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Aug 16 2005

Lap Dance

Lapdance

Today I’ll be ripping off Emma of Gendergeek, who last week remarked on a cultural abnormality that, coincidentally, has also been gnawing away at my own once-zesty gusto. What she said was this: “it’s very uncool to be opposed to lapdancing bars.”

That’s strip clubs to us Americans. I don’t know what they’re called in other parts of the supposedly civilized Western world.

What Emma alludes to is the perplexing phenomenon of everyone and their dog, including otherwise enlightened self-professed “feminists,” giving strip clubs a free pass. This, even when they concede, as a pro-strip-club male acquaintance of mine does, that these bars are “a result of the patriarchal need to control women’s sexuality.”  Emma reveals that she has Germaine Greer-quotin’ male pals who “think nothing of swanning round eastern Europe on stag weekends, sampling heavily of the local sexual buffet.” I feel ya, Emma. I am acquainted with dudes who swan around East St. Louis strip clubs on double-dates, with their wives.

One of which acquaintances explains that strip clubs are a response to sexual repression. He calls this response “imperfect” but what’re ya gonna do, “they’re what we have to work with right now.”

What gives? One would think that the entire population of the Western world is imprisoned in a Puritan labor camp, the way we’re always hearing about this so-called sexual repression. Where, I would like to know, is this alleged repression taking place?  Certainly not in America, where “XXX” banners fly from every flagpole, women are instructed from the cradle to stop at nothing to make themselves attractive to and available for men, and you can’t even buy a hamburger that Paris Hilton hasn’t jizzed all over. America is all sex, all the time. You should check out the article in Men’s Health that Emma found. It’s about strip club etiquette, for chrissakes. Etiquette codifies, you know, social convention.

The myth of sexual repression is remarkably resilient, but it has to be in order for it to function effectively as the rationalization for the sex industry (which industry, I remind you, makes gazillions of $$$ off the exploitation of women). The traditional version of this myth laments the repression of hetero male sexuality with a tragic narrative: the poor lad’s magnificent, fecund tumescence is controlled by inhumane and unnatural cultural sanctions against fucking everything that moves. In order to save his life, the beleaguered and bewoodied dude (or, in sleazeworld parlance, "the gentleman") is forced to buy porn and lap dances and hookers because blue-balls will fucking kill him, no matter what Jesus says.

That version is stupid enough, but the new improved feminist version is a howler of epic proportion. I allude to the hilarious but widely-held belief that strippers are “empowered”–I can barely write this with a straight face–when they are commodified. Male “feminists” who view strip clubs as a harmless connubial divertissement of a Friday eve excuse their retarded behavior by telling themselves that these lucky, liberated gals are happily expressing their pent-up sexuality by rubbing their tits on the slobbering jowls of total strangers. They are telling themselves that the strippers are in total control, and are having the last laugh all the way to the bank. They are also telling themselves that their wives are the real beneficiaries of these harmless shenanigans, since the missus will enjoy bedroom heroism nonpareil once the lapdancers have gotten her fella worked up into a triple-x froth.

Emma links to a study commissioned by the Glasgow city council (PDF here) that pretty much debunks the myth of stripper empowerment, having found that strip clubs are engaged in the “sheer exploitation of women–sexual and financial.”

It is not “sexual repression” that leads to the commodification of women, because sexual repression doesn’t fucking exist. So what makes sensitive male feminists reluctant to condemn a dream world where hottt chixxx are available to them 24 hours a day?

I’ll give you one guess.

67 comments

1 ping

  1. Summer

    Hee. You said ‘codified.’ And ‘fecund.’

    (I think I love you.)

  2. Summer

    By the way, ESL has even *more* strip clubs now. Giant pink neon monstrosities. Right up by 64. Triple X. Yuck.

    I’m not sure I’m willing to concede that “sexual repression” doesn’t exist, largely because many women are taught to be simultaneously sexual and afraid of their sexuality…at least, I was. And I don’t think I’m all that unique.

  3. kat

    If anyone’s being sexually repressed, it’s women whose idea of “expressing their sexuality” doesn’t involve push up bras, caressing men’s egos, and grotesquely false ‘bisexuality’ that only manifests itself in front of an eager male audience. I guess I am loosely a ‘sex positive’ feminist (although i hate the way that term paints all anti-porn types as being somehow sex negative- porn is not sex, people!)in that I don’t believe stripping, porn etc is *inherently* always oppressive of women (just that it happens to be very, very often…)

  4. curiousgirl

    I’m with Kat. But I also don’t think the sensitive men came up with this stuff on their own–feminist sex-workers etc, articulated it first.

    The way I see it, for some women, sex work can be empowering. They are probably in the minority. For many others, it may be the best of a lot of bad bad choices. I heard one woman suggest that if her other option was waitressing, she’d rather get oogled, grabbed and demeaned for 6x as much money. I can see that.

    Fundamentally, the idea that every betty, sue and jenna in the local Puss’n'Boots is studying for her PHD in her spare time is, uh, silly.

    Getting creeped out at the idea of a strip club is a basic test for a dudes feminist sensibility, I think. If you basically see women as fully human, the strip club thing looks like a really bad job. That is what should jump out at you first.

    Its true that dudes like that are few and far between, however.

  5. Twisty

    Read the Glasgow study. In the UK, at least, the lapdancers are pretty much indentured sexbots.

    I’ve never been a stripper, but I was in a band for a while with 4 or 5 other women, one of whom was saving up cash by working in a “lingerie bar.” She would rake in the dough by doing handstands in her underwear and thigh-high stiletto boots. One time she told a few of her lingerie perv/customers about one of our gigs. They all showed up, sat in the front, and hooted and howled retarded show-us-yer-tits type crap for the whole set, apparently unable, when confronted with women on a stage, to imagine that we could be there for any purpose other than to hone their bones. I mean, my little brush with infamy was bad enough; I can’t imagine the soul-sucking repercussions of repeating the episode in a teddy, night after night, just to put food on the table. Few women would make that “choice” if they were able to earn their grip in a less demeaning way.

    My friend, meanwhile, who had started out as one of those fun-lovin’ gals working her way through law school, gradually became gaunt and haunted-looking and hard-edged and ended up with a dipshit boyfriend and a coke habit.

  6. Sylvanite

    I recently attended a male strip joint for a bachelorette party. It was interesting…until it was boring. I told my best male friend about this, and he reported similar feelings when attending strip clubs for bachelor parties – that it’s a fundamentally boring experience, at least for him. “If you’ve seen one,” etc. I don’t think he was just telling me that to coddle my feelings, since he laughed the laugh of recognized emotions when I said how bored I was. We didn’t really get into the sociopolitics of strip clubs. Now I wish we had. I would have loved to have gotten more of his perspective.

    I’ve never been to a “gentlemen’s club,” nor have I known any women who’ve danced in one. I have known men who’ve gone to them voluntarily, and didn’t think them dull. I asked them why they liked it, and never did get an answer that made sense to me; their descriptions of why they were fun only made the places sound even more depressing.

  7. Mistress

    I can name a handful of girls I know who are at this moment stripping their way through school. I think it’s awesome, but I could never do it because I have absolutely no tolerance for icky, slobbery drunk dudes.

