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Stripper: ‘I thought I saw the devil’ in the men who ogled me

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A dwindling number of New Yorkers go to Times Square's peep shows to feast their eyes on young girls dancing behind glass. But few suspect that, at the same time, the strippers are getting a much more terrifying show.

A Christian woman who makes her living on the seedier side of the Big Apple told the New York Times on Friday that she had seen demonic forces while working in the sex industry.

The woman, who chose to be identified by her confirmation name of “Anastasia,” said she ran away from home at 16 and found that, without an education or job skills, her only means of making a substantial income was as a stripper.

The Times reports that after she began her first job at a club called Show Follies, “She quickly saw men do things that made her bless herself.”

“I thought I saw the devil,” she said.

She is far from the only performer in the sex trade to have dark spiritual experiences. “As someone who was there, the demons attached to pornography are incredibly strong,” said former gay pornstar Joseph Sciambra.

Anastasia now works at the Playpen in a peep show theater. She waits behind glass for a customer to place $10 into a machine that raises the partition between them. For an additional fee arranged between them, she performs until his time runs out.

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani went out of his way to close down Times Square's infamous sex shops, rigorously enforcing zoning laws that put most of the industry out of business in the 1990s. The anonymity and ubiquity of the internet did the rest.

In today's porn-saturated world, “peep shows” may seem as outdated as the automat. A porter at the Playpen said they are kept alive only by “the curious, the suckered, and the regulars.”

The closer the “suckered” get to the industry, the more depressed and guilty they feel. The porter said he was a sexual addict before he began working in the industry and saw the sadness and desperation on the other side of the glass.

Many are stripping to finance an addiction or, like Anastasia, because of a broken home life. They must face constant harassment on and off the job. One study found that that 12 percent of all strippers are slapped by the manager or other male staff, and nearly nine-in-10 (85 percent) say they were verbally or physically abused on the job.

“I came into this business not understanding my behavior and how it affected other people,” he said.

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Porn consumption leads young women, and underage girls, to dance in the hopes of a quick payday. But even that wage is being lowered, a product of supply-and-demand. With the rise of webcams, Anastasia has seen her income in a peep booth dwindle precipitously.

For now, it is enough to keep Anastasia working in what she considers an abode of the devil. But she and her fellow workers dream of more.

“We complain — all of us,” she said of her fellow strippers. “We want to leave.”

The porter said those who have been in the sex industry for a long period of time feel trapped – a feeling he shares. “You’re in so deep that you don’t know how to get out,” he said. “You just keep trying, and you hope for a miracle.”

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