Weekday Strippers I Have Known

 In the first of a multi-part series of posts about strip clubs, Ryan Björklund describes a typical weekday at one such establishment.


Womb of the weekday. Where the saddest of men go to buy sexual frustration and a broad variety of female attention. This neon-hued den of iniquity is not merely a collection of fatherless lasses lifting bountiful heaps of American dollars from the pockets of schmucks. No sir, this place is touted by all as the premier place for adult entertainment in Allegheny County.

I sit at the bar, sipping (gulping?) at the appalling mass of ice cubes that once was Jack Daniel’s and Diet Coke. The bartender has disappeared. I’m dividing my attention among my watch, a lopsided baseball game on the television above the stage, and a run-of-the-mill “alluring” feminine meatball who is shimmying before me beneath the aforementioned television in alternating shades of red and purple.

“You just posted up and chillin’? Feelin’ your swagger, baby. You (want) a dance?” she slurs at me while undulating on all fours. She begins to twirl a strand of her dark, chemically-frozen hair the way she saw women in the movies (some movies, anyway) do it. I’m close enough to see where the powdered crow’s feet have begun to drive the youth out of her face. Early to mid-thirties, I’d guess. As her goofily made-up eyes survey me, I begin to notice the half-moon scar between her thorax and pelvis. The result of a knife-fight, or a Caesarean section? I remain uncertain. I am influenced by the alcohol. She is also influenced by the alcohol, assumedly along with plenty of crap television – so much that the front of her brain may as well have already died.

This is not entirely unlike a request for spare change from a homeless person, appealing to the altruistic impulses of passersby. Perhaps I am being gauged by this young woman for my propensity to empathize. Within the damp locker rooms of strip clubs across America, this tactic is commonly referred to as “finding Captain Save-A-Ho”: the process of identifying a moderately wealthy man who feels the pangs of his white-collar remorse to the point that he would offer to undo the awful plight of a career dancer by parting a lump sum of his disposable income. Captain Save-A-Ho, I am not. Nor am I Lieutenant Save-A-Ho. Foregone aspiration.

“Guffaw!” I guffaw. Such an approach suffices to make me uncomfortable. Her lower jaw hangs open. I wonder if that is simply how she breathes, or if it is just a clever ruse to expose the pink and purple flickering of an LED tongue ring in order to beckon my reconsideration?

I explain that I plan to head out soon, and ask if anyone has ever mistaken her for Winnie Cooper.

“Winnie Cooper? Who the fuck is that?”

She did not grasp my Wonder Years reference. Must be younger than I had initially diagnosed. This slightly more scar-bellied and crow’s-footed Winnie Cooper crawls away and engages the patron across from me in a similar conversation while still slowly gyrating her wobbling ass meat, conserving energy by exerting minimal effort. The other patron appears interested. She leans on her haunches and tosses her head back in a quick swoop of hair. She cups her breasts in her hands as she moves like a snake to the enchanted robotic harmonizing of T-Pain vocals. I wonder whether bruised fruit is just as good for you; I wonder if I’ll ever have a daughter.

I am among the younger crowd, the late twenty-somethings who realize they’ve outlived their state college Kappa Beta Epsilon glory days and are beginning to accept their early-onset Willy Loman-hood. For a Thursday, we are plentiful. Most of us will slink home to our Linda Lomans, our shirts and pants coated with stringy, unfamiliar hairs that have been matted with glittery lotion and thinned out by friction. Twenty American dollars a song for an intimate dance in plain view of all patrons. Fifty dollars for a wristband, which gains you access to the private champagne room. One hundred dollars for a bottle of champagne, and then two hundred more dollars for thirty minutes of uninterrupted booty-grinding and frustrated crotch-adjusting.

Surely that chases everyone’s blues away. A haven of depravity where you’re able to get up close and personal with a cast of leading-you-on ladies. Situations raising questions of cleanliness and safety that are quickly dispensed with via drunken rationalizations. The last time I had entered such a dungeon, I was near enough to the stage to wonder if the star of the show had simply shaved her pubic scrape a shade too closely, or had recently endured a blacked-out night that ended with her squirming impatiently in line at the pharmacy. Enough: such vagrant thoughts are of scant importance when seeking solace in the lair of the troubled.

