Saturday, October 16, 2010

No Common Ground (Zero) Between Us

Tiffany: perhaps the most stereotypical embodiment of what lay people think of when they hear the word stripper. Tall, slender, very tanned, bleached blond hair, a couple tattoos, fake breasts. Constantly in the middle of drama. Last week, it was that her boyfriend was doing steroids and lying to her about it. The week before was a feared accidental pregnancy.

She's also quite the freelance artist. She has one customer - a middle-aged Jewish lawyer - who comes in to drink with her and point out the other girls he likes. She plays broker between the other girls and him, convincing the girls to meet with her and the guy outside for a thousand bucks, and all they have to do is engage in two-way oral sex. Apparently, a lot of the girls are down for this.

Whatever, her and I don't interact too much.

But during a lull, her, me, my stripper friend Sheila, and the house mom are chilling in the dressing room and Tiffany begins with how much she hopes Donald Trump buys up the Ground Zero mosque property while she sucks on a cigarette and adjusts her clip-on hair extensions.

"We definitely don't need any more of that Arab, Muslim stuff. This is New York."

Sheila glances at me nervously and sympathetically. I shrug at her. Our exchange goes unnoticed.

The housemom responds like it's a no-brainer. "For real. I don't understand why people have a problem with Trump fixing this whole problem."

Remember the good old days when people would keep their bigotry private? You know, wait till the brown Muslim woman isn't in the room before you even go there? Or, is there something about the fact that I'm in a thong and clear heels that de-links me from my Islamic identity?

The whole "what Muslims are like" has surfaced several times at the club among the girls (and on my favorite Stripperweb forums as well!). I've heard girls talking about Muslim/Pakistani/A-rab customers as, of course, repressed and hypersexual. Well, what do you know, the military aren't the only people still subscribing to the bullshit put forth in The Arab Mind!

You know, for imperial armies it was/is often important to know the culture and psyche of those who were being conquered so that total domination would be that much easier. (Hence, the recruitment of "culture experts" for the Iraq/Afghanistan war efforts!)

But, I wonder if the same is true of strippers and sex workers? Like, are there off-the-book ethnographies of "how to be a good sex worker for your (insert race here) customer"? If so, my people sure do have a bad rap. They don't treat their women right; they are undersexed and oversexed all at once; they're really bad in bed; they cheat on their wives; they honor-kill when their daughters wear tight pants.

Also, there are ways that black, Asian, and Latino sexualities are essentialized as well, in this context of commodified sexuality. What goes unmarked is white male middle-class sexuality - totally normative and unmarked.

The already-depoliticized identities of terrorists are evident in the sexual identities attributed to them too. Of course, you don't have to hit a strip club dressing room to hear that: we already know that the War On Terror has gained mainstream gay and feminist supporters through the rhetoric that the Arab world's gender dynamics are fucked and need to be fixed. In other words, the need to bring our sexual-rights superiority to the rest of the world justifies bombing the fuck out of Afghanistan.

Alas, Muslim women DO really need saving. It's just, we need to be saved from hearing anti-Muslim sexualized bigotry while we're just trying to eat some animal crackers in the dressing room during a break between lapdances and stage sets.

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