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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.