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On strip clubs

A lot of shit is spoken about strip clubs. Wherever someone gets their kit off for money you can guarantee that loudmouthed cunts like me will be ready to chip in with an ill-thought-out opinion or jerk a knee or two. Strip clubs are either Good Things or Bad Things, and there seems to be little room for fence-sitting or nuance or grey areas.

As such it is ripe and fertile ground for journalists and anonymous John Does who want to knock out quick opinion-type pieces on ‘My Real Life Strip Club Experience.’

In the New Statesman today an anonymous John Doe explains why he used to go to strip clubs and what he thinks about them. The problem I have with this article is that although it’s quite an interesting piece if seen as an opinion among many (essentially what it is), as a definitive guide to all things stripping (what it pretends to be) it’s a massive pile of wank.

I am by no means a strip club expert, but neither is John Doe. He’s just a man who happens to have been to strip clubs on a number of occasions. As a girl who has been to strip clubs on a number of occasions, I feel compelled to point out that his experiences are not definitive.

Strip clubs aren’t all expensive

Our John Doe sets out just how much strip clubs cost.

“You pay an entry fee of £20. Then you’re shown to a table and you order drinks, which cost at least £5 each. You might not have even seen a nipple, and already you’re £25 down.”

This is probably true of the strip club that he used to frequent. It is not, however, true of all clubs in which women remove their tops.

My favourite club, run by the grumpiest and yet most generous landlord in the whole of East London, charges £3 entry. You walk in, go up to the bar, and buy a pint for about £4. To those in the North who might already be reeling in horror I can assure you that, in London, that’s a reasonably priced pint.

If it’s nipples you’re after, all you need do is wait for the girls to walk around holding out pint glasses full of coinage. You put a pound in the pint glass, then when they have collected a pound from everyone, they get up on stage and whip off their bra. Also, usually (and this came as a surprise to me the first time I went) their pants. By my reckoning that’s £8 for two nipples and a cunt.

Strippers don’t all either love it or hate it

Doe tries to tell us that, far from hating their jobs, strippers (and again, he at no point asserts that he is only talking about the very few that he happens to have seen):

“clearly enjoy the process of performance, grinning at the punters and showing off all sorts of gyratory tricks. “

Do they ‘clearly’ enjoy it? Really? To be honest I’m not sure I’m in a position to judge. I wouldn’t go there if I thought any of them were being forced to do it against their will, but I’m not convinced that every single stripper ‘actively enjoys it.’ After all, if I have to chair a meeting at work I will often grin at the attendees and show off all of my managerial tricks, but that doesn’t mean that on the inside I’m not wishing I was at home eating cheese sandwiches and watching the iPlayer.

Clearly some strippers do enjoy it. Some don’t. Some are having an off-day. Some are thinking about whether they can knock off a bit early because they’ve recorded a really good programme and want to watch it before they go to bed. Grinning at you shouldn’t be seen as definitive evidence of their enjoyment any more than my saying ‘pleased to meet you’ is definitive evidence that I am actually pleased to meet you.

The girls aren’t all on drinks commission

“After a while, you’ll be approached by a girl. She’ll ask how you’re getting on, and pull up a seat alongside you.  Then you talk. She might ask you to buy her a drink (champagne: she’ll get commission on this). Eventually she’ll ask you if you want a lapdance – either where you are, for £20, or behind a curtain, for £40. “

Again, this depends on the club. In my experience girls rarely approach me (as a fellow girl, I suspect they think that I have my own tits to look at so probably wouldn’t pay a premium to look at theirs) but even when they do approach, or speak to the guys I’m with, they don’t pressure you to buy drinks. They’re not always on commission – most places I’ve been to are arranged so that the girls get the money for their dances and the bar keeps the bar profits and entry fee. And, for the record, a dance in this particular establishment is a tenner. A tenner. For £40 I’d expect the Royal National Ballet.

Strip clubs are erotic, but not for everyone

The next part is my favourite, so please read/listen closely. Doe explains how, despite having semi-naked or completely naked women gyrating in one’s face, it is not, in fact, an erotic experience:

“It’s not unpleasant, not at all – but we know it only gives the impression of eroticism – how erotic, really, can a human being waving her genitals in your face be?”

