“When I’m at the strip club, I’m a hustler,” says Palmar, a stripper working in a Florida beach town. “I’m good at getting people to spend money on me.”
Strippers are struggling right now, several women working in the industry have said Charm. It’s a good thing Palmar knows how to handle himself, because lately the clubs are more like meditation studios than ragers. On a Friday night in May, she arrives at 7 p.m., pays the house fees, and slips into a partially sheer black lace one-piece with a plunging neckline down to the pubis. For the next four hours, she dances and hangs out with customers. Then she puts on a T-shirt, tips the DJ and security, and leaves. She walks away with $260. Palmar has worked in clubs for more than seven years. A good night for her was closer to $1,000, she says. Now she’s getting used to bad nights.
“People were making more money [during the height of] COVID — stimulus money, unemployment, whatever — and now they’re earning less, and also the rent is higher and gas prices are higher,” she says. “People suddenly realize they have no money.”
Palmar’s experience in a small town in Florida echoed Charm by a dancer who travels between San Francisco and other major cities, as well as a strip club bartender who works in New Jersey. They all back up a claim made on Twitter in May by a stripper whose online name is ReverseCowgirl69.
“The strip club is unfortunately a leading indicator and I can promise you all we’re in a recession lmao,” she said. tweeted. “Every stripper I know is a better trend forecaster than any finance bro or marketing executive,” she added a week later. By then his original tweet had exploded – it had six figures of likes; his message was repeated all over TikTok and picked up by major news outlets. The National Public Radio Podcast Silver Planet broadcast the words reverse cowgirl 69, a pleasure as deep as stuffing $50 into a thong.
Is it really true? Are strippers – and the sex work industry in general – good recession forecasters?
The United States is not yet in recession. A recession is something economists analyze in advance, like sailors scanning the horizon for an impending storm. Once it’s over us and can be called a recession, saying so is about as helpful as Karen of mean girls clutching his chest and announcing, “There’s a 30% chance it’s already raining.” People want to know when recessions are coming so they can make financial decisions accordingly. “Recession” is not a generic term for difficult economic times. The simplest definition is that of two consecutive quarters of decline in GDP. (It’s gross domestic product – the financial value of all products, like goods and services, produced in a country over a certain period of time.) Basically, a recession is half a year during which the economy is not growing. So far we’ve had a quarter and many pundits think we’re headed for a second.
In the public consciousness, strip clubs are usually tied to the health of the economy. During the 2008 recession, several publications reported on struggling strip clubs as a sign of the times—Page Six called him a “turn deficit”. The Jennifer Lopez movie of 2019 Hustlers, which followed a group of strippers who gleefully drugged and robbed their wealthy finance clients during the 2008 recession, amplified that connection. Now, as fears of another recession grow, some market watchers are once again turning to strippers as economic forecasters.