This week’s guest blogger has an inside story for you, about her time working behind the bar in a strip club, and the effect it had both on her confidence and her own sex life…
Faith Streng is a writer, blogger, actress, and sex enthusiast in LA. If you like her guest post, check out her blog, ‘From Behind The Boobie Bar’, and follow her on Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. Her first book, It’s Like Karaoke And Other Titty Bar Tales, is now available for Amazon Kindle and will be offered on Audible next month.
Do you know what can FUCK TOTALLY OFF? This news story about the rise in strip club takings. Specifically, the very first four words of it:
Amid all the controversy yesterday of date-rape-drug detecting nail polish and a judge who reckons women need to stop getting drunk, there was one piece of fucked-up bullshit that seemed to slip through the net. When I read it my immediate thought was: hey! Look! A primer for all those people who try to tell me that equality has come on in recent years and there’s no such thing as male privilege any more. Can’t be arsed to read the article? Here’s a summary:
Smarmy club owning tossbag Peter Stringfellow has announced that takings at his strip clubs are going up, as a direct result of financial industry clientele flocking back. Apparently the recession hit these poor lambs hard, and they couldn’t throw down top dollar like they used to. The fact that Stringfellow’s takings are on the rise apparently indicates that the bankers are back in force, braying into their champagne and celebrating big-win deals by paying for people to take their clothes off.
So why am I angry? I mean, the recession’s bad, right? We see all those graphics on TV of wobbly graphs going down and scary sting music announcing that we’re all screwed. Surely a cast-iron economy-boost sign such as this should be cause for celebration?
Maybe. If you want to celebrate the end of the recession I’m not going to snatch the bubbly out of your hand, but fucking HELL. Fuck. Ing. Hell. If we live in a world in which an increase in strip club takings can be a sign of an improvement in any non-stripping-related industry, then I think it’s time the human race was sent to sit in a corner for a while and think about what we’ve done.
Do I hate strip clubs?
No. I haven’t written much about sex work here before, so I should probably clarify before I launch into this rant. I’ve been to strip clubs. I don’t have a problem with stripping or any kind of sex work. I do have a problem with exploitation. These things cross over sometimes, but I don’t think they’re necessarily dependent. You might disagree with me on this point, and I’m sure we could have an interesting and feisty debate about it, but please understand that when I have this rant, it’s not based on a fundamental problem with stripping.
What I have a massive and aching problem with is the fact that these outings are work related. They are so part-and-parcel of the job in a particular kind of industry that it is considered completely normal and not a little bit weird that the owner of a strip club is citing ‘increase in takings’ as an indication of that industry’s revival.
Naked people as job perks
Want to see tits? Fine. Tits are, I understand, quite popular with some people. Want to see cunt? Again, fine. Expect to be shown either or both of these things as a reward for doing your job? Then you’re a bellend.
I am a sex-positive motherfucker. I am so sex-positive that sometimes my enthusiasm for the sticky activities of consenting adults makes my clit ache. HOWEVER, no sexual activity happens in a vacuum. Much as I’d like to be the one dancing naked in front of you and scattering tit-shaped petals at your feet, I’m afraid if you go to strip clubs on work-related jaunts, I’m going to have to piss on your bonfire.
Giving hand-jobs to consenting strangers is totally cool. Doing it in the middle of your open plan office is not. Engaging in consensual BDSM is cool. Spanking your secretary at the AGM is not. Going to strip clubs – also cool. Incorporating strip clubs into your working culture? Utterly reprehensible.
Putting any kind of sexual pressure on anyone is unacceptable, and in a work situation it is very difficult to say ‘actually I’d rather not get a boner in front of my boss, thanks,’ especially when your boss is the one buying dances. On top of this there’s the obvious objection, which I’m sure you’ve thought of yourself: what about your straight female or gay male colleagues? For these people, watching naked strippers may not actually be a ‘treat’ but instead an awkward outing that they have to grin and bear in order to win the approval of a boss and/or client.
