Hi, Tits and Sass readers! We have had really good luck with our site comments so far. Aside from a few notes about how we should understand that dead hooker jokes are a necessary and funny part of modern humor, we haven’t received too many comments that suggest we all deserve physical harm for being sex workers.
Note that I said “too many,” not “none.” We got a couple that were either purposefully, trollishly obtuse or simply clueless on Elle’s Slutwalk post, and while we’ve had an informal policy of approving almost all comments, we figured now would be a good time to lay out some formal guidelines. It’s also a good time to, well, address this dude on his own terms. Do you really want to argue with us? Fine! We’ll get a professional arguer to deal with this for us. Please welcome Irony Butterfly to our pages.
Comment #1: It’s pretty clear that he wasn’t being disrespectful. He honestly didn’t see the harm. Personally, I can’t quite understand your transformation from being bored when he *looked* at you to being practically traumatized when he *touched* you. In real life – outside of a club – looking is followed quite naturally by touching. I’m not being mean, I’m trying to show you: the guy didn’t mean to harm you.
Please help me to understand: what’s the difference between being naked in front of someone “personally” instead of “professionally”?
Oh. My. Where to start?
Let us start by answering your question. What is the difference between being naked in front of someone “personally” and “professionally”? Okay, actually to start, I have to ask… are you serious with that question? I can tell you with full and absolute certainty that any dude shoving a dollar into my vagina when I was being “personally” naked would… well let’s say he would not be shoving anything else into my vagina, ever.
It is not like there is a magic dichotomy on the female nudity scale of “sex worker” and “lady friend welcoming sexual intimacy.” There are actually a lot of situations in which people see vaginas and do not assume that they are there to shove dollar bills into. I’ve been to a nude beach and nobody touched my vagina or shoved dollar bills into it. I’ve been to the doctor and…well, I did have a speculum shoved into my vagina, but I still feel confident that was for a medical reason and not because he was confused about personal and professional boundaries. I’ve had a massage and nothing whatsoever went into my vagina. I’ve been to the gym and showered afterwards—still nothing in the vagina. All those people managed to see my vagina and not get all confused that it may be a reasonable receptacle for their dollar bills (like, dude—do you not think she owns a wallet?).
So allow me to express my doubts that there is any real confusion about this personal/professional issue. I think we all know very well that the very act of penetrating a woman with a dollar bill is unlikely to take place in the “personal” context. That is a special treat reserved just for the professionals.
However, to answer the pretend question—one situation would be “personal” and one would be “professional.” Personal relationship are complicated and often defined by nuance; professional relationships are bounded and defined by negotiations. If, when describing your relationship with a lady (or gentleman, depending on your club of choice) the word “customer” or “client” comes up—the relationship is professional. “Professional” means that services require explicit negotiations. You don’t get to rely on nuances like “she shoved it in my face.” Of course she shoved it in your face! That’s the point! The entire point of a strip club is that she shoves it into your face and you get to look at it. The location and context is a big part of what makes it a show rather than your girlfriend signalling that you just really aren’t making an effort anymore.
I just cannot take this “but I really didn’t know what to do, and therefore had to assume that she truly and deeply desired me to touch her vagina” logic. As for the “real life” logic, a strip club is “real life.” We are not from some Fraggle Palace on the moon. We walk in and out every day. Well, every work day. Well…most work days. And so do customers. No guy accidentally walks into a strip club not knowing that the women there are taking off their clothes for money (I apologize to the one guy that has done this and is inevitably reading this page and will immediately email the Tits and Sass editors describing his experience, which no doubt sent him into a lifetime of therapy. I’m sorry, and that must have been really traumatic and confusing). There is no genuine confusion that the dancer may just be removing her panties because she’s unusually warm, or because the elastic is too tight and is leaving those indents in her skin, or because she just noticed they don’t go with her shoes, or because she is inviting everyone in the room to perform oral sex on her. Everyone in the room knows that when she takes off her panties she is signalling the part of her job where she shows dudes (or ladies—we’re not picky) her vagina (or her vulva, for you anatomy purists out there).
Some general advice for all circumstances—this is often taken as a given, but I feel it may be apropos here: if you are unsure about whether a woman wants you to touch her vagina, you ask. You don’t plough ahead and hope for the best or touch first and hope that she is consenting, like “Hey there, you look like the kind of girl that wants to be penetrated by a dollar bill.” You find out first. If she is down for that, she will not be shy about telling you to go on ahead. In the much more likely event that she is not even remotely down for that, she will be very glad you asked rather than just doing it. Don’t get me wrong, she may be totally disgusted at the question. She may say “What the fuck is wrong with you? Why would I be okay with that? Would you want a dollar shoved into your orifices? Just hand me the fucking dollar and shut your mouth, you fucktard.” But she’ll still be glad that between making a hypothesis about her eagerness to engage, and asking, that you chose asking.
