Gender Inequality in Strip Clubs: Perspective from the Inside

Astrid Ressler, Staff Writer

Sociology Professor Melissa Lavin provided gender studies students with a little bit of insight into the taboo world of strip clubs in America last Wednesday, April 8. From her own personal experiences as a dancer in a number of clubs, Professor Lavin was able to share her stories and those of other dancers that she met.

Her presentation gave an accurate sense of how these clubs tend to exist in a world that is all their own. This hetero-normative environment gives allowance to the abuse of women by the male authority figures in the clubs, such as the business owner and bouncers, as well as by the male patrons who frequent these establishments.

Professor Lavin explained that during her time working as a dancer in a strip club she saw and experienced instances of physical abuse from both the men who came to see the women and the male members of authority inside the club. Indiscretions that she talked about were as small as the owner spitting on one of the dancers to larger actions, such as grabbing and squeezing a woman’s breasts with intent to do harm.

Lavin witnessed a social hierarchy  in these clubs where the male owner had top authority, followed by the male bouncers and bartenders. The male patrons were seen as higher than the female dancers because they were paying customers and the women were only looked at as objects to make money for the club, and nothing much more than that.

Drinking alcohol was always encouraged for the patrons and discouraged by the male staff to ensure social dominance and order. In some clubs, the dancers were supposed to promote the consumption of alcohol by trying to get the patrons to drink as much as they could. This would often soften inhibitions as well as bring in more money for the establishment.

Professor Lavin explained that racial stereotyping was rampant among the patrons. Many patrons preferred specific races due to the stereotypes often portrayed in pornographic films. Within the group of female dancers, stereotyping also occurred, but not by race. Instead, she explained, dancers who “did more than danced” and prostituted themselves out to the patrons as well as the dancers who did hard drugs, were seen as lower class among the other women of the club.

Professor Lavin widened many eyes and opened many minds with her presentation to a room filled with gender studies students. Everyone had questions and comments and Lavin generously answered every one that she could.

The unfortunate truths revealed about these establishments perpetuates the gender divide and the socially-accepted and male-dominated world that we live in. Sure, we are making strides to change this and become a more gender-equal society, but the changes and the equality are coming all too slow.

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