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.
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.)