So, in short, she is not outside the club. She is in a place where looking is not naturally followed by touching. On the contrary, she is in a place where touching is preceded by explicit and exacting negotiations, and she has the right to expect that those will be performed before, not after, the touching occurs. Skipping right on over those negotiations is, by definition, “disrespecting” her, and by its nature, harming her. She is actually just like a real, live woman that way. It hurts her when you touch her without permission. Stripper technology has come a long way, right?
I would say in closing that if this dude really, honestly did not mean to harm her, if he really, honestly was completely confused by context, if he really, honestly thought she wouldn’t mind…he would have felt terrible when she said “Don’t you touch me.” He would have been embarrassed and guilty and would not have been able to apologize enough to her, her friends and her colleagues. He would not have said it was no big deal and he would not have said that she consented by “shoving it in his face.” Honestly, I kind of think he would have voluntarily worn an “I’m an Asshole” badge for the rest of the night as well as maybe a dunce cap.
Comment #2: Well, it’s about sympathy. I’m a straight male, when I see a pussy I have two immediate impulses: rub it and put something in it. It’s actually impossible for a guy to know, ahead of time, which impulses he’s supposed to indulge (like staring, maybe yelling? I dunno, is it OK to call to a dancer?), as opposed to the one’s we’re not supposed to. Just for example, normally watching a woman take her clothes off would be invasive, but obviously watching a stripper is not harassment. But a friendly touch is normally welcome, inside a club it’s much *less* welcome! There’s a completely different set of rules that apply, and it is not at all clear which impulses are OK and which are not.
Seriously, having one in front of me makes me want to put something in it. You would have to explain to me ahead of time (or at least during!) that it’s not OK.
Oh hai—fancy meeting you here. Okay. Please allow me to explain to you ahead of time that it is not okay. And really…yelling? You routinely feel an urge to yell at someone’s genitals?
I’ve heard this “straight men can only think with their penises and have poor impulse control and the presence of vaginas just makes them do crazy things” before, and my take on it is if you really want to stick with that, you’re going to have to let me put you on a leash and tie you up in front of Starbucks while I get a latte. Yep. If you really can’t control yourself, you need to be muzzled. My suspicion after watching hundreds of guys look at my (ahem) “downtown business district” is that you are totally capable of controlling yourself if you decide to. The question is not “Can I control myself?” The question is always “Do I have to? Does it matter if I push this woman? Does it matter if I don’t ask first?” And to answer that question as well, yes. You have to. Yes. It matters.
As I said above, I do not believe even for one minute that guys are wandering into a strip club not understanding the negotiation taking place (with the exception of that one guy I already apologized to. Hi again!) People—male and female—in strip clubs know perfectly well where the negotiations for contact lie, and when you need to ask. They know they can look. They know that they can’t touch without permission.
Some gentlemen have, in the past, tried to tell me that they are very confused about the rules in my club. In the clubs they usually go to the dancers welcome dollar bills in their vaginas and I’m being racist and ethnocentric for not understanding that and my club is no fun and so uptight and totally not worth $20 and the girls in Philadelphia, or Texas, or San Diego or Niagara Falls, or some other place that I’m not working, are wild and free spirits who allow the customers to tongue them like communal popsicles and expel guppies from their bodies in creative and interesting ways. First, I’ve worked cities besides this one, and I can email 3 people in any other city right now (thank you Internet), so I know you’re making that shit about the guppies up. Second, in the strip club industry we dancers have developed a highly sophisticated mechanism for working through the intense cultural divide between, for example, the east coast and the west coast and the full-out culture wars of the North and South. Is it a monkey-thought translator? No. We have one of those, but it didn’t help; it turns out that monkeys are easier to communicate with than douchey customers, and the awesome customers just didn’t need it. So, after the monkey-thought translator failed, we discovered a new method: we ask.
This “asking” I speak of is a highly technical process, and I grant you that dancers are perhaps a self-selected group of unusually intelligent and capable people. Moreover, we get that asking women if we want to be touched doesn’t come naturally to a lot of men, so many of ya’all spend all of their time avoiding asking such questions, all too sure that if you give her time to think about it, the answer will probably be “…no.” But take heart. If a bunch of trailer park living, high school dropout, illegitimate child raising strippers can master the subtle art of “asking,” we think, with a little practice, that men can make a go of it too.