I don’t think I was prepared enough for what I saw that night, and I certainly haven’t looked at a hot dog the same way since. Considering that I have a somewhat nonplussed attitude toward most things taboo, I was flabbergasted to see “Hang 10” carrying around his member in between a hot dog bun on a paper plate. My mouth dropped, and my face turned as red as the ketchup being squeezed onto his sausage by the hysterical woman in a black spandex one-piece. No. He. Did. Not. Daring curiosity and mild perversion lead my friends and I to the all nude, male strip club that night. What was the harm in seeing greasy muscular men dance and swing around a pole … apart from a repulsion of BBQs and an abnormal admiration for acrobatics?
While I should have been yipping and hollering like most of the women in the place, I sat there with burrowed brows and a half smile trying to figure out how I should feel. Do women really get off on this? Apparently. It was obvious with all the dollar bills stuffed between banana hammock strings and scattered across the floor. Each time “Thunder Bone” cart wheeled into a split over a participating patroness, a handful of women would jump up and fan out singles O.G. style with a lick of a thumb.
A few drinks later, my edge had worn off enough to where I could crumble up a dollar and timidly toss it on the stage. It was with that single-handed gesture that I felt slightly empowered. Was this what attracted women to male strip clubs? Surely, it couldn’t be just for the oil covered slabs of meat strutting around with dimpled buttocks and twitching chests. After all, I for one was not impressed nor turned on by the cinnamon breath stripper soliciting a private dance while pointing at my purse. It didn’t matter how hard his abs were; there was just something not quite right with a man begging me for money.
Coincidentally, this random jaunt to the strip club led me to think further about gender roles, exploitation and the double standard for both. After that night I was convinced that male exotic dancers couldn’t possibly maintain any sort of dignity. Here these men are, both straight and homosexual, stripping off their god-awful costumes (my personal favorite being The Dark Knight), gyrating rhythmically to the narration of a hype-man not unlike an MC one would find at a club. Clearly, these men couldn’t have anything going for them other than being a gigolo.
When “Hang 10,” whose real name was Robert, came back to the table, I probed deeper. (The male exotic dancer will admit anything with a $10 bill being shoved down his thong.) Robert was “single” and had two children whose names were tattooed on his arm. Whether he cared for them or not, I didn’t bother to ask. I did hurry to assume that Robert must be the type to mooch off of women and default to selling his body for money rather than working a regular job. Was I wrong for thinking that his own exploitation of himself protruded beyond the walls of the club?
Last Halloween a group of friends and I ended a long night, yet again, at a strip club. We girls separated from our guy friends and seated ourselves at a table right in front of the stage. When the ladies came out, we clapped and shouted with enthusiasm, not because their dancing was anything more than what we each had done before at strip aerobics or what we each had bragged about being capable of doing, but because we felt a sense of camaraderie for womanhood. In response, the women winked at our table, shimmied over and paid compliments to our costumes. We’d wave goodbye as they exited the stage with our money.
Despite the social stigma of exotic dancing, we believed in the best of these women. They were students, mothers and female hustlers doing what they needed at the present time to get by and pay their bills. Because of this, my perception of the female exotic dancer is less shameful than that of a male exotic dancer. While the men seemed to be more confident and willing to show off their bodies, I found them to be more ridiculous.
My opinion contradicts the societal perceptions that men maintain a sense of power even though they are seen as sex objects, while women seem to lose theirs. When “Ginger” takes money from a man, she’s saying, “I’m sexy and powerful, and you’re going to pay to see my milkshakes in your face.” When “Silk” takes money from a woman, he’s saying, “I’m less of a man because I’m selling my body. Please help me pay my car note.”
Indeed, objectification of the carnal body is not at all a reflection of human advancement. I’ll give myself a hall pass for the occasional relapse. Additionally, not every dancer considers their occupation to be definitive of their identity. However, for the sake of argument, when faced with an extreme example of double standards for men and women—even for the most liberal and genderless minded women—where do the lines blur between conventional support and societal reaction?
Is it more degrading for a man to be the subject of sexual objectification than for a woman? If someone like “Hang 10” were a straight, stand-up guy, dancing his way through medical school, would he be date-able? Would you date a male stripper?