Have you ever stopped and thought about how much money goes in and out of the vice economy, all in cold hard cash? I’m thinking the standard vices: sex and drugs.

The illicit nature of these industries makes it even more mysterious for outsiders, but it attracts a lot of cash on the inside. Cash, so it’s not traceable.

I often think we are fully funded by the vice economy and that is really what is keeping everything together. People will pay for a cheap thrill and a good time, by any means necessary.

All of these “hustles” are not being tracked as jobs or income producing endeavors yet they are a huge part of what keeps money flowing in this world.

A few weeks ago, I read this article about the economics of stripping. Really fascinating stuff here.

Although strippers can make good money, looking good and being titillating ain’t cheap. I was so intrigued to take a glimpse into this world. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having wandering thoughts about it.

What if I just strip for a year and pay off all my debt? I have no qualms with nudity, but then again you aren’t really selling nudity. You are selling sex. You are selling an illusion of something you can’t offer. I always convince myself that it’s a bad idea. My boyfriend agrees.

In this article, it’s clear that some women are feeling short-changed by the whole set-up. Who really is getting the money? At what cost? I learned a lot from this little article in the local paper (p.s. did you know Portland has the most strip clubs per capita in the U.S.?)

On the other hand, some strippers blatantly disagreed with the tone of the article and talked up the merits of the vice economy.

“I am a Portland stripper. My employers have all of my pertinent information. I appreciate not signing a W-9 form. I file my own taxes and I pay 1/3 of what I should. I pay 10-40% of my income to the club and its staff every single shift. I worked full-time for three years and made $1600-$2200 a week. I worked my ass off. I do my own hair, nails and teeth whitening. I worked/work in clubs that have no say in regards to my heels, make-up or the tan that I maintain. I save my money, in CDs, an IRA and two savings accounts. I have excellent credit. This job is a tool that can be put to good use. I would love to see an article written by someone with more insight into this industry.”

And this golden nugget:

“As a stripper, this was sort of a sad read. I know that one girl’s experience is not another’s and I would hate to be generalized in a lot of statements. She may work at an “upscale club” but some of Portland’s most reputable and steady earning clubs are actually home-grown with talent and personality, who support their own business and not just trying to make a buck off their dancers, who they know, in fact, do not walk out with what one girl called, “the sky is the limit.” I never ask any of the people who I see in their place of employment how much they make, I never ask them about their business expenses, and if at all applicable, I tip and I tip well. We have jobs that move money around, from big pockets to little pockets, but still how much I make is most people’s way of justifying how much they dislike my job and “how little” I do. I agree, this can be an extremely shallow industry, and by the interviews, it comes off as extremely naive as well.. But Portland is full of smart, educated women who DO own cars, and DO own homes, and DO pay their taxes.. In fact, a lot of women strip as a SECOND income. If Portland could stop generalizing with simple experiences and the “woe is me” route, and take the time to get a **real story** going, our jobs would seem less of a novelty and more of what it is, women getting paid for their time. I’m not walking home with pockets full of cash when every tom, dick, and harry is only throwing up $1 bill because of the ongoing media stigmatization of my job and industry. I don’t need pity, I need to pay my bills like everyone else.”

Hot damn, you go girl. Shake your moneymaker and make it rain!

Anyways, I think the way people make money is fascinating and when you add the lascivious nature of vice and underground dealings it gets extra juicy.

What do you think about the vice economy? Do you know someone who has made money in these industries?



Melanie is a freelance writer currently living in Portland, Oregon. She is passionate about education, financial literacy, and empowering people to take control of their finances. She writes about breaking up with debt, freelancing, and side hustle adventures at DearDebt.com.

Currently she puts more than 50% of her income towards debt, while living a frugal, fun life. In addition to her love of personal finance, art and music, she is also a karaoke master. Follow the adventure @DearDebtBlog.

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13 responses to “A Glimpse Into the Vice Economy”

  1. I don’t know any strippers, but if I had the body for it, I might do it temporarily to pay off my debts! *sheepish smile*
    Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore recently posted…How Aunt Flow Affects Your FinancesMy Profile

  2. NZ Muse says:

    I am way too self conscious to ever consider doing that myself.

    I feel very conflicted about the industry. I get that for some women it’s a conscious, informed, even logical choice. But I dislike the fact that the industry even exists – not from a moral POV but from a gender equality POV.
    NZ Muse recently posted…Generation Rent needs habitable housing – it’s that simpleMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      I feel conflicted, too. On one hand I think it’s demeaning and sad, but then I also think, what if it is empowering for women? To be happy with their bodies and make good money? But then the money is still coming from men, based on the hierarchical gender dynamics. I think it’s a really complicated issue and I have to trust most people do it by choice.

  3. It’s great that women are going out there and getting what they need to get done. I try not to judge others based on their choices, but in all reality, at the end of the day they are doing their job and doing it well and getting paid. That’s what really counts.
    Amanda @ Passionately Simple Life recently posted…Small Things That Really Pay OffMy Profile

  4. Mackenzie says:

    I knew a girl when I was in college, who stripped to pay for her tuition. We had the same major, and ended up taking several courses together. She wasn’t embarrassed by it or anything. She was gorgeous, BTW…
    Mackenzie recently posted…Dear CaliforniaMy Profile

  5. I feel like everyone is selling sex anyway, advertisers, movies, etc- strippers just do it in a more obvious way.
    Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life recently posted…Everyday Savings for the Non CouponerMy Profile

  6. I know somebody that used to work one night a week (Wednesdays) in a strip club while going to college. She didn’t do it to pay for her tuition, she did it to make money to go out. She used to make a minimum of $300 for about 5 hours of work one day a week. She lived at home so this was just to pay for gas and going out. I was actually jealous because I had to work 20+ hours a week and after taxes made less than she did.
    Aldo @ MillionDollarNinja recently posted…10 Common Money MistakesMy Profile

  7. Isabella says:

    I don’t know anyone on drugs, and I certainly don’t know any strippers! In fact, if I wanted to do drugs, I wouldn’t have a clue about where to begin. It’s a world that is completely hidden from view to me. The great reservation I would have about any of it is the safety factor. I think the odds of running into an unsavory crowd increases, and for a young woman stripping…..well, there are a lot of crazies out there. My cousin’s husband was murdered during a routine marijuana delivery. Very sad

    I have no doubt that the vice industry is one of our biggest, though.

  8. Tre says:

    I have to admit I’m fascinated by the vice industry too. Specially now that some states have chosen to legalize marijuana.
    Tre recently posted…Taxes As A FreelancerMy Profile

  9. debt debs says:

    Ha! No one would want to see my strip but I could do phone sex only my husband would be jealous! 😉
    debt debs recently posted…Preferred Shares – Time to Spend Some MoneyMy Profile

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