The Lesbian Strippers Changing the Game of Male Exotic Dancing

This article is part of Outward. Slates covers LGBTQ culture, thought and life. Learn more.Girl Flexxx raises her thighs in the air and twists them to Make It Rain. Dollar bills fly around her, touching her orange glittery cape, before falling to the ground. She is surrounded by women from all walks of Detroit: black, Latino, queer and straight. Flexxx is the only woman among the exotic dancers they've seen.AdvertisementFlexxx says that I began dancing at a male stripclub, and was the only female who worked as a stripper. Flexxx says that this broke down some barriers and opened up many doors. Flexxx and her cape fly across the country with clients to perform at bachelorette parties and other events, as well as for birthday parties and divorce parties. Flexxx often travels with a group male stripper. She performed in Maryland and Nevada, as well as Virginia, Michigan, Virginia and Ohio between May and June.AdvertisementAdvertisementFlexxx is just one of many dom strippers (shorthand for dominant) in the country. Nearly all of them are women of color, like Flexxx who is Black. There are many of us. She says it is a big world. These women thrust and gyrate in Baltimore and Atlanta and Houston and Philadelphia and other cities. Flexxx has also shown that many of the dom dancers are able to perform with men. Tyler Perry created a TV series about the subject. Flexxx, who is a lesbian, along with the other doms, are pioneering a new style in exotic dance: masculinized lesbian stripping. This appeals to both the LGBTQ community as well as straight women who tend to attend more mainstream, whiter strip shows such the Chippendales. These were women who danced in a masculine manner. We were aggressive dancers. Flexxx says that we don't mind pulling girls onto the stage.AdvertisementFlexxx was a new dom dancer when she first started. She soon discovered that there were other dom dancers out there and realized she wasn't the only one. The name was inspired by a line from the R. Kelly song Bump N Grind, "Girl, flex, time for sex."AdvertisementThe dom dancers have a strange and fascinating relationship with the straight men they are dancing with. Both are female dancers, and both are macho. However, the dom dancers can be more subversive. Dom dancers are able to wiggle their way around stereotypical gender roles and sexual identity by simply being side-by-side with men. Flexxx is constantly told the same thing by a straight male audience member every week: "I think I might be homosexual."AdvertisementCristina Khan, a SUNYStony Brook assistant professor in womens studies who has done research on the dom scene, said that being told you've made someone gay is like a badge. She recalls that one dancer said she loved her job due to all the try-sexuals in her audience.Khan says that dom dancers likely emerged in the 1990s. It is not known when dom dancers began performing with men. 12 Play, an Atlanta male stripper, performed last week with Girl Flexxx. He said he began dancing with doms in 2011 at a birthday party for a Native American and Black dancer. He says he had many detractors. It is not something I like. They believe that women should be able to choose their own path. But he did not listen. I am a visionary.AdvertisementAdvertisementFlexxx describes herself as one of the guys when she dances in a show with men. The guys consider her their peer. She was able to do a better job than most of the men. 12 Play reports that she had more stage presence during a recent performance. She moves and preens the same as male dancers, and she thrusts and struts. Although she mimics the male dancers, she does not do backflips in iridescent sports bras. She can earn $7,000 in tips on a good night.Flexxx is more than a dancer. She's also a show-girl, giving off an enviable WWE wrestler look in all her looks. Khan says that a favorite look is a black cowboy cap with iridescent jade pipe, a matching jacket with dangling fringe, a glittering suit tail and green sparkling thong underneath. It is based on the quality of their seamstress-made costumes that you can tell how long someone has been dom dancing. Some dancers were more modern and would wear a sports bra and boxers. This was considered very lowbrow.AdvertisementAdvertisementFlexxx hosts her own show in Detroit every Friday. She rents out a space for events and her many fans over the years flock to her. Her oldest fans are often in their 60s. Her fan base is so huge that she even gets recognized in Detroit by her parents. Both her parents saw her perform, though she does not allow men to be in the audience. However, she did make an exception for her father. She shared with me the story of a regular who has been attending her show every Friday for three years. She says that she has never touched the fan, never felt on them or felt on them. However, the woman still pays $300-400 