A good friend of mine, an engineer who works in management, tells me of the time she went to a strip club with a group of her co-workers, all men except for her. “I thought I knew these men and that they respected women, Paul. And I should say that, outside of the club, they do seem to respect women. But almost from the moment we got in the door, that respect was gone from every last one of them. I was alarmed and dismayed both at how they treated the dancers and in what words they spoke about them. To say they treated them as objects would be to understate it. I realized this was a side to my male co-workers that I had never suspected before.”
Over the years, several of my friends and acquaintances have been people who were either working as erotic dancers or had in the past worked as erotic dancers. Perhaps a majority of them have told me — or at least hinted to me — of how disrespected they are by most of the men who show up to watch them perform. Several of them have become cynical of men as a consequence. This is a sad state of affairs.
I think it’s safe to assume that it’s commonplace in America to disrespect erotic dancers, and that there are cultural reasons for that disrespect. In our culture, not just dancers, but sex workers in general are disrespected, and have been for centuries. But I do not wish to speculate here on the historical roots of that disrespect. Nor is my purpose in this blog post to try to convert to a different view those of you who feel justified in disrespecting sex workers, or specifically, dancers. If you feel righteously justified in disrespecting people, that’s a matter between you and your conscience, and nothing I say is likely to change you.
Instead, I am only concerned with offering for consideration some views to anyone who is not of the firm conviction that dancers should be disrespected, and who rather is open to hearing a few ideas about treating them as persons in their own right. So with that in mind, please allow me to offer these suggestions:
First, don’t take it personally if and when the dancers themselves fail to respect you. As I hinted above, most of the young women have gotten pretty jaded about men in general very largely as a response to being disrespected by so many of their customers. That is, they have returned disrespect with disrespect. And while that is a rather foolish and ineffective way to respond to disrespect, it is also a very human way to respond to it. So, expect most of the dancers to be at least somewhat contemptuous of you — or at the very least, suspicious — and do not make the mistake of taking it personally.
Although it’s been years since I was last in a club, I used to go with a friend of mine, a sculptor, who taught me to view what the dancers were doing as an art. I would suggest you too, view the dancers as artists, not only because it makes it easier to see them as persons in their own right, but also because it seems to significantly enhance the experience of watching them. But if any of that is true, then how do you go about viewing the dancers as artists?
Well, something that’s helped me do that is to, first, recognize that not all of them are very good artists. I would say that about 12% of the dancers you’ll see — about one in eight — are natural born artists. They almost certainly have not been schooled in erotic dance, but they are the sort of people who would make an art of nearly anything they were doing — very much including erotic dance.
In addition to that 12%, the vast majority of dancers are artistically average folks, and — at the bottom of the pile — are a percentage of dancers who are poor or quite poor artists. Now why is this important?
It’s important because, if you look at erotic dance as an art — and the dancers as artists — then it is wise to keep in mind that not all the dancers you’ll see are good artists in order to avoid becoming discouraged. But what makes one dancer a good artist, and the next seven dancers average or poor artists?
The key to the question is to recognize that, as a rule of thumb, a good dancer will authentically express her sexuality. An average dancer will tend to be inconsistently authentic at best, and a poor dancer will be consistently inauthentic. Another way of expressing those differences is to say that a good dancer will not pander to you, an average dancer will pander sometimes, and a poor dancer will always pander. If you think about it, the very same thing is true with any art or artist: The best express their own vision, most pander a bit, and the worse are always pandering.
These distinctions might sound very vague or very esoteric. But in practice, it’s fairly easy — given some experience of different dancers — to see which are authentic, a mix of authentic and inauthentic, or downright inauthentic. That is, in practice, it’s just about as easy to see as it as it is to know when someone is probably telling the truth, partly telling the truth, and downright lying to you.
Now, should you bring any of this art talk up with the dancers themselves? I myself would be a little hesitant to do so. I’ve known a few dancers who viewed what they were doing as an art, but they have been by far in the minority. Even most of the natural born artists who end up dancing for a living don’t think of themselves as artists, or think of what they’re doing as art. This shouldn’t surprise you: As Plato once famously said, artists are lousy at explaining themselves and their art. So I think with most dancers, if you were to start talking to them about the “Art of Stripping”, you’d get blank stares at best.
Then again, just about the most erotic dancer that I ever have known used to enthusiastically gush to me now and then about the occasional customer of hers who’d sit down and knowingly discuss dance as an art form with her. The key to her heart and mind was that a guy actually knew what he was talking about. So it’s up to you whether you want to bring up the subject with any of the dancers you meet.
Of course, very little of anything I’ve said so far will make much sense to if you happen to be one of those folks who is simply not moved by art. There’s nothing at all wrong with you, but art just doesn’t grab you at a gut level. If so, there are still some things you might want to keep in mind when viewing dancers perform for you.
I’ve found it best not to fantasize about having sex with the dancers — no matter how erotically they dance. That might sound counter-intuitive: After all, why go watch often beautiful women dance half-naked or naked if you don’t want to imagine yourself having sex with them, right? But in practice, that path leads to frustration, at the very least. Indeed, one of my friends found it so frustrating that he ended up incapable of enjoying erotic dance at all. I can contrast his experience with that of other friends who have found erotic dance “liberating” to experience, to say the least.
Most importantly, the key thing you should try to do is to see and treat each dancer as an individual. In my experience, this is greatly aided by viewing them as artists. But if viewing them as artists makes no impression on you, then you can still see and treat them as individuals simply by comparing and contrasting how they dance with how others dance. Seeing the dancers as individuals is, I believe, the first and most important step towards genuinely respecting them as persons.