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Thoughts on Strip Clubs

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Posted

So, I have had animated discussions with people on another forum (mainly women) about strip clubs and whether they really are degrading, considering strippers are adults and supposedly or really chose that profession.

So, I will just recycle some of what I posted in the other forum and hope it's not too confusing, the debate centred around whether strip clubs were degrading to women and why couples would go together. Another woman said she didn't understand why people would find it degrading, so I explained why I do:

For me, the reasons are mostly historical. For thousands of years women especially have been "used" by men to satisfy sexual needs (ie. prostitution, stripping, keeping mistresses, etc.), and even though there are increasingly women who also use men, it still seems more socially acceptable when men behave in such a way and gets met with more stoicism.

The idea most of us have about sexuality and what is "sexy" is also completely based on a male idea of sexiness (we already touched on this in the beauty pageant threads recently). Even though women can tell me all day long that they themselves feel sexy with lots of make-up, high heels and long hair, the people who first found this a turn on were men and thus defined what we now perceive as sexy. And really, this isn't so terrible per se, but women's sexuality is always centred around being as exposed as possible and as uncomfortable as possible, whereas men are still seen as sexy in comfy clothing and a tuxedo. When any of us attend an event in the winter, we most likely put on pretty dresses that aren't very warm, but show our bodies, whereas men can get away with not showing much. Historically we have squeezed ourselves into absolutely ridiculous garments, from tight stillettos to heavy hats to corsets etc.

There is nothing wrong with trying to appeal to your partner or the opposite sex once in a while, but the fact that this is all expected is what really annoys me, and that if you were to opt out of this you'd get labelled all sorts of things (how often did people comment on Hilary Clinton's perceived frumpiness, and how often have papers dissected state leaders' wives wardrobes - as if they have nothing else going on apart from getting dressed and what charity they support).

Of course this has slightly changed in recent decades and there are male strip clubs and men do wax their chests, go to the gym and so on. But it still isn't expected of them to nearly the same extent as it is from women. Remember the time Julia Roberts dared to appear at an event with unshaven armpits? If a man goes to such an event with a scraggly disgusting beard (Brad Pitt), it must be for a role or is in any case accepted, even if people laugh about it a bit. He wouldn't get chastised for it or experience nearly the same social stigma as a woman.

Now, apparently there has been a rise in the number of strip clubs and for perhaps the first time little girls and young women aspire to be raunchy and to be like "one of the guys" by sleeping around lots or dressing sexy or wearing anything with the Playboy logo. This to me is not empowering at all, because I don't see why buying into this commodification of sex and objectification of people (both men and women) is empowering and why I need to become more like a macho man dressed as a sl*t in order to be a more empowered woman.

I think it is a sad attempt at gaining more acceptance in society by appealing more to what we know men want (preened and sexily clad women) and to put onself above other women by beating the competition (more attention from men, being more beautiful, having an "easy-going" attitude by not being opposed to historically sexist practices, etc.).

This is also one of the reasons I don't find "Sex & the City" empowering, for example. I know that if men sleep around, have high powered jobs and are happy single, that women should be allowed the same thing, but it's just not something that I aspire to personally and I don't think that it furthers true equality, as these standards were still set by men centuries ago. The empowerment people may feel from this is an illusion IMO, and just helps to cement the idea that all these things are desirable in a society.

In terms of stripping, yes there may be strippers who love their work and don't feel degraded and set their own schedules and boundaries. I am not opposed to people going to strip clubs or to strippers working there if they wish, but I personally find the culture degrading more so than every single stripper in every type of establishment. The times that I have been the clubs weren't filled with couples or men who love intellectual conversation with the girls after the strip, they were mostly filled with men who delude themselves that they, too, were attractive to the stripper, and even if they weren't, that their money would buy them someone's body. I just find that sad and find it to be a display of how society still works (ie. if you just have enough money you can get power over people, sex, affection, arm candy, get people to take their clothes off etc.)

I also wouldn't be interested in going to a male show, even though I have been asked to go, because it would do absolutely nothing for me.

Again, I am not that bothered by other people going, women or men, although I wish women didn't have to turn to this out of desperation (there should be a better system in place to catch them before they resort to this). I am concerned with some women feeling like they should go to please their partner, because that makes me question their own self-respect and their partner's idea of women. If anyone feels like they would be called a prude or stuck up, just because they don't want to go, either because they have moral objections or are uncomfortable, that just proves what I said above: it is a Man's World, and if you disagree with this you are made to feel uncomfortable or like you don't fit in.

---------- Post added at 00:30 ---------- Previous post was at 00:28 ----------

Following this, someone asked how I think we could achieve true equality, and I responded:

Good question, and I think it has to go way beyond the boundaries of just stripping.

A wise woman in another thread said that in order to achieve equality we need a holistic approach, and ITA. What we need to achieve this is an honest and ongoing dialogue about gender - what is intrinsic to gender and what is expected of genders and whether this is progressive or not, and a change in our value system.

I think a lot of times people use "human nature" or "male instincts" or "female instincts" as excuses for questionable behaviour, when in fact those behaviours are learnt, not instinctual. If we convince ourselves that little girls want to be pretty and play with dolls and be just like their mommies or like female celebrities because it is in their nature, then we'll never move on from the way things are. Same goes for boys liking guns and sports instead of dolls and ballet. We'd have to start by challenging our own prejudices and learnt cultural expectations, and then by changing the way we raise children. There have been more times than I can count where it was obvious to me that certain behaviours and likes or dislikes were suggested to children not only from their parents, but outside cultural sources (advertising, posters, tv, kids at school, grandparents, teachers, etc.), and not in fact the children's own. This isn't to say that one should completely ignore a child's likes or dislikes, but I think children need to be taught that their gender doesn't completely and exclusively define what they will be, and that it is okay to defy social norms if a boy feels like being a dancer and not a boxer, and that it is okay if he is not the sole breadwinner or makes less money than his partner.

