By Mia Martina
“Are you in it for love, sex, or money?” The Emcee asked the bride-to-be on stage. The bride emphatically answered, “Sex!” and rallied the room of 100 ladies in a round of Woo-Hoos, her engagement ring hand raised high, the diamonds competing with the disco ball for glimmering attention. That night, all eight bachelorettes said it was sex that got them to marry. And the shrieking…..it was non-stop, apparently an essential part of the male strip show experience meant for bachelorettes, birthday girls, and those looking for beefy eye-candy on their girl’s night out.
I came to attend the top three New York City male strip shows on an assignment to for the Naughty New York guidebook. I thought the assignment would either leave me turned on by all the testosterone or laughing because male naked bodies are generally used for humor (think Borat). But neither humor, nor horniness, could overpower my gawking curiosity that left me questioning the bachelorette party phenomena.
Technically speaking, New York City has no male strip clubs. Rather, male strip shows take place in Manhattan clubs from 9-11pm on Friday and Saturday nights only. All venues have the same format with an Emcee driven show revolving around audience participation. Two brides at a time are called to the stage for the “hot seat” dance. The hot seat bachelorettes, already marked by a mini-veil, candy necklaces, and penis paraphernalia, get stuffed with cash from their girlfriends in as many places as both are comfortable.
The bachelorette’s so called “time of her life” experience begins when a dancer dressed in one of six Village People costumes works to de-bill the ladies. The most effective way to de-bill women are with bold inversions the likes of which are found in cult classic book, Position of the Day. In one such move, a man lifted a white, strapless dress-wearing bachelorette to sit on his shoulders and straddle his face. While his head burrowed her inner thighs, the Emcee narrated with slurping noises. Then, without warning, the woman was flipped upside down and her cleavage and remaining bills cascaded down. Like other bachelorettes, the woman was uncomfortable and embarrassed—pulling to cover exposed flesh and hiding her face from the camera flash.
Why is embarrassment rather than eroticism at the center of this “last night of freedom” experience? Why is the silliness of making the bride-to-be wear penis jewelry and drink from a penis sippie cup furthered with manhandled awkwardness? Can a woman not be treated to the same titillation as a man frequenting a female strip club?
One venue had the men dance in sets of three before the hot seat showdown, which made the experience more like an Off-Off Broadway review rather than a strip show. Sure the tan and toned bodies were nice to objectify, but the synched choreographed steps and mouthing of the dance count discredited all sexiness. The performance did not engage each individual’s sexuality, but rather a generic packaged version.
The male strip club shows were bawdy in their choreography and trite in their themes pulled from traditional roles for men that women are supposed to find attractive. Aren’t we beyond this? We no longer have to be overly enthusiastic women playing house with Ken who has five breadwinning career choices. We have the same career choices and we have the right to objectify men and get turned on by it. If all the bachelorettes said they were going into their marriage for the sex, then why is sex handled in a juvenile “I’m going to post pictures of you in compromising positions on Facebook” way? Why not treat your bachelorette to night of eroticism and titillation that focuses on arousal rather than embarrassment. Ladies, save the photos for the pre-party and ‘gents, save the cheap costumes for Halloween. Then when we say we’re in it for the sex, we can look like we mean it.