I gargle my ice cubes and look to find a path to the exit that is unobstructed by wanton flesh tradeswomen. On my way to the door, I watch as a flock of sweaty vixens clamor around a bald, gray-bearded man at the ATM.

So begins the weekend.

 

Photo–Ryan Bjorklund

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Ryan Bjorklund

While a high school junior, Ryan Björklund went to Australia on a student exchange program. Although an invaluable experience for him, it also depleted all the money he had accumulated for college tuition. Upon receiving zero scholarships despite scoring above-average on the ACT, he joined the US Army and served from 2006-2012, working as an ammo supply specialist, engineer, and cavalry scout. He was honorably discharged as a 19D20 (SGT) cavalry scout from Ft. Bliss, TX and now lives in Pittsburgh.

Comments

  1. Cheese and rice, dude, strippers are human beings doing an (often crappy) job to bring home a paycheck, not a zoo exhibits for you to gawk at with pity and disgust. Your palpable contempt for these cardboard caricatures of slatternly strippers and pathetic patrons is both mean-spirited and boring.

    A nuanced article about strip club culture would be interesting. This piece is just lazy, smug, and small-minded.

    • Dripping, as your response is, with ressentiment, it’s no surprise to me that you’ve failed to see the picture of depravity and despair that was intended by the author. Yes, it is far easier to scour a text in search of the cues that reinforce the vision of misogyny lurking around every corner than it is to ask questions about a text. No, it doesn’t make you Judith Butler.
      A couple of questions that you might have asked:
      What is the author doing in such a place if he plans to trade in smugness? Wouldn’t his participation preclude such a perspective?
      What could he *possibly* mean by including the aside about bruised fruit and possibly having a daughter?

      Anyway, after you thoroughly dismantle my response as yet another assault on womankind, you should surf on over to Amazon so that you can write a review of ‘Death of a Salesman’ that reveals it for the hate-filled attack on the working class that it clearly is.

      • The piece read smug to me. Disgusted, yes, but smug and judgmental on several levels. I got the sense everyone else in the club were the depraved and despairing and he was just judging it, cynically. Wasn’t really connected to him as a character, of the pain he might be feeling. That could be expanded on.

        I didn’t see any compassion, just cynicism. But if that’s the point, then that certainly came across.

    • I concur.

  2. Look, I hate strip clubs. I hate that a lot of men with women at home will pay to or just go to watch other women, that aren’t his, titilate his senses while a bunch of his buddies stand around him gawking and drooling over strange naked female parts while their girlfriend or wife is at home (She most likely isn’t out gawking at hot naked men are putting herself in an environment to titilate herself with naked men). I hate that this is such a right of passage for men it’s heavily justified behavior for men to partake in “once-in-awhile”. Whatever that means because stepping out on your partner or family “once-in-awhile” is healthy to beging with? And yes, I think visiting strip clubs is stepping out on your family so you can live in fantasy land for a couple hours and forget all about all the stuff you should be thankful you got at home. I hate that guys of all ages, 21 to 70+ will go go to oggle the same group of girls that most likely, more times then not, do excel over the age of 30. I hate that being 30 is considered old to men when you are a woman. And i hate, that strippers seem to hold this strange hold on men that makes them overthrow their own partners for a few hours in favor of said strippers…..

    But I kind of got to agree with Mayfly that this piece is mean. I don’t think you were being smug, I think you were trying to capture the sad environment you found yourself in instead of creating a fantasy about what a lot of people may think strip clubs are. But there is a way to be raw and honest about an environment and how someone looks and translating it better then this.

    • But there is a way to be raw and honest about an environment and how someone looks and translating it better then this.
      Question. How would a “better” translation would have gone?

      • There is a way to translate sensivity and kindness in a piece while keeping it real about the circumstance of any given situation. I would have to rewrite the article to give you a concrete example and I’m not willing to do that. There are many pieces at GMP that talk about difficult and sad subject matters yet still respect the people that are being talked about. I don’t get the impression that that was done here.

        • Fair enough on not wanting to rewrite. I’m just trying to get an understanding of what you mean. By chance could you point out an article here that does show sensitivity and kindness while still keeping real?

          Please believe me when I say I’m not trying to patronize you or something malicious.

  3. Michael says:

    All Right!