Although I do think that we have obviously made huge leaps forward (women's changing role in the house; women breaking into formerly male oriented professions, ie. government, law, military, various trades, etc.; blurring lines in regards to acceptance of different sexualities), I feel as though we are at the moment also going a step backwards (rise of raunch-culture and girls wanting to be Pussycat Dolls more than wanting to be president for instance). Part of that seems to be that women themselves buy into this old patriarchial system, whilst fooling themselves that this step is actually empowering them.

Sorry if I digress, but I remember a great discussion from university where we spoke about fashion and fringe groups, like punks for example. If many people take over what was once the expression of a fringe group (say studs and holes in clothing) and was supposed to be the protest against the status quo, the fringe movement loses power because these items get worn by people who have no idea of the historical and cultural significance and the protest these items once had becomes meaningless. Similarly, I think if women join in with the traditional "Boys Club", thereby joining the status quo and making objectification of themselves or others okay or even desirable, then the original protest against the "Boys Club" culture loses some power.

Also, simply adopting the same system but reversing the roles (ie. demanding that men wax themselves, preen themselves more, are objectified by sleeping around with them and demanding male stripshows etc.) can't work to further equality either, because it is this system that is the problem moreso that the individuals within it. Despite of what I believe and have written above, i don't think that most people are sexist morons who are out to "get" the opposite sex, but I do think that we all need to challenge the way things are more, because at the moment they aren't really that great for either gender.

If we are just speaking about stripping, then it would be a good step if we can make sure that none of the people in the profession are forced into it, that the working conditions are great and that they are safe from being humiliated and belittled (ie. guys shouting obscenities at them) or accosted for sex in order to make more money.

Other than that I still think that it is a commodification that is highly unequal due to history and prevailing ideas about sexuality and gender and that it can't be equal until we change everything else first.

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Posted

Thank you for allowing us access to the unfolding of your thoughts and posting them in an honest and decent manner Stummel.

I am glad you mentioned "Sex and the City;" I share your sentiments about that show, particularly if it is supposed to be, and I assume it is, some kind of attempted honest reflection of today's "empowered" woman of the new millennium.

I have found that show just extremely painful, even torturous to watch; sure, some of the torture associated with the show may stem from poor script writing and just plain awful acting, but the great majority of it, I believe, stems from watching these women, all while thinking they have grown wings and are soaring above a discriminatory patriarchal system, shackle themselves in chains to the very system they are trying to escape from; with each passing episode, one can watch the slack in the chains shorten....

Anyways...thanks again for the post, I plan to read over it again and post more substantially on the topic(s)......

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Posted

Hi Stummel.

So, I have had animated discussions with people on another forum (mainly women) about strip clubs and whether they really are degrading, considering strippers are adults and supposedly or really chose that profession.

One way to look at this is economically. The strip club is a transaction, as every business entails, and the strippers certainly get something out of it, at least at face value. But what is the utility to the men who show up? What are they paying for? I think it

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Posted

I agree completely with what Kant said about strip clubs and the women who work in them in his rarely-read masterpiece A Critique of Pure Booties

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Posted

Don't have much time for a long reply, but wanted to say of course this is meant for men also, it just sounds female-centric because the other forum is almost entirely women. I actually am looking forward to more male viewpoints on this topic, whether we want to even consider them male or female viewpoints or not.

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Posted

Yeah, sorry for the long reply, maybe I got carried away. Thanks starting a thread on the topic :)

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Posted

One way to look at this is economically. The strip club is a transaction, as every business entails, and the strippers certainly get something out of it, at least at face value. But what is the utility to the men who show up? What are they paying for? I think it’s useful to take a step back from this and look what all of us are seeing, prima facia: strip clubs are degrading to men. At least, few men I know brag about, or speak much about, going to a strip club—I think it’s because they aren’t proud of it.

As to whether it’s degrading to women, I guess I could give my opinion on the matter, but that would only be my opinion. On one hand, they are making money, so it is at least less degrading than if they were doing it for free. But for me, it has more to do with other aspect of a woman’s life or personality, and those things could certain make up for “working at a strip club.”

I guess we could look at this from an economical viewpoint, which is what many people tend to do. I personally don't think that economics have much bearing on the ethical aspect of it though. You could also say that child workers who produce cheap clothing get paid something, and that the transaction is therefore acceptable, but many of us would disagree and still argue that those children are exploited by a system much bigger and more powerful than them.

If you then say that children, due to their age, don't know what they are doing and that adult women are able to make the choice to work there, again, I am not sure that age is a great indicator of people's ability to make good choices. If a woman has low self-confidence, or has learnt from an early age that her body will help to get her ahead and that her body or sexuality are what she will be valued for, I'd argue that her capability to judge has been impaired and that her choice to work at a strip club is not really a choice.

I don't know to which extent men are victims of strip clubs or embarrassed to go there. It seems like a perfectly acceptable thing to do on a bachelor's night or even for business outings.

Well, strippers are still being paid, and the men still have to sacrifice a day of wages to have a woman shake her butt in front of him, I think being “used” is a little to strong of language.

