What immediately springs to mind when you think of strip clubs?
I’m not asking those of you who have frequented these places. I’m asking those of you who have always wondered about what goes on behind the black door.
Before I’d ever gone to a strip club, here’s what I pictured: Sticky floors. Girls with blank faces and bad posture. Terrible music and worse clientele. Large groups of men gee-eyed with drink, laughing and roaring unfunny jokes at each over the music.
Which is all to say that I wasn’t expecting a whole lot.
A few years ago, one Monday after work, I sat having a drink with colleagues at 4am. Having decided to try my hand at working in a bar, I had just spent a long night delivering shots of tequila and glasses of whisky with complicated names. One of the regulars had stayed behind with us as we cashed out, and somehow the conversation had turned to Frankfurt’s wealth of strip clubs.
“I’ve heard there’s a whole red light district,” breathed one of my friends, eyes wide and twinkling with mischief.
Our regular drained the end of his pint and leaned back in his chair.
“It’s true,” He said. “I’ve been.”
The whole table leaned towards him, as if he’d just disclosed he’d found hidden treasure.
“What’s it like?”
“Where did you go?”
“Are there really red lights?”
“Is it as seedy as it sounds?”
“Are women allowed?”
The questions came from all angles, and he smiled benevolently at our rapt attention before spreading his palms out on the wooden table.
“Alright then. One at a time. What do you want to know?”
It turned out our regular was quite the connoisseur. Tipsy from post-work alcohol and energised by his unexpected wealth of knowledge, we peppered him with questions. He answered them all competently, as if every visit to a strip-club had been a reconnaisance mission leading up to this precise moment. Eventually, the interrogation died down until the only other girl at the table and I were the only ones still talking. We sat with our feet up on the chairs beside us, running our fingers around the rims of our glasses, staring into space.
“I’ve always wondered what they’re like,” I said, thinking out loud.
My friend leaned over the table, her eyes half-focused.
“We should go sometime!”
I nodded in the international language for, ‘Yeah, sure, sometime, maybe, probably never…’
The strip club specialist leaned back in his chair. Very casually – deceptively casually – as if he were suggesting we all go for a coffee, he said, “We could go now…?”
The table erupted into laughter followed by a fast and furious discussion about how ridiculous it would be to visit a strip club on a Monday night after work.
“With no money!”
“Delirious from lack of sleep!”
“Not even nearly drunk enough!”
“On a MONDAY!”
We howled. As our giggles died away, our strip club guru looked around the table at each of us, gasping from laughter.
“I’ll pay. I’ll pay your entry fee,” he said.
We snorted with derision. As if! No need to be ridiculous. We started to get up, ready to disband.
“Seriously.” He said. “I’ll pay if we go now.”
There was a momentary stillness. I looked around the table. I could feel the zip of sudden energy that sparked around the room; that tiny spark that often leads to spontaneous – and not always wise – decisions to embark on adventure.
Which is exactly what happened.
I asked them to wait while I ran home to change my shoes, and rang Scrubs as I kicked off my runners and pulled on a pair of UGGs.
“I’m going to go to a strip club,” I said. “Is that alright? The curiosity is killing me and there’s a nice man here who is offering to pay for all of us. Realistically if I don’t go now I never will, because there’s not a hope I would spend my own money to go to one, and when is this likely to ever happen again? Someone is basically going to pay for me to go to a strip club. So I think I’m going to go.”
“Right now?” Scrubs asked in alarm.
“Yeah. Is that okay with you?”
There was a pause – which I interpreted as a shocked silence – while Scrubs considered this 4am excursion.
“I don’t know if you should…” He said slowly.
My face fell. Obviously I would never go if Scrubs felt uncomfortable with the idea.
“… I mean, they’re hardly going to have their best looking strippers working on a Monday. Why don’t you go at the weekend?”
Thus it came to pass that at half four in the morning, hyped up on post-work drinks and sleep deprivation, my friends and I grabbed orange juice and a bottle of vodka for the road and piled into the strip club guru’s car. I didn’t drink, but watched as my friends passed around the bottle and wondered whether I should have changed out of my round-necked white knit jumper and jeans*.
