Strip Club Aftermath
February 6, 2019 10:09 AM   Subscribe

I had my bachelorette party last weekend. It was a ton of fun and my friends organized an incredible night out. However, we went to the strip club and ever since I've felt this intense, surging embarrassment and a sense of "trauma" associated with the event.

I don't feel any remorse over going to a strip club, or seeing naked dancers - it was getting a lap dance from male strippers, in front of my friends, and the lap dancers guiding my hands all over their very naked bodies that has led to some very confused, almost painful feelings. I remember not being able to look at the guys in the face (my friends later remarked that one of them was very cute but I honestly could not even remember his face because I was trying so hard to block it out of my mind). I also remember thinking that I wanted it to stop, but not being able to vocalize a hard "no" because my friends had already paid for them (I have a hard time asserting myself in situations any way, and this was the cherry on top). After the fact, I try to rationalize it as - it wasn't like they were touching ME, but I felt shame taking a shot out of one guy's crotch, and having MY hands over another guy's ass. It was a huge disconnect from what I wanted to do and what I felt comfortable with, with what my hands were doing.
We also went to see girl's strip (no lap dances) and also got a body shot from a girl, but I felt much more comfortable. I am not attracted to girls but I felt no shame, no embarrassment about this. The guys were so much more aggressive...
When I got home, I was incredibly horny and had sex with my fiancé multiple times that day, so at least that's one good part of this story?
I've talked about it with my fiancé, told him what happened, and he's very cool and nonchalant about it, so I really don't know where my feelings are coming from. I do come from a conservative culture regarding sex and sexuality, so I wonder if that has anything to do with it? I don't have the same value system however; I had sex before marriage and all of the things my culture really frowns upon. I just don't know how to move past it. Now I'm overthinking how my face and my reactions looked around my friends, so it's being accompanied with some social anxiety as well....
posted by raintree to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
did the dancers ask if it was ok to hold your hands run them over their bodies, or take the shot before they did so? if not, I say not cool.
posted by brujita at 10:15 AM on February 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

It sounds like you had a non-consensual sexual encounter. That's why you feel crappy and it's entirely reasonable. I'm not sure where you go from here, but I think at the very least you need to give yourself permission to feel upset about that. You don't have to be sexually conservative to not consent to something. You can have different values from your culture and decide that anything with anyone and anytime is not for you. Shedding sexual conservatism does not then require you to always be up for anything. It's ok not to consent and it's not ok that if whatever you're not consenting to happens anyway.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:21 AM on February 6, 2019 [29 favorites]

I think the whole strippers thing can seem fun in theory, but you are far from the first person to look back on the experience with extreme mortification and shame. Some women get really into it and have a lot of fun, but I think it's pretty normal to be totally overwhelmed and embarrassed. I went to a male strip club in Quebec with some friends back in college, and I was surprised by how shocked and freaked out I was by the experience- and that was without any touching or being touched. Most of us aren't really accustomed to being in hypersexualized situations, especially involving strangers. Sometimes strange and vaguely unsettling feelings like this just need to be processed for a few days, like if you ate something weird. I think with time this will recede into a story about how you realized you don't really like going to male strip clubs.
posted by cakelite at 10:21 AM on February 6, 2019 [14 favorites]

Thank you all, for validating how I felt. No, I didn't consent to touching them. In all of the situations my hands were grabbed and forced to feel their bodies.
posted by raintree at 10:27 AM on February 6, 2019

raintree, that sucks. You absolutely had non-consensual sexual encounters with those strippers and no wonder you feel shitty. I completely understand why it would feel impossible or be impossible to say no out loud during the experience. Please be gentle with yourself and get whatever support you may need to feel better. It is okay to feel crappy about this. Reasonable, even. I am so sorry that your friends did not understand what was happening and that the strippers did not ask for your consent. Hang in there!
posted by Bella Donna at 10:37 AM on February 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

There are two sides to consent.

1. Do you feel as if anything you did violated the dancers' consent? Like you touched a person in a way THEY did not give permission for? That would be a reasonable thing to feel guilty about. It seems unlikely that you did this given that you weren't the one leading the interaction, but I guess it's still possible. Thinking about what happened, how the other people reacted, and who "led" each moment might help you release some of that flavour of guilt, if applicable.

2. It does sound like the dancers who held your hands and put them on their bodies didn't really respond to the "I do not consent to this" signals you were giving. Your communication was not as explicit as saying "no", but but was very probably still noticeable (you likely stiffened up physically, in addition to avoiding eye contact, and getting quiet).