As I said before, I think the power of choice would be diminished for me if the stripper in question was forced to take the job due to lack of other options, due to personal circumstances or due to lack of self-respect. I think it is rare that a stripper loves her job and sees it as art or feels it to be empowering to be ogled by strangers. Dita von Teese, for instance, seems like not much of a victim and earns a great deal of money. Having seen a documentary about her, she also had a breast enlargement, made poor choices relationship-wise and seems to get all her self-worth from the image she portrays and her body and clothes. I am not sure about how strong and empowered she really is.

The men chose to spend their money this way, and that choice in my opinion is real (unless they have some psychological disorder or compulsion that forces them to go), so I can't feel bad for them.

Yes, and I don’t understand this, why women dress this way, but I’m probably not one of the guys that women are trying to impress. In my opinion, being sexy is primarily about certain facets about the body, and how it is adorned has little effect on that quality. Sexiness is hard to hide, if you possess it; and hard to create, if you lack it. How women dress probably has more to do with what a woman is trying to say by her dress than anything else. It is probably more of a language than a standard to dress sexy to show you’re available, dress conservative to show you’re not, and then, as with any language, this language is full of nuance. For instance, women are very conscious if a piece of clothing makes them look slutty or insecure or mature. Errors in fashion are a symptom of not understanding this language, or being unable to express it well.

You mention certain things women wear, for instance high heels which are impractical and harmful. But the heels also make a woman look taller, which gives her a more imposing height. Honestly, I don’t think women do this for men as much as other women. Fashion is largely lost on men.

I agree that women do this for other women, but in order to be more "wanted" by men. I would see this as bragging in a way, to show that you have a certain style which is socially accepted as beautiful, thereby elevating yourself above other women. Seems quite primal to me.

A lot of this, I think, is about how women learn the language of fashion from other women. What does a particular garment say about the person wearing it? This isn’t intrinsic, this is learned, and it is learned from women of particular importance and status in society. A good example are these awards shows and how these entertainment shows and what not spend so much time discussing and opining about what the women are wearing. For a long time I thought this was frivolous, but now I understand that this is how the language of fashion is learned. A glamorous actress wearing a particular dress imparts the quality of glamor to whoever wears that dress, or at least that’s what the dress says about the person wearing it. (Eh, please no one take this rule too strictly, because obviously the glamor is imparted unto the entire look of the actress, not just the clothing. For instance, an older woman can’t wear clothing meant for younger women, and acquire the quality of “youth”. But it does say to other people that this woman thinks she’s younger than she is, and is perhaps a little deranged.)

Very interesting point, I never thought of it this way and will have to digest it more.

And men who do this too much risk seeming “feminine”. While I’ve spoken about “women” above, there is a language of fashion for men too. It’s just that, for some reason, the language isn’t as intricate, and I think this is basic to the gender role. Masculinity is complementary to femininity, and is largely defined as whatever isn’t feminine. So if femininity is characterized by having an intricate language of fashion, and knowing what to say and how to say it about what you wear and your overall look; then to be masculine is to make sure no one confuses your dress with making any kind of statement, of trying to say something. Whatever is said in a man’s clothing, it must be understated, or can be legitimized as serving a practical or utilitarian purpose. So with men, there’s a whole language of fashion about how not to say something.

Of course, things are changing, and the gender roles seem to be converging...

Yes, but I think the difference is that for men to appear effeminate is much more of a big deal than it is for women to appear masculine, which in itself is part of the problem. There was a whole discussion of why straight men don't accompany their partners to male strip clubs half as much as women accompany their partners to female strip shows (and according to tons of women on the other forum, many of them do go with their partners on date nights). I think this has to do with societal convention and men being much more worried of being mistaken for a homosexual man than women are of being mistaken for a homosexual woman. Taking your wife to a female strip club can be considered sexy because female homosexuality is acceptable and sometimes even encouraged, whereas being seen by other men or women at a male strip club could open you up to ridicule or be giving others "a false impression".

It is acceptable for women to wear trousers and cut their hair short, but men with long hair and dresses would most likely be criticsed.

Dunno. What would happen if a famous male actor was seen at a beach with a hairy chest, hairy back and the like? I don’t think this is particularly unequal among the sexes. I think that more women follow what Julia Roberts was doing than men (I honestly never knew about the armpit incident). Certain things are just taboo.

There are pictures of men with hairy chests all over magazines, yes, but I still maintain that the pressure is much higher on women. Men aren't pressured to present themselves half naked a lot of the time, aren't pressured to wear make-up and shave most of their bodyhair. If I could count the number of times I have been asked whether I actually shave (being German and all)... If you watch news presenters on TV, yes the men may wear make-up, but they don't have to flash any skin (legs, chest) and their wardrobe isn't victim to much scrutiny as long as it's clean. How many people dissect what the weather girl is wearing or how female presenters might be getting too old and ugly for the job? But you are right, some things just are taboo and the expectations are getting more evenly distributed onto both genders, which isn't necessarily a good thing.

I know you’re responding to a lot feminist arguments (that female expressions of sexuality are empowering), but I think those arguments are rather off base. But they are already committed to certain notions (of patriarchy, of female objectification, etc). But if you see fashion as language, then I think some of these issues clear up. Feminists are simply not understanding the language, or are misappropriating the language to say something about Men and Women. A woman wearing a playboy shirt is just trying to say, “Hey, I’m cute and sexy.” When she tires of that, she’ll take it off and wear something else. But I think these nuances aren’t intended for men, but for other women. It says, perhaps, “I’m cuter and sexier than you.” It’s boasting.

I think, however, if you want female empowerment, you need to look straight to the top. You have two things: (a) the women of high status and importance in society by virtue of possessing certain qualities that women all over seek and look up to, and (B) those qualities themselves that women want to embody by wearing various garments. I think it is a shame that women glorify playboy bunnies by wearing playboy clothes, and yeah this does ultimately turn back to male dominance to some degree (or is this dominance by the sexual instinct? Then men, too, are dominated by the same instinct.)

