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March 27, 2006

Comments

Dustin

ANtigone,

There hasn't been much research about why men go to strip bars -- most of the research has focused on why women do such degrading work (which is to say, work that presupposes the reaction of its subjects). When I get a chance, I'll post some of the material on male regulars from the book I noted above, _Flesh for Fantasy_, at thinknaughty.com. In the meantime, from what I can tell, few men have a strictly visual, strictly subject-object relationship with the performers in adult clubs. One of the recurring themes in the work I've read is conversation -- and not just "sex talk", either. Another recurring theme is the adult club as a forum where men can "relax" -- that is, where they're free from the often-conflicting pressures put on them by work, friends, family, and society at large. Men are under an immense amount of social pressure to be -- and constantly prove they are -- heterosexual; once inside the door of the club, though, that pressure dissipates (mostly, if not entirely) because why else would he be there? Obviously this doesn't apply to every client -- men's reasons for being there are as varied as women's -- but it seems that at least for regulars, there's something much deeper at work than the simple desire to see naked women, or even to dominate them.

Of course, I'm talking about male clients and female dancers -- as someone pointed out above, there's very little attention given to female clients or male dancers, and even less given to same-sex clients and dancers. The lack of research is symptomatic, I think, of the fact that nobody is all that concerned about the actualities of adult club life (the most vociferous opponents have rarely even entered an adult club); rather, as pointed out a thte very beginning of this thread, stippers and otehr sex workers are only paid attention to inasmuch as they fill the "whore" against which the "virgin/whore" dochotomy can be played out and enforced.

Dustin

Me type BAd -- strippers nad other sex workers fill the whore *slot* against which blah blah blah...

Oriscus

Antigone, you ask some good questions.

You ask: "Why is there a market for stripping AT ALL?"

Because demand for sex exceeds supply; because some guys are hopeless/clueless and unable to approach women to whom they're attracted; because some guys are unattractive; because society has drawn the parameters of what body types are "attractive" so narrowly as to create an artificial shortage of desirable partners; because paying somebody to dance for you seems emotionally less risky than exposing oneself to the likelihood of rejection *real relationships entail...

I'm 45, overweight and socially awkward. I last visited a strip club six-odd years ago. It was an interesting experience (I was a guest of a business associate). I bought two lap dances. The first left me cold, the second, well,... I cried. The tears were brought about by something in the young woman's touch, and my need to be touched. I was moved, then deeply ashamed. Hugo is quite right about the consequences of porn and the sex industry for the men involved as consumers. I do know a few strippers and ex-strippers personally. Their stories are, well, complicated.

You add:
"I can understand wanting to see pretty forms (and the human body is a beautiful form), I can understand wanting to see people who are talented at dance, but what I can't wrap my mind around is why do you want to commodify sexual relations at all?"

Nobody *wants to, except that it is perceived to "simplify" matters for the man. "You get what you pay for." You minimize risk of rejection (and personal growth, but who thinks about that?).

You also write:
"I mean (oh ick, how do I say this without sounding wilfully niave or too personally orientated?), when I lust after a person, I do just that: lust after a person."

I find the same thing is true for most men - at least after they outgrow the "anything that moves" stage. Visual stimulation is important, but for actual sex to occur, I know *I* at least have to be *really with* the person.

Oh, and:
"If I want to see the human form just for ascetic reason"

Marvellous typo. Consider the jokes about "anti-sex feminism" made.

And finally, you write:
"why do you want to experience lust over objects? [...] Why would you lust over a thing, instead of a person?"

Because a person might quite reasonably object to being lusted after by someone s/he does not him-/herself desire. Some men are willing to pay for permission to look.

mythago

criminalize BUYING sex, but not SELLING it. It solves the problem perfectly!

"The problem" being what? The stripper's making money? Your solution hurts the truly desperate women you sanctify--the ones who have no choice but to strip for money. The co-eds will just go work elsewhere.

Your post doesn't "come across as" privileged hypocrisy, Hugo. It is privileged hypocrisy. You see nothing wrong with a woman taking off her clothes to please her boyfriend, or because she's afraid if she doesn't the boys will think she's a prude--but let money change hands and it's Katie bar the door! As several other women pointed out, it's the sex that's getting your hackles up. I don't see you fussing over female singers or actors because they are 'dependent on their audiences', or bewailing female stand-up comics who have to put up with verbal abuse.