  8. Sam

    I feel for earnest sexwork-positive feminists because they woefully underestimate how much men don’t respect or like them. Men don’t want “sexworkers”, they want whores. If men wanted prostitution legalized it would be, but that would take away the dirty, naughty, bad boy feeling men are really paying for because that feels better than any cocksucking. Men who respect and like women don’t treat them as sexual accessories and self-esteem props.

    Hugh Grant is my favorite example of this because that man could have 5 free blow jobs every night from gorgeous women but what he wanted, what he sexually desired, was to pay a black, drug addcited street prostitute to make her suck him for money.

    Men’s demands for lapdancing has little to do with actual physical sensations and much more to do with men’s egoes and gratified sense of control over women’s sexuality. Sexual assault rates couldn’t be as high as they are if a great number of men didn’t get turned on by the thought of forcing women to do sexually what they do not want to do, and the sex industry is not a seperate phenomena as it replaces physical violence and coercion with economic violence and coercion.

    In 1997 there were an estimated 2000 strip clubs in the USA and by 2004 it was estimated at 4500 while pornography and prostitution have exploded exponentially here and around the increasingly unstable, militaristic world. That study floating around right now about how men revert to traditional gender identities when their masculinity is threatened would fit here nicely.

    Sex is fun, feels good, and is widely available for free to anyone who treats others respectfully with kindness and asks. In a world with far less sexism we’d all be happily boinking each other, or not, to our heart’s content because the thought of being sexual with a partner not 100% willing and into it would be an instant desire killer.

  9. Sam

    I feel for earnest sexwork-positive feminists because they woefully underestimate how much men don’t respect or like them. Men don’t want “sexworkers”, they want whores. If men wanted prostitution legalized it would be, but that would take away the dirty, naughty, bad boy feeling men are really paying for because that feels better than any cocksucking. Men who respect and like women don’t treat them as sexual accessories and self-esteem props.

    Hugh Grant is my favorite example of this because that man could have 5 free blow jobs every night from gorgeous women but what he wanted, what he sexually desired, was to pay a black, drug addcited street prostitute to make her suck him for money.

    Men’s demands for lapdancing has little to do with actual physical sensations and much more to do with men’s egoes and gratified sense of control over women’s sexuality. Sexual assault rates couldn’t be as high as they are if a great number of men didn’t get turned on by the thought of forcing women to do sexually what they do not want to do, and the sex industry is not a seperate phenomena as it replaces physical violence and coercion with economic violence and coercion.

    In 1997 there were an estimated 2000 strip clubs in the USA and by 2004 it was estimated at 4500 while pornography and prostitution have exploded exponentially here and around the increasingly unstable, militaristic world. That study floating around right now about how men revert to traditional gender identities when their masculinity is threatened would fit here nicely.

    Sex is fun, feels good, and is widely available for free to anyone who treats others respectfully with kindness and asks. In a world with far less sexism we’d all be happily boinking each other, or not, to our heart’s content because the thought of being sexual with a partner not 100% willing and into it would be an instant desire killer.

  10. Finn

    Stripping and prostitution (which we touched on a bit yesterday) are subjects where my opinion continues to evolve. I used to be a big defender of strip clubs, but these days I couldn’t begin to drag out the old “empowered stripper” argument without a smirk.

    To suggest that females are empowered by stripping is just as ridiculous as suggesting that they are powerless against its lure of easy money.

    It’s bullshit and all the participants know it. Even if it was a stripper who said it first, she said it because she’s trying to rationalize. And, that’s what guys who defend strip clubs are doing, too (me included). We’re rationalizing shit we did while we were drunk (or on drugs or hoping to get more drugs).

    The question, in my mind becomes one of significance and potential harm to society. How bad is it, really? I suppose I see it as a social evil best dealt with through management rather than denial and further suppression. I would be in favor of legalized prostitution, for example, because management would probably be more effective than suppression.

    What makes me laugh, though, is when someone suggests we should “work to alleviate the social and economic circumstances that cause someone to make this choice.” That’s pretty funny because I don’t think even the best economic plan can alleviate the human condition, which is generally a condition of wishing for more than you’ve got and hoping for better days. Some people just get greedy and expect it all to come to them much faster.

    Guys go to strip clubs and prostitutes to get sex easier and faster than they can in normal society. Gals strip to get money and drugs easier and faster than they can in normal society. I don’t see either participant as being inherantly more or less evil for their role in the exchange.

    As I mentioned, my opinion continues to evolve, but I still don’t blame the patriarchy for stripping. I may be splitting hairs (all strip club joke puns intended ;-), but I think of the division of roles in the exchange to be purely biological with social results.

  11. speedbudget

    Sam, you hit the nail right on the head. I went to a strip club once with a group of guys out for a bachelor party (I am a woman). What an eye opener. What really got me was you could see in the strippers’ eyes how much they hated their job, hated what they had to do for money, but most of all, hated the men who come in there and throw money at them while simultaneously dehumanizing them. What really blew my mind was a guy standing next to me. This one girl was up there on stage, letting it all hang out (it was a BYOB club, so there was total nudity) and, quite obviously, hating every second of it. The guy next to me actually said, “Wow. Look at her. You can tell she really loves what she’s doing.” I turned to him, mouth agape, and asked him if we were looking at the same woman. He asked me what I meant. I said, “If you really look at her, and take your eyes off her vulva, you will notice the extreme HATE that is pouring out of her, and her shame at being the object of derision (a lot of guys had no compunction with yelling their critiques of the womens’ bodies) while simultaneously being dependent upon it for her economic survival.” OK, when it came out of my mouth, it didn’t sound so pretentious, but I’m trying to be polite here. Anyway, this guy was actually shocked. Then he actually looked AT HER FACE. And he was forced to agree with me. And then I saw him actually start to THINK about it. Then he walked to the back of the bar, and calmly waited until his friends were ready to go, no longer participating in the “festivities.” I was glad to convert him.

  12. Sam

    sorry

  13. Finn

    “Then he actually looked AT HER FACE. And he was forced to agree with me.”

    The conversion process goes much faster if you just bring the guy back to the same place when he’s sober.

  14. Emma

    I would be in favor of legalized prostitution, for example, because management would probably be more effective than suppression.

    Well we know what happens when prostitution is ‘managed’, with the goal of harm-reduction to prostituting women. Market segmentation.

    It works out well for the women who have some measure of protection from STIs/rape/beatings in exchange for remaining drug-free. (Although I can’t even conceive of working the streets without being out of my fucking face, so I don’t know if that’s a blessing or not.) It works out less well for the women who are smuggled in to meet the demand for condom-free, rules-free sex.

    What makes me laugh, though, is when someone suggests we should “work to alleviate the social and economic circumstances that cause someone to make this choice.” That’s pretty funny because I don’t think even the best economic plan can alleviate the human condition, which is generally a condition of wishing for more than you’ve got and hoping for better days.

    Really? You think women are out there on the street literally risking their lives in order to get a jump start on the mortgage? It almost seems like you don’t know how gendered poverty is.

  15. omit

    Unrelated: Apparently, Nike likes big butts (this is related to the Dove campaign).

  16. Tony Patti

    I can’t wait to see all the responses to this strip club post! Poking this tired subject with a stick is always fruitful.