I don't know much about strip club culture but I guess I could see how it might be possible for dancers to think that being in a strip club, especially as the guest of honour, is blanket consent? (Not that I agree with that). Or perhaps they did read your lack of enthusiasm and try to respect it by doing "less" with you than they would with someone who had been whooping and playing along. I don't know. But thinking about this might help you be more specific about what parts of the experience felt bad, which might be helpful.

Another thought: sex and sexuality are considered kind of shameful in many cultures- including North American!! The US has a bit of a self-described reputation for being "free" but actually it's very puritanical and slut-shaming, especially about women's desire.

So behaving in a more sexual manner than usual, or having stronger sexual feelings than usual, often brings up shame feelings, even if you didn't do anything that deserves shame (For instance violating someone's consent does deserve shame! But mutual sexual behaviour with a consenting partner doesn't deserve shame at all. And having your consent violated definitely doesn't deserve shame).

So: just because you FEEL shame doesn't mean you DESERVE to feel shame.

Also: just because you felt aroused in the moment, or when thinking back about it later, doesn't mean you consented, or that you wanted to in the moment, or that you ever want to again. Arousal is an animal response that's not fully connected to our rational brains.

Each thing is separate. What you wanted, what actually happened, how you felt in the moment, and how you felt after. It's totally normal and ok if your feelings about each of those separate things don't "match". Sex is complex and can be confusing, and that's totally normal!

If you feel you DO deserve some shame feelings (which in my opinion is ONLY if you violated another person's consent), there may be ways to process and release those feelings (journalling, therapy, mindful and considerate and consensual apology to the person, planning how to act better in future, act of penance like donating to a sexual assault charity, etc).

I hope with some time and thought and distance, you are able release all the shame feelings you don't deserve to carry.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:38 AM on February 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

"It was a huge disconnect from what I wanted to do and what I felt comfortable with."

"I really don't know where my feelings are coming from."

I think you have all your answers already - you just aren't trusting yourself enough! Setting aside whether or not the dancers gave you their consent or sought your consent (since others upthread have analyzed this quite thoroughly) I think it's enough to recognize that some part of this experience didn't sit right with you and that your feelings are a totally logical extension of that.

It's tough to know what to "do" with your emotions in this situation. I fear that your friends may not be open to having a serious discussion about the aftermath here. If they didn't anticipate that you might not appreciate a lapdance, or notice your discomfort at the strip club, they might not be very sensitive.

I think the best way to find a silver lining here is to continue to reflect upon ways that you can assert yourself in future scenarios. This is not about beating yourself up over the past, it's about learning and observing. Keep your eyes open when you see others setting boundaries successfully. What words do they say? What tone do they use? What parts of their techniques could you adopt?
posted by cranberrymonger at 10:44 AM on February 6, 2019

It's okay to feel the feelings that you're feeling. Part of this seems that you are mad at yourself for not vocalizing, for these things happening and that you're complicit in some way. So feel the feelings. If you need to talk to someone, that's a good conversation for a therapist or even your fiancé or a trusted friend.

Your brain is really beating yourself up for this, which happens, and it's okay to just feel that and hopefully, with time, you can let it go.

Also, I get worrying that you somehow behaved in a way that made your friends unhappy or questioned, but you didn't and it's okay. You were in a new situation and you discovered you didn't want to be there. In time, I hope the shame turns into a lesson about trusting yourself and your needs. It won't be a "positive" experience, but a learning one which is important too.

Was alcohol involved? I have often felt INTENSE shame over something I didn't want to be doing after a night of drinking. Not because I blacked out or anything, though it does fuzz up your memory at the best of times, but I think the depressant properties put me in a mental funk and let me rumination just go wild. These feelings felt like a mental hangover and did go away or lesson a lot in a few days.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:52 AM on February 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Nthing that this was a non-consensual sexual encounter and that your feelings are completely valid. Also, FWIW, this would have made me extremely uncomfortable but I'm fairly confident my friends know me well enough that they wouldn't plan anything like this in the first place, you know? That might be something to think about.
posted by MysteriousSympathy at 11:12 AM on February 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Not because I blacked out or anything, though it does fuzz up your memory at the best of times, but I think the depressant properties put me in a mental funk and let my rumination just go wild. These feelings felt like a mental hangover and did go away or lesson a lot in a few days.