I can't help but wonder if you're not thinking back shame-facedly on the old, porn-loving Hugo and projecting your guilt.

The local Y offers pole dancing classes. My partner and I are thinking of taking them. Is wanting to be fantastically mind-blowing sexy a bad thing?

To be blunt with you, you're not going to learn to be a stripper at the local Y. They will teach you a few 'sexy' moves that you could have figured out on your own, but unless you are already in a demanding physical profession five days a week, you are not going to be just like those strippers down at the local 'gentlemen's club.' And, even more bluntly, 90% of the attraction of strip bars is that the women are strangers and are new.

Hugo

"I can't help but wonder if you're not thinking back shame-facedly on the old, porn-loving Hugo and projecting your guilt."

Oh believe me, I wonder that too. Read my post above this, Mythago.

But you and I both know that there are many feminists of impeccable cred (far better than my own), whose opposition to stripping far exceeds my own. Listen to them rather than me. I'll defer to the strong and articulate voices in the anti-porn feminist movement in a heartbeat.

And you and I can disagree about the parallel between stripping and, say, singing. Female nudity, in our culture, are inextricably linked to vulnerability and loss of power in a way that performing clothed is not. The stories of women trapped in the sex industry tend to bear that out.

mythago

And you and I can disagree about the parallel between stripping and, say, singing.

I didn't say it was a parallel. I said that the arguments you've presented are weak.

I'll defer to the strong and articulate voices in the anti-porn feminist movement in a heartbeat.

Yes, I've heard those voices. They're quick to turn on women who don't agree with them as sell-outs, dupes, and tools--nicer words for "whore". Believe me, the irony is not lost on the 'pro-sex' feminists you sneer at.

Dustin

Me type BAd -- strippers nad other sex workers fill the whore *slot* against which blah blah blah...

Catty

I worked in bars during a good deal of my college career, and I've met many bouncers, strippers, DJs over the course of my life. I have nothing against the people working in the industry. I agree that there are questions dealing with accountability- but I'm probably *more* of a "sex-positive" feminist than not, although I don't fit into either camp comfortably. We're sexual creatures whether we like it or not- I think it's more important to protect people working in the industry moreso than condemning the industry. I knew several strippers that were very good, positive, great people, and I can tell you that those that were happier were ones that didn't mind the job and weren't economically forced into it out of desperation. Personally, I'd like to see ppl in the sex industry be in there without the physical or economic desperation that drives the vast majority.

My concern as a feminist is for women working in all industries, not just those working in industries I can stomach. I'd rather work with women rather than alienating women. For the single moms and students working in strip clubs (vast majority fall into one or both categories), I would rather help them make the best out of their life on their terms rather than force my beliefs into their lives. I can't pay their tuition, I cannot support their kids. At the end of the day, they're the ones left with the bills to pay. My first and foremost concern lies with the women and their day-to-day lives and not in some ideological space inside my head.

BP

Hugo - add a third group that might be put off by your Letter to the Editor... conservatives who know full well where you're going with that "high cost of education" concern! =]

The rest - ya, we're on the same page!

Hope all is well!

Antigone

Thanks Oriscus, I'll have to think on that for awhile.

mythago

Why would you lust over a thing, instead of a person?

Wow. I would guess that most strip-bar customers have a higher opinion of strippers than Antigone does--they don't think of the women they're paying to ogle as "things".

when I lust after a person, I do just that: lust after a person.

Well, heck, I guess you're the one enlightened person on the planet who's incapable of feeling lust for another human being unless you really, really know them as a person first; you never see a pretty face and react with a "Wow!", you never see an attractive man walk by and think 'nice butt' as you go on your way. That would explain why you can't imagine anyone who does react that way is anything but a user.

Of course it's true that there are an awful lot of men who frequent strip bars who don't think of strippers as people. I assure you, it's not as though those guys see women outside of strip bars as people.

Mr. Bad

mythago wrote: "Of course it's true that there are an awful lot of men who frequent strip bars who don't think of strippers as people. I assure you, it's not as though those guys see women outside of strip bars as people."

And your evidence for this is exactly what? Are you saying that an "awful lot" of men, or even just those men who frequent strip clubs, have difficulty distinguishing a "thing" from a "person?" Or that there are many men who can't separate fantasy from reality?

Ridiculous.

