Each week, I will be introducing you all to a contributor to Stim. If you're on Twitter, you can tune in on Saturday evenings around 6pm where each person will talk a little about themselves and answer any Qs you have; else you can pop over here to read all about it in condensed form.
This week I have the pleasure of introducing you to Reese Piper. Reese is a stripper, writer and journalist based in New York. She writes about the laws and stigma sex workers face, as well as her experiences living as a messy autistic woman. Like most women, she found out about autism during adulthood and it changed her world for the better. Every day she learns something new about how autism has shaped her identity and she tries to incorporate that self-discovery into her writing. Her work has been featured in The Establishment, Upworthy, Motherboard, The New Orleans Advocate, Ravishly, and BUST.
"I’m thrilled to be a part of Stim, a collection of diverse autistic writing. Below is my thread talking a bit about me and my piece - a personal essay about sex work, performance, and autism.
I’ve been stripping for almost 3 years now, during which I discovered autism, starting writing personal essays and reporting on the industry. I enjoy writing about topics people experience in everyday life but don’t have the words to discuss them.
Stripping has been both a blessing and a curse. It saved me from an abominable student loan and provided a comfortable lifestyle without having to work 40+ hours a week, but I can never switch off. Talking to customers sucks up all my energy and leaves me depleted.
Passing as non-autistic is a performance that requires both 100% engagement and intellectual labor. It’s a strenuous game of theatre that I performed day-after-day unconsciously. When I became a stripper, however, one performance had to give. I couldn’t perform both my stripper persona and non-autistic girl together.
In my article, I’ll be discussing how stripping helped me undo years of performance. Yes, it led me out the woods, but lately, I’ve been thinking that in order to develop an identity outside of dancing, I have to stop. But can I even quit? Can I survive in this inaccessible world as an autistic woman without sex work?
I wrote about how dancing taught me to read nonverbal cues and helped me connect in this article, which captured my first 2 years in the industry. This last year, though, stripping has taken a toll on me. How is talking endlessly night after night affecting my growth? Can I grow into the compassionate autistic woman I want to while working in such an emotionally strenuous job? My article will explore these questions.
Sex work is different for everyone just as autism is different for everyone. My goal in my writing is to capture the ambiguity we walk around with every day so that people can find meaning in their lives. It’s an honor to have my words featured alongside so many amazing autistic writers and I'm equally honored to breathe light into the experiences of autistic sex workers."
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