Feel bad about going to strip club, Help!
October 4, 2013 12:37 PM   Subscribe

So I went to a strip club when I was pretty intoxicated and feeling lonely and depressed. Long story short I got a series of lap dances where you were allowed to touch the strippers. I feel tremendous guilt and shame about going there and objectifying women.

I realize that I am not proud of myself, especially because at the time (probably because I was drunk) I was enthusiastic and didn't feel any shame while it was happening. I am not in a relationship currently so I am not worried about the cheating aspect. I just feel like I supported something inappropriate and demeaning. I know it would be dumb to go apologize to the women I received lap dances from but I feel like I should be doing something? Is there anything I can do? I am used to trying to make up for something when I feel shame about my actions but I feel like my hands are tied here, with the only solution I can come to being to never go back.
posted by mrdrummed to Human Relations (39 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If it makes you feel bad you should not do it again. That's it. Don't send flowers, don't send a note -- just don't do it again.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:40 PM on October 4, 2013 [14 favorites]

I'm pretty sure that is how most everyone of us millions of people who watched porn for the first time felt too - a sense of shame and guilt. You're human. You have needs and feelings. It really is okay to have done this once. Now it's over. You don't have to do it again if it makes you feel bad.
posted by HeyAllie at 12:41 PM on October 4, 2013

Hi, I am a lady. I am here to absolve you of your "sins". You're fine. If you feel bad about it, don't go there again. If you feel really bad about it, maybe donate a few bucks to some sort of women's empowerment organization or a crisis hotline for sexual assault. You don't have to, of course. Just a thought, in case YOU feel like you really must make some gesture. But don't let this get you down.
posted by phunniemee at 12:41 PM on October 4, 2013 [48 favorites]

How would you learn about how you'd feel about going to a strip club without going to a strip club? So now you know this isn't something you feel comfortable with, nobody got hurt, and you know you won't visit them again.

I think this is an important life lesson, which is pretty much a good outcome from your evening.
posted by xingcat at 12:44 PM on October 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

Just don't go there again.

If you want an antidote to the feeling of having engaged in the objectification of the dancers, buy this book and read it. The author is brilliant and hilarious and insightful, and it will help you to overcome any returning impulse you might have to go to a strip club ever again.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:46 PM on October 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

I got my curiosity about these places sated when I was a food delivery guy at 17 - the dancers liked our wings. I wasn't even legal to be in there, but no one cared since I was bringing the food. It was exciting, for a high school boy, seeing the nekkid women (and seeing them give me big cash tips) but the overall vibe was so depressing and sleazy that I never wanted to go back.

I probably would have eventually done what you just did, if not for that experience. If you live your life NOT thinking of women the way that the strip club culture promotes,you're doing fine as far as making amends or whatever, in my opinion.
posted by thelonius at 12:48 PM on October 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

I just feel like I supported something inappropriate and demeaning.

Well, unless you have reason to believe these women were coerced, that feeling is not a de facto representation of their individual realities. If you want to do something to help in the fight against coerced and forced sexwork, you could make a donation to support those fighting against sex trafficking.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:53 PM on October 4, 2013 [16 favorites]

I just feel like I supported something inappropriate and demeaning.

Let me start by saying that your feelings are okay, and you didn't do anything wrong and that I think you now know you should probably not go to strip clubs. And that's fine. But your attitude about this is a little, well, haughty.

Back when I worked in that sort of a scene and neighborhood, I knew and interacted with a fair share of dancers (and other women in related lines of work.) I absolutely can't speak for any of them, but I'd think quite a number would take more of an affront to the fact that you think they are demeaning themselves than to the fact that you patronized the business where they work.

The industry has some deep, dark ends. But not every dancer is exploited. Not every dancer is doing it because they have no other choice. At least one -- my former manager at a clothing store -- genuinely loved dancing and even met her husband doing it. I think she does burlesque or stage theater now.

