Why is male stripping considered sexy and female stripping crummy?

When it comes to pop culture, male stripping is almost synonymous with magic mike. It’s hard to think of an onscreen portrayal of male strippers that doesn’t feature Channing Tatum or Matthew McConaughy. But now there’s a new candidate: Welcome to Chippendales.

Arrival on Disney+ on January 11, it’s a real detective saga that tells the scandalous story of Somen ‘Steve’ Banerjee, an Indian immigrant who became the unlikely founder of the largest male stripping empire in the world. Starring Kumail Nanjiana, it also features Nicole Peltz Beckham and Murray Bartlett, who went from that suitcase scene in The White Lotus to thong dancing.

As magic mike, viewers can expect well-choreographed scenes of smooth, hairless men with sixpacks dancing in no time as the female audience screams. As one review put it: “Welcome to Chippendales, male exotic dancing looks… kinda fun?” It is not a surprise. “Fun” is exactly how male stripping is viewed in our society. Most Magic Mike (and Magic Mike XXL) reviews contain this exact word. In contrast, movies like Hustlers, make female stripping look like everything from seedy to empowered and gross.

In pop culture, a male strip show is essentially a “girls night out” – it’s the pinnacle of girl-on-girl culture, strippers are rarely exploited, private dances are incredibly rare, and female patrons find this more hilarious than sexual. On Mumsnet, one user even said that “strippers are considered a joke”.

But when it comes to female stripping, women are either victims or, as in Hustlers, they are the ones who benefit from it. Male patrons are sleazy, their behavior can range from harassment to outright aggression, and private dances are the norm. The differences are glaring, but also representative of the vast reality.

One male stripper sums it up on his blog: “Female stripping emphasizes raunchy behavior and sexual idolatry, while male stripping emphasizes the concepts of fun, comedy, romantic elements and making that special someone feel sexy”. Women are generally paid more, but the mainstream media is more accepting of male stripping culture.

And it makes sense. In the UK, for example, there are around 300 strip clubs, but only around three main companies offer male erotic dancers for female customers. Then there are the statistics on violence against women – male violence remains the leading cause of premature death for women worldwide. One in six women have been raped in the United States, compared to one in 33 men. And women are far more likely to be sexually objectified and harassed on the street.

This inequality means that there will inevitably be huge differences between male and female stripping – after all, it is an industry based on sex, sexuality and sexual objectification. This means that too often strippers are seen as being subordinate to men, while male strippers retain their dominance.

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