Skip to main content

poetry Being Roommates With a Stripper

Poet Jennifer Elise Wang gives the inside scoop about sex workers and other exploited workers.

Being Roommates with a Stripper

By Jennifer Elise Wang

When your roommate is a stripper,

You discover who makes

The teeniest thong

You can legally get away with

And that 7-inch Pleasers

Are not too bad to walk in.

When your roommate is a stripper,

If you like this article, please sign up for Snapshot, Portside's daily summary.

(One summary e-mail a day, you can change anytime, and Portside is always free.)

You start going to the gym more,

Not to have her body exactly

But to have the same gluteal control

In order to twerk along with her

In your at-home dance parties.

When your roommate is a stripper,

You see the stacks of 1s,

But not the 5s, 10s, or 20s

She has given to the house and staff.

When your roommate is a stripper,

You stop laughing at jokes about her job

Because her colleague was stalked

And another was threatened

While the bartender laughed

At the image of her possible demise.

Every night, it’s a flip of the coin

As to whether she’ll be assaulted.

When your roommate is a stripper,

You learn about misogynoir,


Labor rights and union-busting tactics,

And that it’s always “sex worker”

And never “prostitute” or the other word

That sounds more apropos for fishing.

When your roommate is a stripper,

You get advice on how to set boundaries

While still smiling at the customer.

When your roommate is a stripper

And getting ready for a night of picketing

While you’ve come home after overtime

And drink a beer with some Tylenol

For your Carpal tunnel and plantar fasciitis

And blink away your dry eyes,

You realize you are selling your body too. 

Jennifer Elise Wang (she/they) is a lab tech, burlesque dancer, drag king, and poet. She won First Prize for Open Poetry in the 2018 On My Own Time Art and Literary competition and has been published in The Gunpowder Review, Jerseyworks, and R2 Rice Review. In her free time, she likes to skateboard and volunteer at the animal shelter.