Sunday, August 22, 2010

Can't spell moral without oral

Traditionally stripping as been viewed by the feminist movement (most notably by radical and anti-pornography feminists), as a profession that is demeaning to women because they believe that stripping reinforces the standards of patriarchy by strengthening the commodification of women’s bodies as sexual objects (Dines et al, 1997; MacKinnon, 2006; & Stark et al 2004). Some feminists have also stated that stripping can have a negative impact on a women’s body image (Eaves, 2004; & Frank, 2002). However, this was not the case for me as it was not until I shed my clothes that I accepted what I had underneath them. I began my career in stripping at 18 years of age. I had just given birth to my son a year before and was feeling quite low about the appearance of my post pregnancy body. The B-cup size breasts that used to sit firmly high upon my chest had since shrunk (after ballooning to a breastfeeding size DD), to a pair of A-cup size breasts that were so saggy whenever I would look into a mirror the first thing that crossed my mind was “pancake house”. My breasts were not the only part of my body that changed after pregnancy, not only had I gained over 50 pounds but, my stomach which was once flat and tight was now flabby and covered with stretch marks. So when my friend Tanya, suggested that I try stripping as a means to support my son I assumed she was joking as there was no way I could compete with the flawless bodies and large breasts that I believed (from watching TV, movies, and reading magazines), was requirement for women wanting to work at a strip club. “Don’t you think the male audience will revolt in disgust at the sight of my naked body?” I asked Tanya who not only assured me that they would not but, also offered to go with me to give me moral support. Since I was really, really broke and was not expecting a child support cheque anytime soon I decided to give it a try. Upon entering the club for the first time I immediately noticed the platinum blondes and silicone breasts that most people expect when entering a strip club but, I also noticed something that I didn’t expect: women with imperfect bodies (including women with cellulite, small breasts, and women who were overweight), being ogled and praised by the male audience. “Maybe this won’t be that bad”, I thought to myself as I headed to the change room to slip into the tight red dress and black stiletto heels that I brought with me. After changing I came upstairs to the main floor, met up with Tanya and the two of us made our way over to an empty table and sat down so I could observe how the other dancers worked. After a few pep talks from Tanya, and a couple of beers, I soon got enough courage to begin approaching customers to ask if they’d be interested in a dance. I approached about 3 men before one finally agreed to pay me to dance for him. Nervously, I led him over to the back of the club towards the VIP section, sat him down, and anxiously waited for the next song to start. As soon as it did I became frightened but, still managed to get up and begin seductively dancing for him while simultaneously taking off my clothes. Once I had taken off all my clothes I was completely mortified as I stood their naked in front of him half expecting him to turn away in disgust yet, to my surprise he didn’t, in fact he asked for another dance prompting me to question whether my body was really as ‘disgusting’ as I thought. I kept on dancing for three more years, which taught me that despite the patriarchal notion that women cannot be sexually attractive unless they look like the air-brushed models with the Barbie-like proportions that are portrayed in the media most men have a much more varied perception of what sort of bodies are attractive. From my experience as a stripper I learned that most men do not seem to mind if a women is overweight, has stretch marks, cellulite, or small breasts. All men really care about is that a naked women, who appears to be confident with her body and sexuality, is standing (or dancing) in front of them. As for feeling like a sex object or feeling demeaned, I did not feel either. Instead, I became much more comfortable not only with my body but, also with expressing my sexuality. I think as feminists we need to understand that one women’s negative experience could be another women’s positive experience, and for me, stripping was one of those positive experiences. Wendy Babcock

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