“WTF, I thought we were just here to observe!” Laptop Mag contributor TJ Fink said in horror as he watched me, represented as a hot dog avatar, put on my best moves at Club B33, a public strip club inside VRChat.
“When in Rome, do what the Romans do!” I said while circling a pole, imagining myself as Salma Hayek from From Dusk Till Dawn. However, from the outside looking in, I just looked like a wonky, wobbling weiner. How do I know? Fink took an in-game screenshot and showed me the evidence — yes, that’s me throwing my buns in a circle in my, er, “seductive” routine.
You laugh, but guess what? Someone thought my routine was inviting enough to get a “hot diggity dog!” out of ‘em. I thought I was safe as weiner, a relatively androgynous character (female-presenting avatars tend to get harassed in VRChat), but it completely slipped my mind that I am giant, phallic-shaped edible entity in the middle of a strip club. As such, you can imagine the lewd comments that were hurled my way. Oops!
At this point, Fink, represented as a cute anime character, was glitching because the Meta Quest 2 headset strapped to our heads, with its less-than-capable chipset and insufficient 6GB of RAM, can’t handle such a demanding social VR environment.
Grabbing someone’s attention while Fink was out of sight, I felt confident enough to step into the shoes of an exotic dancer and do a little performance — or so I thought. The moment I started writhing, I was shocked at the overwhelming sense of self-consciousness I felt. Despite the fact that I was sitting alone in my living room with sweats, and no one in VRChat could see the real me, my brain couldn’t register that I’m currently inside a simulated realm. As far as my brain knew, there were real people staring at me and expecting me to put on a good show!
I completely underestimated how much mental preparedness, balance and coordination (you need to appear to hold the pole while dancing), and communication skills (for dirty talk, of course) one needs to successfully execute a pole-dancing routine in the metaverse from start to finish.
If you think that VR-based erotic dancers have it easy, simply strapping on a headset and shake their bums, stick around because, let me tell you, materializing your frisky side in the metaverse is not the walk in the park you think it is.
I may have shook my hot dog buns for free, but as it turns out, there are erotic dancers who get tipped for their skills. Before I dive into this topic, let me tell you what compelled me to explore the steamy side of the metaverse.
I was minding my own business, scrolling through TikTok, and suddenly, I spotted a viral video, attracting a whopping five million views: @holynft claimed that he made $1 million in a year as a “metaverse stripper.” Record scratch. What?!
“Nonsense!” I thought to myself. “There’s no way in hell that’s true.” After doing some research, my skepticism was justified. According to the Daily Dot, the TikToker is a scammer who created the video to lure viewers into joining his Discord server. He did a bait and switch, goading metaverse-stripper hopefuls to hop aboard his NFT project.
Can you make $1 million as an erotic dancer in the metaverse? Well, I’m not saying it’s totally impossible, but it’s definitely improbable.
You may be wondering,“What’s a more accurate figure?” A YouTuber with the handle Twortles answered this question by interviewing VRChat exotic dancers in a riveting documentary titled, “The Hidden Performers of the Metaverse.” Some claimed that they don’t make a dime (they just do it for fun) while others said that, on good nights, they can collect up to $2,000 in one month. Keep in mind, though, that just like in real life, there are fortuitous days in which a dancer can make a satisfactory chunk of change, but other times, they may not be so lucky.
I reached out to Twortles to get more insight about how erotic dancers get paid. Truth be told, Twortles was hesitant about my intentions in writing this article, adding that journalists tend to sensationalize the metaverse’s erotic-dance community. However, after assuring Twortles that I have no ill intentions, they told me that VRChat users typically rely on peer-to-peer payment apps for tipping.
“They can earn tips from audience members or friends via CashApp or Venmo in their bio, which is purely optional.” In other words, they’re grateful when folks shower them with cash, but payment is not a requirement. Twortles added that not all VRChat exotic dancers earn a living by performing in VR. But some do, especially those who have made a name for themselves in the community.
Believe it or not, among those who have gained notoriety for impressive dancing, they can earn a living wage. They often set their own prices, and yes, people are willing to pay them, especially if they’re huge fans.
But for the most part, exotic dancers simply dance for fun — sans the expectation of being paid. The real money in VRChat comes from avatar creation, DJing, and other niches, but that’s for a whole ‘nother article.
If you thought, like me, that you could just pull up VRChat, search for strip clubs, and end up in the seedy underbelly of the metaverse, you’re way off track. Although I had a chance to practice my erotic-dancer moves at Club B33, Virgo4u, the club owner and founder of Club Zodiac (a private, suitable-for-work club inside VRChat), told me that the real strip clubs — where all the action happens — are privatized and have various degrees of exclusiveness.
If you wanted to explore Club Zodiac, for example, you’d need to visit the VR venue’s Discord server first, which kicks off an involved process, including age verification, before you can gain entry into events. Many people find out about Club Zodiac, and other metaverse venues of its ilk, after stumbling upon its social media posts or hearing about it from word of mouth.
I asked Virgo4u whether there’s an audition process of some sort. Her response? “This isn’t ‘Dancing with the Stars!’” Instead, newcomers get an onboarding process of sorts and are prompted to read Club Zodiac’s rules. “When you enter into an event, we have stage dancing and floor dancing,” Virgo4u said. As such, as a newbie, you could test the waters by experimenting with floor dancing. “We get everyone hyped up, like, ‘This person’s new! Get close to the stage; give ‘em some emojis!’”