Work is work, people do what they can and what they want and you should let people work and you'd probably feel better if you didn't go around making assumptions about why people do what they do. And definitely don't apologize to anyone because that's, well, straight-up insulting.
posted by griphus at 12:54 PM on October 4, 2013 [35 favorites]

Make a donation to an organization that combats sex trafficking.
posted by BurntHombre at 12:57 PM on October 4, 2013 [5 favorites]

Yeah, as griphus says you're making some pretty serious assumptions here. It seems like this is more about making yourself feel better than about actually addressing any sort of systemic problem. Since that's the case the answer is easy; if it makes you feel bad don't do it again.
posted by Justinian at 12:58 PM on October 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

All work is an exchange of one's time and labor for money. I'm sure you have purchased a hamburger at McDonald's. A hamburger made by someone trading a huge share of their waking life, often mildly injuring themselves, for relatively little pay. You contributed to a system that used their bodies as completely replaceable cogs for little compensation. What would happen if you returned to a McDonald's and found the worker who made your hamburger and apologized for "demeaning" them?
posted by the jam at 12:59 PM on October 4, 2013 [14 favorites]

If you tipped appropriately and did not violate the dancers' boundaries (like not listening if they told you to stop doing something you were doing) and were polite, you were one of the best customers of the evening. Giving lap dances is their job. They expect to give lap dances. If nobody asks them for lap dances, they make no money.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:00 PM on October 4, 2013 [16 favorites]

I've had a number of friends who have danced in such clubs, and friends who've worked in various different classes of sex work, from pro dom to flat out prostitution to, let's be fair, "if he takes me to a nice restaurant I'll sleep with him and bring the leftovers home for my housemate".

All of them (well, except for that latter class, she tends to be a little less up-front about such things) would thank you for your business, hope you had a good time, and hope you came back again to be a repeat customer.

Most of them also view you as a customer in a pretty objectifying way. So take heart: It cuts both ways.
posted by straw at 1:01 PM on October 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

I've talked to quite a few straight men who were surprised to go to clubs and find out they didn't like them. Sometimes guilt, sometimes hygiene, sometimes just plain embarassment. They are not for everyone. Maybe not even for a majority of dudes, for all I know.
posted by emjaybee at 1:08 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

the only solution I can come to being to never go back.

So don't go back. Going to such clubs was something my friends and I would do when I was your age. I outgrew it.

The women who worked there were independent contractors. They provided a service and you paid for it. This is just a business transaction. And, as others have already mentioned, you were the mark. I am sure they extracted a pretty penny from you. They don't want you to come back and apologize - they want you to come back and buy more dances.
posted by Tanizaki at 1:14 PM on October 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

Did you behave yourself well and not make trouble for anyone or require the intervention of a bouncer? Did you pay the women? Then you're golden. "Go forth and sin no more," as they say.

If you want to do something to offset your guilt, assuming you're in the US, donate some money to a local food bank - with the government shutdown having interrupted the WIC program in many places, a lot of hard-up women and kids are having trouble getting what they need.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:19 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just don't go back, dude. Now you know you don't like strip clubs. I had a friend who literally was that girl who danced to put her way through college, and for her it was a job -- a very well-paying job. It's a complicated situation for a lot of women, but don't beat yourself up over it.

I know it would be dumb to go apologize to the women I received lap dances from but I feel like I should be doing something?

Yeah, this would be really patronizing and irritating. They were just doing their job. If you behaved appropriately and tipped well, you have nothing to apologize for.

If you really feel bad, figure out how much you spent at the strip club and donate the same amount to a charity that does some good in the world and consider your karmic scales balanced. And then forget about it. Going to a strip club once does not make you a bad person.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 1:19 PM on October 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

You can't undo what you did, but fortunately, what you did wasn't the end of anyone's world. If it makes you uncomfortable, don't do it again. If you want penance, there are some great suggestions already in the thread, but the best thing you can do is keep being aware of how shitty you felt objectifying women, and just make sure you don't do it again.

The world will be a better place for the lesson you learned.
posted by quin at 1:33 PM on October 4, 2013

I'm going to say this as a former "stripper."

You live in a culture that objectifies and dehumanizes women. It's not all on you. Now that you know you don't love getting lap dances, you never have to do it again. I personally forgive you. You can go out into the world a more observant human, more likely to see the places where your theoretical male privilege intersects with your actual life.