    The first time I went to a strip club I thought it was heavenly, not because the women were there for my physical pleasure, but because I was allowed to see them naked, and I like looking at naked women. The whole deal of sitting at a table, bribing a woman to come over and dance right next to me, much less the horror of pretending to like to be rubbed on, was a deal breaker, though.

    I was never loathe to go to these places with friends who loved it because the basic happiness I felt seeing naked girls was always there, and I developed my own techniques for avoiding contact. I would feel guilty about not giving the women their rightful money, though, because of the obviously tragic socioeconomic semi-slavery deal they had going with the management.

    Maybe I get as much pleasure out of looking at flowers or birds or other beautiful living things. And no one is judging me for doing those things, and these life forms don’t look back and judge me a creep.

    I always wonder why men pretend to love these places so much when many of them obviously just go along with it.

    I used to wish for some alternative with wit and sparkle, a real show. Maybe like a feminist burlesque. I once promoted the idea to women I knew and told them they should do it, but soon realized that they wouldn’t ever do it because exposing themselves to strangers for money, under any circumstances, no matter how cool or hip it might be, was just distasteful enough to dissuade them.

    I saw, to my horror, that unless I, a man, put the whole show together and paid them, it wouldn’t happen. And part of my desire was to have something women did for themselves, not to have some man telling everyone what to do and exploiting them.

    My point is that I realized, without the benefit of feminist theory, that in the real world, this whole idea was a fantasy world for men that women are willing to go along with in order to please men, but only very rarely to please themselves. I was chastened yet enlightened. And enlightened by a practical application of reality, rather than a series of words that could be dismissed as theory.

    So this is why I must agree with Twisty about the clubs being patriarchal constructs. These places wouldn’t exist if women alone were allowed to run and profit from them. Or else they would be rare, underground and probably persecuted by the patriarchy for existing without being for the benefit of men.

  17. AndiF

    Bottom line is that stripping doesn’t exist to provide anything to women or for women. It exists to satisfy the male “right” to the female body. There’s nothing empowering about that.

  18. Dot

    I really appreciate this discussion. I’m 62 and grew up a “good” Catholic girl in the 40s and 50s, until the Great Revolution That Wasn’t in the 60s. Even then, I took to heart the principles of the movements, but not much of the no-holds-barred so-called freedom for drugs and promiscuity. I guess for some reason I naively thought that WE were all equal, like we said we believed! I never appreciated porn–especially when shared with a male friend who thought it would “stimulate me.” I didn’t wear makeup or stilettos. So people either thought I was lesbian or a dolt. Actually, it took a very long time for me to stop making excuses for others and recognize and acknowledge what you all know and understand about patriarchy.

    The best sex for me comes when someone treats me with kindness; actually sees me and is interested in me, and not in bolstering his or her ego. I guess you understand now that I don’t get a lot. And guess what? That’s OK.

    I think the women who “choose” such work have reasons; I anguish over those who don’t choose, male and female alike. And I get VERY annoyed with people who put me down because I don’t agree with their sexual wants or needs. As Mrs. Fisher said on Six-Feet Under, “Your needs are not my problem.” Thanks, Twisty, for this discussion. Your comments are very important to me.

  19. Finn

    Emma sez: “You think women are out there on the street literally risking their lives in order to get a jump start on the mortgage? It almost seems like you don’t know how gendered poverty is.”

    To which I sez: I don’t think they’re trying to get a jump on the mortgage, I think they’re trying to work their way out of drug debt. When men get into drug debt they take on other, equally risky roles, like drug dealer.

    Maybe what I don’t understand is what you mean by gendered poverty. And, don’t tell me that women are stripping to level the playing field. That’s ends justifying the means, right?

  20. speedbudget

    Finn, I don’t think you are taking into account that, while the job itself is not easy and is certainly dangerous, it’s one of the few jobs out there that are easily obtainable. It doesn’t really require any kind of education; I had a friend in high school who got pregnant in her senior year. After the baby was born, she needed a job because she was 18 and her family itself didn’t have much money to sustain her and the baby. She had a high school degree, and a kid with cystic fibrosis. She needed money fast in order to pay medical bills. She got a job stripping since she could, essentially, work any hours she wanted. That way, she could stay home with her kid during the day and her dad or mom could watch the baby at night while she did her work. Plus, with a cash-paying job (regardless of the management sticking their paws in, she did come home with quite a bit of cash), she was able to afford doctors’ bills and food and various other necessities. Oh, and the drug habit didn’t start until AFTER she had been stripping for a while. I dare say you would need to alter your consciousness after spending many, many hours being treated like a piece of meat. Lord knows I need a few drinks after spending just an hour or two at a bar getting pawed and ogled. I can’t imagine how it would be if I actually had to pretend to like it in order to be able to afford my kid’s medicine.

  21. CafeSiren

    “They are telling themselves that the strippers are in total control, and are having the last laugh all the way to the bank.”

    When I lived in a midwestern town that shall not be named, I had a seriously fucked-up male friend who claimed the same thing. I was stunned, and knew not what to say. He seemed to utterly believe this. I told him I found it inutterably sad that he was reduced to spending hundreds of dollars to get women to *pretend* that they desperately wanted to fuck him.

    In same midwestern town, I had a number of conversations with a woman who formerly worked in one such establishment, and who drank & drugged herself into blackouts every night — WITH THE MANAGEMENT’S ENCOURAGEMENT — just so she would not have to be mentally and emotionally present.

    Empowerment, huh? I don’t think so. I think women should be able to express their sexuality, whether it be prim or sleazy, but it only counts as “empowerment” if they’re doing for themselves, rather than for someone else. And by the way, honey, if you’re paying her, then she no longer has a choice.

  22. Thomas

    Twisty, agree with you about strip clubs. Even among sex workers whose work is nominally consensual, for the overwhelming majority as far as I can tell the choice is made for them out of an absence of other choices. I’ve never been to a strip club, and I’ve talked some friends out of stripping because I always feared what that kind of commodification would do.

    There are a few women who say they enjoy sex work — not stupid women, either. And I take them at their word, but for the women I am thinking of, they are privileged enough to use sex work only as a supplemental income, to set boundaries in what they do, to choose their own clients and to quit if they want (for those who know of her, I’m thinking of Audacia Ray). For women like that, sex work is a hobby job.

    You’ve said before that you don’t want to ban porn because too damned many things are illegal. Now, I don’t want to give this government any more power to decide what is indecent — they’ll only use it to impose their patriarchal mold on us all. But I don’t have to, and will not, participate in getting women to rub themselves on men’s laps because they don’t have another good way to make ends meet.

    About sexual repression, though, I differ with what you said. As Summer and others have said, there’s plenty of sexual repression. There’s sexual repression that criticizes women for any sexual agency they demonstrate. (And I’m not going to rant about PHMT, but the citadel of male privilege is a prison, too. Male sexuality has been corrupted and damaged by patriarchal sex roles.)

    Of course, the culture of commercialized sex is not an antidote for sexual repression. I agree with you as far as saying that sexual repression has been coopted as a marketing pitch for the commercial aspects of patriarchal sex culture. In fact, commercial porn and strip clubs and Maxim are reaffirming patriarchal sexuality: women without agency, as targets; men as pursuers; sex without communication or respect.

