A very talented and widely admired young female writer made her reputation by peddling her flesh.
The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, April 10, 2008. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.
A Stripper Is My Daughter’s Role Model
Diablo Cody (born Brook Busey) is the Academy Award winning screenwriter of the much-heralded indy film, Juno. Cody, not yet 30, is among Hollywood's hottest properties. My 20-year-old daughter, who likewise aspires to be a writer, is extremely fond of Cody. Like many young people, Anna reads Cody's MySpace site and blogs - which she continues even after becoming famous.
To tell you the truth, I'm fascinated by Cody. She originally achieved prominence with her memoir, Candy Girl, describing her year spent stripping and working at other sex industry jobs. Cody, and her writing, are unflinching, bold, and funny.
I found Candy Girl brilliant - really better than Juno. It is entirely original, an anthropological exploration of an American underworld. It is Cody's ability not to evaluate herself and others and to participate fully in these experiences that makes her so brilliant. Yet some of the clubs she worked at involved full nudity, all encouraged mutual touching by patrons and strippers, and she often worked intoxicated.
Working as a stripper and writing about it - after leaving her boyfriend in Chicago and moving to Minneapolis to be with a man she met over the Internet - would have been hard to predict based on her prior life. A self-described nerd from a well-off intact family, Cody attended Catholic schools, graduated college, then worked as a factotum at low-paying jobs.
One of her motivations for stripping was money - it enabled Cody and her boyfriend to marry and to buy a home, including his daughter from a prior marriage. (Cody's marriage didn't last.)
Of course, she also stripped and wrote about it because she wanted to gain attention as a writer.
But Cody also benefits from expressing herself as a stripper. By the end of the book, when she develops a high-paying act, she is proud that she has overcome her prior inhibitions and awkwardness. In short, she found stripping liberating.
At the same time, she had bad experiences, did things she was ashamed of, and noted the very sad and very vicious people she met as co-workers, employers, and clients. Finally, she is repulsed by hustling drinks and lap dances and by the people she worked with.
Cody has little to say about her own motivation and offers few insights into strippers and johns. At her blog, The Pussy Ranch, she cites a review of Juno in the New Yorker which applies to herself as well: "She's a shrewd girl, and very blunt, yet she's taken in by her own gift for rude comedy, which, as we learn, masks a great deal of uncertainty."
Anna's review of Candy Girl:
Diablo Cody says it herself; she's a nerd, not a hot little number. In her book she describes her "slacker fat and lumpen glutes" and thighs as "pale and malleable as packaged biscuit dough." She contrasts herself with tanned and extensioned veteran strippers, women who ooze sex and make a thousand dollars a night at the clubs Diablo works in. Initially, her foray into stripperdome seems more like a curious jaunt, and she retains her humanity and humor. Unfortunately, Diablo quickly gets immersed in the stripper culture, and hoping to compete with the beautiful women around her, she loses herself. She gets a job as a sex worker, masturbating for strange men, then returns to stripping reincarnated as a real stripper, not an ironic one, "projecting nothing but the hilarious illusion that [she] was the axis of the sexual universe." But behind her self-deprecating language, there is an element of pride. She didn't go into stripping to be herself; she could have done that anywhere. She went into stripping to prove that she could fit in, that she was as desirable as any of those women.
I'm not a prude, and working in the sex industry is a personal choice that I can't say is right or wrong for anyone. All I know is that I found the book so depressing and scary that I had a nightmare that I became a sex worker. I think that's probably because I respect Diablo so much as a writer. Juno was incredible. And if someone that talented can fall into something so shady, what's to become of me?