The naked truth

UNR’s most controversial feminist bares all

The Red Tent group meets at different locations every month. It will meet on April 22 at 3 p.m. Call (510) 978-3738 or check out

My university thinks I’m a pervert.

After two and a half years of penning the sex column for my school newspaper, I’ve left a huge hickey on the student body. I don’t apologize for that—not my thing. Honestly, it took a solid mix of talent and shamelessness to leave a mark that big. I exposed my private life in shades of all things bad. I wrote about the joys of being the other woman. I wrote about the nostalgia I experience when I pee on my partner. And of course, I started mini feuds with local churches. I swam through each wave of backlash, and I’m still here, you know, floating aimlessly. Waiting for the next ride. Or shark.

I’m going to strip each layer of my rebellion off and elaborate on the particulars. You can pause and take it in, but at the end of the day, I’m just a girl in a patriarchal world. That probably just sounds like a 1990s riot girl lyric. But I’m serious. I’m just a writer. An activist. A feminist. A student and a poet. A daughter and a friend. There is nothing special here. I’m just another burning 20-something trying not to kill herself.

Oh, and I’m a stripper.

The stripper exposed

My family and close friends weren’t exactly stunned when I told them three years ago I had strolled into Wild Orchid and asked to audition.

I had no hidden reason to take my clothes off for money. My baby’s daddy wasn’t in prison. I wasn’t addicted to meth. I was in college, which my mother happily paid for. I had a job. I didn’t fit the messed-up baby doll stereotype. People told me I wasn’t fucked up enough to be a stripper. I thought I was perfect.

When you’re a sex worker people constantly try to poke holes in your background and say, “See! This is why you’re like this.” I’m not a fan. It bares a feeling of victimization. No one has a perfect childhood. We all have unique flaws that manifest in some fashion down the road.

I grew up pretty well—a childhood ripe with adventure. Library trips with grandma were had. Pancakes were feasted on with NPR on blast every morning. I lived in a home filled with enough magic to make Walt Disney blush. Besides an absent father, which is a stripper-must, I was dealt a glowing hand. No abuse occurred, and I even got a Dalmatian puppy for Christmas one year.

So, what’s a girl like me doing in a place like this? The answer is pretty bizarre.

Stripping was a dream born in cinema. Natalie Portman played an exotic dancer in Closer, and it would forever alter my ideas of seduction, power and poetic lust. Film has always impacted me in profound and unexpected ways, melting me into this wild thing of fiction. At 14, I’d spent a long summer at film camp in Los Angeles. At 18, I was fetching DVDs for customers at Blockbuster. Additionally, I had checked out every title related to stripping at the Caughlin Parkway store.

Exhibitionism ran through my veins. I constantly daydreamed of a more reality-based life. Boundaries were waiting to be pushed. Rules to be broken.

I knew I wouldn’t waitress during my 20s, but instead, I’d serve up fantasy to strangers. Finding a new name, sporting a wig, and putting on a fake persona made sense to me. Incorporating escapism and using imagination in a job seemed strangely healthy, bordering on empowerment. There would be no scheduled checks every two weeks. No scheduled shifts. I would hustle straight cash and schedule myself based on personal circumstance. If this wasn’t alternative, what was? The whole thing felt really punk.

I was an aspiring titty dancer during my awkward teen years. I treated invisible customers to late night burlesque shows in my bedroom at 16 years old. I crafted playlists in case I had to work out a spontaneous lap dance on a whim. I left the curtains open for my neighbor with whom we shared a backyard. He’d MySpace me the next morning with notes on my performance.

Unfortunately, none of this hard work paid off right away. The first time I walked on stage, my legs buckled: I couldn’t do this, this wasn’t me. But two minutes into the Smashing Pumpkins song, something sparked. Maybe the stage lights had shined some bravery on my breasts. I remember the trace of my body being bold in the backdrop of mirrors. I saw myself. I haven’t stopped seeing myself.

Not being the usual candidate for stripping made me the unspoiled erotic ballerina. I felt really dangerous in those 6-inch, clear heels. Damaged-fucking-goods. My rebellion was contagious. I sat upstairs in the dressing room reading Camille Paglia while other dancers talked fast and others cried slowly. Some on their iPhones, unfazed by naked women skipping through the room, drunk off money and Patron tequila. Bitching, shitting, eating, bleeding and fucking were all repetitive themes in the dressing room. I felt born-again into a new world, a sorority of misfits. This sorority was called “I Don’t Give a Fuck Because I’m a Stripper.” Now all we needed was a house mascot and Greek letters on our shiny bras.