  4. I agree with Erin and Mayfly, there was a depressing kind of mean spiritedness to this article. It seemed like the theme was, “wow what a bunch of losers who’ve stooped so low that they allow themselves to be entertained by ancient 30-somethin-year-old(!!) strippers with, ugh, belly scars! Gross!”

  5. Rory Birchant says:

    If you were looking for a story of overcoming tribulations and commiseration – you must look elsewhere.

    Perhaps it would be best to first read this: http://goodmenproject.com/ethics-values/why-is-the-moustache-club-of-america-on-the-good-men-project/

    Specifically, where it states:

    “Where, exactly, does the MCoA fit? We’re hoping to offer a bit of everything: cultural commentary, sportswriting, comedy, flash fiction, slice-of-life vignettes, and much more. What links us to the GMP is not so much our subject matter as our deadly seriousness about evaluating issues of “goodness.” Can satire make you a good person? Can critiquing the media’s obsession with obese cats make you a good person? No, of course not–but reading our work might help you realize why we should attempt to become better people, more reasonable people, people for whom irony–in its various conventional, slipshod definitions–is a bad word indeed. ”

    Great writing! Eager to see the next installment.

  6. I think Ryan was trying to give an angle (one of many) on just what brings men to these clubs. And I think he’s right. Its the proverbial retched hive of scum and villany where the so called scum (the men that are there watching) thinks of the dancers as scum as well (and the reason I said “one of many” is because I don’t think we can presume that all who go to strip clubs think of the dancers as scum).

    Are some of the people that think this could have been written differently or been more nuanced were expecting a prettier article? There is no shortage of people that would be quick to say that when it comes to men going to strip clubs its not pretty. And the picture that Ryan paints (with himself as a part of the image) is just that, not pretty.

    If Ryan had written this as someone on the outside looking in would it have been more appealing? to men he’s writing as someone on the inside looking around.

    • So, I’m all for showing despair. I have no issue with despair. Nor do I need pretty. And clearly, there is despair in this piece. I just sensed it to be an incredibly smug and cynical piece. There wasn’t any pathos or compassion. Well, the one line about bruised fruit and daughters shows me he COULD get there, showing the extraordinarily complex combination of despair and hope that must be buried in the club, in the men, in the women working. In the owners bleeding money out of customers.

      So, personally as a reader/writer I’d want to see another draft.

      He’s alluding to all of those painful, complex, deep and dark dynamics (which are tainted with the most tempting and difficult emotions of hope as well as personal illusion) when he discusses Willy Loman. But I didn’t feel that he hit that sweet spot and erred on the side of disgust and cynicism.

      Maybe that’s just the state of the world between 1949 and 2012. Less hope, more disgust.

      • I guess that I see the potential to take the Loman story and theme it here more-so much loss, so much lying to the self, so much bitter hope, wives ignoring the reality in front of them, dancers working the situation with a dream that they know is dead.

        Respect for the characters is the thing I may be missing here. These are characters that may not even have respect for themselves. How do we get bought into the story, believe in their world, feel difficult emotions about them, if the piece is written in disgust of them? And if the writer doesn’t respect any of them, or himself in that world, then it’s a piece not only of despair but self loathing.

      • Maybe its just my mental state but instead of smugness I got a feeling of, “Look at all these people crawling around in filth. And you see that filthy guy right there holding the ice cube remains of a Jack Daniel’s and Diet Coke? That’s me.” I wasn’t sure he was going for compassion as much as a moment of “look at how disgusting we are”.

        And given that this is part one of a planned series there is the possibility that the hope will come later.

        I agree that more hope would be good but I think that lunging at Ryan like this after an estblished part one of a series might be premature.

        (At the same time I can’t help but notice the seemingly gendered lines of the folks in these early comments.)

        • Of course you do. I”m not worried about the gender at all, Danny. I just am commenting that personally, the piece seems to lack compassion for it’s characters. I want to see MORE not less, Danny.
          I’m not lunging at him, I’m giving him feedback because it’s clear he’s attempting something big here. And I want more depth and more pathos and less disgust. Now, he is free to disagree all he wants. His piece.

          If he wants me, as a reader to be disgusted by the men and women of the club, he’s succeeded. If he wants me to crave knowing more about this world, why it’s occurred, the complexity of where the disgust has come from, I’m not there with him.

