Student Research Projects

Exotic Dancers and the Negotiation of Stigma

Student Iantha Dube
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Sociology


Women who work as exotic dancers are often the subject of derogatory stereotypes and stigmas. Strippers are often perceived to be uneducated, lacking job talent or skills, and having low self-esteem and low moral character, stereotypes that the mass media reinforces in film and television. This research examines the unrealistic stigmas that these dancers face, and focuses on how they influence self-images. How do these constant negative labels affect the dancers themselves? Are these false identities internalized? If they face social rejection or humiliation, when do the negative perceptions become reality for these women? Labeling theory suggests people will act according to the meaning that the labels placed upon them carry, with the interpretive process revealed in interaction. Inside the subculture of dancers these labels do not stick; only outsiders respond to the negative labels and perceptions they create.