The Making of a Feminist

Taking off one's clothes in gentlemen's clubs can be degrading, or it can be a feminist act.


The exotic dancer exists in popular culture most often as scenery. When she is allowed to speak, she does so to the male protagonist and is either the conniving woman attempting to relieve the hero of the cash in his wallet, or fallen woman in need of rescue. She is rarely named, existing only as a backdrop, red lights flashing on pliant flesh like a crime scene. She is white, blonde, slim, with large breasts. She is stripper Barbie, plastic porn.

Strip brings nuance to a subject that is often overlooked, ignored, or otherwise silenced. To all readers of human culture interested in the anthropology of what it means to be a sex object in modern America, this book is about much more than stripping. It argues that gentlemen’s clubs are a microcosm that distills the female experience of patriarchal culture. On the body of woman is written male desire. In the eyes of woman, gazing at the male, culture can truly be seen.


This was such an interesting book! Catlyn Ladd was an exotic dancer for five years while studying for her masters degree, and here she offers fascinating insight into the industry from both a personal and an academic perspective. This is an intersectional, sex-positive book that acknowledges the grey areas - is exotic dancing empowering or demeaning? Can it be both? ~ Martha Adam, NetGalley

I enjoyed following these stories, that spanned all the way from hilarious to heart breaking. ~ Kathrin Kendrik, NetGalley

A thoroughly enjoyable book, the author is a college student putting herself through university grad school by stripping. She has a healthy self-esteem, is very clearheaded and is no one’s victim in any sense of the word. Indeed she is an intellectual and a feminist so spends part of the book discussing the industry by way of research and academic theory. That is not to say, the book is boring. Indeed, I found it quite fascinating. Well-written and very interesting. ~ Janice Bell, NetGalley

The writer tells us about her career as an exotic dancer, from when she started as a junior in college to her retirement 5 years later. She tells us about all the people she met along the way: other dancers, customers, bouncers and other staff in the clubs. She also gives us some insight into her personal life when relevant. I was surprised by many of the accounts of the customers, some of whom would become her regulars. I was expecting unsavoury sleazes, and there are a couple, but they are very much in the minority. Most of the men she describes are well turned out, respectful and intelligent. Some are lonely and mistake the business relationship with a dancer as a true friendship, many fall in love and have to be let down gently. Some men are single, some not and some like to bring their wives with them, who enjoy the experience just as much as they do. I found it very easy to get engrossed in this book and found it to be a real (virtual) page turner. It was a really enjoyable read. ~ Pixie P, NetGalley

A good read, an interesting study of how one woman sees how feminism and stripping can coincide with each other. ~ Jade Hughes, From The Inside

How Catlyn delivers this book is brilliant. Her voice is distinctive and makes this book, even in uncomfortable situations, such an easy and incredible read from the start.. How she talks about the people she works with and meets, challenges what you anticipate might be the situation and challenges the stereotypes that are perpetuated by media on who these women are and the men who visit them. The frankness of the writing and the delivery of this book is incredible and it makes me want to read so much more of her work, Ladd’s way with words shines in this short but honest book. ~ Victoria Casswell, Books, Lots Of Books, Plenty Of Books, Books Everywhere!

Strip provides readers with a fascinating insight into the mind of an exotic dancer from a performer turned academic and through its depiction, the story realises strong feminist and liberal ideologies. Highly recommended! From the outset, I found the author’s insight into her experiences very surprising. I expected sleazy men and drunk bachelors and what we find within the pages of this book are the complete opposite. In some cases, we’re introduced to intelligent men seeking the company of equally intelligent women and lonely men trying to find their way in life and turning to the dancers as a form of therapy. Each chapter introduces readers to a new patron and you start to see the types of men who frequent these clubs. I found the way the author broke her story down enlightening as each chapter challenged my perceptions and expectations. The dancers we meet were a mixed bag of personalities and each evidently performed for different reasons. There is clearly a calling to be looked upon as an idol and this in some cases leads to a desperate search to find create the perfect body. With rich patrons willingly offering up cash for these girls to further improve their looks, you can’t help but wonder if these men are feeding off the dancers’ insecurities by funding their desires or if the women have the upper hand and use the men for their own purposes. Despite the competitive nature of this job, the women clearly share a bond. Referred to a “fresh meat” when starting out, most women would start waving the feminist flag aloft at the perceived slight to their gender and yet these dancers took the term in their stride. It is clear from the outset that these women either simply discount the opinions of men or are happy to simply play their part as a means to an end, as was clearly the case with the author who simply danced for enjoyment and to fund her academic studies never questioning her looks or actions. At the end of the book, the author sets out a series of questions designed to further challenge our opinions on the empowerment of women, gender equality and class economics. Although written in part as a biography, this story also delves into current research on exotic dancing and the author uses critical commentary in order to challenge the preconceptions of readers by presenting the facts in a way to allow readers to form their own opinions. ~ Angela Craney , GoodReads

