My Surprising First Experience in a Strip Club
A Young Woman's Perspective on Female Strippers
So last night, I went to a strip club for the first time. And it was great.
Not the response you'd expect from someone who opposes the sexual objectification and exploitation of women. But I am about to explain to you how I, a woman in her early twenties, experienced the strip club as a safe, enjoyable and empowering place.
First, I will clarify. A "strip club" refers to a club or bar in which dancers entertain the customers, by dancing suggestively and wearing saucy outfits. Dancers may give customers a private one-to-one dance, for an extra charge. There is NO touching allowed. Strip clubs and brothels are often lumped together under the forbidden umbrella of 'adult entertainment', creating confusion between the two. But they are distinct: you go to a strip club to watch women dance, you go to a brothel to have sex. Yes, having sex with a stripper in a strip club is actually illegal. For a witty, no-bullshit breakdown of strip club etiquette for women, see this article from Ashley Uzer: "Strip Club Etiquette For Women."
For many, the mention of a strip club incites a scene of a dark, smoky bar, filled with drooling 60-year-old men in suits, all leering at scantily-clad girls twisting and grinding on a pole. The men discuss business, smoke pipes, with a glass of single malt in one hand and a fistful of banknotes in the other. As depicted in movies, the strippers are at the beck and call of the clients and are mute, objectified, and powerless.
But actually, the strippers own the room.
I went to a strip club with a big group of friends who were celebrating a work achievement. One other girl and I were the only females in the group. After paying the entrance fee, we entered the bar and were greeted by a scene of delirious, awkward patrons, having drinks and chatting to one another, many eyes fixed on a woman wearing intricate lingerie, adeptly winding around a pole.
We were sat at a table close to the stage. We ordered a round, we took our coats off, I went to the bathroom, and came back to sit and drink. I could have been at any bar, apart from the women in lingerie walking around us.
I was expecting to feel on edge, uncomfortable even. There is something about women in their underwear which (often, not always) affects heterosexual men; they become emboldened, more assertive in their advances towards the non-naked women. But the whole time, I felt completely safe. No one was bothering me, they were watching the strippers! I was simply a fellow patron.
I was also amazed at how easily my male friends lost their composure. I’m going to be so bold as to claim that for most women, it takes a lot more than the sight of a body to feel turned on. But when my friends glimpsed a bum, a breast, a woman dancing seductively they lost their minds. They were freaking out. And it was then that I realised — the strippers weren’t the ones being controlled — they were controlling the men. They had the men in the room like putty in their hands, just by embracing their femininity and showing off how sexy they were.
The women were all beautiful, with lingerie in different styles, thoughtfully accessorized. The women who were not on the stage would simply approach patrons, introduce themselves, ask how everyone was doing, and if anyone wanted a private dance. They were sociable, intelligent, businesswomen. And there was no danger. Security guards patrolled the club, and I don’t mean there were a couple of bouncers at the door — there were almost as many security men as there were strippers. They were keeping the women safe while they worked. These women were safer at the strip club than the average woman is going to a normal club. In clubs, women will be groped, their arses grabbed, their drinks spiked. In the strip club, the women were revered, respected, and protected. I settled into my seat and sipped my rum and coke, chatted with friends, and watched the dancers. I had never felt so relaxed at a club.
This was a pleasant surprise. It also supports what strippers say about their job, and how the stigma is unwarranted. Really, it’s about female empowerment and, at the very basic level, making money. Model and actress Adwoa Aboah did a short documentary on pole dancers breaking the stripper stigma, which you can watch here: "Meet The Pole Dancers Breaking The Stigma Attached To Stripping."
I could go into a whole speech about why the stigma probably derives from societal ideals about how women should make their money and the ‘proper’ way to behave — but I’ll offer that up as something to think about. This article from a woman who used to waitress in a strip club echoes some of the observations I had, by attending as a patron: "What I Learned Working At A Strip Club."
Of course, I went to a strip club in a reasonably affluent city in a wealthy Western country. It was my first time, and I am probably ignorant to the differences between strip clubs in this context and strip clubs in other, less egalitarian places. So, my perspective on this topic is arguably limited.
My final point here is that how we feel about what people do comes down to their right to make their own choices. Women who choose to work in a strip club should not be slut-shamed. As for me, my stance on strippers is this: let women do what they want to do, and know that those who are strippers are bad-asses.