I went to stripclubs for the same reason I bought gas station cigars; like every other American 18 year old I was acutely aware of the 3 more years I had before ‘legal’ adult became Real Adult. After I turned 21 I did it for the same reason; real adult didn’t feel very real if you didn’t have a real job. It was okay, I figured, to do a cliché rite of passage, repeatedly, so long as I did it with a snide wink to match their seductive ones. Maybe going with smug pseudo irony is still the best imitation a guy can do of a non-misogynist ‘they’re not exploiting me, I’m exploiting them’ mindset. This was just before hipsters became a thing, but my biggest excuse was, and still is, that I could be the guy who goes to strip clubs who isn’t like the guys who go to strip clubs. I could tell myself this because I had first hand experience that art, love and sex were all real and could all be real at the same time.
Trying to be a charming, sophisticated creep (I know I’m still a creep no matter how real my feminism actually is) hasn’t been a total failure. After a very long and lonely college loiter, I met the woman of my dreams. We rented a city apartment down the street from a strip club and I only went twice in four years. More than having it ‘out of my system’ by then, more than because I was getting sex at home, I didn’t want to hurt my partner’s feelings if I failed to omit where I’d gone.
Now we live in a suburb up the street from one. She is very serious when she says she would have been a stripper if she’d had the body for it. I have to be honest and admit the same. Even if that honesty is mostly me trying to be interesting. I also have to admit that I will probably visit the one down the street eventually. I’ll take the excuse as soon as it presents itself to tell myself that it’s research. I actually DO want to legalize brothels and popularize burlesque houses as a way to make strip clubs less a depressing lie for everyone. Even if I never go inside another one I’ll always be pretending I’m some kind of enlightened porn-cocoon butterfly rather than just another porn fly. That truth seems less depressing than a lie, and maybe a little more erotic.