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Flesh for Fantasy: Producing and Consuming…

Flesh for Fantasy: Producing and Consuming Exotic Dance

by Danielle Egan

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I expected a polemic against patriarchal hegemonism and male exploitation in this collection of essays on exotic dancers, because most of the authors were female university professors in fields like sociology and women’s studies. As it turns out my stereotypes were ill-founded, as they often are; I expect my consciousness will be raised eventually. One of the essayists describes here interest as “third wave” feminism – the first wave being the initial claim of “exploitation”, the second being “women expressing their sexuality”, and the third being dispassionate analysis.

The essays are of varying length and quality. Significantly, all three editors and most of the female contributors are themselves former or current exotic dancers, many of them working their way through graduate school by undressing. Some observations:

Almost all the women are sympathetic or at least neutral to male patrons. One finds herself amazed that blue-collar types in plumber’s pants and t-shirts treat her better and tip better than businessmen in suits and ties.
I suppose that makes my slightly less guilty about my own stereotyping.

Almost all the women, including the editors, give their real names and professions. None of the men do. And some of the women document drug use – including LSD and crack cocaine – while they were dancing. I wonder if a male university professor who admitted getting high and going to strip clubs would receive the same treatment from students and administration as a female professor who admitted getting high and dancing in one. Still, perhaps it’s only fair; for generations if you were a male habitué of strip clubs you were just “one of the boys” and it’s unlikely that you would receive any criticism for it as long as you weren’t, say, a bishop; while a woman who did the same thing would be blackmail material for life.

Despite the apparent acceptance of exotic dancers in real life, an essayist notes they still maintain their former notoriety in the media; strippers are frequent targets for unpleasant ends in television shows and movies (I’ve never seen The Sopranos, being TV-less, but apparently a strip club was prominent in the show and at least one of the dancers ended up being beaten to death by her boyfriend).

Dancing does seem to leave you a little jaded; one essayist reflects on seeing coeds on her campus in revealing clothing. Before her dance career she might have had the conventional reaction – “Don’t they realize the message they send dressing like that?” Afterwards she thought “Don’t they realize that they’re giving away for free what they should be using to finance their education and car payments?” Another university liberal discovers the virtues of capitalism.

A chapter dissects the effort to unionize the Lusty Lady peep show in San Francisco. The management – who were all female, at least at the level the dancers were interacting with – wanted rapid turnover, insisting that the clientele wanted “fresh faces”. The dancers, on the other hand, wanted some guarantee of steady employment (they didn’t use the seemingly obvious argument that it wasn’t their faces the customers were interested in). It took considerable effort to find a labor organization that would take them seriously – eventually they found a home in the Service Employees International Union, forced a NLRB-moderated vote, and won. I was unaware of the way a peep show worked; it would seem, based on the description in the essay, attracting Federal interest might be counterproductive in the long run, especially if you were visited by OSHA inspectors taking a hard line on the human body fluid regulations. However, a little googling shows the club is still in existence and is now employee-owned.

A good companion volume to Candy Girl, reviewed earlier, as it explores the philosophical and sociological side of things. No pictures, although the front cover isn’t something you’d want the Tupperware Ladies to see. A surprisingly extensive reference list; apparently literate strippers publishing biographies is something of a fad. ( )
1 vote setnahkt | Dec 8, 2017 |
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