I second this. Give it a few days. Waaaaay back, we took a fairly conservative, buttoned-up friend to a male strip club. I wasn't involved in choosing the club or arranging the lap dance. It was definitely like, "You're going to do this wild thing! It'll be fun!" We watched a few lap dances before it was her turn and they were pretty tame. Unknown to us, we "lucked" out and got this rockstar, body-builder type who...really brought the show. Part of the show (for us) was the daggers the bride-to-be was shooting at us as this dance got more and more...uh...acrobatic. Though he didn't place her hands on him, there was lots of contact and...well, it was not really what any of us were expecting.

One thing to consider in all this is that the dancers are working. And they are working the crowd as much as the person getting the lap dance. So if they think they can work up the crowd to give more tips, they will. Secondly, they are probably used to many of their guests being shy and reticent because women just don't really do strip clubs as a thing, really. The power angle is so different and I think probably some of the dancers do have to 'force' an interaction so that there's an actual show happening. But, yes, that can feel aggressive and transgressive if you don't find yourself in for that thing.

Give it a few days. And if any of your friends brings it up like, "You sure had a great time..." nudge-nudge then you can inform them, "Yeah, that was a weird scene and while I was caught up in a moment, it actually made me really uncomfortable - good to know that I won't be doing that again."
posted by amanda at 11:15 AM on February 6, 2019 [8 favorites]

Most people find strip clubs gross. It's a transgressive experience by design. For some people it's titillating and disinhibiting to have those boundaries violated; for some people it's disgusting and traumatic. Now you know it's not for you.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:38 AM on February 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Validation ahoy: My sister-in-law's bachelorette party involved a visit to a strip club and I declined to go because I felt it would be gross and traumatic, so I stayed home at her parents' house while the rest of them went, and everyone thought I was a wet-blanket snobby bitch, and, well, that was fun. But if I had it to do over I still wouldn't go, because strip clubs are gross and traumatic. This sounds like an experience that many people would find upsetting, probably even lots of people who would organize or attend it because it's the kind of thing you're supposed to do at a bachelorette party. Now you know something about yourself, and you never have to participate in anything like this ever again.
posted by HotToddy at 12:22 PM on February 6, 2019 [7 favorites]

[A few comments deleted. If you're a person who likes strip clubs that's fine, but it's really not relevant to the OP. The OP had a bad time. It's okay for people not to like going to strip clubs.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:44 PM on February 6, 2019 [8 favorites]

One more thing, Emily Nagoski in her book, Come As You Are, has a nice discussion of how bodies can get physically turned on in situations where our brains are not - so feeling horny when you got home in no way erases that discomfort that you experienced not does it imply an enjoyment or consent to what was happening.
posted by metahawk at 1:20 PM on February 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

You were forced into arousal -- which is something victims of rape have reported and are often ashamed of.

Your feelings are absolutely valid regardless of your cultural background and prior sexual experience.
posted by jamjam at 4:22 PM on February 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

I'm a (female) stripper. I'm so sorry for what happened and how it made you feel. I want to validate those feelings and emphasize that what you experience might be common at strip clubs with male dancers (I don't know) but it is NOT best practice, because it can lead people to feel violated, shamed, and traumatized.

You may not want to hear from a stripper right now, and that’s understandable and okay. In that case, please skip this comment (or ask the mods to delete it). But if you’re up for it, to the extent that my experience in the female-stripper side of the industry may be helpful, here are a few thoughts on what was going on, what should have been going on, and why you may feel the way you do.


The two-way consent thing is CRITICAL and something that can be lost on some strippers because many things that are intimate in the rest of the world are business in a strip club. The big cognitive disconnect is “your hands on my body” vs. “my hands on you.” You note that the stripper did not touch you. I think that this is because he somehow remembered that he would need consent to touch you (say, on the breasts), but forgot or ignored the fact that having you touch his ass still needs YOUR consent. The latter probably arises from the fact that customers are always trying to touch his ass and probably more, and in the moment, he forgot or ignored the fact that not every customer in there actually does want to touch his ass. But NONE of that justifies what happened to you.

In terms of best practices: I never put someone's hands on my body, ever, EVER. Must customers immediately put their hands on my body to start, usually without asking. (Some of course try to do much more without asking.) But for a customer that does not try to touch me—one who starts out by being respectful, with his hands on the seat, deliberately not touching me? I draw positive attention to this. "Thank you for starting with your hands in this respectful position! You earn good Stripper Karma." (Word for word, no exaggeration.) I will then notify him where he is allowed to touch me, should he want to. And while I’m using the pronoun “he” here, I also dance for female customers, and it’s the same deal. I do not want anyone to feel the way you were made to feel.


