I'm about as gay as Cristiano Ronaldo's underwear drawer, so the sultry photos plastered outside of New York’s mega strip club, FlashDancers, have never really interested me. I live around the corner from the place, and I used to joke that the guys wearing maroon FlashDancers bibs and handing out titty-filled flyers were the only people in all of Manhattan who thought I had any interest in paying to see boobs. But recently I got to thinking, and as a man who loves sex, sex workers, the Platonic company of other men and absolute camp insanity, I decided I should just sack up and go inside some straight strip clubs. I did, and that is how all my illusions about strippers were shattered.
I wasn't alone. Serving as my Virgil to this implant-filled underworld were my friends John and Hassan, both strip club veterans if not exactly aficionados. After paying $20 to get into the place we walked up to the bar. The first tits I saw belonged to a woman gyrating behind the bartender with all the energy of a children's toy whose batteries were about to die. As soon as we ordered our drinks a tall blonde who looked like Janice from The Muppets after some plastic surgery came up and talked to John. She wasn't whispering sweet nothings in his ear for nothing – it was obvious that this interaction was about business. Then another stripper named Maya came up to talk with Hassan and me. She was American, about 5'8" and hot in a very expected way. She most definitely had a tramp stamp. Her dress was electric blue and one of those situations where the top is connected to the floor-length skirt by a big metal ring that frames the belly button. I said I loved her dress and asked where she got it. She said they keep all the dresses there and the strippers get to choose from a big pile of them. I looked around and saw the same dress in different colours on several of the other dancers.
Seeing an opportunity, a third stripper came up to join us. Her name was Eva, and I was her reluctant mark. She was Swedish, so she said, but had dark hair, small tits and was about six feet tall in her stripper heels. I peppered her with questions about the club. She told me it was busy earlier, with business travellers and the happy hour crowd, but it was starting to die down. She told me that the weekends were the busiest but also full of young guys, who are the worst customers. "Why? They don't spend a lot of money?" I asked. "No," she replied, "They just cum in their pants too quickly."
After talking to Eva about her interest in martial arts for a while, we moved to take some seats by the stage. At any given time there were three girls working it up there, occasionally standing, but mostly on their hands and knees, contorting their torsos into kama sutra positions without a partner. For this solitary copulation, we were supposed to stick dollars in their thongs. The DJ played scattered auto-tuned monstrosities, like Franken-singles where top 40 hits were grafted with awful dance tracks and brought to life with too much electricity. In between songs, he made cheesy announcements about which girls should come to the stage and who should go see the cashier. I was hoping the strippers would have really crazy names like Infinity, Destinee, Ibex or Maybach. Most of the names were normal-ish. Mercedes was as exciting as it got. I was glad at least one girl had a car for a name.
We systematically fed dollar bills to the women who worked their way by, dragging their booties across the stage. John told me about a game called stripper darts, where you roll a quarter into a dollar bill, put ChapStick on the outside, then hurl it at the dancers and try to make it stick to their skin. This sounded horrendously degrading and also like a lot of fun. He said we should only play when we were ready to get kicked out.
After a while most of the crowd cleared out and we were the only bait left in the shark tank. Girls kept offering me lap dances, but I turned everyone away. I was just there to observe. After shutting down about six or seven of them, a stripper who looked just like Jeanne Tripplehorn and about as old told me I couldn't keep ignoring all the girls. I felt a little bad, but also a little uncomfortable. I was uneasy with all these women thinking I was sexually attracted to them. I told Jeanne Tripplehorn that I just hadn't found the girl for me yet. If only my mother could hear that.
I suddenly caught a whiff of lotion combined with breath mints. A girl had her face about an inch away from mine. "I’m gonna give you a dance," she said.
"Thanks, but I'm all set for now," I told her, my standard line of refusal.
"No. I'm gonna give you a dance," she said again. Her face so was close to mine I couldn't even tell what she looked like.
"I'm all set, really," I said, trying to inch away from this refreshingly minty but mysterious breath.
"You keep sending all these girls away, but not me. I'm gonna put my ass all over your dick. Now move your chair back." I did as I was told.
She straddled me and just started talking. She was a pretty black girl with long hair and a really tight body, wearing one of the ridiculous house-issued dresses. She asked how I knew Hassan, who was sitting on my right. "He's my boyfriend," I said. I couldn't think of another way to let her know I was gay, and it seemed kind of funny to lie to the stripper.
"Then what the fuck are you doing here?" she asked me. Then she leaned over to Hassan and said, "What the fuck are you doing here?" again. "There ain't no dicks here. You're going to come here and take up room and not spend any money on these girls? What the fuck do you think this is?" She was not happy with my little stunt. "I'm going to give you a dance and I am going to rub my pussy all over your dick. Now move your chair back some more."
