Coming Out Undressed: A Communication Analysis of Strippers' Occupational Disclosure

Strippers have historically and inaccurately been perceived as dirty, dumb, deviant social pariahs within our society despite the fact that, in 2018, there were an estimated 400,000 women in the occupation. Most of these perceptions come from stereotypes perpetuated by misrepresentations in popular media. Because of these stereotypes, strippers often have a difficult time disclosing their occupation to their friends and family, despite the global sex-positivist movement we are seeing today that seeks to redefine sexuality and desire. In this study, I argue that, due to the ability to conceal their stigmatizing identities, research on LGBTQ+ disclosure practices and models is beneficial to developing a communication model of occupational disclosure. Although strip culture is currently in the spotlight, many strippers are afraid to disclose their occupation. Disclosure, however, is a method of communicating strength, visibility, and resilience, thus necessary for the normalization of any stigmatized identity. By using LGBTQ+, queer, and feminist frameworks, in-depth interviews, and observations of strippers at Paradise — a Los Angeles strip club — I have examined the communication practices and decision processes of how and why strippers disclose their occupation to those who are closest to them, despite the stigma, in order to propose a communication model focused on the process of disclosure for stigmatized occupational identities.