I think it's quite likely that many of those men go to strip clubs precisely for the fantasy and the relief that it provides from the grind that is everyday reality; and IMO this is as healthy as women who watch mind-rot like Oprah and/or read twaddle like romance novels. To each their own, poison or not. You and Hugo seem intent on pathologizing men when there's no evidence for it other than your personal disapproval of how they spend their free time.

I'll say it again: Ridiculous.

Catty

re: Comment in thread about strippers, porn star and drug use.

I've been involved the "standard" music/acting industry, and there's a lot more drugs to be easily had there, from my experience. Working in the bar and club scene, you also see alcoholism and drug use among employees. Most strippers, especially those in higher end clubs, do very little of both- drink and do drugs. On the other hand, I could not say the same about the drug scene in higher end regular clubs. I would say the drinking and drug use for most strippers aren't any more than your average club/bar employee, and also probably less than your average frat house.

If anything, those that do drugs as a stripper would be doing drugs if they were in any other job. I also think the culture of shame regarding sexuality drives these women (and gay/lesbian/transgendered ppl) to drug use and alcoholism.

Catty

Personally, I think dumb romance novels are more harmful to women than strip clubs, but that's another story.

I don't assume all my male friends that enjoy strip clubs to be horrible men in need of some kind of therapy. I've spent time with my male friends at strip clubs and I never felt uncomfortable. That's just me.

The question is, where do we draw the line? Pornography and the sex industry has been with us since the beginning of time.

I'm more interested in making the industry less exploitative for the women and men that work in them- not shut the industry down altogether, or condemn the industry (which demonizes the ppl working in it). I assure you that a black market that is even more exploitative than the current situation will pop up.

mythago

Are you saying that an "awful lot" of men, or even just those men who frequent strip clubs

Parse the English, Mr. Bad: an awful of of men who frequent strip clubs. That is, a subset of the population of those men who frequent strip clubs. I can diagram it for you, if that would help.

And your evidence for this is exactly what?

Years working as a stripper, which is where I get my 'evidence' for disagreeing with Hugo's arm-waving. Yours?

any of those men go to strip clubs precisely for the fantasy

Indeed. How does this contradict my prior statement?

Catty

"Of course it's true that there are an awful lot of men who frequent strip bars who don't think of strippers as people. I assure you, it's not as though those guys see women outside of strip bars as people."

Fundamentally, men that don't see women as people (and they do exist. I'm not going to talk about the percentage, but they exist in large enough numbers) aren't going to see women as people *anywhere.* My friends that occasionally go to strip clubs are respectful of women everywhere- they don't turn disrespectful when they're in a strip club, not because they're some special breed- but because they don't see women as objects for their end anywhere.

mythago

they don't turn disrespectful when they're in a strip club

There are men* who act nice outside of a strip club and 'turn disrespectful' inside--but it's not that they've suddenly been hit with mind-control lasers. Those are people who always had the attitude that women are beneath them; it's just that they keep up the facade of politeness around the wife or girlfriend, and feel free to be themselves when there aren't any women around they have to fool.

That latter group is the same group that resents having to pay money, and feels that they are entitled to 'extras'--after all, the woman will take her clothes off, how dare she draw a line elsewhere? She's a slut.


*I will get into speculative percentages. My own estimation is that about half the guys at strip clubs were just average Joes, a quarter genuinely enjoyed and appreciated the strippers and were well-behaved, and the rest were assholes. By no means a majority, or even a plurality, but certainly enough to notice.

Catty

"There are men* who act nice outside of a strip club and 'turn disrespectful' inside--but it's not that they've suddenly been hit with mind-control lasers. Those are people who always had the attitude that women are beneath them; it's just that they keep up the facade of politeness around the wife or girlfriend, and feel free to be themselves when there aren't any women around they have to fool."

Great point. I've gotten really good at spotting the faux nice guys. Bring up certain subjects and they drop hints everywhere through body language and word choices. I'll also have to agree with your speculative percentages from my experience. I tell ya- you also see the assholes come out in clubs when they're not with their girlfriends. At least in the strip clubs my friends worked at and I've been to, the guys were afraid of the bouncers, because the bouncers weren't joking around. Some of the bars I worked in had NO bouncers, so the employees were on their own if some drunk jerk acted out (which wasn't uncommon).

Lynn Gazis-Sax

Well, heck, I guess you're the one enlightened person on the planet who's incapable of feeling lust for another human being unless you really, really know them as a person first; you never see a pretty face and react with a "Wow!", you never see an attractive man walk by and think 'nice butt' as you go on your way.