This stripper was extorting me, but I also loved that I was getting read by this bitch. If I were straight, this is the kind of girl that I would probably want to fuck. She took off her dress and started working on my lap, rubbing her pussy all over my dick as promised. She rubbed her tits in my face and popped her ass up in the air, told me to “hit it.” After I hit it, she told me to do it again, but harder. She liked it hard. After a few minutes of this my dick was still limper than my wrist, and she must have realised I was actually gay. "How long have you two been together?" she asked, without stopping her crotch rub. "About a year," I told her. "I have a boyfriend too," she said.
After I paid her I noticed increasingly aggressive strippers had started to accost all of us, so I told the guys it was time to go to the next place.
The next place was Risque in Long Island City. Tucked away on a side street, Risque had the kind of awning you're used to seeing on bodegas. It seemed like this was the part of our adventure where we'd get mugged stranded, and maybe fuck a bunch of prostitutes in the apartments above the strip club.
There were exactly six dancers and two patrons inside. After we sat down at the bar, there were six dancers and five patrons. That's a depressing ratio. Actually, everything at Risque was depressing, from the girls sitting at the opposite side of the bar to the Yankees losing a game on the big screen. Three working ladies were sitting down smoking a hookah filled with strawberry tobacco and the sticky sweet stench was everywhere. Two of them were wearing glasses, looking like they just finished a hard night studying in the college library. They had not.
Suddenly, a flat-chested girl in a bikini came over and put her arms around John and myself. “My name is Teresa,” she said. "Who wants to buy me a drink?" This was the one thing about strip clubs I couldn't understand: why are these girls pressed by management to solicit guys to continuously buy them drinks? This has to be the only job in the world where the workforce is encouraged to ply their trade completely shitfaced. Maybe that's what they need to make it through the night.
Teresa told me that she was the top girl in the club, which was hard to believe. Her cousin, she said, was a close second. She pointed to her cousin swinging blandly around the pole in the center of the bar. She was wearing black tights with slits across them in various configurations, like some deranged spider was trying to make a snack out of her. Her face was not pretty, her teeth were not neat, her breasts were not large. She would not be considered attractive by most sober judges.
We bought Teresa a drink, a Bellini and shortly after finishing it she got on stage and stuck her ass up in the air. One of her pussy lips was sticking out of her thong and it looked both disgusting and ridiculous, like a nose with a booger hanging out of it. Poor Teresa.
Hoping to end the evening on a slightly less tragic note, we decided to have a night cap at Pumps in Brooklyn. If you’ve never been there, Pumps sort of looks like a gay bar that is trying really hard to be manly, with metal on the walls and motorcycles hanging from the ceiling. I half expected there to be a sling in the back room.
Everything here was a bit different. The guys were younger, more eager and really wasted. There were actually a few I would have paid to blow. The atmosphere here seemed a bit “bros before hos”, which is odd in a place that is ostensibly all about the hos. The music was mostly rock 'n' roll and the girls followed suit, covered in tattoos and sporting cutesy pig tails, edgy bangs and one girl who, inexplicably, had apparently just come from a Great Gatsby-themed costume party.
The place was pretty empty. There was only one girl on the stage behind the bar slaloming between three stripper poles. Her body was covered in tattoos except for a bare patch around her ass where her dark skin tone shone through. She had several piercings in her face, lips, nose and other places. I said she looked like she might be crazy. "Oh, she's definitely crazy," John said. At multiple times during her performance, she came off the stage and clapped her tits together, which meant it was time to feed the meter. Unlike the girls at Risque, who did this only once after each set, the girls at Pumps did it whenever they felt the urge, so sitting at the bar got increasingly expensive. We moved to a back table.
By this point in the night even the straight guys seemed tired of seeing tits. It's like there was nothing at all erotic or titillating about them anymore, like the sick feeling you get after eating ice cream for dinner. I was tired, hungry and more than a little bored. What was I doing there? The idea of these women trying so hard to get me, a guy who loves dicks, to desire them seemed somehow cruel, like my very own game of stripper darts. I felt like a fraud. And if there was ever any question that I might enjoy the company of a lady, it was dispelled that night. Maybe there just wasn't enough of the chase to make it interesting.
I went into this little experiment thinking I would hate FlashDancers and its corporate approach to sex, but it was actually my favourite. It is everything a strip club is supposed to be. The girls weren't interesting or attractive, but they looked like strippers, which, I guess, is what makes them sexy – their ability to spin you into a fantasy.
I originally thought I'd like something sad and rundown, like Risque or Pumps, but by the end of the night those just seemed genuinely tragic to me. I figured it would be like Real Housewives with more skin, where you can find some campiness in the desperation, but it wasn't there at all. Everything was way too on the surface for it to be even remotely fun. There is no subtext in strip clubs, just bodies, money and the little bit of magic that is helping everyone forget.
Previously - The Trials and Tribulations of the Fake Hymen
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