We all know Kickstarter is the land of silly fundraising ideas go to die. But there’s one project currently raising funds on the site that’s mighty interesting and important: License To Pimp, an independent documentary film about how three San Francisco strippers are cope with how the strip clubs employing them are turning into brothels. This is no sexy, saucy stripper flick like Showgirls or Magic Mike; this is a serious study of the sex work industry’s labor violations and how three real live women must cope.
According to its Kickstarter page, License To Pimp is being made by Hima B., a woman who herself worked as a stripper throughout San Francisco. She knows firsthand how clubs abuse standard labor practices, such as refusing to pay employees a minimum wage and charging employees just for the privilege to work. In the film, three strippers of varying ages and backgrounds experience clubs asking them to give blowjobs and do other sexual activities more akin to prostitution than exotic dancing. Simply put, this is not the job these women signed up for.
There’s Lola, a 16-year-old who began stripping to financially support her mother, who has cancer. The strip club employing Lola increases the stripper’s daily fees — that is, how much money a stripper has to pay the house just for the privilege of working — to $200. This means Lola may need to turn to prostitution, which is something she isn’t comfortable with. Lola’s story in the film is told via animation, in order to protect her identity.
Then there’s Daisy Anarachy, who fights the strip clubs’ abuses on the city level. But, as the Kickstarter page notes, the clubs and "most surprisingly the strippers themselves" are fighting the city’s plans to curb violations.
Lastly is Mariko Passion, a stripper who quits exotic dancing when the work is becoming increasingly sexual and becomes an escort worker — and a high school teacher! — in the hopes she will be able to keep more of her wages. The escort agency, it turns out, takes 60 percent of her wages. Mariko then has to decide whether she’s willing to risk her own safety by working independently.
License To Pimp is hoping to raise $30,000 on Kickstarter by July 18 to finish a rough cut of the film. (I’m fairly certain $30,000 was Magic Mike‘s budget for baby oil for Channing Tatum’s abs.) I’ll be hoping some deep-pocketed — or, hey, even shallow-pocketed — individuals make it happen, as I’m fascinated to see a flick about sex workers without that Hollywood gloss.