  23. antelope

    When I’m in a grossly oversimplifying & self-interested sort of mood, I figure that as a straight gal:

    a – I should be in favor of total acceptance for all forms of homosexuality, because it clears men who are not genuinely attracted to women out of the pool that I might accidentally date.

    b – I should be in favor of total acceptance for prostitution & other forms of ‘no strings attached’ ways for a guy to get what little they want, because it clears men who are not genuinely interested in conversing with women out of the pool that I might accidentally date.

  24. Emma

    I don’t think they’re trying to get a jump on the mortgage, I think they’re trying to work their way out of drug debt. When men get into drug debt they take on other, equally risky roles, like drug dealer.

    a) I don’t believe that all prostituting women are drug misusers.
    b) Drug dealing is riskier than prostitution. However, it’s also not very well paid until you get into management! It’s not well paid because there is a surplus of men wanting to do it. This is in direct contrast to prostitution, which is relatively well paid in comparison to other entry-level jobs.

    Maybe what I don’t understand is what you mean by gendered poverty. And, don’t tell me that women are stripping to level the playing field. That’s ends justifying the means, right?

    More women are poor than men. In the UK 22% of women have a persistent low income compared with 14% of men. For 30% of women, and 16% of of men, benefits and tax credits make up at least three quarters of their income.

    Globally, poverty has a female face:

    “Women consititute half the worlds population, perform nearly two thirds of the world’s work, receive one tenth of the world’s income and own less than one hundredth of the worlds wealth.” – UN findings from 1975-1985 Decade of Women

  25. PrissyNot

    Stripping – I have long held that it is demeaning, no matter whether the stripper is female OR male, and refused to participate in any activity that promoted it (bars, parties, bachelor/ette affairs). That any person would want to use their sex to get money is understandable in that it is one of the easiest things for a woman to do. If you’re lazy, and have very low self-esteem, it’s a cinch job. And do we understand that there are also males in the world who sell themselves this way? That our society should allow such desperation to exist is the real shame. That single parents should have to tear themselves down to that level is simply pathetic. No wonder the aliens haven’t made contact. I wouldn’t either.

    On the other hand, I DO admire those women who really went out there and effed the patriarchy right back – Madonna, who took her own personal sexploitation and threw it back in their faces. How many $$$$millions is she worth now? and she doesn’t have to answer to any of them any more . . . there are others, Barbarella didn’t do badly out of the deal, other than being reviled publicly for having an opinion; etc.

    There are days when I am sorry to be part of this problem, because until it’s gone, we’re all part of it. How many of you have taken a stripper to lunch? Or, god forefend, picked up a prostitute off the street and taken them home, away from the pimps, poverty and despair?

    We all live our own lovely little lives and bemoan the fact that there are miseries out there. It all comes down to choices made and resolves stuck with. Legalize it all and we would still have misery because human beings for the most part don’t know how to make themselves happy.

    I’m being maudlin and apparently alliterative all on the same day. I hope you all make the right choices, and live happily ever after.

  26. Kyria

    Patriarchy represses sex to the extent that it cannot exploit it.

  27. Christopher

    The Patriarchy works hard to suppress sexual ideas that aren’t in keeping with male power.

    For example, you can’t show naked breasts on TV, network or basic cable. Why is this?

    I don’t know, but I guess it’s a way to keep sexuality the property of men; it’s a way to keep it as a commodity that is only available to men who can pay for it.

    That kind of sounds radical to me now that I’ve said it, but I can’t think of another explanation. Think about what was said earlier about girls being taught to be excessively sexual by the media. It’s mostly just girls and women who get this, though. For boys and men, there’s little focus on fashion and making yourself attractive.

    For, say, transvestites or transexuals, there’s a lot of repression in society. I don’t know that I’d be comfortable walking around in a nice sundress, and we certainly aren’t going to see much encouragemnt of crossdressing from the media. Maxim probably isn’t going to talk about which cashmere sweaters are the most fashionable.

    It’s only very recently that you can have an openly sexual gay character on TV.

    So, my theory is that there is sexual repression, but not of all sex; just that sex which is not atractive to or aimed at powerful males (This is my theory about why anti-gay groups mention gay men more then gay women; Because lesbian sex is a turn on for a lot of powerful straight guys, and gay sex… isn’t).

    Anyway, I’ve never been in a Strip Club in my short life, and I don’t really want to. They’re always these dingy, windowless shacks. From the outside, it looks like whatever goes on in there must be thouroughly depressing.

  28. Finn

    Emma sez: “Globally, poverty has a female face”

    I sez: I accept that. And, I’m not saying all strippers/hookers are drug users or vice versa. It’s a chicken or the egg thing with the drug abuse and the sex work. Depends on the person and the circumstances which comes first. And, I do agree that poverty is present in most of these circumstances. But, I think it’s another chicken and/or egg.

    Eradicating poverty would not necessarily stop people from using drugs and becoming prostitutes and strippers. It might change the economy of it all, but escapism and sexual perversity would still be around because some people have it encoded in their DNA (or something).

    The in-law of which I spoke yesterday has been given countless financial legs up and has returned to “the life” every time. She’s just repeating what she saw her mother do (and what she still does, too). They’ve both been given economic relief, and medical/psych treatment so many times the entire family has had to just accept the idea that it can’t be fixed.

    So, as much as I’d like to believe that repairing the conditions that breed such activity would actually make a difference, I have a real hard time accepting it in light of first-hand experiences.

  29. alex

    Sexual repression is happening in the same place it always has–between people’s ears. If you’re afraid to ask your partner to ________ you until your ears ring, it’s much more comfortable to pin the blame elsewhere instead of on your own cowardice.* Denial and transference; it’s a two-for-one special!

    Conservative men can say, “Prostitutes are criminals! It’s not my fault!” while sensitive new-age feminist guys can say, “I’m helping to empower these naked women!”

    *I’m not trying to trivialize this; most of us have problems letting down our guard, especially around a topic that has as many phobias, fetishes, expectations and preconceptions as sex. It’s very hard and scary to (a) admit to yourself what you actually want, and (b) ask somebody to give it to you. It is easier psychologically to rearrange the situation until the request can be reframed as a demand. If you’re denied, it’s the other person’s fault. Making the transaction illicit shifts power to the person (okay, man) making the demand as well.

  30. Finn

    Alex sez: “Sexual repression is happening in the same place it always has–between people’s ears.”

    I sez: I’m happy for Alex that she/he obviously never had to go to Catholic school.

    ;-)

  31. Emma

    So, as much as I’d like to believe that repairing the conditions that breed such activity would actually make a difference, I have a real hard time accepting it in light of first-hand experiences.

    I’m truly sorry about your first-hand experience. However, I’m with German sociologist Ulrich Beck, who said that one of the strongest illusions of our age is that we seek ‘biographic solutions to structural contradictions’. Individuals do have choices, but to deny that those are fearsomely shaped by a number of conditions over which they have no control is of little help.