I was also taken aback to hear how organized these private metaverse clubs are. Club Zodiac, for example, has meetings, staff members, and even a tiered organizational structure, if you will. Depending on your commitment and dedication to Club Zodiac, the strata for being an exotic dancer at the metaverse venue are as follows:
- New entertainers
- Special guest entertainers
- Cast entertainers
Officials are the crème de la crème of Club Zodiac. Once they reach this top status, Virgo4u says they can gain access to financial help. “With us making money from our Patreon, if people need help with money, or if their equipment breaks, and they need a new controller, we’ll look inside the funds [to see if we can help].”
One pertinent piece of advice Virgo4u has for new dancers? Stretch! “If you go into the game and you’re like, ‘OK, I’m gonna do splits, I’m going to do dancing, and I’m going to shake my a**, you’re going to hurt yourself the next day. You’re going to be in pain. You need to stretch,” the Club Zodiac owner warned.
As I hinted at the outset, the Quest 2 cannot handle VRChat. In fact, Fink and I grew frustrated with the constant crashing.
Packed with a Snapdragon XR2 Gen 1 chip and only 6GB of RAM, Meta’s standalone headset buckled under pressure while we explored crowded strip clubs — some had more than 100 users in one room at the same time. As such, you can imagine the stress and pressure the Quest 2 is under while trying to render so many actions at once.
To unburden the Quest 2, you can purchase the Meta Link Cable (opens in new tab) (previously known as Oculus Link), an ultra-long, USB-C to USB-C cable that lets you harness the power of your PC so you can unlock access to the most graphics-intensive, resource-heavy games. You simply plug one end to the headset and the other to a VR-ready laptop — and you’re off to the races. Another option is securing a wired headset like the Valve Index or the HTC Vive Pro.
Now, if you’re going to be a VR exotic dancer — a serious one — consider getting yourself a full-body tracker (FBT). In the “Hidden Performers of the Metaverse” documentary, one exotic dancer was forlorn over the fact that “half-body dancers” don’t get as much respect as full-body ones. Dispelling my confusion, Virgo4u told me that half-body dancers typically only use a VR headset as well as a waist tracker, but because they’re lacking trackers in other parts of the body to render their movements in the metaverse, their routines may not look as smooth and visually alluring.
“You can’t do splits nor handstands,” Virgo4u said, but the Club Zodiac owner said that no one should be excluded from participating in exotic dancing simply because they don’t have the proper equipment. After all, decent full-body tracking is expensive.
While some spend a fortune getting tracks for nearly every nook and cranny of their body, Virgo4u said, for the sake of simplicity and saving money, you could do just fine with trackers for the head, hands, waist and feet (your headset and controllers should take care of the first two).
I understand why some erotic dancers shy away from extensive FBT; it requires quite a convoluted setup. You need a VR-ready laptop with decent specs, two base stations, several trackers, and track straps (to hold the trackers in place on your body). One of the most popular FBT erotic dancers use is the HTC Vive Tracker 3.0 (opens in new tab), allowing them to show off their sexiest moves from head to toe.
You can kick your FBT up a notch and add a haptic suit, allowing you to feel VRChat users’ touch. In other words, if you’re wearing a haptic suit, and I, as a hot dog avatar, decide to pat your head, you will definitely feel it. But of course, people are using haptic suits for more than just hugs, cuddles, and head patting.
After having my fill of erotic dancers in the metaverse, I discovered another community that caught my eye: erotic roleplayers.
In VRChat, I stumbled upon a few private VIP rooms as I explored some clubs. In one venue, I walked into an empty, private room called “Autumn” that had an interactive tablet on its wall. With it, I could take a selfie and the photo would appear on the front door for other VRChat users to see.
I could then tap a button to alert others that I am, er, looking for company — wink, wink. Hell, there’s even a Do Not Disturb button I can press, too. Plus, I can lock the door once a companion enters — or wait for more.
You can get frisky with just a headset, but that would require too much imagination on your part. With a haptic suit, however, “woo-hoo-ing” in the metaverse feels all the more real and immersive.
One time, I barged in on VRChat users inside a private room who forgot to lock the door. I cannot tell you what I saw, but I immediately wanted to douse my poor hot dog eyes in ketchup — and mustard for good measure — to obscure the bow chicka wow wow I unfortunately stumbled upon.
Like the aforementioned strip clubs, there are private worlds, as opposed to public ones, that specifically cater to the ERP community. You may see some PG-13 action in the public worlds, but if you want to cross over to X-Rated territory, you’ll have to find a private location (according to VRChat’s terms and conditions, the X-Rated stuff are not allowed in the public worlds).
It’s worth noting that erotic roleplaying (ERPing) is often looked down upon among many VRChat members, but I can’t see how it’s any different from any other mode of connecting with love interests (e.g. NSFW texting). Admittedly, however, if you’re ERPing with strangers in the metaverse, there’s a creep factor regarding the fact that you have no earthly idea who’s truly behind the headset.
The average Joe underestimates how, er, developed the metaverse truly is in the VR world — it’s not some pie-in-the-sky concept that only exists in sci-fi novels.
In the simulated realm, with the Meta Quest 2 strapped to my head, I’ve witnessed lavish VR weddings, visited crowded comedy clubs with rowdy hecklers, danced inside techno clubs, teleported into lively karaoke bars where you can sing your heart out, played paintball with complete strangers, and watched people debate the concept of death inside a Tibetan temple. Hell, I even attended a shockingly accurate recreation of Burning Man (without needing to worry about the dust storms).
And you think strip clubs and private VIP rooms would be left out of the metaverse party? Not a chance! There are flourishing, thriving social VR communities as we speak, whether they’re on VRChat, AltSpace (Microsoft’s metaverse app), or Horizon Worlds (Meta’s metaverse app). Ready Player One is almost here. We just need a few advancements (slimmer headsets, less convoluted setups, and less latency), and bam, life will imitate art.