          • Oh no the gendered lines aren’t cause for worry. Just cause for observation.

            The reason made the lunging comment is because its part one in a series.

            Like I say this may speak to my mental state or something but he actually has my interest (namely because I’m hoping he will answer the “what were the men thinking?” inquiries that Erin mentions) here. He may fall flat in the end but I want to hear it out.

    • I am not looking for pretty in this article Danny. I don’t think the fact that it isn’t a pretty one or described prettily is the problem. Getting to the grit of issues is great. But there is less focus on the grit of the issue and most of the article seems to be about the strippers physical and mental state with a few comments thrown in here and there about the men. Being a guy and all, perhaps he could have let us into his own emotional and mental pscyology better or what he thought the men were experieincing or why the men where there to begin with.

      He refers to her as a “feminine meatball” .He assumes she was in a knife-fight because she is a stripper and has a scar on her belly. He says, “…the front of her brain may as well have already died” because she was influenced by alcholol and TV was playing in the club. .And the men’s brains? Who knows. The author doesn’t say anything about the men in that regard despite them being influcenced by the same thing. He doesn’t call the men meat. He doesn’t denounce their mental capacity. He just says they are sad and long for days past.

      He compres the stripper to being a homeless person who is “appealing to the altruistic impulses of passerby”…so men in strip clubs are altruistic now? Then he goes on to talk about “Captain Save-A-Ho”. Where the men are once again given a higher position over women. Women are “hos” and he’s the great man calling her a ho” and saving her at the same time. He’s the big strong Captain. He refers to her “wobbling ass meat”.. Which convey’s a level of misogonism. He could have said, “shaking ass” and the same message would have been conveyed and sounded less hateful. And while he is watching said stripper he seems to hold contempt for, he wonders if he will have a daughter. …. Ummm okay. A good chunk of this piece focused on how the stripper looked, how her body failed to meet expectations how her brain seemed “dead”.

      I would have liked ot know more about his personal emotional and mental experience then just a discription of what he found sad and lacking in the stripper while he inferred the men in the club where these benevolent beings and she was something like a homeless person.

      • I’ll agree that he could have said more about the men in that club but at the same time it’s part of a planned series. If this were a single stand alone post I’d but all for the criticisms being said here. You are asking valid questions (especially about your “what were those guys thinking” inquiries)but how do we know that Ryan isn’t already planning on getting to them later (or maybe even someone has asked something he didn’t think of and will incorporate it later)?

        He compres the stripper to being a homeless person who is “appealing to the altruistic impulses of passerby”…so men in strip clubs are altruistic now?
        I don’t think he was trying to say that men in strip clubs are altruistic. I think he was trying to make a to the stripper/patron relationship (I think it might be worth looking into how there are some men who patronize strip clubs and really do think they are being altruistic though and also bear in mind that just as there are men who go into these clubs with that mentality they are doing so with a bullseye, because they are seen as more likely to give up money).

        And I don’t think the “Captain Save-A-Ho” is really an elevation of men over women, especially when one considers what that means. Guys like that are targetted because they are regarded as easy marks. Its basically a sign that says, “I’m here to help you poor women out. Take my money!!!”. The elevation is a mask at best and a falsehood at worst. Being regarded as a dope with an easily accesible wallet is not elevation to me.

        • Agreed Danny

        • I don’t know what his plans are for future articles. All I can do is comment on the information that was or wasn’t presented in the context of this article and what I may have found more helpful. After all, you did ask me what I thought this article could have done differently. Perhaps Ryan is planning on talking about that more later. But I can’t hypothesis about that regarding how this article stands. I still think a good chunk of the article focused on the strippers mental and physical state. And it wasn’t even done in a way that, despite the depravity, called for any sensitivity toward her.

          If the author was trying to convey that some men that visit strip clubs consider themselves altruistic for giving strippers money, then say that. And explain why. I certainly don’t know. Comparing the strippers to homeless people and the men as some benevolent kind money giver doesn’t do much to explain that. I would be interested in what Ryan was trying to convey with that so maybe he can shed some light on that one.

