Men who go to strip clubs are actually the most feminist

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      Sex//Work is a new column written by people in Vancouver’s sex trade.

      What if I told you that the men who come see me dance nude are far more of a feminist ally than those who don’t?

      There are many reasons why people come to the strip club. Sometimes it’s just a fun, cool place to grab a burger and beer; sometimes it’s a deep, therapeutic connection for someone who is going through a hard time and needs a non-judgmental hug from a large-breasted woman. I have been dancing for close to 20 years, and I can tell you that some of the human experiences I’ve had at the club have been the most profound. 

      The first thing you need to know is that I love my job. I get fed on many different levels by this work. Not all strippers see it that way, but that does not in itself make the job any more or less exploitative than being a barista. Other jobs don’t allow for the flexibility that ours does. Regardless of how we feel about it, it’s a job—something that, under capitalism, almost all of us need. Not everyone loves working retail or entry-level office jobs, but that doesn’t mean we put stigma on them for “selling themselves out” or whatever the current rhetoric is. 

      Feminism means supporting women where they are, and sex work is one of the few industries that has women and queer folk in highest demand.

      We still live in a society that puts the almighty hetero male first. That is slowly changing, but right now, one of the most revolutionary choices a woman can make is to profit off of her sexuality. To profit off of something that people are going to take anyway. 

      Whether consciously or not, men who are sexually attracted to women are always sexualizing our bodies. Psychology will tell us that the more we try to deny our natural urges and needs, the more they will find unconscious ways to be expressed. So why not make a conscious choice to appreciate women in a sexually-liberated environment—an environment where women are choosing to be paid for their time and their skill of sensuality? 

      This is at the essence of consent. A man might make a woman feel uncomfortable by approaching her at a bar, restaurant, or cafe. She might not want to provide the free emotional labor of engaging in those settings. Women are put in the position of nurturing and providing emotional labour in almost all of our relationships with men. It can be exhausting to take on the emotionally-stunted, unconscious trauma dumping that happens to most women when dealing with close personal relationships with men.

      It’s not all their fault. Society has emotionally repressed our men to the point that they don’t even understand their own feelings most of the time. In the strip club, a woman has chosen to make herself available to approach in exchange for monetary compensation. It’s clean and very clear. Usually everyone walks away happy with the exchange.

      I am definitely not saying men should never approach civilian women—that is unrealistic in this society, and it is also definitely how a lot of healthy relationships start. What I am definitely saying, however, is that instead of only using that method at the risk of putting undue burden on women, men could get part of their social needs met at a strip club. 

      Something I hear a lot is how there is discomfort with an interaction that feels transactional. To that, I offer that every interaction is transactional. Whether it’s time, connection, mental stimulation, energy, or cash, something is being exchanged every time we interact with another person. Money is just a type of energy. The discomfort in this case comes from the ego blow that a woman might prefer payment than interact with a man for free. The problem is that men have drained women of emotional labour for free many times without realizing it. 

      Of course, on the other hand, there are interactions I get paid for that I feel are fulfilling in some way, and that I would probably engage in for free if it were in another environment. But what a treat to be paid as well!

      What you can be absolutely sure of is that if you pay her, a woman will always walk away from your interaction gaining something. I would hope that the part of a man’s ego that wants to support women will win over the part that wants to always be chosen. One of those is a far more realistic and attainable option.

      For those of you who are interested in being better feminist allies, next time you’re feeling social and have the means, go support a female-majority industry where you can pay women directly for their services. Go to your local strip club! Whether you want to just enjoy the ambiance and throw a few tips on the stage or get a little more up close and personal with a lap dance, you’ll be better for it.