Could you just clarify why you think they are off base? And also what you mean by dominance by sexual instinct?

But going back to my theme of fashion as language, I think it is prudent to find new and interesting things to say with that language, rather than returning to old cliche’s and stereotypes. Redefine sexiness by risking dressing unsexy. And maybe grab some power away from the fashion elites (they are the ones selling you your clothes, shh!). :D

Yes, very good point. Though the elite may just argue that they are not the ones defining sexiness, but simply responding to a demand. Or they could just be victims of the same system we all are, and that a change in their standards would not be fruitful until the rest of society pulls along.

You could also say that fashion icons have in fact contributed to female empowerment by making menswear acceptable for women and eliminating frill (Coco Chanel became famous for this, and forerunners such as Katherine Hepburn).

Femininity and masculinity are complementary gender roles, and thus they should always evolve and change in relation to each other*, and to a certain extent I think feminism has achieved a progressive accomplishment in the sense that masculinity is also reacting to femininity, rather than always the other way around.

Men and women are also intrinsically different, and this goes further than the reproductive role. On the other hand, the gender roles shouldn’t be identified on instinctual or essential grounds, at least not until a sound scientific argument has been offered for it. But, I think it should be admitted that reproduction is a higher cost for women than for men, which yields one of life’s many natural inequities. This fact, in my opinion, should be the beginning of a great deal of normative inquiries.

* Just to prevent a possible miscommunication, I don't think that the gender roles should be stratified, not do I think they should be categorical. By the first, I mean that the gender roles should be free to bend and change, as men and women find fascination in elements attributed to the contrary role. By the second, I mean that all other roles shouldn't be subsumed under the gender roles. For instance, the role of child-rearing shouldn't belong to women. I think it's healthier for all social roles to overlap each other to various degrees and not contain each other in a strict hierarchy. This isn't exactly equality, but is probably what most social activists mean by it.

I totally agree with much of what you say, but am not sure whether men and women are intrinsically different, apart from the obvious. Some would argue that childbearing is in fact an advantage women have over men, and this was what led some societies to revere the female body or a woman's role for just this reason.

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Posted

I just go for the dinner specials. Some strip clubs have great prices on food.

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Posted

the debate centred around whether strip clubs were degrading to women and why couples would go together. Another woman said she didn't understand why people would find it degrading, so I explained why I do:

For me, the reasons are mostly historical. For thousands of years women especially have been "used" by men to satisfy sexual needs (ie. prostitution, stripping, keeping mistresses, etc.), and even though there are increasingly women who also use men, it still seems more socially acceptable when men behave in such a way and gets met with more stoicism ...

Now, apparently there has been a rise in the number of strip clubs and for perhaps the first time little girls and young women aspire to be raunchy and to be like "one of the guys" ... This to me is not empowering at all, because I don't see why buying into this commodification of sex and objectification of people (both men and women) is empowering

If it is the case that women have been degraded by men throughout the ages by having such activities as stripping be reserved for the entertainment of men, then it is arguably "empowering" for women to now go to strip clubs regardless of whether the strippers are male or female. It is empowering inasmuch as the women are less restricted in their behavior as audience.

Such a form for empowerment does not depend upon consideration of the issue regarding whether female-stripping per se is a female-degrading activity, because this sort of empowerment locates the degradation in the segregation. And, this is to say that the empowerment is not dependent on the "commodification of sex and objectification of people"; rather, this empowerment is extensively - if not exclusively - the overcoming of a traditional restriction.

That said, it would also be the case that such a sort of empowerment is ultimately shallow or immature, and this is primarily because it is an empowerment which is wholly dependent on a context created by others. That context remains largely in place when all that has changed is that the potential pool of observers (audience participants) is enlarged. Those who are newly admitted to the context will feel infused with a sort of power - they will feel empowered - but this is a sense of power which derives entirely from the overcoming of the earlier restriction or exclusion.

This still leaves the matter regarding the status of the performer, the one on display, and, as an historical matter, performers -- especially female performers -- have across many cultures commonly been considered to be of a somewhat lesser status, a status frequently claimed to follow properly from performers being of dubious virtue. But, with such a claim, it is still not so much the role of performer which warrants the lesser status as it is the supposed personal virtue aside from the public performance which renders the lower standing.

Yet, there are different types of performances, and it hardly seems adequate to speak only in terms of performers and observers. After all, singing or playing a dramatic or even a comedic role can be quite different from fan-dancing, or belly-dancing, or doing a striptease.

The point here is that it may well be that each of these sorts of performances can be recast as types of art -- even if only to deny that there is anything inherently degrading even in being a stripper. Of course, this acclamation on behalf of art still leaves the possibility that some sort of distinction between qualities of art (the matter of whether the art is good or bad) is the basis for regarding some sorts of performances as degrading.

Then again, volumes have been written in attempts at being able to definitively distinguish between good art and bad art, and, of course, no such attempts have been universally regaled as having succeeded. As a consequence, those arguing against the notion that stripteases are necessarily degrading may well imagine that the degradation is to be found only in the eye of the beholder.

However, even where this turns out to be the case, the argument that observing a striptease effects empowerment of the observer itself depends on some sort of observer awareness that the performance presents good art qualities of some sort. And this is to effectively acknowledge that the deepest root of empowerment is not in the social context constructed by others (such as in the restrictions which, when overcome, make one feel empowered) but, rather, in the context of the observer's own person.

