Monday, February 20, 2012

You can't sink your (bell) hooks into me, man.

Yet another type of experience I've accumulated from my 3 years of stripping? I am (tooting my own horn-y guy radar here) extremely attuned to guys' bullshit, emotional immaturity, and possessiveness - even in the surprising guises they may take.

Something about being paid to fulfill club customers' fantasies - many of them not sexual in nature - has helped me, immensely, in dating situations in which I feel a guy is being disingenuous, sexist, or clingy (though those things often go together like oversized plastic glasses frames, jeans from Buffalo Exchange, and the Lorimer/Metropolitan stop in Williamsburg). Conversely, it's also enabled me to recognize those rare dudes who are emotionally mature, straightforward, and respectful of women (the only type of guy I've ever been lucky enough to fall in love with).

In the club, a man might put his hand on the back of your head during a dance to facilitate giving you an unwelcome kiss (and by kiss I mean, a face-raping suck job). In the rest of the world, a guy may subtly or explicitly censor what he tells you about himself or how he relates to other women so he can continue to kiss you. They're the same thing. They're both a big fucking hand on the back of my head that attempt to keep me trapped and powerless.

At the club, a dude might tell me I'm the most beautiful girl he's ever seen dancing; tell me I'm too smart to be doing this kind of work; assure me that I'm the first girl he's ever asked to meet him outside the club. Outside the club, (hollow-sounding) remarks about beauty and intellect stand, and a woman might enjoy a deep-tissue ego massage worthy of a top-ranked Groupon deal. They're both the same tactic - a deliberate strategy to give my ego a hand-job as a way to 'keep' me around. (Sort of like, in the first episode of "Peepshow," Jeremy says "If I laugh at her jokes hard enough, I'm sure to get at least a suck job.")

The stripper kung-fu (remember Lap-oeira?) I've described in the past - the sometimes-subtle (other times straight up violent) physical manipulations to violate boundaries (just because you're touching my breast with your forearm rather than just grabbing it with your hand doesn't make it any less of a fondle!) aren't that different than the ways a loverboy might try to subtly, without invitation, occupy extra space in your life outside the club. And when we're raised as women, we've been hard-wired to take these as signs of love and affection - after all, we're all expected to want the man who's ready to commit and be present, right?

The realization that masculinity and "taking up tons of space" are synonymous is a claim feminists have been making since...well, since there have been feminists. But realizing something academically (big ups to my undergrad "Roots of Feminism" prof from back in the day) is so different than coming to understand it from life experience. I wonder just how much the feminist canon has done to challenge masculinity on the part of men. I know that feminist literature (particularly the Third Wave, race/class centered stuff) has been immensely empowering for me as a woman; it's armed me with language to protect myself, to describe my world, and to experience sexuality. But what about for those hetero, male-bodied people who read this shit? Does their access to 'feminism' just give them an opportunity to get the attention of the fierce goddesses they desire by posting about the current birth control scandals on Facebook? (13 women "like" this post about how much you hate Mitt Romney - maybe one of them will even blow you!) Has the feminist canon actually done anything to change hetero-masculine subjectivities, those deeply-ingrained ways of just 'being' in the world?

In the way Tim Wise's career of railing against white privilege became as prominent as it did is because of his whiteness (for, people of color have been articulating the problems of white privilege ever since racial categories existed), feminist guys get distinctions on their qualifying exams, fierce-minded girls aroused, and ultimately, infinite other types of advantages for knowing the feminist canon and using it in deliberate, space-taking-up ways.

Thank you to all the grope-y, needy, clingy, jealous, and overeager strip club customers; spending time with you in black-lit strip clubs amply prepared me to identify your dopplegangers outside the club. If I can walk away from a champagne room customer dangling hundreds of dollars in front of my face because I get a bad feeling about him, I can most certainly run (not walk) away from a guy who's navigating insecurities, behaving duplicitously, or using his position as a feminist-minded man to enable and forgive these behaviors. And I can spot him from a mile away.

Apologies for the incoherence of this post; I hesitantly started this blog, but gained confidence when I stopped worrying about an audience or my readers and just wrote what was up instead. This post is largely my internal monologue rather than a well-thought out treatise.


  1. While I don't know about stripping, I can say for sure that (white) men are terrific at leveraging their privilege for getting feminist cred, especially the clingy/abusive types. I'm impressed by the lucidity of your internal monologue ;) My take? Don't fuck with trying to show them the myriad ways they're fucked up; the master's tools are never gonna dismantle the master's house.

  2. I like you. I really really like you.

    I have to admit, I sometimes have trouble enforcing boundaries, particularly with regulars who I'm friendly with. Sometimes they feel more like friends than like customers, so I feel bad telling them no. Thanks for the reminder to stay strong!

  3. "13 women "like" this post about how much you hate Mitt Romney - maybe one of them will even blow you!"

    i may very well ACTUALLY use that exact quote in response to facebook thread - i'll give you credit, of course ;)

  4. This was brilliant and lucidly written. The disclaimer at the end wasn't necessary. Stay fierce!