- Bella — a stripper who has chosen to use her dancer name to protect her identity — left her club job due to coronavirus concerns after a client coughed on her during a lap dance.
- "That scared the crap out of me because when you take somebody to a private dance, it's very close and intimate," Bella told Insider. "So, you can't really escape."
- While the coronavirus has not visibly impacted her home state of Missouri with the same severity as other major US metro areas, Bella told Insider club attendance has plummeted since the onset of the pandemic.
- Like many full-service sex workers and porn stars, strippers like Bella are having to adjust to the shifting landscape of the sex work industry in light of the pandemic.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
Bella, a 22-year-old stripper who asked to use her dancer name to protect her identity, had steadily been growing more concerned about the coronavirus pandemic over the last few weeks.
While the virus has not visibly impacted her home state of Missouri with the same severity as other major US metro areas, Bella told Insider attendance at her small-town club has plummeted since the onset of the pandemic.
What confirmed her decision to take time off from dancing indefinitely was an uncomfortable lap dance with a coughing client about a week ago.
Normally, Bella would have never considered talking to a possible client who looked visibly ill, but anxiety about the coronavirus had ruined club attendance. Not wanting to have her whole night go to waste, Bella approached the man and took him to a back room for a lap dance.
"His face would be inches away from mine at a time and then he'd be sniffling and sneezing and I would lean as far back as I could, facing the other way while shaking my boobs, trying not to let him cough anywhere near me," Bella told Insider.
Because Missouri laws about stripping are less restrictive than other states — meaning only the area covered by a dancer's underwear is off-limits — dancers are even more at risk if a client is sick.
"That scared the crap out of me because when you take somebody to a private dance, it's very close and intimate," Bella told Insider. "So, you can't really escape."
Like many full-service sex workers and porn stars, strippers like Bella are having to adjust to the shifting landscape of the sex work industry in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Growing concerns about the virus have severely cut down club attendance — making it more difficult to make tips
As more clients make the decision to stay home to socially distance — the Centers for Disease Control's official recommendation to prevent the spread of coronavirus — Bella said it's become more challenging to earn tips.
On an average night Bella makes around $400 but when business is booming, she usually makes upwards of $800.
According to Bella, the winter months of January and February tend to be slow at the club — but March is usually busy season because of sporting events like March Madness.
The Thursday night she decided to leave her job, March Madness was officially cancelled and Bella had barely made $200.
"I think a lot of strippers were relying on March to bring their earnings back up and now that this has hit, it's been really scary for a lot of us because we've dipped into our reserves and haven't been able to make back what we thought we would," Bella said. "It was the most dead I'd seen the club in a really long time."
Bella was worried about her risk of being exposed to the coronavirus
Bella told Insider everybody in the club — from clients to workers — were talking about the coronavirus on the day she decided to leave. However, she said people didn't seem to understand how the strip club could pose a risk of infection .
"There are so many people exchanging germs everywhere," Bella said. "I'm motorboating three different guys in a room and I don't know how they didn't think about it."
Because she has immunocompromised family members, Bella also said she will be quarantining herself to make sure she doesn't take anything home to them.
"I am going to quarantine for a week before I go home to my family just to make sure I don't have anything to expose them to," Bella said.
While Bella has been able to leave her job as a stripper for now to be with family, she said she worries for her coworkers and other members of the industry who don't have that luxury.
"I have the privilege of being able to step away for my health but I know a lot of people don't," Bella said. "It sucks because the most marginalized members of our community are the ones that are going to have to keep dancing longest."
While no government assistance has been offered in the US for sex industry workers, emergency relief efforts have popped up across the internet to support sex workers who are impacted by income loss, including a GoFundMe by Brooklyn's Sex Workers Outreach project and the Bay Area Workers Support fund.
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