  32. BritGirlSF

    I’m the one who posted a comment over at Emma’s place about the supposedly feminist dude who told me, and I quote, “no woman has any right to call herself a feminist unless she’s willing to do sex work”. If that’s not a perfect demonstration of patriarchy at work I don’t know what is. There are so many layers of bullshit involved in a supposedly feminist man telling a feminist woman what she MUST do with her own body in order to be considered a proper feminist, the mind boggles.
    Incidentally, even for patriachy-lovers the concept of stip clubs should offend anyone with socialist leanings. It’s one of the best examples of economic exploitation of the working class I can think of. Marx and Engles would be spinning in their graves at the sight of the mental contortions supposed leftists go through to try to explain why this industry is OK – “but she’s studying for her PhD! She’s empowered.
    Oh please. Pull the other one, it’s got bells on, as my granny would say.

  33. Crys T

    Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou: to Twisty and all of you who have posted to support her basic premise.

    I’ve had a really bad day today, and just being able to read that there are actual humans out there (even if most of you are far away) who haven’t been totally brainwashed by the bullshit has made me feel a good deal better.

    Did I remember to say thank you????

  34. BritGirlSF

    Hugs to you, Crys T. It is indeed good to know that we haven’t all drunk the kool-aid.

  35. Amanda Marcotte

    I think Thomas hit the nail on the head. Sexual repression is everywhere, but it’s not male sexuality that is repressed but female sexuality. In fact, your average strip club atmosphere is a perfect example of repression–women on display for men, their desires completely erased from the occasion.

    That said, I do think there is sexual display that is empowering. I say a feminist-type burlesque show and the women were having fun, performing, being weird and being naughty. And I went to get a drink and the men at the bar were trying to recycle the same tired male dominance bullshit–criticizing the bodies of performers that, if they were being honest with themselves, they would admit they desperately want to fuck and the whole bit–and it was so stupid one guy gave up halfway through his sentence. (It probably helped that I gave him the old blue-eyed intense listening stare that makes the speaker want to actually make sense.) The audience was more women than men, more lesbians than straight women and just generally fun and erotic in a real sense. And going home and working out that energy wasn’t one of those things where I was worried my man was thinking of the women he saw onstage. The energy was too abstract for that…..

    In a perfect world, of course, erotic display could be an art men indulge in as well as women. And in a sense, there’s that repression and men who argue that strip clubs are empowering are ignoring their own repression, their own sense that it’s emasculating to display themselves.

  36. CafeSiren

    “And in a sense, there’s that repression and men who argue that strip clubs are empowering are ignoring their own repression, their own sense that it’s emasculating to display themselves.’

    Not to mention the fact that this kind of shit turns many straight men into erotic cripples, unable to feel sexually (or sensually) about any woman who doesn’t fit into this narrowly-defined idea of what is attractive in a woman, in terms of both physical appearance and compliant, impersonal availability.

  37. Chris Clarke

    So what makes sensitive male feminists reluctant to condemn a dream world where hottt chixxx are available to them 24 hours a day?

    This one isn’t. I work in North Beach in San Francisco, and I walk past these places every day and some of them actually have barkers out front who verbally accost passersby. Gives me the goddamn creeps, especially when the barkers are some of the actual dancers, dressed up for display like merchandise in a shop window.

    Take the money out of the equation, and I’d have far less problem with it. Then it really would be those women who choose to pole dance as an expression of their sexual creativity and joie de vivre. And there would probably be a lot fewer strip clubs, just like there’d be a lot fewer McDonaldses and WalMarts if performing in those venues were voluntary. I don’t patronize those establishments either, when I can help it.

    And I don’t buy the sexual repression thing either. If a man as unremarkable as me can have essentially unfettered* sexual opportunity – with women I actually like and respect – over the last 25 years, then it can’t really be that hard to get some. Going to those places is not about the sex, as far as I can tell.

    * no offense intended toward those who apppreciate fetters.

  38. Kate

    Yeah. I’d describe myself as sex-positive feminist in a ‘perfect world’ sense as described by Amanda. In a perfect world, erotic displays wouldn’t be all about the power of certain privileged men (as a group) over women.
    In this world, stripping and prostitution are ALL ABOUT the power of the patriarchy over women, their bodies and their sexuality.
    Great discussion.

  39. Kim

    I’ve actually had some experience as a stripper, and I can say that there is a certain amount of empowerment. At least, there was for me, at first. I went from being a girl who was extremely self-conscious to becoming extremely comfortable with my body and sexuality. That part, I wouldn’t trade. And at first, you think it’s the best thing since sliced bread that you get paid the big bucks to hang out in a club and tell guys what they want to hear. Plus, there’s a twisted element of glamour: you grow up watching singers perform sexually charged acts to adoring crowds, and now you’ve got this little stage and a bunch of costumes of your own to play with. But then the anger, the resentment and the shame sets in. You’ll find that every night, you need to be just a little more drunk to get through it. Thankfully, I didn’t stay in long enough to get to the drugs.

    The only things between you and rape in a club is a 200 pound guy named “Tiny” and a reliable taxi driver (one who won’t sell your address to patrons and will always be on time to pick you up). There can definitely be dancer camraderie, but really, you are always at the mercy of the men around you. You have to trust the bouncer to protect you. You hope the (always male) managers are decent and don’t take too big of a cut. How much you make is based on the customers liking you, and you hope they won’t be rude or disgusting. And it is the men who run the club who make the most money at the end of the night. (I hear that in some clubs, everyone gets paid out of what the dancers personally make, with management not shelling out a dime!)

    I disagree on the idea that there is no sexual repression though. The strip club thrives on the repression of female sexuality. There is the idea that your sexuality is only valuable if you fit the narrow ideals of what is attractive. (How many of us know women with eating disorders? Women who are literally starving for acceptance in this area?) I think that making women feel inadequate constitutes repression of the worst kind.

    Most women would be turned away from a “quality”–meaning it attracts a clientele that tends to have better than average jobs and more money to spend–strip club. Women are placed in a sexual hierarchy that has little to do with their achievements or personality and everything to do with their face, body type and level of cellulite. Those whose genetics (and access to a good cosmetic surgeon) afford them a place near the top are deemed “sexy” and worthy of dancing half-naked in front of financially successful drunken men for money. (What a prize.) If women were seen as–gasp!– human beings with desires of their own, and individual beauty, rather than passive objects to be acted upon, strip clubs would be rendered obsolete.

    [/ramble]

  40. jc.

    Although I wouldn`t agree that sexual repression doesn`t exist and is a very serious cultural complication, I am completely without understanding as to why prostitution, lapdancing et al. are some sort of logical release. As a man I have always found the thought of having my sexuality serviced (exploited) in this manner to be as totally mystifying and as apetizing and personal as a Mcdonalds hamburger. Selling sex (or the approximation of it) is obviously the most degrading of capitalist exploitations, purchasing such services may seem empowering but I truly have a hard time understanding how it isn`t just degrading also. I feel that seller and customer are bound to some sort of self despising circle of degredation for some one elses financial benefit.

  41. julia

    I never was a stripper, but I can tell you about the lure of easy money.

    The summer before my senior year at college, I needed money and I got a job in an Atlantic City Casino as a cocktail waitress.

    I made good money, so much that when I graduated with a degree in accounting, I couldn’t afford the pay cut to take an entry level job in my field.

    I gradually became very bitter and depressed (although I didn’t realize it). Then I hurt my back (blessing) and left waitressing and never looked back.

    The money had made me a slave to something I didn’t like, never really wanted to do, and almost destroyed my career dreams.

    I’m not saying waitressing and stripping are the same, but selling out your dreams for money is emotional suicide, and the money is as addictive as crack.

