Totally Naked Girls! *less exciting than it sounds

Posted by Irresponsibility

There are all sorts of worthy (and unworthy) debates to be had about strip clubs, the purportedly innocuous end of the serving-up-women-as-slabs-of-meat industry, aka ‘the sex trade’. The liberal/feminist dilemma was beautiful articulated by Rowenna Davis in a Guardian column and it pretty neatly summed up my own conflicting righteous impulses. Until I actually went to a strip club last week…

It is a friend’s going away party and, shielded by booze and irony, the guys decide it will be fun. I object on the ground of the badly punctuated sign above the door (‘Gentlemans club’) but they pay my three-quid cover and in I go. Not surprisingly, I am the only woman there wearing flat shoes and clothing that covers my arse cheeks. One of the ‘girls’ is working the room, plastic cup in hand. “One pound for the show. I’m on stage next.” Dudes plonk coins into the cup, without making eye contact.

A couple of minutes later she is onstage, shucking her black, acrylic bodysuit with its cutout flanks and her g-string. I can hardly watch. Not because I’m prudish, or morally outraged, but because it’s so unsexy. My friend Andy has wisely turned his attention to the fruit machine and is cheerfully losing the rest of his change. I look back at the stage. She has a huge butterfly tattoo across the small of her back, her only distinguishing feature.

There is a sense of relief when she grabs her clothes and marches off stage. “That’s just depressing,” I say.
“I mean, there are nicer strip clubs… classier…” one of my friends says, unconvinced and unconvincing.

After a brief reprieve another girl kitted in scanty black lycra does the round with the cup. She writhes to Pour Some Sugar On Me. Watching carefully shaved labia swirling around a cold brass pole doesn’t make me think about sex, it makes me think about hygiene.

Nudists are right: there’s nothing sexual about nakedness. Bare bodies, unmediated by any warmth or personal engagement are just raw flesh; strip clubs are about as erotic as abattoirs. I suspect my friend is wrong. The ‘classiness’ of the venue has nothing to do with it. No amount of red velvet or champagne negates the fact it’s essentially open day at the meat-packing plant.

The real kick of sex is the shared sense of mischief, intimacy, desire, whatever it is that makes two people click. Even the most random one-night stand, or dirrrtiest nightclub hook-up is fuelled by proximity, by the sense – however fleeting – that you and he, or she, are conspirators in a delicious act of sin. Strip clubs render this impossible because they are so utterly dehumanising. (I defy you to remember what someone’s face looks like when their snatch is at eye level.)

Strip clubs aren’t about sex at all; they’re about power. Men who frequent them aren’t getting off on the hot naked sex-ayness, they’re getting off on domination. And men who equate dominance with sexual pleasure are dangerous. Rapists in mind, if not in fact.

Knowing that, how can liberals or feminists support women’s right to ‘choose’ the sex trade? What we need to do, instead, is fight the economic inequalities that force women into these ‘choices’ and enshrine male privilege.

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13 thoughts on “Totally Naked Girls! *less exciting than it sounds

  1. I went to a very sad lap dancing club once persuaded by male friends. It was called Tottys, not very apt, as there wasn’t much totty. But, I’m not sure about your power theory. It seemed to me that the women were in control, the men just looked sheepish and sad. If men have to pay to be titillated in that way, then isn’t that their weakness, not their power?

  2. Don’t you think that the ‘having to pay to be titillated’ bit is what makes it truly scary? If, like you say, these men feel so dis-empowered in their relationships with women that they have to fork over cash to see pussy I suspect a dark heart of domination-fantasy lurks behind their sad-sack facades.

  3. That might be true, but perhaps the question is, why are they feeling so disempowered in the first place? I think blokes in the Western world are in a zeitgeist of confusion and emasculation. Whatever they do is deemed to be wrong, and their traditional role is being more and more eroded and usurped by the gonad girls springing up like Japanese Knotweed around them. Shame.

  4. What ‘traditional role’ is it that you’re bemoaning the loss of exactly? The one where they make more money than women, get to slap their wives around, treat their children like property, start wars, ruin economies, rape and kill with impunity. Oh wait… they still do.

    Men hold the vast balance of the fiscal and physical power in every nation and culture under the sun. I refuse to feel their pathetic, self-serving, non-existent pain.

  5. Because I hate patriarchy and male abuses I hate men? In the same way that because i hate Israel’s wholesale slaughter in Gaza I must be an anti-Semite? That’s pure sophistry.

  6. Am I? I fail to see how you make the leap from my disliking shocking male behaviour to the assumption that I don’t like anything about men.

    Am I to infer that because you like men you think rape, violence and economic repression are A-ok?

  7. As a vehement anti-feminist (mind you, not a misogynist, I just do not like the feminazis in general), I fail to see what is wrong with these “gentlemen’s clubs”. Not that I find them tasteful, but, to be frank, how can you say it’s EVIL MEN’s faults that they exist? Sure, the men that go there make up the market, but I am fairly sure that the strippers are not being forced to work there at gunpoint; they do it of their own volition. And, if there is consent, then I have no problem with it.

  8. “As a vehement anti-feminist (mind you, not a misogynist,”

    I suppose you’re also a non-racist who happens to hates black people, or a non-homophobe who thinks being gay is a sickness…

  9. so wait, this is your analysis, after being in ONE club?

    i’m a feminist with 12 years of dancing under my (garter) belt and i found your post droll and uninformed.

    make a broader study of your subject matter before you decry it.


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