In 1978 there were 63 strip clubs across Toronto. 

Today there are less than 10.
What happened?

 

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The Toronto Stripper History Project

Preserving our history through digital storytelling! 

The Toronto Stripper History Project is building a living archive of stripper histories.

We are a digital storytelling project by and for exotic dancers to tell our stories and preserve our memories of working in Toronto. Whether you started working in the 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's or present day you have important experiences and insights all dancers can learn from! 

The Toronto Stripper History Project is a part of the Harlot History Archives, documenting sex worker histories in Toronto. 

We are working to remember our history and track the rise and fall of Toronto Strip clubs over the last 50 years in Toronto. We want to hear from dancers across generations to document how clubs, the city and our industry has changed over time!

From Yonge Street's 
Sin Strip of the 60's and 70's, to the era of elaborate burlesque performances, contested "no touch" laws, and the impact of COVID-19 on local clubs, our project looks to map stripper histories and highlight how dancers have had to be creative and resilient to adapt to these changes! 




How Does The Project Work?

The Toronto Stripper History Project is documenting stories from current and former exotic dancers to create a timeline and archive of major events that have shaped our industry. The project is run by current and former exotic dancers with a wide-range of options for participation:
 

  • Virtual interviews

  • Focus groups

  • Submission of dancer-related archives (old photos, videos, articles or memorabilia from dancers' history). 


With these interviews The Toronto Stripper History Project will showcase dancers' history through our podcast, blog, newsletter and online platforms. These stories are meant to help us build a public, living archive of stripper histories in Toronto, but how and where your story is shared is entirely up to you! 




Our Core Principles:

  • Dancers deserve to live and work with dignity and respect.

  • Dancers deserve to share our stories on our terms. 

  • Dancers deserve to be compensated fairly for our time.

    • Current and former dancers compensation starts at $100 for participation.

  • Dancers deserve to have full creative control their personal stories. 

    • Participants decide how their stories are used, stored and shared.




Why Do We Need a Stripper History Project?
 

  1. Our History Matters: 

    • Our industry has a rich history in Toronto.

    • Exotic dancers face unique challenges working in the City of Toronto and deserve labour rights, safe working conditions and environments free from stigma + shaming. 

    • Exotic dancers are creative, resilient and brilliant! Through the 70's and 80's exotic dancers at Jilly's performed elaborate stage shows (even including exotic animals!); feature performers could travel the country with beautiful headshots, imagery and promo; exotic dancers in Toronto have challenged whorephobia (shaming of dancers), sexism and racism on the job.

       

  2. We're regulated as a legal industry, but often policed and stigmatized by surrounding communities. 

    • Each year dancers register for licenses (and pay annual renewal fees) that are regulated by the City of Toronto's Municipal Licensing and Standards Division. Our work is then governed by Toronto City By laws that tell us everything from how close a strip club can be from a public park, school or church to what body parts can/cannot make contact with clients.


      We are heavily regulated and policed, but also working in an industry that has historically been met with a lot of shaming, stigma and moral panic from surrounding communities.

       

  3. Strippers are a social + cultural phenomenon: 

    • As clubs close and digital spaces like social media, camming sites and content creation platforms become more mainstream - dancers are often the first ones to jump on the newest technologies + make them popular. 


      Our aesthetics inspire hip hop culture, mainstream music + media, style and political movements - from Hot Girl Summer to #BlackLivesMatter, the Women's March and Black-led stripper strikes across the continent (#NYCStripperStrike, #PDXStripperStrike, etc.), dancers are leaders. 

       

Dancers have so many incredible experiences, strengths and stories to share. The Toronto Stripper History Project is passionate about preserving our history and celebrating our communities across generations! 

Are you a dancer with questions about the Toronto Stripper History Project?