Stripperoke: Cape Town’s sex work-positive, body-positive and queer friendly party

Stripperoke, an event started in 2016 and held at Club Zer021 in Cape Town, is described by its organisers as “a portmanteau performance party combining two of the funnest things in the world — strippers and karaoke”.

The party was conceptualised in order to create a safe space for sex workers, people of colour and queer people to have fun away from the misogynoir of strip clubs. It works hard at stopping oppressive behaviour; kicking out any creeps or harassers that party-goers alert them about. We spoke to some of the organisers about the event.

Image by Elijah Ndoumbé

What was the thinking behind Stripperoke?
We stole the idea from a strip club in Portland but we’re presenting it with a politically charged twist. The core organisers of Stripperoke are a group of womxn, all some combination of POC, queer and sex workers. The audience members sing karaoke songs whilst a dancer performs on the pole. Our dancers are made up of strippers, ex strippers, sex workers, burlesque performers, ballerinas, pole dancers, contemporary dancers, and brave souls who’ll try anything once, then keep coming back for more.

Why do you think it’s important?
There are spaces that exist in which the patriarchy has no voice, where warmth has become a virtue, where innocence of expression and sexuality is reclaimed and beauty is allowed to exist without imposed oppressive doctrine. These spaces are rare. This is one. It transcends so much. So much harm, so much of the mundane, so much that is systematic. It’s a reprieve from what makes this world so fucking unbearable.

Belle Wilde – Dancer.

Image by Elijah Ndoumbé

What would you like more people to know about sex work?
Sex work is a job like any other.

What do you think are some of the biggest issues sex workers face?
Hands down, the biggest problem faced by sex workers is the criminalisation of their livelihood. This leaves sex workers open to exploitation with no access to legal recourse. The stigma surrounding sex work also has a huge negative impact on the lives of sex workers. Stripperoke wholeheartedly supports the decriminalisation of sex work. We view sex work as valid means to earn a living. If you also believe this please sign this petition to change the laws in South Africa.

Image by Elijah Ndoumbé

You mentioned that it was a safe space for sex workers, POC and queer people — how does Stripperoke function as a safe space for visitors?
No space is 100% safe but we will keep fighting to make it that way. The extent to which sexual harassment is normalised, condoned or overlooked in most (even activist) spaces is shocking. We have zero tolerance of assholes and creeps. Audience members can come to us at any time with a complaint and it will be dealt with. We feel nothing kicking someone out or banning them from our event. We’d rather be small and safe than popular but riddled with problems. We’ll keep cleaning our house until all the creeps are washed away

Amantha shot by Riley Thompson

Allie Dee shot by Riley Thompson

Header image by Lambi Chibambo.

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