So, in terms of empowerment, how is it that observer a striptease empowers the observer?

But, let us say for the sake of argument that no one ever regards himself or herself as being empowered by watching a stripper. What is still not established is that stripping is necessarily degrading; it may in itself just be an unconstructive expenditure of time from the perspective of the observer.

Is it really necessary that stripping be seen as degrading in order for one to express a distaste for it?

I do not think so. Similarly, I see no need to insist that stripping is neither an art nor a skill in order to justify my utter disinterest in it or distaste for it, but what I would be far more inclined to argue is that the only sort of empowerment of interest to me is that which is not dependent on a social context, a social display, or a widely social approval. The degradation which most concerns me pertains to how the social ever degrades the individual.

Michael

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Good post, Michael.

I'll add that lousy artistic performances often seem degrading: think of "American Idol" or Kareoke. I suppose it's true that few people would pay to see a horrid singer or dancer -- although, if she took her clothes off, she might attract more customers. Equally, people might pay to see Isadora Duncan dance with or without her clothes (in fact, I believe they did).

It is certainly likely that seeing a great dancer (like Duncan) perform professional choreography to outstanding music in an appropriate state of nakedness would not be

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A longer reply to follow, but let me just say that I don't see stripping on the same level as karaoke or "American Idol", or similar entertainment performances, because as I said above neither of those have a history of sexism (that I am aware of) and exploitation, nor are they sometimes involved in enforced labour or human trafficking or drugs. And neither of these requires mostly female participants to take their clothes off or create the illusion of sexual interest (from performer to the observer).

Instead I think it is closely linked to the ideas behind "the male gaze" . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaze

For the sake of discussion, let's assume that looking at nude children, who let's say are willing participants, can be construed as art or simply a performance with observers and performers. I am sure most of us would agree that this is exploitative and morally questionable, even if there are no sexual acts performed per se. I would still maintain that the fact that children are vulnerable and naked makes this unacceptable to most of us and requires children to be protected from such "performances", and that women, due to their vulnerability as the commonly exploited gender also need to be protected from this.

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I'm not sure why something becoming socially acceptable has anything to do with empowerment. Women aren't empowered by strip clubs no longer being exclusively for men any more than children would be empowered if they were allowed access (or - perhaps a more appropriate analogy - any more than minorities are empowered by being able to ride buses with white people while the same prejudices and disadvantages exist for them). Indeed, it might be the case that the social acceptability disempowers women still further: instead of stripping and strip clubs being something to challenge, the possibility of attendance invites women to validate them and participate in their own objectification.

It is precisely this being viewed and treated as an object, together with a superficial notion of female sexuality as bound up in the pleasure and perspective of others via this objectification, that strip clubs facilitate. It has nothing to do with the quality of performance or the extent to which nudity ought (or ought not) to be shameful; burlesque could probably be seen as a more art-like form of the stripper's craft but people oppose it for the same reasons. The degree of talent on display (or the financial reward) while a person is being treated as an object or commodity contributes nothing to the question of what female sexuality is or should be, whether it should be defined by a male viewpoint (the "male gaze" mentioned above) and why it needs to involve exploitation and creating the impression of sexual interest.

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Indeed, it might be the case that the social acceptability disempowers women still further: instead of stripping and strip clubs being something to challenge, the possibility of attendance invites women to validate them and participate in their own objectification.

In terms of fashion, this same phenomenom can be seen with the mass-acceptance of former fringe trends. Punk fashion, for instance, used to be part of the movement's message of protest against the status quo. The ripped jeans, studs, coloured or shaven hair all contributed to communicate to the non-Punk majority that this group disagreed with the majority's social standards of beauty and fashion.

Since then, the fashion has been largely incorporated or co-opted into the mainstream (studs and leather have since become socially acceptable and even trendy, while the values and political beliefs of original punks have not), thereby disempowering the movement.

The same can be said for raunch culture, of which stripping is a part. What used to be a male pastime and possibly a bit of an embarrassment and certainly no place for "respectable women" has now become more socially acceptable, to the point that women go with their partners and think nothing of the commodification of people and sex, thereby making it harder to be critical of strip clubs as an institution.

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I don't agree that "looking at nude children" is morally questionable. Why would I? Many children run around nude constantly, and I don't think it is "morally questionable" to look at them.

Suppose someone was filming a movie set in Tahiti. Suppose it involved children. Suppose the children (in the interests of realism) were nude. How is this "morally questionable"? The "unacceptability" of nakedness is in the eye of the beholder. There is nothing intrinsically immoral or degrading about nakedness.

The reasonable question, of course, is whether there is something "morally questionable" or "exploitive" about stripping in the average sleazy strip club. The Oregon Supreme Court suggested that as a dance "performance" stripping is a form of protected speech. However, even if they are right it is still likely that many forms of protected speech are "exploitive". Isadora Duncan, on the other hand, was a famous, well-paid dancer. Doubtless her nude dancing brought her additional revenues and fame -- but surely that was her decision to make. She was hardly a starving artist -- instead, she was a famous, well-paid performer, who thought that dancing in the nude was, for either monetary or artistic reasons, something she wanted to do. Were Greek Olympians (who performed their athletic fetes in the nude) any more

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It is precisely this being viewed and treated as an object, together with a superficial notion of female sexuality as bound up in the pleasure and perspective of others via this objectification, that strip clubs facilitate. It has nothing to do with the quality of performance or the extent to which nudity ought (or ought not) to be shameful; burlesque could probably be seen as a more art-like form of the stripper's craft but people oppose it for the same reasons. The degree of talent on display (or the financial reward) while a person is being treated as an object or commodity contributes nothing to the question of what female sexuality is or should be, whether it should be defined by a male viewpoint (the "male gaze" mentioned above) and why it needs to involve exploitation and creating the impression of sexual interest.

