A good friend gave me a fun read recently, Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman. I must admit that I fail to agree with all of Moran’s musings on a definition for modern feminism but I did get some good laughs. Moran earned my nod of approval in her chapter titled, I Go Lap Dancing. Via a witty recount of a night she went to a high end strip club, Spearmint Rhino, in the mid-90’s with another female journalist to conduct research for a story and gulp down free champagne.
Moran points out in her story that strip clubs are depressing places and she is right. As part of a social experiment when I was in college, I went with my male friend JB to a small strip club in the afternoon. He wanted to see if the men in the club would behave differently with a “regular” woman in the club. They did, according to him, tone it down a bit but it was sad. So impersonal. The women all looked so bored, distracted, as if they were going through the motions and not enjoying performing at all. The men also looked bored and some downright despondent. It must be sad if you have to pay someone money to stick their twat in your face rather than being someone has someone do it because they like you.
This is not my only strip club experience. Back in the late ’80’s I lived at 20th and Park Ave South in New York City, a then rather dull neighborhood just at the very beginning of becoming someplace anyone would want to be. There was a high end strip club right around the corner from my apartment and sometimes when I was coming home from a night out and I looked respectable or at least dressed up, the bouncers would invite me and my posse in for a drink as a way of being neighborly. It was pretty much the same depressing dynamic as the tiny little titty bar I visited with JB but in a posh setting with a lot more money being exchanged. The girls were gorgeous but they all had fake boobs- beautiful boobs but fake all the same. I know because they would tell us all about it while seated at the bar after their shifts. And they were all “just doing this go pay for graduate/medical/law school”- which made me laugh just imagining the reaction of some guy getting rolled into the ER having a heart attack and recognizing his doctor from her days in the club or a judge recalling that very special lap dance the defense attorney performed for him on his Birthday a few years back while she is giving closing arguments.
These girls were making loads of cash. $500 to $1,000.00 a night and sometimes more (which in todays dollars would be about $1,500 to $3,000 on a regular night). They would tell me if I got my boobs done I could make that kind of money too but alas, I chose working in retail over a career as a stripper possibly proving once again that I am a financial moron. But really I declined because I think, as Moran does, that women should be in control of their sexual energy and that objectification of women is sexist and fundamentally wrong.
As Moran so eloquently puts it, “No man who ever cared for or wanted to impress a woman made her stand in front of him and take her knickers off to earn her cab fare home.”
Moran does support Burlesque Dancing (and I agree with her on this) because in Burlesque, unlike stripping, the woman is in control. She is celebrating her creativity, her sexuality. She is enjoying herself as she performs for an entire audience of men and women. Burlesque is empowering and feels communal and comfortable to women in the audience.
“Perhaps as a direct consequence, burlesque artists treat their own sexuality as something fabulous and enjoyable- rather than soothing bordering on a weapon, to be ground, unsmilingly, into the face of the sweaty idiot punter below.
…burlesque clubs fell like a place for girls. Strip clubs- despite the occasional presence of a Spice-Girl, ten years ago – do not. Watching good burlesque in action, you can see female sexuality;a performance constructed with the values system of a woman: beautiful lighting, glossy hair, absurd accessories (giant cocktail glasses; huge feather fans), velvet corsets, fashionable shoes, Ava Gardner eyeliner, pale skin, classy manicures, humor, and a huge round of applause at the end- instead of an uncomfortable, half-hidden erection and silence.
Burlesque artists have names- Dita von Teese, Gypsy Rose Lee, Immodesty Blaize, Tempst Storm, Miss Dirty Martini- that make them sound liek sexual superheroes, They explore a culture that allows them to do, creatively, as they please, They are dames, broads, and women- rather than the slightly cold-looking girls you see in strip clubs, Their personas embrace the entire spectrum of sexuality- fun, wit, warmth, inventiveness, innocence, power, darkness- rather than the bloodless aerobics of the podium.”
The difference is the attitude. Stripping is objectification while Burlesque is empowering. Men who enjoy the objectification of women are bad news. They may seem perfectly wonderful on the surface. They are usually very charming and flirty. Objectifiers give nice presents- usually something that makes them look equally good in an egotistical way and decorate the object – like nice jewelry or fur coats. They like beautiful well dressed women – arm candy. They equate expenditures on dinners out, trips and gifts as payment for sexual favors and may get cross if you fail to agree with that concept. They will be the first to express dismay if you gain a pound or two.
It is as satisfying to have a relationship with a person who thinks of you as an object as it is for you to have a relationship with a rock.
One woman told me her story of going out with a man she met online. She had only ever dated one man in her life, her former husband of 30 + years and had little idea of what dating would be like. She met the man at a restaurant. He talked mostly about himself at dinner then as they were leaving the restaurant asked her if she would like to sit in his car and chat for a few more minutes. Seeing nothing wrong with that she complied. Once she was in the car he ambushed kissed her and began groping her breasts. When she pulled back in horror his response was, “Well, I bought you dinner didn’t I?”