Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
NOW on PBS
Civics & Politics The Environment Health Economics Social Issues Full Archive
NOW on Demand
Act NOW
Week of 5.30.08

Stories from the Sex Trade

At the age of 18, Kasey McClure began working as a stripper in Atlanta. After five years in the industry she quit, and since then has set up 4Sarah, a non-profit aimed at helping women who want to leave the sex trade and adult entertainment industries.

This is an edited transcript of NOW's conversation with McClure about her experiences working in the sex industry.

NOW: Did you have any reservations about this profession before you got started?

"My average customer was a local businessman, usually married with children."
KM: I thought it was degrading. My sister started dancing when she was 17, using a fake ID. And I just saw what it was doing to her, and I really thought it was a bad thing, but when I went and first experienced it, it was fun. It was just an atmosphere where you drank and I was drinking under-age and just having a good time and my drug choice was ecstasy. And we would go and use drugs and get away with it and make money.

NOW: Who were your average customers at the clubs?

KM: My average customer was a local businessman, usually married with children.

NOW: How much were you able to make there in an average night?

KM: I made anywhere from $500 to a $1,000 a night. What really drove me to start dancing was the money, so I quit school. I didn't have any support from my mother or my father. The only thing I could do was use my looks, and I thought, "you know, why not make a lot of money?"

NOW: Did you get caught up in all that money?

My plan was to save the money. But what happens when you get in the industry, is you start making this money and you think it's always going to be there. So you start building a lifestyle around it. I had the nice car, the nice house, all the nice clothes, and I thought that was what was going to fulfill me. I had great credit. But once the money starts dying then you get stuck in the industry because you're not making enough cash to afford all your living expenses.

NOW: What makes the money start dying as you put it?

KM: What actually makes the money start dying is a little bit of time. Men start to wear on you. For a lot of the girls it's fun for them in the beginning—they're making all this money, they're getting a lot of attention. But then after you're there for a year or two, you start realizing, "This job is kind of boring." When you're in the club, you start hanging out in the bars a lot and partying all the time. And so you think "Is this all that there is to life?"

NOW: Prostitution is clearly not permitted in strip clubs, but did it sometimes lead to that?

KM: Some girls do not go beyond what they're supposed to do. But others will take it to the next stage. For example, they might go into the VIP rooms and give [oral sex] or give anything that might give them a little bit of extra tip.

NOW: Did you ever do anything like that?

"...they [strippers] might go into the VIP rooms and give [oral sex] or give anything that might give them a little bit of extra tip."
KM: I was tempted to a lot of times, but I was also asked a lot more times. When you're in the industry, a lot of the guys get comfortable with you, and so they say things like: "Do you do anything outside of here?" What most of the guys do in the strip clubs is they build a relationship with you and trust, and then they try to convince you. They'll say: "Hey, I'll pay you a couple hundred dollars if you go party with me tonight." It's kind of like you go out on a date with them and they'll pay you for your company. And then sometimes they try it that way, too.

NOW: What's the strip club scene in Atlanta like?

KM: In certain areas there is prostitution going on within the clubs. I'm not going to name any clubs, but you can go in there and it's dark. Usually if it's pitch dark, you can't see what's going on so you can go find a corner. Then there's other clubs that have a strong staff that watch the girls very, very closely to make sure nothing is going on. But there's always that slip-in when the manager's not around when the guy can get a feel.

NOW: In some of the clubs we've seen signs for private rooms. What does that mean exactly?

KM: It usually means that the customer has an opportunity to spend one-on-one time with a girl in a private setting, where it will be just him and the girl. He usually has to pay a fee for the room plus the girl per hour or 30 minutes, or however long he ends up staying with her.

NOW: What about a VIP room?

KM: Whenever you go to a club and see nothing but VIP that means money. Most of the time a girl sits one-on-one with a customer and has a conversation with him. You can make anywhere from $300 an hour to a thousand dollars an hours in a VIP room depending on the club and the setting.

NOW: Have you ever had a customer who you recognized from somewhere else?

KM: I've seen a lot of customers that are either famous or part of the Senate, or work in law enforcement.

NOW: In Atlanta is child prostitution one thing and strip clubs another, or do they work together?

"We even have younger kids who are pimping the girls out. They're like: 'Hey, I know somebody that'll pay you' $5?'"
KM: What happens is when children get involved in prostitution, they eventually grow up and they become 18. And they're like, "Okay, well, I won't have to do it on the streets anymore. I can go work at a club and get my customers." That way, if a guy's bothering them or if they don't feel safe with a guy, they can walk away.

NOW: Do you feel the presence of strip clubs in Atlanta contributes to the presence of prostitution?

KM: I believe that the strip clubs in Atlanta are really a big factor with children being prostituted and also just prostitutes in general because you're allowed in society as being accepted. It's telling our teenagers and our young girls that it's okay to make money and be pretty. They make it a glamorous thing, but they don't tell them the end result, what can happen at the end. It just lures them in.

NOW: How did you get out of stripping?

KM: My boyfriend, my knight in shining armor is what I like to call him, had invited me to church. And so I started going to church with him while I was still dancing. And it just felt very weird to go into this church and feel the love that I felt and then go back to the club. So actually one night I was driving in to work and I called my boyfriend, who is now my husband, and said: "What would you do if I quit dancing?" And he said: "You know, it's going to be hard, but I'll support you." He told me: "All you've got to focus on is the necessities in life. You won't be able to buy expensive clothes and go to the fancy restaurants. But you can do it if you set your mind to it."

I went into the club that night and I got dressed and it was really a quiet night. I walked out onto the floor and said to myself: "Man, I can't do this." And I walked away.

NOW: Do you think child prostitution is only happening in certain areas of Atlanta?

KM: Child prostitution is happening everywhere within our schools. I mean we have teenaged girls that are having sex and getting raped in school, and that's where it's starting. We even have younger kids who are "pimping" the girls out. They're like: "Hey, I know somebody that'll pay you' $5?" And to girls that are 13, $5 is a lot of money. It might not be to you or me, but to a young girl, she can start adding it up and get a pair of jeans that she wants.

NOW: What would you like to see happen in Atlanta?

KM: I would like to see all of the clubs closed down. What 4Sarah is doing now is planting a seed and building relationships with the women in the industry. We just let them know, "When you're ready to get out, there is a way out."