America’s Next Bill Clinton!

Feminism, strip bars, and an exotic dancer.

For the last few days, I’ve wanted to write about my experience at the strip club, but I am glad I didn’t, because tonight, I actually got to talk to a stripper about feminism, so it made me think a bit deeper on the issue.

Please don’t kill me – but a few nights ago, my old friends took me to a strip bar, despite my protest. They didn’t put a gun to my head, but I reluctantly went anyway, seeing it as a way for us to spend time together. In that, I feel guilty because I felt as though I was contributing to the objectification and commodification of women by being a patron there. Further, I have to admit that I was somewhat turned on by the visuals of it all. But I am, after all, only human.

 As one of my buddies offered to buy me a lap dance, I refused, out of me feministic values. “Real men don’t have to pay to see a woman naked,” I told him as a way to politely refuse, yet still adhere to my feministic values. But at the same time, even said statement, for me, is problematic, as it defines what a “real man” is supposed to be.

But I felt extremely bad that I was at the club, and that I was physically enjoying the sight of a woman’s body, who was only there because of an imbalance of power. There I was – the male with privilege and money to see her dance naked …I was just like the rest of them, contributing to the misogynistic view of women.

 What was even more upsetting for me, I think, was I saw the cocktail servers walking around in tight little bikinis. While I love the woman’s body, I don’t feel as though I have to part-take in sexism to appreciate it. Although there is always a “no-touch” policy at any strip club, the regulars were actually slapping one of the servers’ butt. I wanted to say something, but realized it was neither my place nor the time. I let it go, and continued talking to my friends. I am sorry!

 Tonight, while sitting at a coffee shop near my house, I was next to a couple a table over. Lost in my new book, “Giving,” by Bill Clinton, as well as texting people, I looked up to the girl asking me if the Ms. Magazine sitting on the table was mine. I offered it to her, and the guy she was with told me she is new to feminism. So, a conversation ensued.

It turns out she’s an exotic dancer, and came to feminism after reading Jessica Valenti’s “Full Frontal Feminism,” and now wants to go to college majoring in women’s studies.

I asked her how she dealt with the political and personal of her life, being both a feminist and a dancer. Her reply was something to this extend:

“It depends on why people dance. For some girls, they dance because they feel they need the approval of men to feel pretty. Some can’t dance unless they’ve got alcohol in their system. I dance because I make a lot money doing so, and I am my own person. I don’t need men’s approval to feel pretty, but I am empowered by it. In the end, it’s about what I do for my own life and not have to feel ashamed by it. I do it because I make my own schedule and report to no one.”

I thought about her answer and wondered: what if stripping truly does make some women happy because they are in control? What if stripping made them happy because they are empowered by the money? What if they are doing it out of their own choice?

Driving home, I think I’ve come up with the answer for it all, and perhaps said answer is still muddled by my experience as a male with male privilege, but I think that feminism shouldn’t be about what we can get out of it, but how we can make the world a better place.

In the end, what we do shouldn’t be motivated by what we can get out of it, but rather, whether it will positively affect woman?

Does seeing women naked make me happy? Sure. But am I contributing to the comodification of women? Yes. So should I do it in the future? No.

The same thing, I think, goes for this woman. This is not a judgement. It’s merely what I think. But as was brought up in my conversation with her, our views on feminism change everyday, as we learn more, and experience more. Perhaps that’s just the case with me.

I recommend to her, “To Be Real,” by Rebecca Walker. I suggest it to all of you, too. 🙂



10 Comments so far
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Good post. I think there are woman who are in the sex industry because they truly want to be there. But I also think there are many more who have no choice. We can’t ask every stripper or woman in porn if she wants to be there so I prefer to err on the side of caution. If I can’t be sure the actors are there by choice, I can’t, with a clear conscience, “consume” the product. Then again, porn and strip clubs make me really uncomfortable so I probably wouldn’t choose to consume said products even if I knew all the women were there by choice. Having said that, I strongly believe that all women, regardless of their profession, should be treated with respect and equality. If a woman came to me for help, I would help her if I could and I don’t care what she does for a living.
Thankfully my husband feels the same way about these issues because yeah, I admit, I would probably have to kill him if he went to a strip club

Comment by Sunny

That’s great that she’s found a place where she can strip and not have to answer to anyone. I’m not sure that’s the norm. I don’t know much, really, about how things always work at strip clubs, but a friend of mine had a dear friend who started stripping for money when she was young and she had quotas of drinks she had to sell, and if she didn’t fill them she had to pay for those out of her own pocket. Again, I don’t know how common stuff like that is, but it certainly seems like the women are taken advantage of, in many ways, in at least a good number of these places.

I don’t doubt that there are women who strip and dance b/c they genuinely like it and are happy with themselves… but my guess is the majority don’t feel quite the same way.

Comment by Marcy


I was reading your blog and it struck me your work would be ideal for an anthology I’m compiling.

Check it out:

Comment by Adele Nieves

One of the reasons I love feminism (although I suppose this falls under the “feminism benefits me” category, rather than feminism benefiting other women), is because it always forces me to exam my choices, which can sometimes be hard, but is always interesting.

This post was full of self-examination (that’s my way of saying it was interesting!).