each time she visits her. Flexxx sees her fans as a blessing.AdvertisementFlexxx is open to many opportunities to meet fans, but she insists that shed doesn't do that. She says that my job is to create fantasy for you and provide entertainment. You lose money if you don't fulfill your fantasy. Because they are trying to reach the goal, a person will continue to spend money.AdvertisementAdvertisementMany Flexxxs fans respect her boundaries. But not all of them. She says that there are some women who will touch your skin in places they don't have any business. I don't allow anyone to touch my butt. I don't allow anyone to touch my butt. Flexxx said it every time she dances. Khan had similar experiences as she worked as a waitress at a strip club for women that was staffed with dom dancing as part of her research. She was sexually harassed while working as a waitress at a dom club, and she groped more than during her years of strip-club work for men.AdvertisementShe said it was shocking. It's difficult to make a big deal of a woman touching your body. Gentlemen's clubs have rules about touching. These rules didn't apply to the space I was working in. These spaces were different from other places, so we didn't have to follow these rules. This assumption is actually extremely toxic.A dom stripper lives about 1,190 miles from Flexxx in Dallas. She goes under the names Kaution and Sex Toy depending on the venue she's at or the persona she feels that day. Red-tipped hair, tatted stomach and neck, and black gauges in her ears make her a strong military brat. Each persona has a unique vibe. She says Sex Toy is sensual and more soft. Sex Toy might allow you to wear see-through underwear. With Kaution, you will have pants.AdvertisementAfter graduating college, she worked in sales at a beer company in Arkansas. She was just five years old when she got her start. She says she was with her friend at a major LGBT club in Arkansas, which is very popular among the Black community. My friend and I did a little lip sync, and then all the money started to come in. I was like, "Oh shit!" We are here. I have found a better way.She was soon being flown across America, first stopping in Houston, just like Flexxx. Although she didn't have a routine, her background in gymnastics helped. To gauge the reactions, she tried handstands as well as backflips. The all-female crowd was stunned. She has risen in the ranks as a dom stripper since her first show. Flexxx is now her seamstress. She makes her outfits from scratch, such as the custom-made green jacket and matching chaps. She says Kaution is a daredevil. He is very aggressive. He can get a bit tense, but that's part of the BDSM lifestyle. Kaution commands the stage with swaggering moves and hip thrusts.AdvertisementAdvertisementKaution is the one who always shows up when she dances alongside men. This was something she started doing only this year. Khan says this is a sign she has reached a certain level of success. This was seen as an indication that one is capable of being taken seriously as a dancer.However, Kautions' first encounter didn't go as planned. Ironically, Kautions sexuality intimidated the muscled, bulked male strippers. Lesbian dancers can threaten men, or they may be threatened by them. It shouldn't be this way, because we live in our own world. She says that we are not bothering anyone.AdvertisementIn mid-June, Kaution in Atlanta decided to dance with men again. This time, she was with 12 Play and other well-respected male strippers. She says that she was nervous because of a previous bad experience with men. She felt different when she arrived at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. One of the male dancers had met her there. He says that he has been hearing a lot of things about you. You've been buzzing. Later on, he treated her as a colleague. Of course, she was offering her tips for dancing for crowds. I was a little baby and took everything in like a sponge.The Atlanta banquet hall was filled with 90 women. As the DJ played some sexy music, Kaution took to the stage. He wore a blue plaid shirt and matching vest, layered over a long-sleeved transparent mesh shirt. In front of mostly straight females who had paid $35, he did a great job. (Most of her gay supporters didn't attend. She says that her gay fans don't want to be in the same space as guys who are bringing their junk out.AdvertisementThe dancers came up and praised her after the show. They also offered her mentorship. She recalled a mentor telling her that this was her favorite move. 12 Play said that he enjoys having dom dancers on his shows. They add another dimension to the shows and they have great personalities.Despite the groundbreaking work of these dom dancers, this subculture is still little known beyond its small community. If performers like Flexx or Kaution continue to wow audiences, it is possible for more women to get dommed and love it.