The group dynamics here are another point of concern. Being touched without your consent is horrible to begin with. Being touched without your consent while people watch and encourage it is even more horrible. Being touched without your consent while your friends watch it, encourage it, and fund it— that’s an even higher level of trauma for most people, I think. The trauma and shame you feel is almost certainly exacerbated by the fact that the people who should have had your back didn’t. It screws with your ability to recognize situations that are and aren’t safe.

In terms of best practices: I've "danced" for guys who did not want a lap dance and were only getting one from me because their friends paid for it and pressured them. In these cases, after reading the situation—not-so-drunk quieter guy who is showing no interest in getting a dance + more-drunk louder friends who are shoving money into my hands—I often take the friends' money, walk the guy off the main floor away from his friend to the private dance area, and ... sit and chat. The friends on the main floor can envision a steamy scene, but that's not what's happening. The guy always seems grateful to have a few minutes away from his rowdy friends, as well as the opportunity to "save face" with his friends. (Super crummy that he is made to feel a need to "save face," of course.)


Humans are biologically wired to feel aroused when exposed to certain things (like naked people). That is ENTIRELY SEPARATE from consent. Arousal and consent are entire fucking solar systems apart. You are allowed to feel both aroused and traumatized. It is normal.


I'm struggling to phrase this part because I don't want to sound like I am defending the conduct of the male stripper; I am only explaining some context about strip clubs that I don't think is always obvious to members of the public. Please read with that in mind, and I truly apologize if any parts are phrased poorly or unhelpful.

Stripping is a really hard job, including for male strippers. People pay to work. It's not uncommon for costs per shift to run more than a hundred bucks. On a good day, that's not a problem, but on a bad day, it can be one. And "good" and "bad" does not correlate at ALL to the number of people in the club. (Quality of customers > quantity of customers.) There is a lot of pressure to not just recoup your costs, but to make $$$$$, because the public shames you for doing this job.* The best way to justify it to the public is by saying, "Yeah, but at least I'm making $$$$$." Even if a lot of people still don't respect sex workers, they tend to respect a sex worker making "$$$$$" more than a sex worker making "negative $$$." The financial pressure you feel on a bad shift—it’s hard to describe, and I’ll save it for a separate comment. But suffice to say, with all that in mind, the stripper in this situation might have been looking at your friend who was paying and thought that the best way to keep the money coming was to put on a show—a show that wasn’t really for you as much as it was for her. His focus was probably just on working the crowd.

But that does NOT make what happened to you okay.

*I’m a little concerned about commenters characterizing strip clubs as "gross." I assume in good faith that this is a shorthand way of expressing personal feelings relating to trauma, in the important pursuit of validating the OP's feelings. But please consider that such language can unintentionally perpetuate awful attitudes towards sex workers, leading to sex workers to feel unable to report sexual assault and violence. (Ask me how I know.) Ultimately, we want to rid sexual assault and violence for everyone. But that's a separate comment. For now, OP, I just want to emphasize that your feelings are valid and that this shouldn't have happened like it did.

IN SUMMARY: I am a stripper, and I would be upset if what happened to you had happened to me.
- Regarding your fiance: I am glad that your fiance was "cool" when you told him about "what happened." I hope he is also SUPPORTIVE if/when you tell him about your FEELINGS—because they are valid feelings and you deserve to be supported.
- Regarding your friends: Based just on your question, I don't know enough about the dynamics of your friendships to know what would be helpful here. You say that you struggle with being assertive. If your friends don't support you if/when you explain your feelings to them, then they do not deserve you as a friend.
- Regarding you: Self-care. Do something for YOU, right now, tonight. Food? Yoga? Bubble bath? Television? Do it. Longer term, think about who in your life understands and validates these feelings, and who doesn't. You might not want to go to therapy for this, but maybe you do, and if you think it might help you feel better—tomorrow, next month, next year—please consider it. Trauma is a good reason to go to therapy. Also, you mentioned that you struggle with being assertive. A good therapist could help with that.

If you have any particular questions or would like to chat more, please feel free to MeMail me. I'm so sorry for what you're feeling right now.
posted by Peppermint Snowflake at 6:02 PM on February 6, 2019 [41 favorites]

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