          I will politely disagree with you regarding the “Captain Save-A-Ho” comment. Think of it like this. What if women had a phrase, “Queen Save-A-Pig/Jerk”, (Insert whatever euphemism we could use to apply some negative name calling toward men), do you think that comment is flattering, especially toward men that would be the target of the specific name calling? I understand the phrase has it’s roots in describing men that feel like protectors of women that appear to/may need help. Then lets say that. Lets not call men “Captains” and women “hos” which ads an extra diminishing layer to women women that simply isn’t there when the men are being called something as neutral as “Captain” (calling someone Captain certainly doesn’t convey the negativity calling someone a Ho does.) . Lets think about the dialogue we use to get our points across and not just justify it because it is directed to a real social interaction with some men and some women. I think this is a case of being careful of how you talk about the other gender. I understand that this could be a real social interaction. I do not understand though how that justifies referring to women as hos.

          And I am not sure the exact roots of “Captain-Save-A-Ho” but I have heard it plenty on the internet to shame men that were actually arguing on the side of a female point of view. So while I am sure it can be used for what you described, there appears to be many different ways and instances this phrase is used. The end result though no matter what way it is used, is that it shaming. I also wonder why it wouldn’t be said, “Dope-Save-A-Ho”. If the comment is meant to be equally expressive of both genders, I have to wonder why something like “Captain” is used for men vs the use of “Ho” for women and why a negative euphemism for a man wasn’t used like it was used for a woman. I know some people will think I am being over the top and silly but it’s something I see regularly in our culture. How easily we call women certain names with the ease we don’t seem to call men names. Although I know there are plenty of stereotypes and names that get thrown at men I am not trying to belittle that. But I don’t think it’s fair to request we be impartial to phrases that hold seemingly neutral names for men (Captain) and clearly negative ones for women (Ho). Who knew that that phrase alone could bring so much discussion! :) Poking a little fun at myself here.

          • I will politely disagree with you regarding the “Captain Save-A-Ho” comment. Think of it like this. What if women had a phrase, “Queen Save-A-Pig/Jerk”, (Insert whatever euphemism we could use to apply some negative name calling toward men), do you think that comment is flattering, especially toward men that would be the target of the specific name calling?

            As I have come to understand “Captain Save-A-Ho” while it is really not flattering to women it supposedly is flattering to women in the sense that someone is helping them. And besides I wasn’t trying to say that the “Pig” in your example was flattering to men and wouldn’t say that because of the same reason that “Ho” in the original would not be flattering to women.

            I understand the phrase has it’s roots in describing men that feel like protectors of women that appear to/may need help. Then lets say that. Lets not call men “Captains” and women “hos” which ads an extra diminishing layer to women women that simply isn’t there when the men are being called something as neutral as “Captain” (calling someone Captain certainly doesn’t convey the negativity calling someone a Ho does.) .

            My understanding doesn’t match yours then. In my understanding its roots is in describing men who feel like protecting women, regardless of what that woman has to say or think about it. In stripping (and prostitution) such guys think either there is no way a woman would choose to do that, thus said woman needs saving, or he thinks she can choose for herself but his “protection” is a “better life for her”. In both case its not about what she wants but what he wants for her. Even for as much as women are mistreated for simply being strippers and prostitutes I think we can agree that its not inconcievable that a woman may actually want to do those things right?

            Its the arrogance of thinking that a woman can’t choose for herself. On top of that is how such guys come into the situation thinking that and thus are oh so willing to “protect” a woman that he basically becomes an easy mark. The negativity of the use of “Captain” is in him coming in, taking charge, deciding what’s best for her, and basically becomes a dope.

            So while I am sure it can be used for what you described, there appears to be many different ways and instances this phrase is used. The end result though no matter what way it is used, is that it shaming. I also wonder why it wouldn’t be said, “Dope-Save-A-Ho”. If the comment is meant to be equally expressive of both genders, I have to wonder why something like “Captain” is used for men vs the use of “Ho” for women and why a negative euphemism for a man wasn’t used like it was used for a woman.

            As I say above the Captaian is a reflection of “I’m going to save this poor down trodden woman!” He really doesn’t care about saving her (and this is also probably why he doesn’t mind refering to her as a ho even as he tries to “save” her).

            As for “Captain” instead of “Dope” its a nod to what he thinks he is rather than what he really is.

            But I don’t think it’s fair to request we be impartial to phrases that hold seemingly neutral names for men (Captain) and clearly negative ones for women (Ho).
            Impartial?

