Inside the Lives of Exotic Dancers

    Bernadette Barton takes us inside countless strip bars and clubs, from upscale to back road as well as those that specialize in lap dancing, table dancing, topless only, and peep shows, to reveal the startling lives of exotic dancers.

    Originally published in 2006, the product of years of first-hand research in strip clubs around the country, Stripped is a classic portrait of what it’s like for those who choose to strip as a profession. Barton explores why women begin stripping, the initial excitement and financial rewards of the work, the dangers of the life—namely, drugs and prostitution—and, inevitably, the difficulties in staying in the business over time, especially for their relationships, sexuality and self-esteem.


    In the Bible Belt, it’s common to see bumper stickers that claim One Man + One Woman = Marriage, church billboards that command one to “Get right with Jesus,” letters to the editor comparing gay marriage to marrying one’s dog, and nightly news about homophobic attacks from the Family Foundation. While some areas of the Unites States have made tremendous progress in securing rights for gay people, Bible Belt states lag behind. Not only do most Bible Belt gays lack domestic partner benefits, lesbians and gay men can still be fired from some places of employment in many regions of the Bible Belt for being a homosexual. 

    In Pray the Gay Away, Bernadette Barton argues that conventions of small town life, rules which govern Southern manners, and the power wielded by Christian institutions serve as a foundation for both passive and active homophobia in the Bible Belt. She explores how conservative Christian ideology reproduces homophobic attitudes and shares how Bible Belt gays negotiate these attitudes in their daily lives. Drawing on the remarkable stories of Bible Belt gays, Barton brings to the fore their thoughts, experiences and hard-won insights to explore the front lines of our national culture war over marriage, family, hate crimes, and equal rights. Pray the Gay Away illuminates their lives as both foot soldiers and casualties in the battle for gay rights.


    Drawing on interviews, television shows, movies, and social media, Barton argues that raunch culture matters not because it is sexy, but because it is sexist. She shows how young women are encouraged to be sexy like porn stars, and to be grateful for getting cat-called or receiving unsolicited dick pics. As politicians vote to restrict women’s access to birth control and abortion, The Pornification of America exposes the double standard we attach to women’s sexuality.



Scholarly Publications


“Feminine Power: A New Articulation,” with Lisa Huebner, 2020, Psychology & Sexuality, 

“Not in Our Community: Queer Women Challenge Religious Homophobia in Rural Kentucky,” with Ashley Currier, 2020, Journal of Lesbian Studies, 24:3:186-198. 

“Andro-privilege, Raunch Culture, and Stripping,” with Hannah Mabry, 2018, Sexualities, 21:4: 605-620.  

"How Like Perceives Like: Gay People on ‘Gaydar.’” October 2015. Journal of Homosexuality, 62:12: 1615–1637 (DOI: 10.1080/00918369.2015.109120700).

"My Auto/Ethnographic Dilemma – Who Owns the Story?" September 2011, Qualitative Sociology, 34:3: 431-445.

"1CROSS + 3NAILS = 4GVN: Compulsory Christianity and Homosexuality in the Bible Belt Panopticon," April 2011, Feminist Formations, 23:1: 70-93.

"Spirituality and Stripping: Exotic Dancers Narrate the Body Ekstasis," with Constance L. Hardesty, Spring 2010, Symbolic Interaction, 33:2:280-296.

"'Abomination' – Life as a Bible Belt Gay," April 2010, Journal of Homosexuality, 57:4: 465-484.

"Managing the Toll of the Sex Industry: Boundary Setting Among Exotic Dancers," October 2007, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 36:5:571-596.

"Dancing on the Mobius Strip: Challenging the Sex War Paradigm," October 2002, Gender & Society, 16: 5: 585-602.

"Queer Desire in the Sex Industry," Fall 2001, Sexuality & Culture, 5:4:3-27


Trade Publications


“Pornification and purity in “Cuties” are two sides of the same patriarchal coin,” October 22, 2020, Salon. 

“Stormy Daniels’ stripper skills may save the day,” opinion editorial, Lexington Herald-Leader, September 23, 2018. 

MSU prof says Bible Belt gays learn to tiptoe through moral minefield,” September 13, 2015, opinion-editorial, Lexington Herald-Leader.

“Young and Gay in the Bible Belt: ‘My Mom Came at Me with a Butcher Knife!’”  AlterNet,!%27/

“Naked Truth: Reality and Fantasy are (Stripper) Poles Apart,” July/August 2008, On the Issues Magazine,

“Successfully Stripped: Stripped of Self-Worth,” June 2007, NW Women’s Journal.

“Outrage over article about strippers misdirected” opinion editorial published in the Lexington Herald-Leader, May 22, 2006.