I broke my strip club hymen during my Sophomore year in college at a spot in Nashville called Deja Vu. Proof of that night, over 20 years ago, remains to this day; upstairs on the inside wall of a storage closet at my college fraternity house is a $20 polaroidpicture; sitting on my lap is what can be described only as a well endowed blonde Amazon, naked as the day she was born, smiling casually into the camera. If the eyes are any indication I was either highly inebriated, scared completely out of my mind, or little of both. This picture subsequently led to a tradition among future brothers and today there are dozens of photos next to my own of voluptuous entertainers straddling the thighs of excited wild-eyed college boys.
The first strip club, as we have come to know it, began in ’64 at a place called the Condor Club in San Francisco. Apparently Carol Doda had a penchant for breaking molds, in addition she ground the first lap dance and enhanced her size 34 bust to a size 44 through silicone injections earning her the title “Twin Peaks of San Francisco”. Since that time the strip club has become an American institution and a $3.0 billion per year industry. In 2002 there was reported to be over 2500 clubs nationally and growing.
As a young man, just the idea of going to a strip club was intoxicating. It was a place that represented the under-belly of our society and a lifestyle our southern minister adamantly preached against, but one which I eagerly wanted to experience for myself. Since that first time over two decades ago I have visited scores of Gentlemen’s clubs, but over the years no matter when or where there remains one constant among them. While the decor or the music may change and the talents of the dancers vary the overall premise endures – to get men in the doors, suck every last penny out of us and keep us coming back for more. Though every time, we walk away emotionally confused and significantly poorer than when we walked in.
The Gentleman’s Club has become a rite of passage for many soon-to-be-married men as a way for their compadres to show the bridegroom what he’ll be missing out on should he go through with the deed, and for those young men, upon attaining the age for legally buying a six pack, to prove they have arrived at adulthood. Over the years however I have noticed two other types of men who frequent the the shoe show. Unfortunately these men aren’t celebrating, instead they are engaging in self destructive behaviors just as habit-forming as any illicit drug.
Every man fantasizes about going to bed with a stripper; hoping that as she bends over to touch her toes she’ll look into his eyes and suddenly be overcome with desire, will grab him by the collar and whisper “take me home now or lose me forever”, and thereby gaining him immediate celebrity status with everyone in the bar. It doesn’t matter if the man is single, engaged, married, or divorced this vision runs through every man’s mind. And it’s her job is to leverage this fantasy to its profitable conclusion. For the duration of “Dead or Alive” she wants him to think that he is the only man in the world and she belongs to him. And the better she is at this the stronger the draw will be to drive him back to her for just one more, similar to the drug addict needing one more hit. But ask any stripper what they’re thinking as they gyrate on a complete stranger and they’ll always respond “the money”. It is always the money! Once the song is over she gets dressed and is off find the next sucker. Leaving him completely unfulfilled and slightly confused. Because he knows what just happened didn’t fulfill his fantasy and that it wasn’t natural. But he’s left thirsting for something more than his relationships outside its doors can quench.
Loneliness drives many men into the Gentlemen’s clubs. They justify this oddness saying “Why take them to dinner when I can do this?” But actually, a man who frequents strip clubs is testifying to his loneliness in the only way he can, by reaching out to women who, as long as he pays for it, will show him the attention and admiration he desperately longs for. It’s many a married man who is known as ‘regulars’ at the local shoe show. For those few hours he is able to forget about what he doesn’t have at home while his wife wonders why their marriage has fallen apart. No man can maintain or create quality, nurturing, and loving relationships if he is making a naked stranger the focal point of his intimate passions and the same holds true for pornography. When he finally realizes that the attention these girls are giving him is in direct proportion to his available credit, it’s usually too late for his current relationship and the resulting emotional and spiritual damage, if left unchecked, will make it almost impossible to start a healthy romance.
A man can become addicted to this lifestyle just like alcohol or a narcotic. But as with any addiction, eventually the original vice isn’t enough to satisfy the craving and something stronger is needed. What started as only putting a few dollars into a girls G-string on boys’ night out; now becomes weekend golf trips to Costa Rica – with the boys.
My strip club love affair ended well over three years ago and I haven’t set foot back in one since. It took me that long to realize that what I thought was just innocent adult fun was actually self destructive behavior that was keeping me from attaining the relational, emotional, and spiritual goals that I so desperately longed for. I don’t think it’s coincidental that typical strip clubs have names like Illusions, Deja Vu, or Club Fantasy. Because no matter what happens inside, once you walk out those doors and into the light, the real world is still there waiting for you.