The answer, in case it wasn’t sledgehammer obvious, is that it can be incredibly erotic. Cards on the table: the reason I go to strip clubs is because the men in them seem to be having a good time. Lovely though tits are, I’m not actually paying the entry fee just to stare at them. I’m paying the entry fee because there’s something deeply sexy about watching men get aroused – watching men try to drink a pint and chat with their mates whilst sneaking glimpses of the tits jiggling no more than six feet away from their face. Sure, sometimes the clubs ooze skeeze or awkwardness, but there will also be a hell of a lot of sexual tension – at least a few guys trying to sit in a way that doesn’t show their semi through their jeans.

However, rather obviously, that’s not to say that everyone finds it arousing. I know men who are deeply uncomfortable about the whole idea and wouldn’t walk into a strip club even if you promised there was a free buffet inside. I know men who are aroused by the idea but in practice are terrified. I once bought a lapdance for a friend of mine, thinking it’d be a nice gesture. He left the back room after a minute, and emerged white-faced as if instead of shaking her ass at him, the stripper had smashed his kneecaps then handed him a credit card bill.

So, I agree that it’s not everyone’s idea of an erotic night out, but surely we can all agree that it is erotic for some people, yeah?

Not all feminists hate stripping

The final howler, of course, is the one that’s much trickier to deal with:

“Feminists say we should ban the clubs.”

Do they? What, all of them? Because as far as I’m aware there’s actually quite a lively debate on this issue amongst feminists. There are very good arguments for and against, and I don’t think it’s a topic that has yet been settled.

Reasons for banning: they’re exploitative, they can suck in vulnerable women, they perpetrate the view that women want money and men want to see tits, etc. Reasons against banning: because who the hell are we to tell women whether they’re allowed to earn a few quid by getting their tits out, and banning things should generally be a very well justified last resort.

So there you go – muddy waters, which you’re not going to un-muddy just by writing an article about your own strip club experiences in which you imply that everything you say is the definitive truth and everyone else is disgustingly and embarrassingly wrong. The only thing you’re going to do is add another anecdote to demonstrate just how muddy those waters are.



  • Dumb Domme says:

    “Do they ‘clearly’ enjoy it? Really? To be honest I’m not sure I’m in a position to judge. I wouldn’t go there if I thought any of them were being forced to do it against their will, but I’m not convinced that every single stripper ‘actively enjoys it.'”

    What I really hate is the shoddy “journalism” (or shoddy writing, really) that reduces a situation, person, or practice down to some extreme representation or attitude–it’s sexual liberation or it’s oppression, strippers are fantastic-happy-fun-wild or they’re sad and lonely with low self esteem, people love it or they hate it.

    Really, if only people, practices, and attitudes were so black and white and either/or, the world would be a much easier place to navigate.

    Honestly, I have to imagine stripping is a job, like everything else, with fun stuff and crappy work stuff, stuff they enjoy, and stuff they don’t.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Yep, agreed – I think it’s important to separate the bigger debate (“Is stripping in general something that is good/bad/tricky for society?”) and the more specific points about individual clubs, and the women and punters in them. As you say, if it’s a job, and people aren’t being directly exploited, there have to be some good bits and some bad bits.

      (sightly off-topic – I found your blog through the best sex blogs competition, as it was so highly recommended by so many people. It’s awesome and hilarious, and I particularly enjoyed your Q&A, which occasionally made me laugh to the point where a bit of wee came out. Thank you for commenting, as it’s reminded me to add you to my blog roll)

  • N. Likes says:

    Thank you for this. Once more, you speak sense. It’s interesting to note the cultural differences between strip clubs in London and those here in New York. I think, if you don’t mind, I’ll follow this post with one of my own shortly, attempting to do a similar-style debunking, but based on my own local perspective and flavor.

    N. Likes.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Oooh, yes, please do – come and post a link here when you’re done, would love to read it. Have never been to a strip club in the US.

  • Jon Doe says:

    Hi, I wrote the piece. I agree with most of what you wrote. Thing is, I missed the bit where it was described as “a definitive guide to all things stripping”. It’s just a pov, an alternative one to the many I’ve read before.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Hi Jon, thanks for joining in. I appreciate your point that you didn’t expressly say “hey guys, here’s a definitive guide”, but the way that the piece is written is incredibly prescriptive. For instance:

      – You spend the first couple of paragraphs discussing female journalists who go into strip clubs looking for exploitation, and point out that they’re only looking at things from one perspective. This was promising, to me, as I am similarly frustrated by people who give personal accounts of things like this and yet fail to take into account all the other things that might be going on. However you then go on to do exactly the same thing.

