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The Costs of Stripping

“I can’t stand bellydancing,” claims one of my male friends, “because it is the most Orientalist part of our culture.”  He’s proud of this statement.  But this is the same Middle-Eastern American guy that loves visiting burlesque houses for the “artistry” and strip clubs for the thrill.  Of course I could respond by citing how disrespectful ogling women is–even if it’s quasi-consensual.  (I argue quasi-consensual because someone is paying to ogle another person.  If it was truly consensual, then the exchange would be mutual, right?)  But the moralizing isn’t going to work with this guy.  Neither is couching my argument in Islam, or in any religion.  No religion is going to support the environment of the strip club culture, nor condone the act itself.

I don’t have hard data on the number of Middle Eastern-American or Muslim men that frequent such “entertaining” establishments.  There is no way I’m going to pull a Gloria Steinam and investigate the rate of Middle Eastern or Muslim male attendance at a gentleman’s club in the US.

I loathe using the euphemism of “gentlemen”.  So does Iceland.  And that’s not the Muslim, the woman, or the artistic person in me.  It’s the gentle human being in me.

To beat the man at his own game, I needed to share the non-religious and non-cultural reasons.  Call it “Mehrunisa’s Top Seven Costs of the Strip Club Culture”.  Ironically, the social, economic, physical, and psychological costs amount to the spiritual number ‘7’.

Economic Costs

Many of the strippers do not benefit from sick leave, healthcare coverage or social security because they are hired as independent contractors.  As a result, the club owners are not paying taxes on their employed labor.  This is not that different from  households hiring illegal workers to care for their young and failing to report since they pay in cash.

One of my favorite counter-arguments: “The woman is making money off of my interest in her…so if I’m paying to watch with her consent, I’m footing the bill.”  In economic terms: he is bearing the full financial cost.

Hah! This is not only humorous, but it is indeed false.  Remember: there’s salary, and there’s commission–but it’s not hers.  There are also rental fees.  Many strip clubs charge their hired strippers rental fees..the couch, for example.  Their take-home pay is almost less than half of their rate since they are forced to share their earnings with the disc-jockey and security personnel.  The “heavies” incur the heavy cost of providing protection.

Emotional/Psychological Costs

Speaking of the strippers as labor–it’s a business, right--two studies found that strip clubs overbook women, which spirals into a fierce competition where the women engage in more explicit activities in order to earn tips.  Talk about exploiting labor conditions.
Before women even enter the stripping industry, they have already endured physical and emotional costs.  Specifically strippers are not representing the most emotionally healthy group.  According to a University of Pennsylvania study led by the Director of Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program, Dr. Layden:

65 percent of strippers have suffered sexual abuse.
55 percent of strippers experience Multiple Personality Disorder.
60 percent suffer from Depression.

Social/Societal Costs

Reasserts gender inequity – According to the author of Pimps, Tricks, and Feminists Kelly Holsoplle, “Stripclubs are organized according to gender and reflect gender power dynamics in greater society.” Consequently, strip clubs institutionalize sexual violence while others would further argue that strip clubs serve as the gateway to prostitution and other illegal activity.

Physical Costs

The physical costs of stripping should be the most obvious: we see it on the women’s face–but years later.  Her average life expectancy is 37.4 years-in contrast to the American average of 78.1 years, calculated by the World Bank.  Before that, however, the sexual assault and rape follow strippers off stage.

On a side note – ever notice the higher prescription rates and use of male enhancement drugs with younger men?  In the UK, men between 18 to 30 years of age are increasingly using Viagra.  In the US, 40-year old men who deal with erectile dysfunction are estimated as high as 39 percent. Perhaps they’ve been overstimulated to the extent that they need help.  Maybe.  That is one survey that I do not have time to design, but that should not stop eager pharmaceutical companies from administering.



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