Comment by secondhandsally

I’m a dancer, and I completely agree with what this woman told you. I don’t believe strip clubs are degrading or misogynistic. I think some men are, and they will be, regardless of the environment in which they’re in. Women are, subtly or not, put at a disadvantage every day because of their gender. Dancing is the only job I’ve ever had where I felt in control of how I was able to deal with it. I have had to grit my teeth and smile at a lot of disrespectful, perverse customers and bosses simply for the sake of keeping my job. As a dancer, I and only I determine what my time and appearance are worth, what I will tolerate, and who I will tolerate. No one else tells me what I have to do to stay employed. This is the aspect I find empowering. I don’t think there’s anything unhealthy about men wanting to see naked women (most men come for the attention, not the visuals, anyway). I think on some level it’s made me feel better about my body and better about how men view women… I realized when I started dancing, men are much less judgemental of women’s bodies and appearance than I thought. Men truly just enjoy women, not just women who comform to a certain mold. I rarely ever hear men criticize dancer’s bodies or looks… ironically, the only thing men seem to complain about are fake breasts–never ones that might be considered ‘too small’. In the end, our society and our media are much more degrading and misogynistic than any strip club environment I’ve been exposed to.

Comment by Gwyne

“I have had to grit my teeth and smile at a lot of disrespectful, perverse customers and bosses simply for the sake of keeping my job. ”

^^that statement was referring to other jobs I’ve had, not dancing 🙂

Comment by Gwyne

I am an exotic dancer

Comment by lillith

Sorry for above post!

Thanks in advance for reading my post, feel free to ask any questions. I just thought I would tell you about my experiences.

I’ve been dancing for 5 years and I am a feminist. Personally I think different types of feminism can support dancer lifestyles (It’s good to know that someone is supporting us because are job type makes us isolated and degraded by the community). I will counter act the average stripper stereotypes I am bombarded with when I tell someone what I do for a living by stating this: I do not do drugs (people ask me constantly if I now where to get coke based on my job and it really bothers me), I rarely drink (I don’t even now what the inside of my local University bar looks like) , and I have been with the same man monogamously for 3 years ( I am not promiscuos), I am in no way being abused, and yes my boyfriend has a job(He owns a software business). Also, I am not a prostitute, I get naked for money I do not have sex for it, although, I ethically do not have a problem with prostitution. I am 24 years old, have no debt and I have made over 100,000 $ from an investment I made this year from the excess money I earned dancing. I am also in my second year of University. Some patrons to the club can behave in a sexist manner and others do not, it really depends on the cleint. No one tells me what to do so if I don’t like a guy I don’t have to deal with him (or I just humiliate him in front of a room full of people while on stage). I choose my own hours and the clubs that I work in. A few of my dancer freinds have also invested thier money for a while now (flipping houses, rental properties) and in about ten years will most likely not have to work again. For example, Judy recently bought an apartment complex and is now sub dividing the units and selling them as condos.

I decided to write this so people could understand a little more about my lifestyle and because this counter-narrative is so rarely heard in society. I’m sick of uneducated attitudes towards my lifestyle. Dancers are normal people, were just like you. Have you ever wondered what happens in a dancer change room? No, there are no orgies or drug parties. Just converstaion, reading and the watching of T.V. This probably sounds like the typical staff room of any workplace.
When we are in the club performing, remember it is a performance! We are acting like actors, we are pretending to be a sexy fantasy.

There is just one more thing I would like to add on the social dynamics of dancing. Extoic Dancers and those that are involved in the industry are forced to create thier own micro-culture because people on the outside are biased towards us and therefore we do not participate as much as we would like in our communities. I think this is what adds to the “mystique”. We are somewhat nervous becuase when people eventually ask “what do you do?” we do not know what kind of reaction we will get. Have you ever had someone like you for who you are, and then would’nt speak to you because of what you did for a living or called you demeaning names??? Lets all remember that exotic dancing is legal, its not like I’m racist or building bombs in my basement. This micro-culture is created because we know we will not be judged or demeaned within are group. Dancers tend to marry and have children with DJ’s, managers, agents ect. And yes there are female managers agents, DJ’s and club owners. One club is owned by a single mother with three kids!! It’s not all man operated anymore. Men outside of the strip club that know your an exotic dancer sometimes treat you differently. You are more open to harrassment and perhaps even violence or rape becuase you are a “stripper”. However, I have always been extra cautious, but why do I have to live like that in the first place. A dancer girlfriend (shes majoring in WMST, best of luck!) of mine was raped by her boyfriend of three months and his friends at gunpoint (9 times out of ten the guy that rapes you is someone you know). She received a rape kit/test but decided not to go to the authorities officially because she knows that as an exotic dancer little will be done except perhaps humiliation and “its your fault, you’re a slut”. Its interesting that the Canadian judicial system fails sex workers and when this happens people like Robert Pickton kill/rape with impunity. When sex workers are seen as the lowest common denominator, society does’nt care if they go missing. I’ve been harassed by cops coming to my house to take a look around on bogus claims because they think I grow weed (I am an exotic dancer how could I not be a drug addict? insert sarcasm). The real uneventful truth is is that I am a hobbyist aquarist. I have several fish tanks, and therefore have a high electrical bill. I dont know for sure if it is harrassment, but some of thier reasons are just so odd, “are you sure no one lives in your basement?”, how could one not be sure?

Thanks for listening to me rant, I’m new here
please excuse spelling and grammar mistakes.
It just felt so good to tell my perspective

Comment by lillith

Lilith, I am sorry I didn’t get a chance to respond to your post sooner …I’ve been extremely busy. Regardless, I am looking for it now and would love to respond. :0)

Comment by ProFeministMale

Personally I don’t feel that being a dancer is degrading. I was a dancer once. I made so much money it was unbelieveable. Having the ability to work when I wanted, with who I wanted was empowering. I’m comfortable with my body, and I love being sexy. I love dressing up, and putting on a show. The club I worked at I felt very well protected. No one could put their hands on me, or say mean things to me. If they did, they had to leave. Plus I loved being around other women like myself. Not all of them were there for the same reason, but most of us were.
The one’s who do drugs, and have sex for money give dancers a bad name. I concider that to be degrading, not the occupation itself.

Love what you do, do what you love.

Comment by K. Lynn

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