The science of strippers' tips

Exotic dancers earn better tips when they're ovulating, claims a new study.

Published October 4, 2007 1:40PM (EDT)

Oy, double oy. Psychology Today again did some evolutionary psychology bumping and grinding with its coverage of a new study which finds that strippers make more money when they are ovulating. (Thanks to Gawker for the tip.)

The study is the work of Geoffrey Miller, a psychologist at the University of New Mexico. There's no word on the study's forthcoming publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Nor does the magazine give many details about the study's size or scope, but one shouldn't assume that an ovulation study that hits the headlines necessarily represents many more subjects than you can count on your fingers and toes. Last year's oft-reported and here derided study finding that women dress in a more revealing way during ovulation involved 30 college students. The remarkable finding was that observers could guess nearly 60 percent of the time whether a woman was ovulating based on her dress.

In Miller's study, the research team apparently counted the tips strippers made from lap dancing and found that women made about $70 an hour while ovulating, compared with about $35 while menstruating, and $50 in between. (Did it include nightly field work as well?) Women on the Pill earned an average $37 compared with $53 an hour not taking birth control pills.

Why would this be? Here's Psychology Today's analysis: "Miller links the wage fluctuations to changes in body odor, waist-to-hip ratio, and facial features." (I'm surprised he didn't mention swelling labia!) Much like the study suggesting women's fashion follows their hormonal flow, this one seems not to have dealt with some practical complications like premenstrual grumps and cramps. Both during and before menstruation, women may be feeling less than up with people, especially if those people happen to be glassy-eyed, salivating men. It also doesn't mention the possibility that the women on birth control (more likely in sexual partnerships?) might find their jobs less appealing than those who are unattached -- which presumably could also hurt their bottom line.

But don't let the facts get in the way of a theory! Brit-born lad Miller is also author of "The Mating Mind," which posits the theory that our brains have evolved as entertainment centers (creating art, music ... pole dancing?) to stimulate potential mates. Like so many of these studies, this one is presented with a feminist twist: It offers a financial guide for female service workers. "If you're a woman in any service-industry job looking to maximize your tips," says the article, "Miller suggests scheduling more shifts for the phase right before ovulation: 'It might help to know about this so that you can exploit these effects.'"

OK, I admit it, evolutionary psychology -- with its rampant stereotypes disguised in scientific crotchless panties -- gets my knickers in a twist and not in a good way. So what if women are better bumpers and grinders when they are well lubricated with hormones. Is this a meaningful use of the scientific method? What's next? How well female surgeons perform depending on their moon time? Whether female politicians' popularity rises and falls with their estrogen levels?

Update: We just got an e-mail from the paper's author with a link to the study.

By Carol Lloyd

Carol Lloyd is currently at work on a book about the gentrification wars in San Francisco's Mission District.

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