      – You raise the questions of the men “Why are they there? What are they hoping to get from it?” and then tell us why you were there and what you were hoping to get from it in a way that implies this is true of all men. Essentially – by asking those questions and then writing about ‘we’, you’re saying ‘this is what all men think’. Quote:

      “we know it only gives the impression of intimacy – there is no affection, no giving of anything other than mild titillation on her part, and money on ours. You think we don’t get that? You really think we’re so wired to our cocks that we’d pay £40 to stare at a groin for a couple of minutes?”

      Note, you didn’t say “I know it only gives the impression of intimacy” – you write as if you’re a mouthpiece for all men. I don’t doubt that you believe what you’re saying, but I wrote this piece because yours seemed to make the leap from ‘I think this’ to ‘all men in strip clubs think this’. Again, I don’t doubt that some do, but it’s more complicated than that.

      – There are also some things about which you generalise which just plainly can’t be true – the fact that the girls ‘clearly enjoy it’ – again, you don’t say ‘some girls clearly enjoy it’, which is far more likely to be the case, for the reasons I laid out above. See also Dumb Domme’s comment above – regardless of whether, as a whole, someone loves their job as a stripper, some days you have a shite day at work. There’ll be some who are ambivalent, etc.

      Finally, the sentence that says “Feminists want to ban them” – isn’t that a generalisation?

      As I said – it’s a good article as a POV article, but I think it’s written in a way that – particularly to someone who had never been to a strip club before – reads as a ‘definitive guide’ in a way that made me uncomfortable, hence why I wrote this. I don’t want to be rude, and I’m not saying ‘Oh God how awful’, I’m just saying that it’s incredibly important to show this balance, and make it very clear when something is a personal perspective versus a prescriptive guide.

      • Jon Doe says:

        Well, these are all mighty fair and thought-through criticisms, so I’d better respond in full.

        1) Have you considered that – given that a) I’m a man and b) A man who went to strip clubs, with other men, a LOT – I might just be right in these generalisations? That maybe I made them because it’s my heartfelt belief that there’s a lot of truth to them?

        Of course there are exceptions – but I honestly believe, for example, that the majority (and no, I couldn’t give a percentage) of men DO get more pleasure from the flirting and chatting before dancing. In fact you know what – cross my heart – there have been a number of occasions where I’ve actively *pretended* to be really turned on by a girl’s dance, even though I really wasn’t, just because I felt it was good manners. I’ve been told by mates they’ve done the same thing.

        I think 95% of men would never in a million years admit this – oh, hang on, there I go again with an unfounded generalisation – likewise, the enjoyment of the pole dance. I really do believe the overwhelming majority of the girls (again, no stats – you see where this is going?) who are good at pole dancing enjoy it. And as it happens a couple have told me they have. It’s a work out. Plus, they get to show off.

        Now – you’re totally right, of course people can have a bad day at work. But this is a classic example of a point which, if I’d put it in, detracts – in my view – from the impact of the piece. I mean, no offence, but it’s kind of obvious. And that leads me to…

        2) There is only so much equivocating you can do in a piece like this before it loses its power – only so many “on the other hands” you can put in before, frankly, it gets dull.

        I wanted to provoke, create debate and respond to all those pieces which don’t even bother to contemplate the thought processes of the men at all. I didn’t want to provide a completely objective, peer-reviewed and detailed report on the exact motivations behind every strip club customer. Because I couldn’t.

        So it’s polemic, and you’ve rightly called me out on it. But the thing is, so are most blog posts. Aren’t they about persuading the reader of an opinion?

        I mean – that guy there, he’s just in the club because his mates have dragged him in. That guy there, he’s obsessed about this one girl in the joint. That guy there, he’s really drunk and trying to tell some bored dancer about his holiday to Dubrovnik and how he really engaged with the culture. Shit, that’s me. And this is just a Thursday night. Who’s in on Friday?

        You see the problem? I had to project – it’s what writing usually entails. And hell yes, it’s disingenous, but damn if it doesn’t happen all the time, whether it’s Orwell, Norman Mailer or some hack on the net like me. Some do it so well you barely notice it’s happening. Others less so – like me on this occasion, evidently.

        And to give another example, with another of your points – the feminism one – there I think you’re quite right. There I should have provided further detail – it wouldn’t have detracted from the impact and it’s an unfair characterisation.

        Point is, this post was thrown out there and supposed to provoke debate – but this wasn’t quite the debate I expected to end up having.

        Anyway, thanks for your thoughts. It’s good to be challenged constructively, and, reading through your other posts, you have yourself a fan!



