Eloise Peredruk

Striptopia

A strippers solution

The shady and old-fashioned atmosphere of a strip club attaches a stigma to the role of the stripper. The disregard towards the work is wrapped up in the stench of cigarettes and stale beer that lingers on the red velvet interior. Designer Maggie Laylon Saunders addresses this dystopia with her strip club for millennials, Striptopia.

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Striptopia - Image by Striptopia

Maggie created the concept for Striptopia with digital designer Erik Vlemmix, a pop-up strip club that offers full political, financial and bodily autonomy. The project is part of the social design department at Design Academy Eindhoven that addresses the imbalance of power structures, racial discrimination, transphobia and sexism often experienced within the male-dominated industry, with 90% of strip clubs owned by cis men. 

Striptopia disturbs the patriarchal conventions on which the industry is currently built. Strippers are given the tools to create their own working conditions, therefore tackling exploitation and giving agency back to the performers. The app functions with a wearable technology that forms a digital barrier between client and stripper, ensuring extra boundaries for consent. This allows customers to send tips direct to the strippers bank account, keeping 90% with the other 10% to sex worker foundations. 

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Striptopia app - Image by Striptopia

This platform allows stripper collectives to set up a club anywhere they like, endorsing the prospect of male dancers, female viewers, mixed gender audiences, couples, and trans/queer participants within the culture of strip clubs. This autonomy allows for a more inclusive strip-club, as “both our audience and performers include all genders, ethnicities and sexual orientations”.

The need for an autonomous pop up strip club could not be more socially relevant or necessary. Maggie says the purpose of the app was to give sex workers physical space. Now that we live in a 1.5 meter society this becomes crucial for strippers, especially within inclosed spaces. In general, clients need to learn to keep more distance in order to allow room for consent, which is where the app certainly becomes handy.

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Striptopia2 - Image by Striptopia

Initially Striptopia would function at festivals and clubs, yet with the current climate this is not possible. Maggie is a member of union SAVE and stresses the overly restrictive measurements on the industry, the lack of funding and in general the poor treatment of sex workers. Particularly in comparison to other industries, as for sex workers more restrictions are being put in place, therefore hindering the ability to work. 

Because of this, technology has become increasingly useful for sex workers who have no choice but to go online. Initiatives such as Striptopia are particularly valuable as interacting online can be a challenge, especially when apps such as Zoom and Skype do not approve of sex work on their platforms. Initiatives such as Striptopia are offering autonomy back to the sex workers through the absence of an overtly exploitative management. 

Striptopia gives strippers the independence by taking ownership away from club bosses and back to the performers themselves. By doing so, the app becomes a great tool to reimagine this kind of work. Striptopia reshapes the concept of stripping, by taking the strip out of the club and creating "a stripper-owned strip club for millennials".