May I reframe the experience for you in a way I haven't really seen yet?

What you did is (speaking only for myself obviously, and we called ourselves "dancers") support me in doing my job. My job was to dance naked, or in some cases, dance while taking off my clothes. The unspoken expectation was that I would let guys handle me, talk to me (OMG so much talky-talky), and generally treat me as a product being sold.

I went into it with a dozen crazy illusions about how "pretty" I am, how "nice," and the like. It didn't take me too long before I saw it as what it is: a sales job. I had two (at the time, now three) kids and a husband in grad school. That shit's not cheap, yo.

To sum up: Are strip clubs sexist? Yes. I want to work every day for the rest of my life to untangle the giant thorny knot of injustice and hate in this world. I know I'm not the only one. We're going to keep picking at it, and I think we're making progress.

I hope you can take the lesson you learned with your experience and turn it into something useful. Not just for yourself but for the world.
posted by S'Tella Fabula at 1:33 PM on October 4, 2013 [41 favorites]

Probably every stripper from whom you got a lap dance went home that night and said to herself for the umpteenth time "I still can't believe guys pay so much money just to have me wiggle in their laps". They probably think you and every other guy who was there are strange unfathomable creatures. I don't know if that makes you feel better or worse, but the fact is, they very well may not have felt exploited - instead, they may see themselves as doing a job that exploits what to them probably seems like a strange aspect of the male gender.
posted by Dansaman at 1:43 PM on October 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

I can't speak for strippers in general, but for a while I worked as a DJ in a strip club, and the specific ones I worked with totally back up what Dansaman and others in the thread have said; it's a job, an often stupidly lucrative job, for women who basically get up on stage in their underwear for about 20 minutes. One flat out told me that she's going to keep doing it until they make her stop, because it was absolutely the easiest money she ever made.

Don't sweat it. for them, it's a job, it may be objectifying and promote some unhealthy habits among the workers, but as long as you didn't do anything against the rules, they most likely just saw you as an anonymous patron and didn't think twice about it.

Beating yourself up over it won't change it, it'll just be something you can learn from.
posted by quin at 2:06 PM on October 4, 2013

I realize that I am not proud of myself, especially because at the time (probably because I was drunk) I was enthusiastic and didn't feel any shame while it was happening.

I'm wondering if you're feeling so bad because you're struggling to accept that, despite your sense of who you are, it turns out that you can go to a strip club and enjoy it? Whatever your reasons for going (and I'm sorry it sounds like you were having a hard time) you were fine while you were there. You know what? That's ok. That's what was happening for you at that moment, it's what you experienced. Maybe you needed to experience it, for whatever reason. The women working there got paid, you got some enthusiasm on a night when you were low, it's all good.

Now, in the cold light of day you're finding it hard because on a cognitive level you don't want to objectify women. That's all good too. That's also part of who you are, and a part that I'm sure is present most of the time. You sound like a good guy.

When we have an image of who we are, and then we act or feel contrary to that, it's unsettling. (I know.) We try to make sense of it by denying the aspect we dont understand, and maybe trying to undo it or compensate for it. "I was drunk...I'll go back and apologise." It might be easier just to accept that there are many different sides to you and they're all ok. The lonely guy who just wanted some female attention or sexual excitement is just as worthy as the socially-conscious guy. Be kind to yourself.
posted by billiebee at 2:13 PM on October 4, 2013 [6 favorites]

I know a woman who is a working prostitute. One of the things she told me was that a lot of her regular clients are lonely men who could go months on end without any human touch if they didn't hire a professional. She's not ashamed of her work, does not feel exploited. She did say that her work isn't without it's emotional conflicts...for her it's sometimes feeling guilty by the thought that she's exploiting her client's loneliness and need for intimacy, other times she feels good about meeting a basic human need. So there's that.

