Stripped: The Bare Reality of Lap Dancing by Jennifer Hayashi Danns and Leveque Sandrine
|Stripped: The Bare Reality of Lap Dancing by Jennifer Hayashi Danns and Leveque Sandrine|
|Category: Politics and Society|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A very imbalanced look at the phenomenon of, and drudgery involved in, lapdancing, from a feminist viewpoint.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 152||Date: October 2011|
|Publisher: Clearview Books|
Before I can start, I should qualify that I have never been, nor tried to be, a lapdancer. Nor have I ever gone to a lapdancing club, nor ever tried to. I have no opinion on the matter, save that I can't imagine, in the world of free internet porn, paying some averagely attractive woman to wiggle her semi-nudity in the general direction of my face, and thinking it erotically arousing. So I come to this academically-designed volume on the matter with no prejudice. If only that were the case with the creators.
Hayashi Danns was a lapdancer, once, paying her way through university. She tells us enough in her introduction, so that when it comes to her anonymous story, collated and edited by herself to belong with a dozen others, we can easily identify her as 'Topaz'. These first person testimonies generally form a unified front against the job, and point out several common complaints. It seems there was once a firm, safe, controlled and very profitable career to be had in select clubs where women could happily do a dance, take the money and run, before New Labour opened up the licensing laws and let any Tom, Dick and Harri run one. Cue a proliferation of sleaze, with women obliged by their generally universally catty 'colleagues' to go further and further towards actual porn simulation for less and less return.
But from early on in this book the stall is set out that any woman who deigns to take part in this is a worker in the sex industry, is handing all form of control over her and her gender's body, sexuality and regard to the ravenous hands of men, and is being a bit stupid if she can't see a better way to earn a dignified pound. I took this to be an academic volume, and the publishers are certainly generally behind serious non-fiction, but this has 'bias' written through it like a stick of rock.
There are flashes of variety. I would never change my experiences says 'Bella', who went from the highs to the lows of the job in her narrative. The most powerful and most academic voice here is that of 'Natasha', who cries Any person who depicts the lap dancer as a powerless woman does not know what they are talking about. They just don't have a clue. That clearly includes her editor here. Hers is such a strong voice you'd call it sexy.
It seems much weaker when you're someone who went to an audition for a men's club once, didn't get it, and is featured here, or the solicitor whose inclusion implies this is but one step in the global sexist objectification of women. But I have to respond principally to the 'wife' here, for her viewpoint will intrigue more than any one person's story of working in this side of glamour. This woman is one who is so against lapdancing, that when she finds her fiancee has witnessed one, she nearly cancels the marriage, as in her mind, just wedding the bloke would further the denigration of females worldwide. At one point she tells him off for a seeming one-off (which through the editing seems to have happened three times!), at other points hates the fact he loves her too much to even notice the colour of the hair of the girl he reluctantly pays. And the whole subject is so abhorrent she reproduces old emails to him and to a friend here, detailing the whole thing.
I'm pointing this out for it being so strikingly against my more liberal thinking, and with the ability provided by all the contents of this book being anonymous. And yes, I read it with the statement men sneer at us when we express doubt or disdain for the sex industry still ringing in my eyes. Men sneer at generalisations, I would have it, and as I said earlier, I acknowledge there is something pathetic about the format of lapdancing. I would point out to all the original meaning of 'glamour' - that of perceived beauty, a deceiving allure.
Finally as regards bias, lines like how is it still culturally acceptable for a fully-clothed man to pay a woman to strip naked in front of him, and often his friends, for the sole purpose of the male's gratification? show themselves up as nonsense. It's culturally acceptable for fully-clothed women to pay men in the exact same way. It's noticeable there are no men writing here, save the emails to the 'wife'.
Yes, there is a benefit to this book in that we seldom get the full picture of the industry, and there clearly is a narrative to be had from the glory days to the seedy nights it entails now. A journalist here shows her finding this out, as she works hard to find positive testimony from dancers to counter the negative verdicts from those retired from it all. But those negative verdicts are collated by one feminist organisation, whose hands are also in these contents.
What should come from this book most clearly are two major changes it only hints at through the fog of onesidedness. First, the licensing needs to be strictly enforced, so non-contact, erotic dancing returns to the norm, and anybody who allows contact and clearly overly-pornographic acts should be banned. That would probably close down the industry overnight. But a more secure way to do that is identified only at the end. Our society needs to have an overhaul of sexual thinking, and of sex and sexual education. We're clearly not born as sexists who think such 'glamour' enjoyable, so what makes us such? It's education like that and nothing else that will best alter this side of life.
This then offers an education of its own, but is not strictly speaking a lesson to remember. I enjoyed the first person opinions here, but it needed other, balancing, ones. I must thank the publishers for sending me a review copy.
Take care not to look for this in the local bookshop next to more liberal testimonies about sex lives and the glamour industry, such as My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler and the infamously famous The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl by Belle de Jour.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Stripped: The Bare Reality of Lap Dancing by Jennifer Hayashi Danns and Leveque Sandrine at Amazon.com.
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