Eaves, Elisabeth 1971-
EAVES, Elisabeth 1971-
PERSONAL: Born 1971, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Education: Graduate of University of Washington (international studies); Columbia University, M.A. (international affairs).
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Alfred E. Knopf, Random House, Inc., 299 Park Ave., New York, NY 10171.
CAREER: Writer. Worked as a journalist for the Reuters news service and as a stripper.
Bare: On Women, Dancing, Sex, and Power, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2002.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A novel about national identity and globalization.
SIDELIGHTS: Elisabeth Eaves, the daughter of a professor father and psychologist mother, grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, where as a teen, she was able to view shows at local nude bars. An attractive young woman, Eaves received her share of attention and soon came to realize the power her sexuality gave her, but she questioned the rules she was expected to follow, which she compared to the relative freedom from the double standard enjoyed by strippers. In 1996 she took the name Leila to work at the Lusty Lady in Seattle, Washington, where she danced naked behind glass in a peep-show environment where customers fed quarters into a slot. In her book, Bare: On Women, Dancing, Sex, and Power, Eaves talks about the aspects of the work that she found empowering and appealing, and those she found disappointing, including the effect on her personal relationships.
Eaves took her first nude dancing job to raise cash to pay her bills and to finance graduate school. She enjoyed higher pay than was possible with traditional jobs and worked at the Lusty Lady for a year before leaving for New York to continue her education at Columbia University and then to work as a journalist. But she was drawn back to Seattle in 2000, this time to a traditional strip club, where she came into contact with customers and other dancers. She found herself unable to lap dance because it was too intimate.
By returning to this work, Eaves was able to resolve some of her own feelings and document them as a journalist. She also interviewed other sex workers and notes the day-to-day life of women in that line of work. "And while she certainly nails the exteriors of the profession," wrote John D. Thomas for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "her real goal is considerably more interior. Eaves uses her stripping as a tool to investigate and consider modern sexual mores—her own and society's."
Rachel Hall reviewed Bare for Independent Weekly online, calling it "a valuable addition to public discussions of sex work if for no other reason than it insists on a more complex range of experience than popular thought allows. Eaves's tales from the booth challenge popular assumptions that usually frame debates about sex work: namely, that women who work in the sex industry are 'either' victims and sex addicts 'or' gorgeous, empowered goddesses who have got it all. . . . Both are terribly reductive, and inadequate to account for the range of women's experiences as laborers in the sex industry."
Eaves was interviewed by Laura Buchwald for Bold Type online. Buchwald asked her to discuss the men who patronize strip clubs. Eaves said, "I don't have a lot of respect for these men. I don't think they're evil people, but I think that they're weak. I see visiting strip clubs as a form of cheating; I'm bothered by the idea that women are for sale, and I see this in many aspects of our society. Not just stripping, but in the entertainment, modeling, and fashion industries. . . . For the real regulars, strip clubs seem like an addiction; the amount of money they spend is sad. They're constantly buying an illusion, because that's all you get in a strip club."
Eaves also noted that working in the sex business is "very conducive to dating women; you're surrounded by naked women at work. I've met lesbians who believe that straight strippers can get so burnt out and negative toward men that they decide to date women; working as a stripper does effect your heterosexual relationships. If you're a lesbian, men just aren't as relevant to your personal life; you're not going to take your anger toward men home."
Lily Burana, who reviewed the book for Washington Post Book World, called it "a first-rate, first-person work of social anthropology, in which the writer is immersed in a certain line of work for reasons more exploratory than financial."
A Kirkus Reviews contributor felt that the book's strength "lies in her [Eaves's] nonsensational, balanced look at her coworkers, with all their singular histories, and at the backstage of a strip parlor, with the attendant headaches of workplace etiquette and labor relations."
A Publishers Weekly reviewer said that Eaves "manages to avoid moralizing in favor of reportage, and despite the title's ominous promise, keeps the philosophizing to a minimum."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Eaves, Elisabeth, Bare: On Women, Dancing, Sex, and Power, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2002.
Booklist, November 1, 2002, Kristine Huntley, review of Bare: On Women, Dancing, Sex, and Power, p. 467.
Entertainment Weekly, November 8, 2002, Troy Patterson, review of Bare, p. 18.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2002, review of Bare, p. 1278.
Library Journal, November 1, 2002, Ina Rimpau, review of Bare, p. 118.
Publishers Weekly, September 9, 2002, review of Bare, p. 56.
Washington Post Book World, November 10, 2002, Lily Burana, review of Bare, p. 10.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution,http://www.accessatlanta.com/ (November 17, 2002), John D. Thomas, review of Bare.
Baltimore City Paper,http://www.citypaper.com/ (November 20, 2002), John Barry, review of Bare.
Bold Type,http://www.randomhouse.com/ (February 5, 2003, Laura Buchwald, interview with Eaves.
Boston's Weekly Dig,http://www.weeklydig.com/ (November 13, 2002), Anne Weeks, review of Bare.
Independent Weekly,http://indyweek.com/Durham/ (December 18, 2002), Rachel Hall, review of Bare.
Seattle Times,http://www.seattletimes.nwsource.com/ (October 29, 2002), Patti Jones, review of Bare.*