Moreover, given that a disinclination to watch female strippers is not always dependent on sexuality, what about your straight male colleagues who don’t enjoy strip clubs? Unless you’re the kind of person whose misogyny is generally seasoned with a large and complimentary dollop of misandry, and you therefore presume all men are slobbering fuckdogs, you’ll agree that there are straight men who don’t enjoy strip clubs.
If you want to treat your colleagues or clients, get them a nice meal. Take them go-karting. Buy them tickets to sodding Disneyland for all I care. But if you work in an industry that has nothing to do with sex, and you make something sexual a standard part of your operating procedure, then you don’t deserve a job.
Women in finance
All of the above goes only some way towards explaining why the article I mentioned so many swearwords ago boiled my blood. What pushed me from silent fuming to a terribly un-British mutter of ‘fuck’s sake’ as I perused the paper on the train was the fact that strip club receipts were so unquestioningly accepted as a sign that the financial industry was ‘back on track.’
This tells us that the financial sector remains not only dominated by men, but dominated by the unconscionably banal and pathetic attitude that masculinity rules the world. The kind of macho ‘dicks-out, tally ho, woof woof, nice tits, I just made a million dollars’ culture that should have died well before Wolf of Wall Street was released.
I’ll get men commenting on this saying ‘we don’t all go to strip clubs, you know,’ and it will make me want to weep tears of actual blood, then smash through my computer screen with my weeping, bloodied face. Because this is not me saying ‘all men are dicks.’ This is a much wider problem – a culture that unthinkingly accepts that all men want X, where ‘X’ includes sexual service, a pile of money, and a BMW they can use to cut up cyclists in the city centre. There will always be some pin-striped arseholes who want to see tits on the company dime. As long as there are quarterly sales meetings there’ll be some twat called Henry who suggests they all trip down to Stringfellow’s as a reward for hitting their targets. Henry is a lubed-up prick, for sure, but shouldn’t shoulder all the responsibility. I hate him for acting like a swaggering piss-bucket, but I’m far more angry at the culture that lets him.
This pathetic world, which unthinkingly correlates strip club takings with a financial sector ‘bounceback’ and doesn’t go ‘wait a minute! Isn’t this fucked up on such a large scale we can see it from the top of the Chrysler Building?’
I have a message for you, Henry, and for all your mates in the city. All the managers and bosses who turn a blind eye to this bullshit. To the people who’ll nod and smile and say ‘boys will be boys’ or talk about the ‘culture’ of finance and why it just HAS to be like this. My message is this:
We’re coming to get you.
We liberal lefty do-gooding bastards with our ideals and our rage and our charity-shop jumpers. We’re coming to get you.
Fifty years ago Mad-Men-style ad execs would think nothing of slapping a secretary’s arse. Twenty years ago you could bribe clients with strip club trips and claim it back from work. These days, things are different. Arseholes have to suppress their natural instincts – avoid sexual harassment, overtly offensive comments, and sticking their boners on expenses. It still happens, of course, but it’s rarer. It’s rarer because we’ve made it so: we do-gooding bastards are actually winning.
We’re winning for a number of reasons. Perhaps it’s because we’ve got better messages – ‘equality’ sounds better than ‘jobs for the boys’, doesn’t it? Or maybe it’s because time and again we’re proven right – women enter a particular industry (be it factory work, finance, or tech) and manage to equal and often outperform their male colleagues. My favourite theory, though, is it’s because we’re just fucking right.
Call me a starry-eyed optimist but I believe the UK, despite making spectacular and regular fuck ups, is tending towards greater equality, and a much lower tolerance for sexist shit. Don’t cry ‘oh political correctness oh woe oh the horror’ – it’s not a scary thing – it’s a good thing.
Henry, we’re coming to get you, and when we do I hope you’ll welcome us with relief and open arms. I hope you’ll cry ‘thank Christ for that, I don’t have to live up to this weird cut-out stereotype of masculinity any more.’ I hope you’ll realise that bringing women into an industry and kicking obligatory sex shows out of it is a net win for all of us. And I hope that in fifty years time you look back not on the ‘good old days’ of Pete from Head Office treating you to a lapdance, but the even better days of not feeling forced into some weird misogynist ritual just to prove your worth in the workplace.
We’re coming to get you. Roll out the red carpet, or get run into the ground.
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.