But Hugo, almost every performance involves some degree of

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For the sake of discussion, let's assume that looking at nude children, who let's say are willing participants, can be construed as art or simply a performance with observers and performers. I am sure most of us would agree that this is exploitative and morally questionable, even if there are no sexual acts performed per se. I would still maintain that the fact that children are vulnerable and naked makes this unacceptable to most of us and requires children to be protected from such "performances", and that women, due to their vulnerability as the commonly exploited gender also need to be protected from this.

Nude children as performers isn't the same as nude children running along a beach, whether here or in Tahiti. Nudist clubs where everyone is nude, or at least where everyone goes about their daily life in the nude by choice is also not comparable to a strip club where only the performers are nude, and where the performers are historically disadvantaged.

Looking at nude children on a beach is not morally questionable unless you are a pedophile, I agree. But if you were to go to an establishment where children undressed for money, possibly danced on stage, then it would be morally questionable since this performance would be based on enjoyment of the child's body and depending on the dance, the child's sexuality.

I don't know in how far Isadora Duncan was exploited, or what her reasons were for danicing in the nude. I would draw the line at the point where any man or woman loses a bit of their dignity in exchange for money, ie. where they feel that the transaction or perfomance is all they have to offer or is what makes their "worth" so to speak, or where they become in any way uncomfortable.

Of course strippers may say that they love dancing, that it is good money and that the skills required are difficult to attain. But I doubt that there are many who have never been uncomfortable before going on stage or who have such a strong sense of their own worth that they know they could make the same amount of money doing something else if they so wished. When stripping is seen as a necessity to pay bills, as one of the limited options one has or as a way to gain self-worth (by being admired or wanted by others for your body only), then it becomes exploitative and morally questionable to me.

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When stripping is seen as a necessity to pay bills, as one of the limited options one has or as a way to gain self-worth (by being admired or wanted by others for your body only), then it becomes exploitative and morally questionable to me.

Well, yes, but you could say the same about any job. We're all "exploited" by the capitalist system in that we have to pay our bills, and we all have "limited options" as to how we are going to go about doing so. I wish I didn't have to go to work (even though I spend much of my day goofing off and posting on the internets) in order to pay my bills.

As to the nude children, my point (hence the bit about the movie set in Tahiti) is that the context is a determining factor, but whether they are "performing" is not. Here's Robert Graves' take:

THE NAKED AND THE NUDE

For me, the naked and the nude

(By lexicographers construed

As synonyms that should express

The same deficiency of dress

Or shelter) stand as wide apart

As love from lies, or truth from art.

Lovers without reproach will gaze

On bodies naked and ablaze;

The Hippocratic eye will see

In nakedness, anatomy;

And naked shines the Goddess when

She mounts her lion among men.

The nude are bold, the nude are sly

To hold each treasonable eye.

While draping by a showman's trick

Their dishabille in rhetoric,

They grin a mock-religious grin

Of scorn at those of naked skin.

The naked, therefore, who compete

Against the nude may know defeat;

Yet when they both together tread

The briary pastures of the dead,

By Gorgons with long whips pursued,

How naked go the sometime nude!

--ROBERT GRAVES

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let me just say that I don't see stripping on the same level as karaoke or "American Idol", or similar entertainment performances, because as I said above neither of those have a history of sexism (that I am aware of) and exploitation

What about fan-dancing and belly-dancing, maybe especially belly-dancing? Are those activities just as sexist as is stripping? And, even if they are -- historically speaking -- are they as allegedly degrading as stripping might be? I ask because if they are not similarly degrading then I would expect the perceived degradation being associated with stripping to lie outside an alleged sexism.

I think there is a difference between fan-dancing and belly-dancing on the one hand and stripping on the other. As to whether the differences are what would account for one being degrading whereas another is not -- about that I am not particularly certain. Just as (good) fan-dancing and belly-dancing require the development of especial skills, I can accept (intellectually at any rate) that stripping might also. In that case, I can see how someone could argue that doing a striptease might not require the stripper's degradation of self. On the other hand, I am inclined to think that audience members more likely degrade themselves at a stripping performance than when being entertained by fan-dancers or belly-dancers.

create the illusion of sexual interest (from performer to the observer).

Would not this particular illusion be more degrading to the observer, assuming that the observer somehow imagines that the performer is actually sexually interested in the observer? And would not that degradation be related to or dependent upon the observer's own way of regarding his or her own sexuality? For instance, if the observer dissociates sexuality and his or her own whole person?

Of course, if the performer relies on a similar dissociation of person and sexuality, then the performer conceivably does no good to his or her own self by thinking/acting in such a fashion.

In either case, it is actually what I have referred to (for the sake of brevity) as a dissociation rather than the illusion which is the more dubious aspect. After all, the illusion of sexual interest between two performers (such as in a movie) can occur without similar degradation.

I think it is closely linked to the ideas behind "the male gaze" ... I would still maintain that the fact that children are vulnerable and naked makes this unacceptable to most of us and requires children to be protected from such "performances", and that women, due to their vulnerability as the commonly exploited gender also need to be protected from this.

I do not think that degradation necessarily follows from - or automatically occurs with - vulnerability. So, putting aside the matter of degradation, I still maintain that regardless of history, being a stripper does not necessarily indicate vulnerability -- which takes us back to another remark.

sometimes involved in enforced labour or human trafficking or drugs.