            Who knew that that phrase alone could bring so much discussion!
            Interesting indeed.

  7. ‘Maybe that’s just the state of the world between 1949 and 2012. Less hope, more disgust.’
    Bingo.

    Look, I agree that a deeper (necessarily longer) attempt to deal with this setting and these issues would necessitate far more humanizing and story telling. This doesn’t seek to be anything other than funny–in the same way that it can often be funny to joke about the sad reality that the world we live in is one in which the ceaseless flow of capital has evaporated all that is solid and profaned all that is holy.

    Just because you’re supposed to laugh at a depiction of something awful does not mean that the depiction or its intent is awful–that’s the nature and appeal of satire and I, for one, refuse to let a more limited literary sensibility rob me of it .

  8. Okay there’s a problem with a piece like this, in that it’s written as almost-fiction, and so I’m not quite sure whether the author agrees with the perspective of the main character or not. For any Watchmen fans out there, this perspective seems wicked similar to Rorschach’s…viewing lust and sex as sick and depraved. He views himself as being above all of that, etc. And it works for that character precisely because you know that it’s just meant to be a specific perspective from a specific character.

    So with this, is it meant to be the same? Is it meant to highlight what one character sees when he goes into a strip club? In that case, the reality of who the strippers actually are is not at question, because then the piece isn’t saying “strippers aren’t people,” it’s saying “this character doesn’t view strippers as people.” And the reader is actually supposed to feel uncomfortable and perhaps disgusted with what the point-of-view character is thinking.

    Right so the problem, as I said, is that I can’t figure out if that is what this piece is doing….or if the point-of-view character is actually voicing the author’s opinion. Because if the author views strip clubs like this, then it’s a problem.

  9. Celine O'Maoilriain says:

    Ladies, Ladies, Ladies . . .
    I find it so amusing that no matter how much we despise strippers, we will always come to the aide of one of our “sisters” if we feel she is being unfairly portrayed . . . well that is so long as said woman is not “all up on our man” or girl as the case may be. Then all bets are off and she is a “whore”.

    I must begin by stating, to naïvely believe that strip clubs are some sort of glimmering, erotic playground, that the women who grace their stages are goddesses, and their patrons jovial alpha males is just plain ridiculous. It’s almost as absurd as the early 90’s movie Pretty Woman, a risqué retelling of Cinderella where Julia Roberts portrays a prostitute who finds her knight in a white limo. A good dose of pragmatic reality is what you all seem to need. Movies perversely (no pun intended) romanticize this slice of life. To get your panties in a bunch because someone is trying to shed light on a facet of the human condition . . . well, truth is life isn’t all fairytales, princesses, white knights, and happy endings. Take life and people for what they are . . . who they are. Not everyone wants to be saved and often they are aware of the situation in which they currently find themselves.

    Ladies, what you all fail to realize and/or comprehend is this . . . why do men venture to these places? Often we (women) look to the most simplistic answer, that being “he just wants to see some T&A”. I will be the first to admit that often men are a very simplistic breed when it comes to the reasoning for their needs, wants, and actions (no offense guys, but you know it’s true). However, when it comes to something as carnal as this, often there is an underlying circumstance. Because let’s be honest, what man would forgo a roll in the hay with a real woman as opposed to a prolonged tease from a paid enticement? Sure, you have the typical bachelor party that blows into such an establishment to enjoy the “rite of passage”. Yet, the men who frequent these establishments often do so for other reasons. I would suggest reading studies or, if reading isn’t your thing, watching documentaries regarding the adult entertainment industry, specifically ones where they interview strippers, prostitutes, and escorts. You may not have a high opinion of these women, but they are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the interworkings of the male psyche. Often, these men are either looking for acceptance or just want someone with whom they can speak freely, even confide in, something they are not comfortable doing with their significant other, friends, or family. In this sense, these men are depressed, in need of a non-committal companionship. That being said guys, get some friends of the female persuasion. Why you say? Well, (a) you don’t have to pay for them and (b) you won’t have a to answer for anything when you go home.

    • GMP Moderator says:

      Hello Celine,

      We ask that commenters not make sweeping generalizations about any group of people. We have a commenting policy here at The Good Men Project that you can find here, that details what types of comments we allow.

Speak Your Mind

*