Why a Former Stripper Running for Congress Matters Even Though It Shouldn’t

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By Emily Leibert

According to Haley Weiss at The Washington Post’s The Lily, Alexandra Hunt, a 28-year-old from Rochester, New York, is running for Pennsylvania’s 3rd District, making her the first openly former stripper to run for public office in the United States. If she unseats the incumbent Rep. Dwight Evans in the Democratic primary in May 2022, she would also become the first openly former stripper to hold federal public office.

While Hunt was more than happy to talk about her professional and academic past (she holds a master’s of science and a master’s of public health from universities in Philadelphia and currently works as a data manager at a biopharmaceutical company Adaptimmune), she told The Lily she was unsure about announcing herself as a former stripper for fear of how it might sway the public conversation about her or distract from her actual qualifications. For many former strippers and sex workers, Weiss writes, “the stigma makes carrying a secret the simpler option.”

“I was in community and in conversation and connection with sex workers before I launched [the campaign], and they said, ‘Don’t leave us behind,’” Hunt said.

Despite the fact that many of us interact with strippers and sex workers in varying capacities (at bachelor or bachelorette parties, at strip clubs, online, etc.) for varying reasons (for entertainment, for fun, for sexual satisfaction or for company), sex work still carries a burdensome stigma that makes it difficult for sex workers to participate in certain parts of society. Some women have even been forced to leave their day jobs after being outed for their OnlyFans accounts. Hunt was also ousted from a part-time role as youth soccer coach after the players’ parents found out about her past.

But — and we shouldn’t have to keep saying this — sex work is viable work that often pays well and that requires both artistic skills and physical strength. I’d like to see you shimmy up a pole all while smiling and simultaneously making it look graceful and sexy (nice try). In a capitalist country where many underserved populations grow up without the necessary foothold to get ahead, sex work provides a much-needed option for those who didn’t inherit a tidy college fund to pay for an education and rise above their means. And Hunt is the personification of that trajectory.

Hunt’s run for office is helping to undo the outdated stigma that being a stripper somehow precludes a woman from being a smart, productive member of society. The daughter of two teachers, Hunt began stripping in college to supplement her income as an on-campus server in order to pay for her degree. Partly due to her side gig, she was able to graduate with her bachelor’s degree one year early and, according to Weiss, began working on suicide-prevention projects with the extra money. She’s whip smart, ambitious, and (clearly) politically savvy. Hopefully her stripping will remain a single line on her resume, rather than defining her entire political campaign and identity.

“I don’t want to become the face of sex work,” Hunt told The Lily. “And it’s not because of any sort of stigma or shame, but because there have to be things given back to sex workers that have been taken from them.”

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