Who wants to be a stripper ? 

Our fascination with the female form has been one of the few constants in 200,000 years of human history: a source of desire, inspiration, and even obsession. And the only thing more exciting than a naked woman’s body is one that isn’t yet naked, or is never really naked, revealed bit by bit in a slow revelation that falls short of sex itself. Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy’s 19th-century poem “The Daughter of Herodias” rhapsodizes about the dance of the Biblical Salome and how she would titillates her male audience into “mid rapture” by delicately displaying  some bare skin: “The veils would  dropped about her like coiling mists… And her jewelled figure appeared among them.”

The older veils and jewels were replaced by fish-net stockings and six-inch lucit heels, but the attraction with strippers remains, as does society’s ambiguous relationship with them. We feel sorry for these women (and they are almost always women), but we also appreciate them. They make us jealous. We want to assist them while also wanting them, possibly both at the same time. Bucks strippers occupy the dual paradigms of cautionary tale and aspirational character, fallen woman and girlboss, against the backdrop of changing sexual mores in the modern era. They are both the living embodiment of feminist agency and patriarchal agents. The fact that strippers tend to not agree on all of the above variables further complicates matters. Meanwhile, the fascination with vocations related to sex  — strippers, and, most recently, the internet providers of self-produced porn on OnlyFans — coalesces into a pop cultural moment every now and again. The tide of stripper content looks to be cresting again, with various memoirs by current or former bucks strippers, and without the apparent undertone that these are stories of fallen women. What was once thought to be a dead-end career for desperate women may now be a springboard to bigger things, at least for those with the wherewithal to make it so.

It’s strange to come across this kind of cultural gatekeeping in the midst of a debate about workers’ rights: everyone from investigative journalists to script writers have taken to pole-dancing as a way to improve one’s fitness and not chastised is for encroaching on stripping as if it were a protected category rather than what it actually is: work.

Stripping is one of the rare forms of sex employment that not only leaves sex completely in the world of unfulfilled fantasy, but where the lack of gratification is the whole goal. Men who frequent strip clubs pay to be titillated, teased to within an inch of their life, and then depart without ever touching the object of their desire. Why? What does this tell about the men, the nature of the transaction, and what is truly being offered when money is exchanged in the Champagne Room?

Some books, such as The Ethical Stripper, have the most fascinating tale. Stripping as a career is presented as a business. The story is that stripping is hard, fun, sad, exhilarating, dirty, and human, and it’s no surprise that we’re still composing songs about it 20 years later.

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