  42. Twisty

    As usual, because my editor is on vacation, I need to clarify the point I made about the nonexistence of sexual repression. I thought it was obvious when I wrote it, but a re-reading reveals that I omitted to satisfactorily draw a distinction between female and male sexuality. Female sexuality is definitely repressed. Strip clubs, as several of you have pointed out, are all the evidence of this anyone needs.

    Note that under the current paradigm–the one that says titillating-for-dollars “empowers” the titillator–working in a strip club (or behaving like someone who is working in a strip club) appears to be the only acceptable outlet for this supposed newly-unleashed female sexuality. To win the desired external validation, your sexuality must be some male-boner-sanctioned version of “I’m a hot fuckin’ dirty slut and I’m proud!” If your idea of a hot time doesn’t happen to involve lowbrow vulgarity of the Penthouse kind, woe betide you.

    Another point, which is one I’ve made before and will undoubtedly make again, is that as long as women are viewed as less-than-human commodities, there can be no real reclamation of personal power, no real eroticism. Individual women, of course, can and do–to the extent that patriarchy allows–bust out of the mold; the kind of feminist burlesque to which Amanda alludes may make reclamation inroads, but ultimately it is a recycling of and capitulation to and is swallowed up by the unstoppable patriarchal model, and its own irony. Because women are, ultimately, still a commodity. And I’m not just talking about lap dancers. A woman who is compelled to pregnancy, which is all women if abortion is criminalized again, is also a piece of meat.

    So if you’re wondering why so many of our supposedly liberal menfolk are dropping the abortion issue like a hot potato, ask’em how they feel about strip clubs and the “humorless” women who object to pie fights. These guys know women are a commodity, and they’re fine with it.

  43. Twisty

    By the way, I am gratified by the overall quality of the comments. You guys are a pleasure to read.

  44. Thomas

    Kim, that’s powerful testimony.

    If everyone who did sex work did it in preference to decent options and not in the absence of them; if every sex worker could set boundaries in her work that she was confortable with and expect that those boundaries would be respected; then sex work would be a different story. But then we’d be living in a very different world.

    Twisty, I hear what you’re saying about islands of anti-patriarchal sexuality in a patriarchal culture. They exist in a time and a place, but they’re as ephemeral as soap bubbles. They are created only by an act of will among people of a like mind, as a shared expression. As soon as the larger culture becomes aware of them, they tend to pop.

    Thomas

  45. Johnny

    Twisty, I love the way you bring out the best in people comenting.

    Here are two articles that show a link between the international “slave” business, and stripping.

    Lured from Latvia, sex slave tells story
    Chicago’s sex slave trade

    I think it’s important to remember that as long as the rules are essentially patriarchal, women will always be slaves to this kind of stuff. What I found interesting, is that to the best of my knowledge the strip clubs that these women were forced to work at are still in business. Which makes no sense, if someone had been selling even small amounts of drugs in these places, they would now be closed down, but using slave workers is ok? No doubt it was a complete surprise to them that their employees were slaves.

    As I understand it, slavery, especially as it relates to women and the sex trade, is really making a comeback in the united states. And I can’t help but wondering at the connection between strip clubs and slavery across the nation.

    I am not averse to the concepts of “stripping” or erotic entertainment, but the exploitation that the patriarchy requires of these places is terrible. And the reality is so different than the concepts. I have only been to two strip clubs, one is mentioned in the article, it was a freaky and offensive place on every level. The other, was a club run by a woman, that did both female stripping and male stripping. It still didn’t do much for me, but as a counterpoint it was worlds away. As I understand it, most strip clubs are like the one that creeped me out.

    As another counterpoint, a few years ago I met a pro escort at the “dojo” where I learned Tai Chi. She was funny, enjoyable to take classes with (and she was very accomplished at Tai Chi not just as a matial art, but as a pure art), and considered herself a pro artist, working essentialy for herself. She was telling me that one of the interesting things is that the few times she had been forced to deal with police, they seemed to want her to have a pimp. She believed it was more bothersome to them that she owned herself then fact that she was a sex worker. (and she didn’t think that was because they were “worried” about her, but because someone didn’t own her)

  46. Spurious Plum

    First time visiting. Awesome.

  47. JessicaRabbit

    I find this discussion to be very interesting, especially since it is being fueled by people who have never worked in the industry. Statements like, I have never worked as a stripper, but know the lure of easy money, shows that no one here understands what the job is really like.

    As a girl who stripped for 6 years and managed 2 different strip clubs for over 2 years, there is something lacking in these comments, and that thing would be actual cold hard facts, experiance with the subject, and an open mind.

    You do a workout for half an hour, 7 times a night, in 5 inch heels, work 12 hour shifts on your feet non stop and tell me how easy the money is.

  48. alex

    Twisty: thank you for the clarification. You’ll also note that our society has structured itself so that women are encouraged (and sometimes required)to appear sexually available. If they become sexually available, there are myriad social and legal tools to punish them. Men? Not so much…

    Finn: As you suspect, I remain untraumatized by Catholic schooling. One of the gayest men I’ve ever known was, though. At any rate, the whole point of the indoctrination–of any indoctrination–is to force the recipient to internalize the ruleset, to get them to modify their own behavior in the absense of the authority figure. It’s not as horrible as it sounds; a society’s first and most robust order-creating mechanism can be a simple rule: play nice with others. Its perversion to reinforce hierarchial norms has caused most of the suffering on this planet. Our topic at hand–the unequal sexual status of males and females–is a symptom, not the actual disease.

  49. Tony Patti

    Amanda Marcotte saw a show along the lines of the one I imagined, a feminist burlesque show for women. And she soon saw that the responses of men changed it from fun to fucked up.

    It’s like men will take any expression of sexuality and try to own it.

    In all the times I went with my strip club loving friend (a man with the lowest self-esteem I ever knew) to the bars and dives that nurture this underworld I was soon made aware of the strangest and lowest form of this kind of show only available here in Missouri where the godbags prohibit the kind of buck nekkid excesses one can find in more enlightened bastions of male dominance. These places he called bikini bars.

    Bikini bars were less offensive to me because there was no pretence of contact, since contact was strictly against the law. They also featured precisely the kind of woman who could never get a job at a high class strip club, which meant they were normal weights and heights and several of the women who danced had obviously had several children. Yet they would still get up there and dance in their bikinis and lingerie-style outfits.

    Most people who buy into the idea that female beauty should conform to the approved ideal would have hated these places strictly from seeing these older, sadder, more desperate women still seeking male approval. And there was that tragedy underscoring the whole sordid mess, I felt it at once.

    But I took away 2 lessons from these strange places and the first was that men will look at almost any woman who is willing to display herself if allowed to do so. It’s a kind of depressing thought, in a way, to think that it’s simply the availability of display that needs to exist for men to turn their heads. We also see this every time a man covertly looks at a woman passing by on the street or wherever. Anyone who cares to study a man doing so will soon discover that men will look at just about any women, regardless of degree of beauty, even if for just a moment. The male gaze isn’t powered on the deepest level by seeking power but by the powerlessness of a man to resist looking.

    Maybe in seeking to control their own impulses men mistakenly exert control over the beings they feel compelled to look at. I’m always trying to find some motivation other than sheer unreasoning hatred for the way men seek to control women.

