feminist strippers and the new sexual standards


elke krystufek

As someone who would like to get a PhD and also owns a closet full of high heels (those super high ones you had on the other night were cute, by the way), let me see if I can (circuitously) try to answer your questions.

I think we were supposed to find the Fleshbot scene hot. And maybe some 90swomen would? Lots have been involved with sex work—or just sexy work—of some kind: feminist strippers, call girls, burlesque dancers, and sexperts abound (and they all seem to have book deals). If you aren’t totally, unequivocally comfortable with all of this stuff—if you are the kind of girl who would leave a somewhat psychotic-sounding message on your boyfriend’s answering machine one night when he was at a bachelor party and it suddenly dawned on you that A STRIP CLUB MIGHT BE INVOLVED—you are considered a big prude. I am still really glad I left that psychotic-sounding message.

I guess there are a few things that make this stuff difficult. One is that we still have a totally unsophisticated, all-or-nothing way of talking about sex. We can’t accept that someone could be fine with porn, but against strip clubs. Or into sexy lingerie, but against, I don’t know, name the sex act of your choice. Sometimes, it’s not even this versus that, but more a matter of degree. I’m not usually a fan of burlesque, but I thought the Belladonna was kind of hot when she was just dancing around. But once the clothes came off, and the dildo came out, I started to feel mildly depressed. Part of this has to do with the fact that I could see guys actually expecting real women wanting to look like and do that—and I’m sorry, who has time to work out all day, learn to striptease, and….you know the rest—whereas girls don’t really expect the same from guys. In fact, I don’t even know what the same from guys would really be. I do know that there were far more naked women on stage at Fleshbot than naked men, and the naked men looked like Kid Rock. (Which is why we developed a slight crush on the indie rock bartender at the nearby bar who played Air Supply. With feeling. Though—and this is actually probably worth pondering—I didn’t actually want to see him naked, either.)

We’ve now had several decades of sexperts and men’s magazines reporting on what women want in bed, but what started out as “hey, pay attention, women should be having orgasms, too” can feel like “oh my god, now guys measure their virility based on how many orgasms I have.” Same old problem, new guise.

What do you think? Is there still pressure for us to live up to a certain sexual standard and what kind of standard is it? Do we have standards we expect our peers—90smen—to live up to? Are they better, worse, the same, when it comes to sexual standards? Which brings us to another issue we discussed: alternaporn.–kara


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