  • John says:

    Another interesting one. I’m glad I’m not the only bloke to find the idea of lap dances (do people even call them that anymore?) a bit odd. I mean I love tits, me but I’m a bit uncomfortable with the idea of having to pay someone to show them to me. And also that if they’re there in front of me, wobbling about that i wouldn’t be able to touch them. I don’t mean that I SHOULD be able to touch them, just that it would be too odd of a situation to be in.

  • Girl on the net says:

    This one’s for Jon Doe, I’m just starting a new thread so that the comments don’t get all weird and skinny and annoying to read.

    Thanks for the flattery, Jon, am glad you like my blog. Although am a little bit disappointed that, despite liking it, you’ve been quite patronising to me and set out to explain the nature of writing and why it’s so difficult to do it in a way that doesn’t make sweeping generalisations. Let’s start with your point 2.

    “There is only so much equivocating you can do in a piece like this before it loses its power – only so many “on the other hands” you can put in before, frankly, it gets dull.”

    Agreed. In fact, it’s something that I often struggle with, and most of my edits involve going through and adding equivocation where it’s needed or – to stop things becoming dull – simply choosing words more carefully to make sure that I’m not saying ‘I think this therefore it must be true for everyone.’ I agree that it’s hard, and I certainly don’t get it right all the time, but that’s not to say that it isn’t possible, or something that we should be aware of.

    You’re right that lots of blog posts are polemical, and are designed to persuade the reader of the author’s opinion. But that’s not the same as what you’ve done, which was presenting your personal opinion under the umbrella of ‘we’ instead of ‘I’. Honestly, I genuinely think that in order to avoid this kind of criticism all you really needed to do was replace the ‘we’ with ‘I’ – and then it would have read, as you said in your first comment, as a first-person POV.

    Onto your point 1. Having said in your initial comment that it most definitely *was* a first-person POV, I’m not sure I can make much sense of this point. Are you now saying that actually it wasn’t an opinion, but a rational and justified generalisation? If so, I’m not sure there’s much I can give you by way of reply. No matter that you’re a man (does that make you more qualified to comment on what’s going on in strip clubs? And if so, does that mean I am personally better qualified to decide what the women in strip clubs actually think?), and no matter that you’ve been to a lot of strip clubs, the nature of anecdotal evidence is that it simply cannot be enough to allow you to make conclusions about what is happening in the heads of 95% of men. I suspect this is why so much of your argument in that point rests on emotive language – hand on heart, I honestly believe, etc.

    As I say, I don’t in any way doubt that you honestly believe this, or that it’s a heartfelt opinion. But that does not, and cannot, make it true for all men. At the end of your point you admit that it can’t, so I suppose that means you do, sort of, agree with me that no individual can be the arbiter of truth in this situation, because no individual can make this generalisation.

    In conclusion, it sounds like you’re saying “it’s a first-person POV, but actually I am making generalisations, but they’re justified because I really believe them. And anyway, they might not be entirely true, but if I said that in the piece it would have been boring.”

    As I said before, I honestly don’t want to be mean or rude, and I am not trying to personally offend you – the piece is good, as a first-person POV. And it’s interesting to hear your opinions on strip clubs – I’m generally pretty interested in *anyone’s* opinions on strip clubs. But I just think that the way you presented it was counterproductive, the reason why we’re having *this* debate, rather than the one that you wanted to provoke.

    But I do appreciate that you’ve come back and stood by it, and are willing to have this discussion. Would I be brave enough to take on a blogger who’d criticised something of mine? Maybe not.

  • Ben Dover says:

    Pray tell, where is this strip club in East London you talk about?

  • Bill says:

    I can honestly say that this is the first thing I’ve seen or read that makes me want to go to a strip club.

  • Girl says:

    On banning – you should meet some of the feminists I know. Root of all evil, apparently. I think you and I are in the minority on that one.

    I think you make some good points, but I think he did too. To be honest, his is one of the few articles on lap dancing clubs that I’ve nodded at a few times, got to the end and then gone ‘Well, yeah.’ I think he reaches pretty similar conclusions to you, with the exception of your respective position on prices and whether or not the girls are enjoying themselves.

    And I know the inexpensive strip club you talk of (or one of them, at least) because my friends make sure to put it on the route for every pub crawl we go on, even if it doesn’t fit in with the theme!

  • Jim says:

    I think I’d be less likely to go to a strip club if there was a free buffet inside. I doubt I could fully trust that food.

  • Ash says:

    I want to write about this but don’t have the motivation to do so. I’d rather read dirty sex blogs and smoke cigs.

    Having a friend who DJs in a strip club makes the experience a fair bit cheaper though.

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