Still, it was oddly soothing. Lockers closing every five minutes. Women helping other women do their makeup.The sound of the house mom’s laugh as one dancer tells a drawn-out story of her son’s potty training mishap. Unexpected sisterhood was unleashed. I couldn’t help but fall in love with the novelty of it all.

My life was becoming unrated. With everyone walking around uncensored, I myself began unlatching from the norm. I expanded by working at four out of the five local strip joints until I found my ultimate comfort zone at Spice House. I dance under the name “Violet,” an homage to the song by the band Hole. After all, Courtney Love was a feminist-stripper during the ‘90s.

In hindsight, it was my first female empowerment moment. At 20 years old, I was scratching the feminist scab and contemplating the big rip. At the time, I just thought I was Natalie Portman.

Student body dysmorphia

I never did fancy the idea of school. I couldn’t picture myself walking around a campus, throwing the Frisbee around on the quad, or doing keg stands at frat parties. I could, however, picture myself poisoning the keg.

I knew I couldn’t sit at home all day and just work nights at Blockbuster for the rest of my life. I began taking general courses at Truckee Meadows Community College because I wasn’t academically ready to go to the University of Nevada, Reno. It was there I enrolled in a mystical course called English 102. This class changed my life. The professor was not only a babe, but he could write.


Attraction and magnetic talent are a dangerous combination in the eyes of a dramatic, bored and horny community-college student on the cusp of womanhood. What suggests the beginning of a pornographic film was actually the birth of my education.

I had been dipping my fingers in poetry since I was old enough to feel like an outcast. When I was 15, I’d engrave choppy lines on my wooden desk. I left sarcastic statements inside old geometry textbooks, assuming the next student would read them in awe. I was leaving coming-of-age footprints all over my high school. I danced a sad dance in my puddle of puberty.

This professor pumped some blood in my system. One semester with him and my pussy was wet with inspiration. I wanted to be teacher’s pet. He taught two other courses, Non-fiction and Poetry. I immediately enrolled in both.

After channeling my inner Sylvia Plath for a few semesters, my poetry became seasoned enough. I got accepted into the college’s literary journal, The Meadow.

However, the professor did not accept the love-letter attached to my final portfolio.

The fantasy of more potential published works and the lure of more muse-worthy professors dragged me to UNR after two years at TMCC. I thought I’d major in English, inhale the talent, and sign up for the school newspaper, The Nevada Sagebrush. I accomplished those goals and wrote for all three campus publications. It may sound trite, but I never gave a damn about my resume. I just wanted to keep seeing my name in print.

I was ready to merge my feminist streak with my bitch attitude. The paper needed a sex columnist. It was time for this stripper to bare her private life for the betterment of sexually frustrated students everywhere.

Like stripping, it was a shaky start. I made my sexy debut in November 2009. I never publicly identified as a feminist out of fear of being type-cast as a man-hater. I simply woke up one day and looked at my actions. Most of my articles were soaked in sex-positivity among females with zero apologies. That was the thing: I had a no-apology rule. I started seeing shallow arguments on anything I published. Each comment addressed me as a “little girl crying for attention” or “skank who doesn’t respect herself.” I learned that most people judge you by how sexually active you are. But sexually active women are judged harshly. For men, promiscuity is normal. Expected. Encouraged.

And then the media. Ugh, the media. I was supposed to be sexy but not talk about it. Fine. I wouldn’t talk.

I’d scream.

So, I began to scream in tones of honesty. Real honesty. Along the lines of “My asshole hurts because I tried anal last night and didn’t use enough lube.” Readers didn’t get it. Now not only did my asshole hurt, but so did my feelings. The whole column was my gym for sexual equality. I was exercising my right to sexual freedom. I was lifting double-standard weights. I became a magnet for the “things we don’t talk about” backlash and the topic of six journalism projects on campus.

The response was always really predictable: Slut.

The revolution within

I’ve built most of my activism around the notion that women’s sexuality is deeply misunderstood in all aspects of society. I believe that the best activism comes from sharing. I could share experiences, knowledge, or ideas. The best activism is also stripping to Rage Against the Machine and mouthing the words onstage to patrons.

When I got pregnant and had an abortion, I let the university newspaper cover it. I felt I had a responsibility to share. Six hours post-vacuum aspiration, I answered hard-hitting questions with a heating pad on my lap in a four-star hotel room. Nothing was off limits, not even when I was seconds away from flinging myself off the Peppermill rooftop out of sheer anxiety and cramping. I made a deal with myself: If something brutal was going to happen in my life, I would create a feminist silver lining. I would trade tragedy for triumph. If one in three women were going to have an abortion, people deserved to know about the experience.