    The second was purely personal and liberating. I began to see that any woman with any kind of body could attract me if she could be made to feel attractive, that the mutual response of attraction could be activated by both of us as long as we both were able to cast aside the preconceptions that only limit us to the surfaces we have been taught to respond to. There’s always the few deep animal responses like the beauty of youth to deal with – surely every soul acknowledges that youthful is more beautiful than old – but basically you choose beauty and can open yourself to beauty in any form if you want to.

    I know it’s kind of sad that being in such a sexist and rock bottom dive brought me finally to a feeling of being able to rise above preconceptions of beauty. The interesting thing is that it would never have happened in one of the high end places.

    I’m through with such slumming forever, but I am left wondering what it would take to bring about the same change on the whole of society. Because I’m sick of the myth of beauty.

  50. Twisty

    Actually, Jessicarabbit, only one person has used the term “easy money” in this discussion, and I can only assume that, as someone who worked her way through college cocktailing at a fucking casino, she has a high tolerance for pain.

    While it seems that most of the commenters appear to have little first-hand experience working as strippers, the vast preponderance of the comments nevertheless suggests a speculative consensus, that the job seems inhumanly gruelling. If, in your opinion, we are not in possession of the facts, by all means feel free to enlighten us. Obviously we give a crap about this issue, or we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

  51. Twisty

    “I’m always trying to find some motivation other than sheer unreasoning hatred for the way men seek to control women.”

    Ha, Tony! Good luck with that. Keep me posted, eh?

  52. Mandos

    Oh that’s easy (to find an alternate answer): everyone is unreasoning regarding control over resources they believe they have, from oil to gold to pleasure and reproduction…

    Is to treat someone as a resource (ie, as someone subject to control) also to hate them?

  53. Sam

    My extensive experience as a former Third Wave feminist who spent many nights in strip clubs qualifies me as a knowing observer, and a lot of what people have contributed shows they too are familiar with what goes on inside strip clubs from the audience end.

    I had a roomie in college who worked the bar at a strip club and she’d hook my 19-year-old self up with a free ride, free beer and plenty of male attention so I spent lots of time there. I didn’t change my opinion about all forms of sexual capitalism being harmful for individual women and Women for another 5-6 years, but when the process began in my mid 20′s I had those vivid memories to rerun through my budding radical feminist mind.

    As for cold, hard facts, Twisty’s first post included a report about facts in UK lapdancing clubs and here’s a link including research done on American strip clubs by a former stripper over a few years in the mid 90′s Freedom and Justice Center

    “Stripclub customers perpetrate verbal, physical, and sexual violence against women in the stripclubs. In one study with 33 women in stripping in Minneapolis and Saint Paul MN, the women reported being routinely called “whore” (61%) and “bitch” (85%) by customers (Holsopple 1994). The same women reported that customers repeatedly grabbed their breasts (73%) and buttocks (91%). In another recent study, 61% reported that customers have attempted to penetrate them vaginally with their fingers, and of these women, 39% were indeed penetrated. (Holsopple 1998.) One hundred percent of the women said they have been propositioned for prostitution by stripclub customers and 78% reported that it was a daily occurrence.”

  54. hotmama

    there is probably not much left to be said. I myself am a former stripper. Did it for about 6 years. There were many Pros and Cons about the whole experience. Pro: paid my bills, felt like a sexual goddess about 3 seconds everynight, met some very interesting people, made a couple of very good friends, met my husband, and the subject got me an “A” on more than one SOC paper in college. Cons: Fed my already very low self esteem, got a very expensive coke habit(clean now), made me feel like a whore for 7 hours and 57 seconds a night, dated some really bad and abusive men I met at said job, gave me a warped body image, can’t go out in public without thinking everyone has seen me naked or is judging me because I used to take my clothes off for a living, can’t dance like a normal person in a club, and cannot handle moneuy to this day because of bad spending habits I developed when money came in so plentiful and easily.

    I do not want to speak for all strippers but the job was not as enpowering as some might lead you to believe. That would be just a coping tactic. I will say that I do not regret my experince, it made me who I am today, I just wish that I could have learned those hard lessons I learned dancing another way. I do miss the music, makeup, costume, and dancing. I do not miss the deroatory talk I was forced to hear, waking uo with hangovers, and the shaving….good lord at the shaving.

  55. Finn

    >>”I’m always trying to find some motivation other than sheer unreasoning hatred for the way men seek to control women.”

    >Ha, Tony! Good luck with that. Keep me posted, eh?

    While I’m sure there are plenty who do it out of hatred, I think it’s more likely fear.

    To me, that’s a big difference. Hatred is a straight line from one to the other. Fear is something we could share a little more equally and explain why the relationships vary more than is suggested by simple hate.

  56. Christopher

    “Is to treat someone as a resource (ie, as someone subject to control) also to hate them?”

    This is an interesting question, and I think that it does usually become hatred.

    I was reading over in Pandagon about how a couple in Pakistan are being treated grotesquely because the wife was raped, and because the husband won’t abandon her for it.

    Now, clearly, Pakistani culture considers women to be commodities. But why is there so much preassure on the husband to divorce his wife?

    In the old west, horses were an important commodity. If your horse went lame, you shot it because it couldn’t work anymore. But if you were rich enough to take care of a lame horse, you could say “Well, ol’ Trigger and I have been through so much together, I can’t bring myself to shoot him” and people would accept that.

    No one would tell you you were immoral for not killing your horse.

    More then that, if somebody stole your horse you wouldn’t get pissed at the horse, you’d get pissed at the thief, not the horse.

    But in this story, the anger from the patriarchy is not aimed at the criminals and their unspeakable crimes, but at the victim. Something that would never happen with actual commodities.

    So, yes, making human beings into commodities does breed hatred for them.

    Sorry for going off-topic there.

  57. TeenageCatgirl

    One thing that has struck me about this discussion is that the women who have stripped say it made them feel sexually empowered.
    Surely, the fact that sexual power is guaged by how many men you can inspire boners in is patriarchal in the fullest sense. It implies women have no sexual power of their own, but must borrow it from the men they have succeeded in turning on.

  58. Twisty

    Nice, Christopher. I was thinking about just such a case in Delhi, where a famous rape victim named Imrana was declared haram and forced to leave her husband and kids, and is now being used as a pawn by self-serving politicians.

    And of course, horse analogies always count double.

  59. Twisty

    Teenage, I don’t get the impression that the former stripper/commenters are wholeheartedly endorsing the empowerment thang. Kim says she had to get drunk every night just to get through it, and Hotmama concedes that the empowerment viewpoint is just a “coping mechanism.”

    Your larger point, that whatever personal go-juice a stripper has could be entirely contingent on external validation, is an excellent one. As someone who has performed on many stages, albeit with a guitar and mostly clothed, I can attest that the approval of a roomful of strangers is an oddly intoxicating sensation, and can easily be mistaken for other things, such as happiness, or self-worth, or, lard help ya, evidence of your own mammoth greatness.

  60. JessicaRabbit

    There is a huge differance between sexual empowerment and feeling succesful at your job. Stripping is not the only job in the world that people drink or take drugs to “numb” themselves to do, and if you have to be drunk or high to do any job, then that is not the job for you, or you are an addict and would do the drugs regardless.

