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Slut-shaming: the reason I can’t go to strip clubs anymore

2012/03/08

To add to my previous post, one of the things that really started to bother me as a kid and hit a head in my late twenties was men who use the services of sex-workers, but think they are somehow better than said sex-workers. Church-indoctrination can make a boy afraid to express any interest in girls, but can’t make him stop thinking about sex, at least not for me. When i was about twelve, the idea of going to Reno and hiring three hookers was really appealing. The things I thought I would do with said hookers were simultaneously unimaginative and impractical (I had no idea how sex positions worked), but it seemed mighty nice.

For those of you unfamiliar with Evangelical Christianity, conversion stories are really big. The transforming power of Jesus is a major doctrine, so everyone wants examples. The bigger a sinner your were before Jesus pulled you out of your misery, the better the story. The best stories of all will get you speaking tours. To that end, I’d heard at least one former prostitute talk about how before Jesus rescued her, she’d been victimized by pimps and johns alike, nearly died of drug ODs and STDs and, on one occasion, was stuffed in a garbage bag and left for dead.

I had an understanding that these prostitutes I was so excited about weren’t just convenient sex objects. They were people like any others and deserved decent treatment. I got thinking that maybe their low social status was largely the cause of their ill-treatment. No one looked out for their interests. The police didn’t help, etc. I got the idea I could be a pimp when I grew up, but work it more like I was an entertainment manager. I would promote the hookers in my employ and manage their financial affairs and protect them if a John got out of hand. They would pay me a fair cut and be so happy to be treated decently that I would probably get some free sex. (Keep in mind, I was about twelve.)

When I was older and hanging around strip clubs, this wasn’t so theoretical anymore. One example that stands out involves my very good friend Kitty. We had dated for a few months and it didn’t work out, to put it mildly. She felt bad about it and tried to help my awkward ass find a new girlfriend. She tried to set me up with a coworker. The three of us went out to Perkins together. It wasn’t much of a date as she barely spoke English, I barely spoke Spanish, and she’d had a lot to drink during her shift and was highly distractable. While Kitty was trying to talk me up, a group of three guys I recognized as regular customers came over and started hitting on her. Their lines were impressive from a certain point of view, full of bullshit and toxic masculinity. They’d also had a lot to drink at the club earlier and were apparently feeling territorial. They bragged about beating people up, I think with the implication they could beat me up if they wanted. Choice lines included “When someone gets in my face, I start going nuts. When I start going nuts, he starts going nuts!” His friend roared in response.” In other words, it was a typical 2 am at Perkins. After a while, they gave up and I took Kitty’s friend to the house where she was staying, took Kitty home and went home myself.

A few days later, I ran into the same guys. It was the beginning of the evening, so they were still sober. The apparent leader apologized for their behavior the other night. When i mentioned I had been on a date, he was shocked I would be interested in a skank like that. I wanted to grab him and yell at him, but it didn’t seem appropriate given that he was apologizing. “You come to strip clubs and spend money. You drink just as much. You tried to pick her up for sex. If there’s something wrong with strip clubs, you’re just a complicit as she is, probably more. What makes you think you’re any better than her?!” This guy was actually fairly nice, relatively speaking. A lot of people were way worse. Even other strippers do it to a large degree. There was even a sign up in the dressing room telling people not to insult their co-workers to try to steer customers to themselves.

This is one of the main reasons I did male amateur night most months. I wanted to demonstrate to the strippers that I wouldn’t judge them for taking their clothes off in front of others and didn’t think i was any better than they were. Also, it was a good opportunity to get pointers and show some appreciation for the craft.

As I got to know a lot of the employees better and got more exposed to the environment, it only got worse. Another incident really burned into my mind is when a dancer’s boyfriend started screaming at her and calling her a slut before a bouncer removed him. He was just saying the same sorts of things people said behind her back every day and was clearly driving her to a breakdown. The better I knew the people being hurt and the more I heard of it, the less I could stand it. This is why I don’t go to strip clubs anymore. Too many people need to be punched in the face for making no secret of the fact they think they’re better than the dancers and I have no desire to go to jail. The media are complicit, too. Think how coverage is slanted when a non-celebrity gets busted with a hooker. I would like to get involved in projects to protect the rights and dignity of sex workers. Does anyone have good suggestions for things I could do?

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5 Comments
  1. xxxild permalink

    Somehow, when you use the term “toxic masculinity” it makes sense to me! :) Hugo Schweitzer tweeted that phrase to me recently and it rubbed me the wrong way.

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