Jacqueline Frances is a Brooklyn-based stripper, writer & illustrator, standup comic and feminist activist who, through her pithy, impish, irreverent and patriarchy-smashing social media content, has managed to amass a small army’s worth of fans and followers of her “Jacq The Stripper” internet ethos. Her popularity is a sign-o-the-times; at this moment, we have found ourselves at the precipice of a cultural tide change whose catalyst can be attributed to the art+activism of women like Jacqueline. However it can be difficult to remain hopeful that the momentum will persist and continue to build into something larger than its current moving parts, which are all still limited by institutionalized racism, misogyny, classism, ableism, and a whole plethora of heteronormative moors that preclude greater shifts in political consciousness. Saddeningly and maddeningly so…
Our electoral politics are a soap opera whose cast is comprised mostly of white, curmudgeonly baby boomers, and whose star is a sexual predator. Black people are still getting gunned down in our streets at alarmingly high rates by white law enforcement, and have zero structural recourse. Public schools are still dead broke, yet our Education Secretary is a billionaire. In every industry women still get shit pay compared to men, and are shamed or hushed into just living with it, or told that they simply don’t deserve equal compensation. Sexual assault is so commonplace that it’s rarely prosecuted and for the most part isn’t even considered a violent crime by those who are paid tax dollars to purportedly protect us. Meanwhile the sex worker community here in the U.S. has to fight tooth-and-nail for basic civil liberties, like not getting arrested for going to work. Our politicians have gone so far as to make the world a more dangerous place for this cohort; the recently passed, draconian SESTA/FOSTA legislation misguidedly conflates sex work with human trafficking, criminalizing any sort of digital advertising of sex work in the U.S. and thus making the supply/demand nexus ever more perilous. It also generally infringes on the First Amendment, and sets a dangerous precedent for the continued erosion of net neutrality. For example, sex worker activists like Jacqueline now must face imminent banning by the likes of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other online platforms.
Needless to say, while the #timesup movement certainly feels novel right now, it’s necessary to point out that time has always been up. I have personally never had time for this, and the fight is as exhausting as its ever been. Fortunately there are small pockets of the world in which there’s hope to be found, and fingers are crossed that the voices within those pockets will lead the charge to a new paradigm in which we will no longer have to deal with this crap. One of those voices is Jacq The Stripper, and she happens to be extremely funny. I got to sit down for a chat with her, which you can read below. We talked about her life and her art, and about obliterating the patriarchy one sex worker at a time. She is our current Woman Of Interest.
AudioFemme: So. What brought you into the world of stripping?
Jacqueline F: Money (laughs)!! Money. Yeah. I always wanted to be a stripper, but the stigma was too great for me to actually consider it, until I was broke enough and far enough away from home to actually do it… and that was in Australia.
AF: Oh, Australia. So really far away! Because you’re from Canada, right?
AF: Sex work is decriminalized in Canada, correct?
JF: That’s a great question. I’m gonna say that it’s definitely not like this New Zealand model we’re all chasing after. My knowledge of the laws in Canada isn’t very fresh because I’ve been an ex-pat for 8 or 9 years now, so I’m not fully aware of it. I can’t speak to the exact laws. I’d have to look that up.
AF: I always wonder about places where sex work is decriminalized – if the attitude around the sex industry in general is more relaxed.
JF: Totally, in Australia. It’s way more chill. It’s just like, stripping is stripping, and “full service” is full service, and if you wanna do both you can do both. But people aren’t expecting full service in the same way that they’re kind of optimistic about it here.
AF: That make sense. So how long were you stripping in Australia?
JF: A year. I spent almost a year there, and then I came to New York. I went traveling around the United States for a couple of months with my best friend. I was planning on staying in New York for a summer to make a shit ton of money (laughs)… And then I fell in love here, and I did not make a shit ton of money.
AF: Ha! I guess life can get in the way of plans, no?
JF: Yeah, New York City in the summer is like the worst time ever for money. I wasn’t allowed to work at the good clubs; they rejected me. I had to work at the really shitty clubs. It’s just part of the New York story.
AF: I love that the struggle is part of your story though! You’re admirably frank about the myriad hurdles you have to face in this work. I’ve been having a lot of conversations about intersectionality within sex work and how women within the community kinda self-stigmatize if that makes sense. I just learned the term “whore-archy” for example…
JF: Oh yeah! I mean I was totally guilty of that. You don’t even know you’re doing it in the beginning. But when one enters sex work, it can be such a lonely step. You’re doing it on your own. There are no rules or guidelines. It’s not an industry where teamwork is a pillar of your job. It takes a long time to find the language to express how you’re feeling and to find community. When I started 8 years ago I didn’t really know anything. I just knew I needed to make money and stripping sounded like a good way to do that so I tried it. Nobody was encouraging me to get into it. The narrative surrounding sex work is: “this is terrible; never do it.” When you decide to do it, you’re probably really influenced by that narrative, you know?
JF: But maybe now, the narrative’s changing. There are a lot more women speaking about their varied experiences, and I’m so grateful to be part of that.
AF: Yes! I want to get into your work as an activist. I found you on Instagram and started obsessing over your drawings and paintings and graphics, and then I read STRIPTASTIC! and realized you were onto something much bigger than making witty social media posts. What was behind your motivation to start publishing books?
JF: Ugh. Book publishing is the worst; I hate it, but also, I can’t not do it. When I published The Beaver Show, which is my memoir, I self-published. And as I was trying to find a publisher or an agent or anybody to even look at me (which I did not) I just started illustrating comics by accident. I just liked sharing little things that people said to me on social media, and I just realized there was a demand for it. I really enjoy drawing; I like single panel comics. I’m a comedian, so I really like a setup and a punchline.
AF: Yeah, your jokes are hilarious. I love seeing your work reposted everywhere on Instagram!
JF: Thank you! Yeah, there’s a lot of humor out there. If you don’t have a sense of humor, you probably shouldn’t be a sex worker.
AF: That’s very true.
JF: With STRIPTASTIC!, I was going to have a section be influenced by other people’s experiences. Because my middle-class white girl experience is my experience, but it’s certainly not all experiences, and I really wanted to feature different voices. So I put out a call for a “stripper’s survey.” I was just like “Hey, doing a little survey; if you want to participate, send me an email.” And over 300 people responded. I couldn’t believe it.
JF: This was way before any of this was popular on social media. I was floored by how many people wanted to participate, and I definitely was not prepared! The survey was via email. It was so poorly organized. It’s a testament to me being an artist and not an organized person. But it ended up being so much more. I’m really proud of it and so happy that it exists.
AF: Do you think you’ll do more?
JF: Probably. I can’t stop (laughs). I’m doing more art, and I’m doing a lot of watercolors. I basically just do whatever pleases me. With a hustler’s spirit, you can turn ANYTHING into money. So I’m still keen to illustrate and I have a few ideas, but there are other ways that I want to tell stories that are on the horizon that are not single panel comics. It’s all very exciting!
AF: So, I was reading some of your posts this week and you talked about your struggles with bulimia in the past. How has stripping helped you to cultivate a more favorable body image?
JF: There’s so many ways that stripping saved my life, in that respect. I was a ballet dancer growing up, so there was always this self-loathing feeling that you’re fat. And then I always loved fashion magazines, which is enough to make a child anorexic or bulimic. I struggled with it for a really long time, and then I finally got help, which was a little bit before I became a stripper. Then when I started stripping… I don’t know, being validated with money for your body is so healing. It’s so healing. That’s why it just baffles me when people like “How could you do