    And making money to pay your bills and take care of your family should give anyone a feeling of self worth regardless of the job.

  61. Twisty

    It’s just hard to imagine, Jessica, that this job–the entire purpose of which is to gratify male prurience in a woman-hating world–doesn’t also suck out large, rather important portions of one’s self. Particularly when performed under the auspices of our misogynist society, where female sexuality is nothing more than a commodity. This is not a personal attack; hats off to ya for finding a way to make decent money. I’m merely suggesting that there should be more ways for women to pay bills that don’t involve major capitulations to the oppressor.

    I might ask why, if stripping has been a satisfying experience for you, you aren’t doing it anymore?

  62. JessicaRabbit

    Well, the first time I quit was because I had to have major reconstructive bone graft surgery on my wrist. The reason I am not working now is because after a very serious infection that antibiotics for cat bites caused in my intestines, the medication they gave me made me very ill and I developed panic disorder. I became very sick, very thin, and wasnt leaving my home anymore. I am dealing with overcoming that now and concentrating just on my health at this point. I do miss working quite often, I miss the social aspects of it more than anything else. Money is nice, but it isnt everything. And any job can suck you dry if you let it. Its all about seperating your job from your life. I do miss being up on the stage, dancing, the costumes, the music. It was an outlet for expression for me, and a way to make money.

    What about the female strip clubs that are lesbian only? We were not a lesbian only strip club, but we had many of them come in on a regular basis and I danced for women many many times.

    And it seems to me that our country at least is becoming more man hating by the second.

    Do I defend all men that come into these clubs and claim they are all good guys? No I dont. But there are assholes to be delt with in every profession in all walks of life.

    I embrace being a woman and all the power that it brings you, and I think that if I choose to dance because I want to, because I enjoy it, that it doesn’t diminish other women who choose not to because they don’t.

    Some women want to be CEO of their company, some just want to stay home and have babies. Neither of them is wrong.

  63. aldahlia

    jessicarabbit… I’m a child of the stripclub scene. (And, as no one else seems to have those credentials, I thought I’d chime in.)

    My mother waitressed, and then she and grandmother worked as a housemoms and sold t-backs. My uncle was a bartender. My two aunts were dancers. One of my aunts used the stage name “jessica” because of Jessica Rabbit.

    Anyway.

    “I embrace being a woman and all the power that it brings you, and I think that if I choose to dance because I want to, because I enjoy it, that it doesn’t diminish other women who choose not to because they don’t.”

    It’s awfully convenient to leave out all those girls that dance because there’s no other way to make that kind of money. It’s fantastic that you’ve got a no-harm, no-foul policy, but have NO IDEA what it’s like to have to lie to the neighbors about the “family business.”

    “Some women want to be CEO of their company, some just want to stay home and have babies. Neither of them is wrong.”

    Yeah, and some women have big dreams that don’t come true, and end up doing what they HAVE to do. Your lazaire faire, bullshit use of the word “choice” is pretty irritating. I can understand that there are some dancers that dig thier line of work. But to pretend that all the girls at the club used to sit in 4th grade and wish they were strippers is laughable at best. Most girls don’t train to strip. The “end up” stipping. And, there’s no fucking WAY you’ve worked that long in the clubs without noticing that fact.

  64. JessicaRabbit

    When did I say that every girl who dances is happy with it? The post and the comments that went along with it were stating that there was no way for women to actually be happy doing it. I never said that everyone who strips enjoys it.

    There is a middle ground, I am that middle ground and I worked with many girls who felt the same way I did, and of course there were girls who didnt like the job as well. No one in any job field is always happy, there are always going to be people doing jobs they dont like, no matter what the job.

    And I am not pretending anything, I have no need to pretend. Notice I said “I” in my post, not all women, not we, but me. My personal feelings about a job I worked.

    “I” have always felt that conflicting opinions can breed interesting discussion and debate. However when one side can’t consider the side of the other party to be valid in any way, there is no point to debate. I understand other peoples objections to the job, and the misconceptions that people form about people who do the job. There are always going to be people who fit the sterotypes, and people who do not. I was speaking up for the people who do not, and that is all.

    Clearly my posting here simply agitates more then it breeds debate. So on that note, I will go back to my middle ground, kiss my girlfriend, and my boyfriend, and be happy.

    Peace.

  65. TeenageCatgirl

    I knew a stripper, she never seemed to complain about her job, if my memory is correct she said she enjoyed it.
    But this is also a woman who hasn’t been single for longer than a day since she was fourteen, and routinely gets involved with nutbags and abusive bastards.

    Twisty: You’re right, I was generalising a bit really, and bringing in other conversations where I’ve heard the sexual empowerment defense for stripping. It’s just the issue of sexual empowerment seems to be a running theme, and usually gets a mention even if it then it rejected as illusory.

  66. angie

    Twisty,
    Thanks for reminding me that I am not crazy. You’re awesome!

  67. junegloom

    Finn Said: “Eradicating poverty would not necessarily stop people from using drugs and becoming prostitutes and strippers. It might change the economy of it all, but escapism and sexual perversity would still be around because some people have it encoded in their DNA (or something)”

    I don’t think we can even begin to imagine what the world would look like if it were poverty-free, such a mind-boggling, radical concept that is. Almost as radical as a world without rape and child exploitation (i.e. patriarchal oppression).

    Surely Finn’s first-hand experience based upon two other people is kinda flimsy ground for assuming that just because they didn’t get out of the drugs the sex biz means that it’s encoded in our DNA (or something). Maybe once the socioeconomic motivations were removed, they were simply trapped in an addictive, multi-generational cycle of degradation and self-loathing. Cause I’m sorry, I just don’t buy the stripping my way through college and milking the patriarchy for personal gain rationale. I used to make great money driving for a heroin dealer (in Seattle, of course). That doesn’t mean I wasn’t out of my young, dumb mind and hell bent on self-destruction.

    Maybe Finn’s in-laws were molested as children or gang raped as teenagers and found themselves re-enacting in the theater of oppression we call strip joints. Economics may not account for the whole picture, but I also don’t think scientists will be locating the I Just Gotta Be Me By Wrapping My Stilletto Heel Around My Head and Exposing My Cervix to a Roomful of Dollar Waving Men” gene anytime soon. Perversion and escapism may account for the male audience side of the equation. But I think socioeconomics and post traumatic stress account for the female side.

    Let’s face it: 99.7% of strippers, porn stars, prostitutes and other sex workers are victims of incest, rape, and other assorted sex crimes. This may be deduced from the fact that 90% of the general female population are victims of the same. And those kinds of traumas play themselves out in all kinds of ways, from drug addiction to lap dancing to abusive relationships to eating disorders to inordinate cat accumulation to self-mutilation to fundamentalist Christianity (a fate worse than professional cocksucking, in my humble opinion).

    Call me a romantic, but I just can’t believe that our rituals of objectification are innate or natural. And I think they have less to do with escape and perversion and more to do with self-destruction and oppression.

  1. First Amendment 2.0: The Enjizzened Version at I Blame The Patriarchy

    [...] What does all of this have to do with the myth of sexual repression I promised to expound on yesterday? Nothing. It turns out I already covered that one. ___________________________________________ [...]

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