When we reached the club, our guru paid a not insubstantial amount of money and handed us each our tokens, which came in the form of strip club dollars. They looked like board game money, with the silhouette of a stripper on them instead of the round, jovial face of Mr. Monopoly. They came in denominations of ones and fives. He then paid our entry fee and the large imposing bouncer waved us into the club.
I’m not sure what I was expecting really but this… wasn’t it. It looked like a nightclub. A long bar ran down the right side of the room, with a man polishing glasses under the pink and blue club lights. It was dark, with loud music and plush velvet booths. Sure there was a stage with a pole, but other than that it didn’t look too different from a nightclub when you’re there too early. It wasn’t wall-to-wall sleaze. I couldn’t see a single pair of breasts. All it was missing from the usual nightclub experience was the tight scrum of bodies pressing up against me from all sides, and the floors that stick to your shoes from the thick lacquer of stale beer that has built up over the years.
So really, for the most part, the experience was proving to be more pleasant than a typical nightclub.
I sat with my friends in a booth near the stage and ordered drinks. Or rather, they did. I asked for water. I wanted all my faculties intact for this experience. This was likely to be my one and only visit to a strip club. I wanted my eyes wide on the night and my memories intact the next day. A girl walked past our table and I frowned; she was astonishingly beautiful. She looked as if she had stepped off the pages of a Victoria’s Secret catalogue to join us for the night. So much for Scrubs’ theory about Monday’s girls.
Another girl made her way over and asked to sit next to us. She was petite and blonde and made charming small talk with us until the boys asked for private dances. Two brunettes appeared to lead them away, and the only other girl and I were left with the pretty, pixie-like blonde. We talked a bit about college life, and then she called over her Amazon angel of a friend to join us. I was almost starstruck by the two of them. I had been expecting regular girls like me, not these glittery bombshells.
Just then, our kindly patron returned from his (second) private dance of the evening. He watched the four of us chat for a moment and then leaned towards us.
“You guys should get one,” he said.
I side-eyed him in warning. I didn’t want to get the girls’ hopes up and there was no way I was paying for a private dance.
“No seriously,” he insisted. “How much is it for a double private dance for these two?”
The corner of the pixie’s mouth turned up and she looked us up and down. She named a price and he nodded encouragingly.
“Go for it!” He said, shuffling over in his seat and stuffing money in my hand. “Go on!”
Guys, I tried to say no. I honestly did.
I balked. I tried to hand it back. I told him to keep it, but he just got up and called his girl over for a third dance. As she led him away by the hand he yelled that he didn’t care what I did with it but it was meant for a dance so I might as well get one.
I turned back to face the two blonde babes and looked at my friend, who was riding both the buzz from the vodka and the sugar high from the soft drinks she was mixing it with. I shrugged, and the two girls laughed and clapped delightedly before leading us to the private room.
The private dances took place in a U-shaped booth with velvet curtains that were pulled closed behind us. My friend and I sat on opposite sides of the room. I pulled at the edge of my sleeve nervously, trying to remind myself of the only thing I know about stripclubs, which is that you should never touch the dancers**.
A song started – I couldn’t tell you which one – and the pixie stepped in front of me started to writhe and take off her clothes. She straddled my thigh and ground against my leg. I chewed the inside of my cheek and wished I’d worn something less chafing for her than denim.
My palms were splayed flat against the velvet couch. She was so close to me. Her body glitter sparkled under the lights and she smelled of something outrageously sweet and fruity. Her hands roamed over my knit jumper, making me feel slightly ridiculous. I wondered how many people had worn white loose-knit jumpers to this booth.
She unhooked her bra and dropped it, revealing a perfect pair of gravity-defying breasts. She leaned in for a kiss and I awkwardly turned my face away. I was pretty sure Scrubs might have something to say about me making out with an anonymous Nordic stripper.
She kissed her way down my neck, and I started to feel slightly rude.
Should I touch her? Seems almost offensive to keep my hands on the couch. Should I awkwardly place my hands on her hips? Is she going to think I’m not enjoying it?
