An Anthropologist/Former Stripper Studies Men Who Go to Strip Clubs

gstrings and sympathyI have no idea why Alternet.com just posted on Facebook an article they published more than a year ago on their own site, featuring a Salon.com interview published more than 11 years ago, by the author of a book published 12 years ago.  But I’m glad they did.

I’d never heard of the book, titled G-Strings and Sympathy: Strip Club Regulars and Male Desire by anthropologist Katherine Frank. The book is based on the author’s six years of working as a stripper in numerous clubs, big and small, and on interviews she conducted with over 30 of her regular customers during that time.

Among her findings that surprised the Salon reporter (Virginia Vitzthum) were that strip clubs do not interfere with a man’s ability to achieve intimacy with a girlfriend or wife. Katherine Frank argues that going to strip clubs actually solidified the marriages of many of her interview subjects.

The author says that before she became a stripper, she was an anti-pornography feminist, but that in talking to the men who were strip club regulars, she came to see that, just like women in our society, men too were damaged by the sexist culture we live in. They had difficulty dealing with what they saw as women’s conflicting demands for both traditional masculine traits and more emotional presence.  And they were confused by the desire of women to be called beautiful but not be objectified.

Katherine Frank reported that she had very positive experiences dancing. She said:  “I learned that men have a much more varied perception of what sort of bodies are beautiful or sexy than a lot of women think they do … I had stereotyped men as wanting something narrow, when in fact they have a wide variety of tastes.”

She stated that for men who are in love with their wives and want to stay married, what happens in strip clubs is “real enough to be exciting, but was still a fantasy.”

When asked how she would feel if her husband went to a strip club, she responded:

“Honestly, I wouldn’t like it! For me, a lot of it is about the money — I don’t have the disposable income to spend on that kind of entertainment, and if he did have that kind of extra money, I’d want it to be fair. Maybe if I could spend dollar for dollar somewhere else, but unfortunately, there aren’t yet places where women can go pay hot young men to stroke their egos. That may come in the future.”

This is in agreement with my own opinion, as expressed in my article “Why Do Men Go to Strip Clubs?”, that men should own up to their strip club adventures with their wives, but make sure their wives have just as much mad money to spend on their own fun and recreation.

(Katherine Frank is now a Social Science Research Council fellow at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, in the department of sociology.)

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