It is an extremely easy matter to agree that "enforced labour", "human trafficking", and "drugs" are unacceptable and even degrading. But that still does not make stripping in and of itself either unacceptable or degrading, and it would be those other conditions rather than stripping itself that engenders vulnerability. Accordingly, it is those conditions which demand rectification -- meaning that putting forth the issue as if it were stripping per se that is the problem is to confuse matters.

Of course, the male gaze-vulnerability issue actually seems to be more a sexism matter such that stripping is being denounced for its sexist aspect without (yet) delving into just what it is that is wrong with sexism. In fact, it is not even a sexist aspect which seems to be at issue so much as it seems to be a feminist objection. The problem for the feminist approach is that if - or as - stripping and strip clubs become ever more gender-integrated, the issue seems not only less a strictly feminist concern but also less of a sexism matter. That is when the issue of "objectification" comes more to the fore, and I will take that up when I respond to Hugo.

Michael

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This is also one of the reasons I don't find "Sex & the City" empowering, for example. I know that if men sleep around, have high powered jobs and are happy single, that women should be allowed the same thing, but it's just not something that I aspire to personally and I don't think that it furthers true equality, as these standards were still set by men centuries ago. The empowerment people may feel from this is an illusion IMO, and just helps to cement the idea that all these things are desirable in a society.

I have been meaning to get involved in this thread for a while, and I apologize for not doing so earlier.

I want to offer a defense of the show, "Sex and the City," because not only was it funny (not necessarily through out, but during its peak seasons), or a love poem to the city of New York, but it was also a clear indication of the pro-sex feminism in the late 90s. Feminism had been dominated by the anti-porn crusaders in the 70s and the 80s, but by the late 90s, the show boldly declared that women were no longer afraid of sex and they were independent agents who embrace it.

What I liked about the show was how it went beyond the city, that it showed how young and unmarried women were often at the mercy of richer and more powerful men. More precisely, the show also mapped the problems of career oriented women in relationships. They had far more power than previous generations of women, but they still struggled to integrate love. At first the show was shallow and superficial, formulaic, but over the years, it became a great anthropological study of the bittersweet dilemma of the working girl. No matter the gain in the woman's career, there was a trade off in her personal life.

Many of the older gen-feminists were critical of the show (they're always obsessing about guys!) but that was indicative of reality. Women got together and men were always on the menu. Guys were objectified - a Greek tragedy of Homeric proportions.

Plus the show was terrific research in psychosexual politics - dating do's and don'ts, and bitch, please. :mrgreen:

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I have been meaning to get involved in this thread for a while, and I apologize for not doing so earlier.

I want to offer a defense of the show, "Sex and the City," because not only was it funny (not necessarily through out, but during its peak seasons), or a love poem to the city of New York, but it was also a clear indication of the pro-sex feminism in the late 90s. Feminism had been dominated by the anti-porn crusaders in the 70s and the 80s, but by the late 90s, the show boldly declared that women were no longer afraid of sex and they were independent agents who embrace it.

What I liked about the show was how it went beyond the city, that it showed how young and unmarried women were often at the mercy of richer and more powerful men. More precisely, the show also mapped the problems of career oriented women in relationships. They had far more power than previous generations of women, but they still struggled to integrate love. At first the show was shallow and superficial, formulaic, but over the years, it became a great anthropological study of the bittersweet dilemma of the working girl. No matter the gain in the woman's career, there was a trade off in her personal life.

Many of the older gen-feminists were critical of the show (they're always obsessing about guys!) but that was indicative of reality. Women got together and men were always on the menu. Guys were objectified - a Greek tragedy of Homeric proportions.

Plus the show was terrific research in psychosexual politics - dating do's and don'ts, and bitch, please. :mrgreen:

I don't actually disagree with what you are saying, it was definitely perceived as revolutionary and a good insight into a modern woman's dilemma, apart from the great fashion and lessons in dating rules. (And I own the entire dvd collection, but shhhh...).

However, I think that it only confirmed womens' roles to be limited to talking about men, looking for love and being focused on clothes and relationships. The womens' careers were used as a backdrop to their lifestyle, and it still left me with a sour feeling in the pit of my stomach because the writers maintained that there is no happiness for a single girl. Only in the movie did Samantha eventually break up with her boyfriend to focus on herself again, whilst all the others compromised themselves and their values in desperate attempts to get married or to "hook" a man. God knows what the butchers will have done to the next movie coming out...

As I said before, I don't think it is real empowerment for women to have access to a formerly "male" lifestyle (ie. executive jobs and sleeping around), because the empowerment felt from this is an illusion as far as I'm concerned.

I think the fact that women may actually sit together and talk about men all day doesn't devalue what those older-gen feminists have to say. Rather, it shows how much they have been conditioned into thinking this defines their lives and self-worth.

Edited by Stummel

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Before I get to the matter of objectification, I want to once again take up the issue of empowerment.

I'm not sure why something becoming socially acceptable has anything to do with empowerment.

I did not say that empowerment depends on social acceptability; I did not say that social acceptability effects empowerment. One thing which I did indicate is that people "feel empowered" (emphasis now added) by being "newly admitted to the context" from which they were previously barred. Of course, this particular feeling of being empowered is nothing more than the fact of being permitted combined with the sensation of a new experience -- in this case, the new experience of being permitted that which was previously withheld. The novelty of the new experience will wear off with time leaving only the fact of being permitted, and that is when it will (or should) become much more apparent that what was felt (or thought) to be empowerment was actually no more than an extension of permission. Once the novelty of the new permission dissipates, the sense of empowerment depends ever more on recollection of and reference to the time when the permission had been withheld.

