Illustration ©Lisa Horstman




Well, it wasn’t really the peer pressure. And it wasn’t the barrage of girlie mags and late-nite Showtime. I can’t quite say what finally drove me to the strip club. I’d spent a couple of hilarious nights at cheesy traveling Chippendales shows, enduring WonderBriefs, oily stubble, and sequined singlets in honor of somebodyorother’s birthday, but never before had I braved the inner sanctum of a strip club. Why pay for it, when every blockbuster movie these days features a scene where (yawn) the hero goes searching for the villain in some seedy joint with titties bouncing none too subtly in the background? Boobs are everywhere. I thought I already knew what the deal was.

But for all my notions, I still don’t really know what to make of it all. As a feminist, was I supposed to stand up, wave a flag, and yell Revolucion!–thereby liberating my Spandexed sisters? After all, these were no damsels in distress. And besides, they seemed more liberated than me, in the traditional sense of the word. Or was I supposed to revel in the naughtiness of my modern, sexually agreeable generation? Dunno. I walked away from it all a little queasy, a little sad, a little titillated, and more than a little intimidated. So, it wasn’t really the peer pressure…okay, so maybe it was. Here, for your viewing pleasure, is a chronicle of my first time.

Chuckle at parking lot come-on: "Our girls are topless, not toothless!" Hooo dawgies.

Scan: clean place, neon "art," black lights, Frederick’s of Hollywood skirts, green-glowing teeth (we all look quite monstrous).

Acquire beer, toot sweet.

Begin inventory of masculine eyes: shy, leaky, unblinking, mousy, grateful, menacing, proprietary, polite.

Study parade of girls with a variety of styles and body shapes. Become nauseated watching bored stripper with burnout eyes.


Learn the Protocol: Fold dollar bill lengthwise. Season it with sweaty palm so it droops lightly over fingers. Stroll to the edge of the stage and loiter provocatively until eye contact is achieved. Lick lips. Nod appreciatively as hips are undulated just for you and your cheek is brushed with over-scented hair. Slip money under expectant elastic while exchanging polite pleasantries and flirtatious smiles. Allow finger to linger on silky thigh ever so slightly. Keep coming back for more.

Become increasingly aware of conflicted feminism coupled with juvenile fascination. Resist digression to giddy inner child, barely restraining giggles, pointing, and yelling, "Look everybody! Boooobies!"

Over a lap dance, chat with a girl with 2 percent body fat, casually discussing her two kids, grooming, upcoming breast procedures, and degree-in-progress as she waves her pussy in my face and jiggles her ass cheeks for me. Hide.

Cross fingers and pray for the lord to turn me into a trucker for just one hour. I’m doing it all wrong.

Reaffirm that I am still not a fan of the landing-strip shave job. Gross.

Wonder aloud, to no one who’s listening, how many more beers would it take to annihilate inhibitions and take clothes off for strange men.

(Freudian tangent: Am I here because I was never breast-fed?)

Excuse self to find the ladies’ room, indulging in a private strip for the mirror, just to see if I am sexy at all. I am not.

Why so tense? Titillation? Frustration over prohibition on touching? Stiff competition? Puritanical discomfort? The fact that I’m trying desperately to not notice my boyfriend across the room have his ear nibbled by a gorgeous blonde? Who knows. At this point, who cares.

Finally slip a one under the garter of a particularly perky blonde following her energetic dance chock full o’ cheerleader athleticism. Give a playful shimmy when she wiggles my breasts with her spike heels. Sis boom bah. I like her. She is my new best friend.

Become perplexed at the extent to which men enjoy this ritual. Are they so used to being endlessly stimulated by the world as well as their own abundant imaginations that this tease is fun, normal even?

Drink more.

Come to the following conclusion: it’s obvious, wiggly, delusional. It’s like eating baby food–it leaves a twinge on the tongue but not much else. No chewing required, easy to digest, sweet and simple. All in all, not very nutritious for adults.

But, but! This is fun, right?

("She’s smiling at me." "No, she’s smiling at me!")

Get brutally dismissed by sexy brunette. Slink back to table with (split) tail between legs. Wallow in stinging rejection. Try to ignore smug men smirking delightedly at the dis.

Pout. Lick wounds. Alternately avert and affix eyes.

Drink drink drink.

Regroup for Round Two.

Wait for pings of arousal. Analyze them to a pulp and wallow in confusion over whether they are the result of guilt, so much skin, or the mere spectacle of it all: the knowledge that I am deep behind enemy lines, invading male sanctuary.

Leave early, with dry panties and lighter pockets, and no distinct revelations other than that I am, most decidedly, not a man.

Last but not least, sustain one burning question: What space-age shaving products do those girls use and where can I get me some?

So you see, I’m still not sure what it all means. The blue balls, the heady illusion of power (on both sides), the territorial instincts and fiscal bonding of men. I was barely tolerated, let alone welcome in that place. And I can’t even get into the issue of the legitimacy or morality of sex work–I’ll have to save that for a rainy day. For now, I’m just going to let all this bounce around in my head for awhile, like bad house music and bad beer.

But I do know this: strip clubs really should give you free booze like the casinos. It’s only fair.


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