Lady journalist and Vagenda-friend Rosamund Urwin recently appeared on This Morning talking about strip clubs, and inevitably attracted unwanted attention from some likely lad on Twitter asking, snidely, if she felt that there was a correlation between being ugly and hating strip clubs.
After the initial patriarchal eyeroll, I attempted to engage with said individual – red flags waved when the response was ‘you’re all a bit touchy about this sort of thing’. Eventually the talk was directed to a more neutral ground that indicated that an unattractive stripper was bad for business, regardless of sex. It’s even talked about in Game of Thrones; it must be true.
For there are male strippers, and their rights are just as important as those of the female strippers. True, my only experience of male strippers is Danny Devito’s cameo in Friends and the seedy bachelorette party in the first season of The OC, whereas the female stripper culture is thrust (gyrating) in my face every time I walk up Tottenham Court Road, and even on Oxford Street, where I was a little surprised to see two live women modelling ‘clubwear’ in the window of Jane Norman. The human body as spectator sport is, thankfully, not reserved for either sex. We ogle David Beckham in his pants and Rosie Huntingdon-Whitely in her Burberry Mac.
But the big difference is the prevalence of the spectator sporting opportunities. Sex, and more specifically the sex industry, is very much a womens’ game. Sex shops aimed at women, with women in the windows, line Oxford Street and are advertised on primetime tv. But you need to venture into SoHo to find the male equivalent and even then there are no dodgy mannequins. You find naked and semi-naked images of women on giant billboards on the London Underground – Godaddy.com is particularly hounded for their advertising, and I can’t move for Figleaves posters. That ‘Hello, Boys’ campaign from back in the day has a lot to answer for. The female body can sell anything incredibly well. But that doesn’t mean that the female body should be for sale. While the male form still holds a sort of Adonis-like sanctity, the female form is just sex. No adoration needed.
While the sex industry is intrinsically wrong for both sexes, it’s the prevalence and almost acceptance of the female version that makes it the first port of call for discussion and address. While there are male strippers, male prostitutes and male strip bars, you don’t see adverts for them (showing them naked) plastering phone booths (often in full view of parties of school children), or nestled in between a souvenir shop and a Subway on one of London’s busiest streets. And you rarely hear of men protesting the existence of male strip bars, or being called ‘ugly’ and ‘just upset they can’t get any’ by the women who speak in protest against their closure. Once we’ve driven the female sex industry not off the map, but as deep underground as the male equivalent, then we’ll be getting somewhere.