I work in human services and have had several clients who are strippers. When they talk about feeling exploited or objectified, it's by skeezy, asshole club management, not patrons. One woman told me that ridiculously high stage fees, high tip-out rules for bouncers, bartenders, door men etc. rigged the system so much that she might earn $250 a night but would never walk away with more than $100. Sounds great, but that's $24,000 if she works 5 nights a week with no vacation/time off. My clients also talked about feeling utterly helpless in combating horrific sexual harassment and sometimes coerced sex from male owners and staff because, hey, there strippers and what do you expect? Most work under the table and have almost no legal protections - they can't sue for sexual harassment, discrimination or labor law violations, can't claim unemployment if they get fired, don't paid sick leave and can't use FMLA if they have to tend to a sick child/family member.

So...my point is that at the end of the day feeling guilty and ashamed about going to a strip club isn't very useful, it doesn't really help dancers all that much. More than pity and guilt, they need decent work conditions, recognition that it's legitimate work and basic benefits/legal protections that go along with it. So...donate to an organizations that work towards this end. If you decide to go back to a club, ask the women about clubs with the best reputations for treating their dancers well and go to those. Tip well, be polite, say thank you.
posted by space_cookie at 2:43 PM on October 4, 2013 [5 favorites]

I realize that I am not proud of myself, especially because at the time (probably because I was drunk) I was enthusiastic and didn't feel any shame while it was happening. I am not in a relationship currently so I am not worried about the cheating aspect. I just feel like I supported something inappropriate and demeaning. I know it would be dumb to go apologize to the women I received lap dances from but I feel like I should be doing something? Is there anything I can do? I am used to trying to make up for something when I feel shame about my actions but I feel like my hands are tied here, with the only solution I can come to being to never go back.

I think you need to accept those feelings for what they are, just feelings. They are not a measurement of your worth as a human being or anything like that. Accept them when they come up, but then its okay to move on.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:45 PM on October 4, 2013

One simple suggestion: don't drink so much you end up drunk.
posted by Mister Bijou at 2:52 PM on October 4, 2013

Whenever you find yourself feeling guilty in a strip club, or later (about visiting a strip club), tip bigger, or go right back, right away, and tip bigger. Tip until it hurts, and then tip still bigger. Jacksons, Grants, and Benjamins, in multiples, if warranted, according to the stripper's excellence and the size of your guilt. Strip clubs are the one place on Earth still selling indulgences.

A good indulgence is never a cheap indulgence, but maybe you've guessed that, already.
posted by paulsc at 2:53 PM on October 4, 2013

Donate $100 (or another amount that feels appropriate to you) to a women's issues nonprofit like RAINN or Planned Parenthood. Or maybe a kickstarter doing something about rape culture type social issues? What about donating to one of the many organizations out there trying to get girls interested in STEM subjects?

Stop doing shit you'll regret in the morning.

Done and done.
posted by Sara C. at 2:57 PM on October 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Don't self-flagellate. There's no point in it. There's lots of good advice in here about how to contribute to causes that help women. Follow any of those paths, but don't do it to "make up" for that night. Just do it because it's something you care about.

That said, please take care of yourself. I see a lot of loneliness and stress and sadness, but you're focussing all your effort outwards. A little reaction formation now and again isn't a bad thing, but never forget to take care of yourself! Make sure your oxygen mask is on before helping others, etc.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:01 PM on October 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Everything has mostly been said, but anecdata: I went to a very good liberal arts school and had a classmate who put herself through (tuition, dorm, meal plan) as a stripper.

also, you know what's worse than a sobered up dude who feels bad about what he did? a sobered up dude who doesn't. YOU have a conscience! That's good!
posted by jrobin276 at 3:49 PM on October 4, 2013

I just feel like I supported something inappropriate and demeaning.

You did. But not because women are involved, but because management is probably screwing the strippers out of their paychecks.

Is there anything I can do?

Yes. Help in unionizing the entertainers so they earn rather than their employers.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:14 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Spending more time on this, this is EXACTLY how I feel when I have bought stuff at Wal-Mart. Don't beat yourself up...just plan to do something that actually helps the workers in the future.

