By Camile Rocha-Keys
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Videographer / director: Andres Aponte
Producer: Camile Rocha-Keys, Ruby Coote
Editor: Josh Halil
Elle Stanger is a mum, stripper, sex writer and often refers to herself as an ‘unlicensed underwear therapist.’
The 31-year-old from Portland, Oregon, has a five-year-old daughter - and she believes her job makes her a better mum.
She told Barcroft TV: “The nature of my work is varied. I work in a strip club three days a week, I’ve done webcam on and off, I write erotica and I sell my own porn, me and my partner just made our own - that was fun.
“I feel like being a sex worker makes me a better mum because I’ve developed a greater sense of empathy. It means that I’m responsible to make a human being that is better for the world.
“She is going to be a lot more secure about the world around her.”
The fierce feminist is proud of her career and ignores any judgemental parents at the school gates.
“I’ve been telling my daughter since she was three that mummy dances, talks to people and tells jokes for money,” Elle said.
“I think people don’t trust that I could raise a child in a nurturing, safe, structured environment because they’re projecting their own fears on me.
"I am not working in full view of her because I am an adult, I don’t want to see my parents do that.
“When I’m a mum, I’m a mum, when I’m in the adult world working, I’m doing my adult work - those two things do not overlap.”
Elle currently works at the Lucky Devil Lounge, in Portland, and says that stripping is a form of therapy for a lot of her customers.
She said: "I realised about six months into stripping that I was learning more about human beings than I’d ever learned in any psychology class.
“It was like, wow there is really a whole lot here, this feels like human, this feels like helping, this feels like giving therapy.
"I know my work is healing to people because they tell me and I see it.
“There are a lot of reasons people go into adult establishments - it’s not just because they want some kind of arousal, but because they want to be heard, they want be acknowledged, they wanna be seen.
“A lot of people don’t have it in them to seek out therapy because they are ashamed to. I think it’s a lot easier for a blue collar guy to talk to a pretty girl in her underwear for 20 bucks a song.
"I interact quite a bit on the stage, I’ll stick a cocktail straw through my nose or light my pubes on fire, I’m a pretty good show. I like making people laugh, I like hearing stories that I would never hear. I like learning from people.
"I had a woman a couple of years ago who asked me if I could just sit with her and just play with her hair, just hug her, because her wedding was the next day and she was nervous and so she wanted to de-stress. I thought that was really cool.”
Growing up, Elle wanted to be a police officer and received a degree in criminology, but 'stopped believing in the criminal justice system when she learned more about the world.’
She turned to sex work because 'she felt it was more of a compassionate method of interacting with the world around her.'
As well as stripping, Elle is a writer, and has her own website, Stripper Writer.
“My website is just like a hub for where you can find me naked on the internet, where you can find me naked in person, where you can read my writing,” she explained.
"I make shirts, I make coffee mugs, I make shirts that say, 'I only f**k feminists.’”
The mum-of-one also co-organises Portland’s Slut Walk - a yearly march to raise awareness of sexual violence.
Elle said: "I am really comfortable with calling myself a feminist because I appreciate and I respect everybody’s own sexuality. Everybody’s identity or intention.
"Slut Walk Portland has three organizers. I am one. We are all sex workers. The idea behind Slut Walk is that nobody deserves sexual assault.
"Every year I try to wear the last thing I wore when I was cat called or sexually harassed - and it is usually pants and boots and a jacket.”
A supporter of Elle and her work is her partner, Bryan. The couple have been together for over two years after he became one of Elle’s regular customers.
She said: "I was flirting with Bryan when he would come in to my place of work, which I don’t usually do. But I really liked him and I kept asking him out and he finally said yes."
Bryan added: “Elle’s a good mum because she will do absolutely anything for her child and the wellbeing of her daughter is 100 percent her priority, and that was honestly one other thing that really attracted me to her, when I found out she is a mother.
"I do think her work benefits society, I think she does a lot of good in this world, I think she does a lot of healing. I know I used to feel a lot better when I used to see her at work before we starting dating.”
Elle said: "I have raised a great kid. She is really smart and she is really happy.
"I see myself as a healer and a giver of touch and a motherly figure and not just motherly to my kids, but motherly to my clients because I want to care for them, I want them to feel happy and safe and they will treat me better when they are happier. "