She expertly slid her thong down her legs and kicked it off.
No, no. Better to just stay as I am, I thought, mentally nodding to myself.
The pixie pulled my knees apart and turned to grind against my lap. I distractedly examined her tattoos. I had never (and still to this day have never) had somebody’s tattoos quite so close to my eyeballs before. She bent over at the waist, giving me an unexpectedly detailed look at her clitoral piercing. I eyed it and wondered how much it had hurt. I felt strangely detached from my body. Not a single part of me felt aroused. Instead, my brain was busy clinically observing everything as if I were a scientist running some bizarre experiment with a very attractive and very naked subject. I kept waiting to feel something, some tingle or particle of pleasure that I could grab onto that would explain why people found these places so alluring. Instead I just felt… bemused.
I marvelled at the way every inch of the pixie’s now-entirely-naked body was coated in this sheen of fruity body glitter. That can’t be hygienic, I mused sympathetically. I idly speculated whether or not it was likely to be compulsory for strippers to walk through some sort of spray mist before starting their shift.
The pixie knelt on the couch beside me and stuck her tongue in my ear. She sucked on my earlobe and I sat, stiff as a board, suppressing a shudder. There is something almost overwhelmingly odd about a complete stranger sucking on your earlobe for payment. She leaned towards me slowly in a second attempt to kiss me, and I turned my head to the left to dodge her lips a second time. Across the room I saw the Amazon straddling my friend, kissing her with her hands tangled in her hair. I looked back at the pixie and smiled nervously, anxious not to offend. Was I supposed to be okay with this? Was this normal? She smiled back, lifted a perfectly drawn eyebrow and bent across my lap. She arched her back and tossed her fringe out of her eyes as she wiggled her butt playfully.
Am I supposed to spank her? What are the rules here? Are there rules? What is happening?
She pulled one leg to the other side of me and bent over, sliding her upper body to the floor, leaving her bottom half spread-eagled in my lap. I felt like I was in an extremely graphic Sex Ed class. If I had leaned forward I could have touched her clit with my nose, she was that close. The jewel in her piercing twinkled at me.
She switched out with the Amazon for a bit and I enjoyed the novelty of watching legs as long as my entire body bend and flex in front of me. The Amazon ran her fingertips under the hem of my jumper, stroking my skin, making me flinch. My palms were pressed so hard into the seat that I was half afraid my handprints would be forever immortalised in the deep pile velvet.
They switched back and the pixie grinned at me before pulling me forward. She straddled me and rolled my jumper up, kissing her way up my torso. I sat, stone-faced with confusion, as she pulled it all the way up to my neck.
Thoughts ping-ponged around in my head.
Do I still not touch her? She’s undressing me! Should I say something? This is unexpected. If I object will she be offended? What if she tries to kiss me again? Is it rude to say no thank you? Why is there no manual when you first walk in? Why are there no notices with Dos and Don’ts?
She kissed my collarbone and I felt my knuckles whiten from digging my fingers into the couch. I fixed my gaze on the brass curtain rings as I felt her drag her fingernails up my torso, and then, with startling abruptness, pull off my bra.
I was caught completely off guard.
The cool air hit my chest and gave me a momentary form of brain freeze. For a moment I felt as if my the top of my head had been opened and a steady stream of exclamation marks had been poured in. As I opened my mouth to make a joke about not having applied for a job, I felt her climb off me. She took a couple of steps back, stood in front of me, and tilted her head.
“Are they your own breasts?”
My brow furrowed. What part of the dance was this?
“Yes?” I said, confused.
“They are real?” She was still standing in front of me, no longer on her tiptoes arching every muscle in her body. Now she was simply studying my body. The cool air passed over me and I wondered if a private dance had ever been less enjoyable. I nodded.
“You have really great breasts,” the pixie said, appraisingly.
I blinked and wondered whether somebody had spiked my drink earlier.
“Your breasts, they are really beautiful!” She was eyeing my chest as if it were a painting. She leaned forward and ran her finger along the outside curve of one of my breasts. The sultry, sexy-dancer act had been completely switched off. We seeemed to have reached an interval. I willed my face to stay passive.