And apparently, more women got the message. The Huffington Post Online picked up the story, and I landed my very own thread on an anti-feminist website. My abortion experience video generated more than 8,000 hits on YouTube, resulting in a schizophrenic inbox of replies.

But I knew I could do more. My activism couldn’t be limited to talking about my personal mistakes. I mean, that would just be sad.

I started putting myself out there in the name of gender equality. In October, I was a panelist for the campus event, “Guess Who’s Gay.” The audience asked each of us personal questions, all building on a reveal of sexual preference at the end. The audience voted I was a lesbian. I assured them that just because I had sex with a woman once after popping two tabs of ecstasy in San Francisco didn’t make me a lesbian.

Many participants came up to the panel at the end, glowing and giddy. One freshman simply said, “Thank you for doing this.”

I wanted to mold my life into a series of those moments.

But I needed a bigger cause. Something that would stick on campus. Events would come and go. People would get excited but forget. It was so fleeting. I had a bad case of activist blue-balls.

PHOTOs/Amy Beck

And then lightning struck.

Last November, I received a message on Facebook from Dr. Tory Clark, a human sexuality professor and local sexologist. The message included a video revolving around a student-taught University of California, Berkeley course called “Female Sexuality” or “FemSex” for short.

FemSex was a weekly class centering on diverse themes in female sexuality. Anything from understanding consent to realizing facts about the transgender community. From finding the right dildo to finding the right midwife for childbirth, it examined all shades of female empowerment. There was a wait list at Berkeley for the class on account of its notoriety. Female students were telling other students, “This class changed my life.”

That’s all I needed to hear.

Dr. Clark and I met. Sparks flew. I saw an independent woman. I saw a woman who had guts. I would have followed her anywhere. Up until then I had buried my head in film for a mentor. But here she was. No rental fee necessary.

After meeting her, it felt like I was on some combination of drugs. Almost like a premonition of sorts. Femsex was going to happen in Reno. But more than that, a shift of consciousness was going to occur on campus.

So back in Reno a group of women got together a few times each month to discuss the future of FemSex. Each one knowledgeable in different zones of female empowerment and sexuality, and able to facilitate classes. UNR accepted us as a club and approved an official start in January. Two months deep into FemSex, and I can’t believe how addictive the response is. I see students raising their hands, raising concerns, raising awareness. A feminist’s wet dream, and a patriarchy’s worst nightmare.

Red tent diaries

All topless magic, community-college crushes and feisty activism aside, I come home at night sweating it all off. I eat my vegan food in silence instead of to the loud beats of the strip club. I rip my fake eyelashes out with zero hesitation.

While in introvert hiding, I tend to dive into a New Age pond. It’s necessary at the end of the day, especially when casting off the bad energy of the titty-bar. I cling to meditation and lengthy baths. I promote myself from girl to goddess.

I choose my consumption wisely. I thrift my clothes. I purchase strictly from the co-op, which coincides with my vegan diet. I’m an angel from hipster heaven, the kind who occupies Wall Street and writes bad poetry in the Spice House bathroom.

But above all that, I bleed.

Last October brought an introduction to a brand new movement. Two years ago, I would have laughed out loud at the thought of women sitting around in a goddess circle, exchanging vows about the menstruation blues—not to mention, the reds.

The Red Tent is a safe place for women to gather and share femininity. To talk blood. Offer support. I was post-abortion. No, I was post-disappointment. But I finally got to talk about it. Not on my blog, not in my activism, but in the moment. I could say anything I wanted.

Around every full moon, we meet and meditate on our cycles. I’ve taken it so far as to shift my methods of blood catching. I won’t give money to Tampax anymore, no, instead I insert a Diva Cup to collect my flow.

This makes it easier to use for art projects. I’ve begun returning my blood to the earth, and celebrating my monthly like Christmas morning. I will not hate my body anymore. There is nothing dirty about healing.

My mom doesn’t get it. The thought of me saving up my menstrual blood and playing arts and crafts makes her anxious.

So, at 23 years old, I leak some pretty radical colors. I am a pervert. And a little girl. I’ve been told that nothing about me makes sense, that I should just give up. My generation is fucked anyway, everyone is numb on the Kardashian culture and fast food. I should just conform and die. But that would require caring what people think. That would require apologizing.

I don’t apologize.