law (though I don’t know for sure), so long as it was disclosed. Not sure if this relates to psychology but…

        I think you need to look past the rules of the particular educational institution and consider what hurdles you may face in your actual profession, such as licensing. If you’re committed to your profession and your stripping; I would strongly recommend that you seek legal advice. You may be in a position to challenge either the school, or the licensing board, or both. I also suggest that you at least consider forcing the schools hand by demanding the full review and filing any appeal to which you may be entitled. Make your case, you never know.

  2. I think that you living such a honest life shows that you are not trying to hide this from your future clients. Yes it might be harder to put you into a internship and it might be hard for you to start your own practice at first but your point of view is important. Aren’t they hindering sex workers, women that need to see sex in a positive light, and couples struggling with their open status by trying to change who you are? I can understand them asking you to not strip during your internship but that’s as far as it should go.

    I’m so tired of people wanting to fit into this perfect little bubble, that’s not what life is about!

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