Then do it.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:50 PM on October 4, 2013

Stripper here. On preview, listen to S'Tella and spacecookie. Don't send flowers and apologies to the club; that will make you seem like an incoming stalker. You haven't supported anything intrinsically "inappropriate and demeaning" and the dancers you spent time with would probably be mildly offended to know that's what you think of their job. Most of the women in the job are performance artists of some kind and are a-ok with being "objectified". You didn't do anything wrong unless, as Sidhedevil said, you think you were so drunk that you were ignoring the dancers' stated boundaries. If you think that happened (that's very different from being excited and having no shame in the moment, but I can't tell from your question) then you've just learned that you need to limit your alcohol use in certain situations.

Also, it really doesn't sound like this was the kind of conduct you engaged in, but I can't overemphasize how wrong paulsc is about, "if your hands are filled with strips of paper featuring portraits of U.S. Grant and Benjamin Franklin, nobody really minds where your hands go, regardless of jurisdiction." Nothing is guaranteed to make all the dancers feel miserable and exploited like that one dude who thinks that his money entitles him to ignore their "no"s and discomfort. Paulsc, what the fuck. If you are that guy, you need to cut that shit out.

Anyway, Mrdrummed, if you want to go back, and you want to make sure your behavior was/is appropriate and OK, scout the place out for an assertive, no-bullshit dancer. Explain that, as a newb, you want to know the rules and make sure you don't make anyone feel violated. However, if paying for sex work is something that you're just not personally comfortable with and which will make you feel awful (note, this is not the same as saying that the profession is demeaning etc), please respect YOUR boundaries, and don't go back. Please take care of yourself, and don't combat your loneliness with activity that is self-destructive and will make you feel like a bad person.

Also, if you really feel like you need to perform some kind of restitution and you're in a financial position to do so, donate money to a nearby free clinic or to Planned Parenthood. Dancers come from all across the socioeconomic board, but I guarantee that every club has a number of women (remember they are all paid under the table) who rely on these services for medical care and emergencies.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 5:48 PM on October 4, 2013 [14 favorites]

Mod note: As usual, everyone, this is not the place for debate or general theorizing.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:21 PM on October 4, 2013

i don't think you need to do anything other than not go back to the clubs. if you really want to do something i think the idea of donating or getting involved in anti-trafficking work would be great. the orgs that i know of are not for sale campaign, stop the traffik, international justice mission and love 146. try not to beat yourself up over this.
posted by wildflower at 6:33 PM on October 4, 2013

To sum up: Are strip clubs sexist? Yes.

i just want to respond to this because i think it addresses your underlying guilt: No, i don't think strip clubs are sexist. at least, if you define sexism as prejudice or discrimination based on a person's sex.

strip clubs provide a service. enough men want that service to make them economically viable. if enough women wanted that kind of service there would be strip clubs for them too (in fact there are some, but not many) but many women don't want that service. yes, yes, it's a counterfactual, and in the 1950s there would be a back-lash, but since about the 1980s, if many women woke up one day and wanted that kind of thing i'd bet money you start seeing strip clubs spring up for women too.

so, that is all an argument for why it's more of a thing that it's just not for you, rather than a thing that is inherently bad.
posted by cupcake1337 at 6:58 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

You did nothing wrong. It's the job of those women to do lap dances, and you paid them we'll for their services. There is nothing demeaning about being a stripper, as long as people respect strippers, which they should. They are beautiful and work hard for their money.
posted by w0mbat at 9:01 PM on October 4, 2013

You got drunk enough to help these naked ladies pay their rent. Whatever. It's kind of a sick business, and now you know.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:30 PM on October 4, 2013

Is there anything you can do about feeling lonely and depressed?
Or/and is there a better way to cheer yourself up if you do end up feeling this way? (Because everyone gets that way sometimes.)

That's the avenue I'd be exploring right now.
posted by Omnomnom at 7:18 AM on October 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

You did it. You enjoyed it, at least while drunk. You didn't hurt anybody. Lots of men have done it and lived to tell the tale. Probably 100% of guys have masturbated while watching internet porn.

It's part of your experience, but it hasn't changed who you are. If you feel bad about it, well, everyone does things they feel bad about. Put it behind you and go on with your life.
posted by KRS at 8:02 PM on October 5, 2013

« Older Looking for romance novels where "still waters run...   |   Massachusetts employment Finder Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.