This book was honest and unapologetic. The author has given a different perspective to consider and it was a very enjoyable read. The book did not go down the path I expected and I enjoyed it much more because of that. ~ Lisa k, NetGalley

From the title I wasn't to sure I had a feeling that this book was going to be a bit preachy however I was pleasently surprised. The book is all about a woman who tells us about her life as a stripper. She talks about the good having lots of money to do what she wants but she also talks about the bad, not having a say in what is happening, fighting with the other girls. I really liked her as a main character, while I couldn't relate to her situation personally it had a lot of relate ability and I could see how a lot of people could relate to it. The kinds of people she met were interesting and they weren't all the same some were creepy and slimy while others just wanted someone to get in and get out. The writer tells about everything that happened and all of the different people she met along the way in her short run as a stripper from college, to quitting five years later. She talked about her clients and how some were decent well rounded men not all creepers, even though there were a few of those as well. I found some of the stories interesting and its crazy to believe that would happen. I enjoyed the story and I liked all the little anecdotes. Really good book. Really funny read and I'm glad I got the chance to read this. ~ Hayley D , NetGalley

Catlyn Ladd gives us a compelling and dramatic view into the world of desire. Her journey, mind and body and heart, takes the reader into her experience as a voyeur without judgement and with critical insight. The book is raw, dangerous, sensitive, and real, like the life Ladd portrays. It reads like social science with a storyteller's heart. ~ Michelle Auerbach, author of The Third Kind of Horse and Alice Modern

Strip: The Making of a Feminist challenges the patriarchal stereotypes of sexual women as undereducated, manipulative, and exploited. Taking an intersectional approach that considers privileges and oppressions, Ladd offers both her personal history and academic perspective on sex work. This book is not only relevant to the changing landscape of 21st century feminisms, it is useful to all readers who wish to deconstruct their own perceptions of female sexuality. ~ Neil Cannon, Ph.D., LMFT

Strip: The Making of a Feminist provides a detailed account of Catlyn Ladd’s experience stripping over the course of five years. While like other autoethnographic accounts of the strip club industry, Ladd’s contribution to the genre involves her incorporation of feminist critique within a sex positive framework. Ladd skillfully explores the nuances of female sexual empowerment while evaluating her own experience as “empowered” within a racist, capitalist, hetero-patriarchal work environment and culture. She reveals that although stripping can empower some women, this empowerment exists within the context of broader social systems that grant certain women the privilege of empowerment. In other words, some women choose to strip out of desire, while others choose to strip out of need, or perhaps do not have a choice. These realizations help Ladd synthesize her experience into a tale of growth, whereby the reader begins with a basic introduction to the industry in Section I and is lead through Ladd’s growing feminist consciousness in the following sections. It is within these sections we see Ladd explore the contradictions of female sexual empowerment, but it is this exploration that reminds the reader of sex positivity’s significance for women in the United States. ~ Katherine Martinez, Ph.D., Author of Somebody's Fetish: Self-objectification and body satisfaction among consensual sadomasochists, Journal of Sex Res

Catlyn Ladd
Catlyn Ladd Catlyn Ladd loves alliteration, the poetic slip of similar sounds through throat and tongue. She writes narrative nonfiction, speculative da...
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