“Thanks,” I said, after a stunned pause.
There was silence as she continued to eyeball my breasts admiringly. I cleared my throat.
She met my gaze.
“I mean, your breasts are also…” I paused, searching my blank brain for an adjective. “…Lovely,” I finished lamely.
She made a face and looked down at her breasts, cupping them in her hands.
“Yes,” she said, as if contemplating them for the first time in a long time. “They are nice too.” She looked at me and the corner of her mouth twisted downward.
“These are not real though,” she sighed sorrowfully.
I looked around the room, fingernails still digging into the seat. It felt truly surreal to have been stripped by a stripper who now stood holding her breasts and reflecting upon her implants.
Can I pull my jumper back down? Would that be rude?
The pixie crossed the room to tug on the Amazon’s arm.
“Look, look at her breasts,” she said, gesturing towards me.
I closed my eyes briefly. Maybe I could pretend this wasn’t happening.
The Amazon came over and both of them – one gigantuan, one tiny – stood side-by-side, cocked their heads and stared at my chest.
“Are they real?” The Amazon asked.
“Y-yes,” I stuttered, feeling like a watermelon being weighed up at Whole Foods.
The Amazon nodded curtly. “They are beautiful,” she said, matter-of-factly.
“Thank you…?” My voice rose at the end in tandem with my level of anxiety. The Amazon returned to her dance with my friend. I wished I’d had some vodka in the car. I wished I’d had some vodka twenty minutes before to soften the edges of this experience and make it less mind-bendingly weird.
Stone cold sober probably hadn’t been the best way to approach this, in hindsight…
I crossed my UGG-encased ankles, still exposed. I felt my eyebrows rise as I let out a deep breath and considered the fact that this precise moment (in a strip club, in front of two very pretty, very naked women) was easily one of the least sexy experiences of my entire life.
The pixie gave me a giddy smile, as if we had just had a bonding session about our awful ex-boyfriends. She leaned forward, kissed the arch of my breast, and stood up on her tiptoes before resuming her dancing. No more was said between us. At the end, unsure of the correct procedure, I clapped and somewhat hysterically thrust the money as well as a hefty tip into her hand.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you, that was so nice!” I gushed, desperate to leave.
She rubbed my back as I tugged at the hem of my jumper. She had pulled a black figure-hugging minidress with strategic slits over her head as soon as the dance had ended.
“Really, it was so lovely. You’re a great dancer.” I was babbling now. She grinned shyly and looked up at me from under her fringe. Impulsively she gave me a quick hug. I looked her in the eye and smiled.
You have a clitoral piercing, I thought. I’ve seen it. In extreme close-up.
I awkwardly patted her on the shoulder.
Once we escaped the private dance booth I grabbed my friend by the wrist and made a beeline for our table, where the rest of the gang whooped as we sat down. Our guru smiled at us. “How was it?”
“It was good!” I smiled. “So now that’s done and we should go.”
I waved at the pixie and the Amazon as we left the club, and spent the car ride home looking out the window trying to process the experience.
- I had been to a strip club and now my curiosity was well and truly assuaged and I never had to do it again.
- I’d had my breasts complimented by two girls who should know their good breasts from their bad.
- I hadn’t had to spend a cent of my own money.
- I had to have a shower when I got home to get the sickly scent of fruity body glitter off me.
- I had realised that as far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing actually sexy about strippers.
- I can never again watch a movie or tv show featuring a strip club without feeling my fingers unwittingly dig into the seat in raw discomfort.
Overall, a perplexing but illuminating experience.
Would you call having done this trial by private dance a life skill? Probably not, but after having survived the bone-deep awkwardness of the whole ordeal without mortally offending any strippers, I think it qualifies.
*But what is appropriate clothing for a strip club? You don’t want to be mistaken for one of the staff, after all… A complicated-to-take-off romper? Apple-bottom jeans and boots with the fur? I’m still unclear.
**Thank you Closer for your lessons on strip-club etiquette.