FWIW, I do tend to notice attractive faces, butts, etc. in passing (but for some reason almost exclusively those of other women, not men), but have never really identified that noticing as being lust. I tend not to have explicitly sexual thoughts about anyone - I won't say until I really, really know them well, because that wouldn't be true - but until I've at least had some conversation with them. There needs to be a verbal component. I don't know if that's the same reaction Antigone has, but I do know that it makes some aspects of the sex industry feel weird to me. Particularly the part where some people say they are "addicted" to forms of sexual fantasy stimulus that don't involve any conversation.

There's only one aspect of the culture around stripping that I have a visceral negative feeling about, though, and that's the "bachelor's night" custom. Something about the groom (but only the groom) having a symbolic celebration of his last night of freedom involving drinking and strippers (while the bride has parallel celebrations involving opening up presents of household goods) creeps me out.

Other than that, I have defer to people like you and Catty on the matter of how strippers are actually treated, since I have no way of knowing from my own experience. I'm not even sure whether most stripping these days is more Gypsy Rose Lee style, or more like lap dancing.

Catty

There are plenty of bachelorette parties where women go out drinking with girlfriends and male strippers. Stripping nowadays (depending on your neck of the woods- laws are different) involve dancing on stage AND private dances, i.e. lapdancing.

The Gonzman

Now there's a phenomenon - when I got some seniority as a bouncer - hell, when anyone did - we opted out on the biweekly "Ladies' Nights" the clubs had. While some of the men were bad, the crowds of women on those nights were invariably out of control. I used up two cans of pepper spray one night working one of those, and would always wind up with scratches or something from having to bounce a woman or women.

Hugo

Catty, it's one thing to say that the sex industry has always been with us. I'll agree. Then again, rape has always been with us too - but that doesn't stop feminists from doing everything they can to end it.

Feminism is predicated on the belief that a new world is possible; if the past were our only source of hope, none of us could do the work we do. We'd all be in pits of despair. And if we can expand rights and opportunities for women in new and previously unimagined ways, we can also transform the way in which human beings relate to the sex industry.

Catty

I agree with you about expanding rights and opportunities. I think the start of change is first to protect the ppl working in the industry, and also change the society's view of sexuality and women.

My main issue for the sex industry is that it is often exploitative, and in many cases, horribly so (esp when dealing with sex-trafficking and child prostitution). I suppose my interest is to reduce the exploitative factor, and greatly increase the safety and accountability factor. I'm fundamentally uninterested in eliminating the sex industry as a direct approach. I think as we increase women's status and take away this shame/guilt/oppression factor dealing with sexuality, the sex industry will change accordingly. The fact is like rape, or even drugs (including the likes of alcohol), I don't think it's something that can be completely eliminated from society. Let's see how the ban on drugs have worked so far- it hasn't. Throughout my teens, it was easier for me to get cocaine than beer.

I don't think erotic images for individual consumption (which is basically what porn is), in itself is wrong or harmful. I think it *can* be depending on content and social context, which can be argued regarding porn/stripping within our society as it stands today. However, I think those things are a symptom of a bigger problem which is more important to address- the role/status of women and human sexuality. Rape, porn, sex work are all reflections of a deeper issue, and they're never going to be resolved properly unless you get at the root cause. Calling for bans for porn is akin to calling a ban for abortion, IMHO, and we can see the effect that the war on drugs have had on combatting drugs. It only fuels a black market industry which is often even more exploitative and ends up as an overall net negative, not a positive.

catty

So, I agree with you that stripping as a job is not the *best* option available for women. I'm in no way saying that stripping is great or that it should even be encouraged. At the same time, I also don't want to make a generalized statement, especially about the strippers themselves, because I think that's more harmful to marginanlize any group of women. As a feminist, I'm first and foremost interested in protecting women and their welfare, and that's all women from homeless women, sex workers, students to CEO's and everything in between.

I disagree with Don's vision. I would never recommend a woman strip for money as a general advice. It requires a strong sense of self to be successful in that business. On the other hand, I also object to your assumption that it is always negative for the woman, period.

mythago

esp when dealing with sex-trafficking and child prostitution

I thought we were talking about stripping, not child rape and sexual enslavement. That's a bit like comparing the situation of craft sewers in the US to children chained to rug looms in Pakistan.

I wouldn't recommend stripping either, at least in the US, where the bars seem to prefer to make their money off the dancers instead of the customers.

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