Where empowerment ultimately amounts to no more than being permitted, empowerment is no more than an inappropriately grandiose depiction of what is merely a granted permission. If this were the only possible sense for empowerment, then I would say that one is not actually empowered via social acceptability even though one may have more options more readily available to one as a result of being permitted. Permission might sometimes manifest as authority to exercise a power which is not available when permission is denied, but this power is not a personal power; rather, it is a social power which is allowed to be expressed via the person who is socially empowered. It is an error for a person who is socially empowered to think that he or she is personally empowered by virtue of being allowed to partake in something which is socially accepted. Accordingly, one is not personally empowered by attending strip clubs simply because one was not previously allowed such attendance or simply because that attendance has become in any way acceptable.

A related but distinguishable sense of empowerment can come about when a person partakes of something which is not permitted or is deemed as in any way unacceptable. But even in such an instance, the sense of empowerment can - at least initially, and probably most often does - relate to and depend upon what others permit or accept. This is to say that there is a social aspect even to this sense of empowerment; it is most likely that such an instance of this sense of empowerment is enhanced as a result of standing in opposition, and this enhancement is most likely maximized when the defiance is blatant and public.

Of course, historically speaking, collective movements of defiance have been quite common, and as social movements they can present new participants with a sense of empowerment which, most often, will likely amount to nothing more than another instance of social empowerment, albeit a social empowerment in opposition to another society or group. The growth of defiance movements depends on some sort of public display of opposition; it is with such displays that new participants are attracted, but, for all such movements, there has to be on the part of some individual an initial and non-public recognition - a private and personal recognition - that some condition, practice, or way of thinking is objectionable.

Can a private and personal realization ever amount to an empowerment?

I think that it can. And, if that is the case, then I expect that not only the most basic but also the most important form of empowerment is that which is personal (and not necessarily public). It may even be possible to go so far as to say that the social forms of empowerment above discussed are, at best, mere precursors of the internalization which is necessary for a personal empowerment to develop for those who join a social context of empowerment.

Indeed, it might be the case that the social acceptability disempowers women still further: instead of stripping and strip clubs being something to challenge, the possibility of attendance invites women to validate them and participate in their own objectification.

I also think that this personal aspect regarding empowerment is essential to the consideration of what it is that may be objectionable about "objectification". I will finally get around to the "objectification" issue in my next posting.

Michael

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The "empowerment" I get from strip clubs is too "personal" to discuss publicly.

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However, I think that it only confirmed womens' roles to be limited to talking about men, looking for love and being focused on clothes and relationships.

It would be odd for a show titled "sex" to be about anything else. This is not a valid criticism.

The womens' careers were used as a backdrop to their lifestyle, and it still left me with a sour feeling in the pit of my stomach because the writers maintained that there is no happiness for a single girl. Only in the movie did Samantha eventually break up with her boyfriend to focus on herself again,
That the show presented a counterpoint in Samantha to the prevailing notion that happiness is limited to having a man in one's life should be sufficient.

whilst all the others compromised themselves and their values in desperate attempts to get married or to "hook" a man.

This is not true. None of them compromised themselves. Charlotte didn't compromise in converting to Judaism in order to become kosher for a Jewish lawyer. Miranda didn't compromise her New York values by moving out to Brooklyn to raise a family with Steve. Samantha tried the single route after years of man-eating the bachelor field, but I'd hardly call that compromising her values. That leaves us Carrie. Did she compromise herself by marrying the guy that kept breaking her heart?

God knows what the butchers will have done to the next movie coming out...
The movie sucked, no question, aside from 15 minutes of reality (Mr.. Big getting cold feet).

As I said before, I don't think it is real empowerment for women to have access to a formerly "male" lifestyle (ie. executive jobs and sleeping around), because the empowerment felt from this is an illusion as far as I'm concerned.

Maybe, but this is less of an argument and more of an assertion. Exactly what constitutes as "empowerment" for women in the first place? What lies beyond the traditional role of marriage and motherhood, and the modern lifestyle of independence and career?

I think the fact that women may actually sit together and talk about men all day doesn't devalue what those older-gen feminists have to say. Rather, it shows how much they have been conditioned into thinking this defines their lives and self-worth.

Actually this is an issue of generation clash within feminism.

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The "empowerment" I get from strip clubs is too "personal" to discuss publicly.

Well, we know of at least one occasion in which you were not empowered by (not) attending a strip club.

But, seriously, the point - whether intended or not - is well taken. The notion of empowerment as discussed thus far has remained very broad. It may well be that empowerment is a necessarily indefinite term, but that does not mean that its scope of applicability cannot be narrowed. I think that narrowing - or refining - will occur as we get more into the objectification issue.

Michael

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The truth is that I haven't been to a strip club in 20 years, and probably only 3 or 4 times in my life. Those few times I have been, it did seem degrading, although I'm not sure why. It might have been old fashioned sexual mores; it might have been snobbery about associating with the customers. I sometimes feel uncomfortable going into a Wal-mart -- because you see more fat, toothless, strange-looking people there than you see anywhere else. Nonetheless, I recognize that this is my problem, not that of the Wal-mart customers. I'm a snob. That might be my problem with strip clubs, too.

For all the talk about "The Gaze", or intra-gender power relations, or the objectification of women, there's a whiff of prudery about my own objections to strip clubs. It's not sexual prudery, either. It's a sort of personal pride mixed with class snobbery. The few time I have gone, I felt like an anthropologist studying a strange culture, rather than like a participant in the prurient entertainment, as if participation would somehow degrade me.

This is more of a personal response than an analysis or argument, but I think it may be true for others as well as myself.

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