Tipping and Stripping

To what extent does a woman’s ovulatory cycle affect the amounts of tips she generates at any given time?

Recent research published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior suggests it could have a staggering influence.

Researchers sought to find out whether oestrus was really “lost” during human evolution (as some often claim) so they examined the ovulatory cycle effects on tip earnings by professional lap-dancers working in gentlemen’s clubs.

Eighteen dancers recorded their tip earnings over a sixty-day period, which included a total of 296 shifts (representing around 5300 lap dances) and the results demonstrated cycle phase and tip earnings were significantly correlated.

On average, participants (who were not using contraceptive pills) earned US$335 per five-hour shift during oestrus, US$260 during luteal phase and US$185 during menstruation.

By contrast, participants using contraceptive pills showed no oestrus earnings peak. That is, they had an extended luteal phase in terms of tip earnings.


Based on these results it would be curious to investigate how these results affect people’s conceptions about tipping being money given for ‘good service’.

Now, of course we are talking about results from a very specific situation, which may not be translatable to our everyday lives. Apart from the obvious distinction, the moneys paid to lap dancers were not ‘tips’ in the commonly understood sense. These tips were, strictly speaking, money for service, but they were not a payment freely given above the contracted price. The tip is the payment.

However, even though the ‘consumers’ had to pay a tip of some kind, the exact amount was at their discretion (much like a standard tip). Thus I suggest that given the customers had some discretion over how much to ‘tip’ enables something to be gleaned from this study, which could be used to better understand tipping in a more general, everyday, sense.


Obviously, these guys did not know what stage of the cycle the lap dancer was in. Yet their behaviour was significantly influenced by something they could never have ‘known’. On some level the way they perceived ‘the service’ was affected, presumably in a positive way since they left significantly higher tips.

From an evolutionary point of view, the lap-dancers in oestrus were technically able to become pregnant and there seems to be something in guys that is able to subconsciously be aware of this.

This type of logic can be easily applied to more everyday situations. I wonder if there are any waitresses or barmaids who had an unexpectedly good night in tips, or if there are any guys out there whom upon reflection pondered why he tipped so much?

I’m sure it could very well have been that, in such situations, stellar service was given or received. But I’m sure it could also have been something much more to do with basic instincts.

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6 Responses to Tipping and Stripping

  1. Tracey says:

    If economic anthropology gets a bit dull for you perhaps you could go into some sort of four-fields anthropology that includes studies of population level variations in encochrine systems or something?

    Of course, you are not talking about something intentional, but this post got me thinking of subliminal advertising. Didn’t they ban subliminal advertising in cinemas, or is this just an urban myth? Are there any stories of change plates with little LEDs that flash a subliminal message at you?

    • Tracey says:

      Ooops! Make that ‘endocrine’

    • tippingoz says:

      Thanks Tracey, but trying to understand tipping takes up too much of my time as it is.

      I have no idea about subliminal messages on change plates.

      That said, if you have ever received your check on a silver plate with credit card insignia on it, its probably a deliberate attempt to get you to tip more. A couple of studies have discovered that it works. Researchers aren’t sure why, but it seems the dominant theory is that the credit card insignia subtly (perhaps subliminally, I guess) reminds the customer of their access to credit (that is, someone else’s money), which apparently encourages them to tip more. (I’m inclined to believe it, partly because I can’t think of a better explanation.)

      My understanding is credit card companies provide such silver plates to restaurants for free. I suppose its advertising for them, but I’m also starting to think that the credit card companies are pushing tips – especially if the tipping is done via the credit card, as this would increase the amount being transacted, which would increase credit card company revenues to the extent their charges are based on percentages of transactions.

      Anyway, that’s my conspiracy theory for today.

  2. Kim says:

    Some big questions in this post. Also the word tipping and stripping are quite similar. I wonder if the two words share some sort etymological history? Probably a PhD thesis in that.

    Returning to your questions though.
    ” or if there are any guys out there whom upon reflection pondered why he tipped so much?”

    I haven’t often been to the strip clubs. Fact. I think in 4 years of living in Melbourne I have been three tits. I mean times. I find the places strange. Very strange. I don’t think my conscious, sub-concious or my sixth sense are ever paying attention to a semi-naked woman’s ovulatory cycle. My cerebellum is more concerned about getting out alive and why the dickens I am paying $15 for a can of VB?

    Having said that I am sure there could be some sort of relationship between ovulation and earning tips. Although the study was probably conducted in such a lazy manner in that it didn’t control for day of the week, pay-day or other events that occurred over the 60 days. Check out that little stat attack.

    End of nonsense.

  3. tippingoz says:

    Thanks Kim,

    The question was more aimed at situations outside strip clubs, but I suppose experiences from within strips clubs would also apply.

    As for the stats, there weren’t too many other variables taken into account, which I appreciate is not ideal. However, it is not unusual for these type of studies. Even if a range of factors were taken into account, there would always be many others left out, so you’re problem could never really be solved. Nevertheless, I see your point and caution should be taken with these results.

    If it makes you feel any better my own research will be entirely qualitative.

  4. Kim says:

    Doc (in waiting) Burgess,

    Experiences outside of strip clubs? I have had so many. But, to be honest, I can’t think of a situation where I have given a large tip and gone “she’s definitely in the oestrus phase.” Plus, I think all the financial tips I have ever given have been a fairly insignificant percentage of the total transaction.

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