Arts and Entertainment
DEAR ANDREA: Last night my partner wanted me to pick her up early from "work." She strips at a club in San Francisco once a week. Normally guys can get grabby, especially during lap dances, but last night a man grabbed her bare pussy. I'm uncomfortable with her putting herself in such a vulnerable position. But it's her choice. I think that it was her fifth night stripping; she's not an experienced professional. We're students. She says she wants to save some money to travel this summer and she wants to know what it feels like to be a stripper. She's a women's studies major, and she's interested in her own sexuality as well as sexuality in society. She's considering writing a paper on her experiences. I respect her motives, but I feel that she is compromising her physical and emotional security. There have been incidents in her past that were significantly more traumatizing than that man grabbing her.
I want her to experiment and satisfy her curiosities, but I don't want to be in a relationship with her if she chooses to compromise her security. We love each other dearly, but I'm willing to leave. I told her that I would be totally comfortable with her stripping if she were to give up the money she makes from it, and I would financially support her travels (I'm a very fortunate college student). This would make me feel better because she would get the experience she wants, but she wouldn't be motivated by money to endanger herself. I know this undermines her independence, but I have no alternative. I repeat, I would give her as much money as she needs. I would feel totally comfortable with her stripping if she gave up the financial motivation for it. Is this a reasonable thing to ask of her?
I put the scare quotes around "lover" because you put them around "work." Whatever you may think about her choice of employment, it is certainly work, and hard work at that. If we can't agree on that much, the two of us will not be able to discuss this, and neither will the two of you.
I know that you care for your girlfriend, and you do seem to be thoughtful and open-minded, but "Is this a reasonable thing to ask?" Hell, no. Whatever her other motivations, she is basically letting strange men paw her to earn some money (and earning money is not the same thing as being given money). I don't understand why you'd feel better about her being pawed by strange men for free, or why she'd be willing to let them. That is, unless she's truly doing this purely for her own edification and to write a paper (which, by the way, has already been written by other people, sorry). There are certainly people who strip because it turns them on, but there are other outlets for that besides the sort of club where icky drunk guys grab your pussy.
So you're concerned that her job is putting her at risk, an entirely reasonable fear. Why not express that fear and make sure she knows she can turn to you if she finds that working there does indeed compromise her somehow. It may well turn out to be more than she can handle. There's no shame in that, but I can't see her turning to you for help as long as she's under threat of being dumped for it. If you love the girl, you won't leave her for briefly experimenting (and this is an experiment) with something that may not be good for her. For heaven's sake, she's been doing it less than a week. Give her a chance to quit on her own, would you? If she comes home every night red-rimmed and shaking from some nasty run-in with a customer and still declares that she's found her true vocation, then you've got a problem.
Note: You want to take San Francisco Sex Information's spring
training course. Trust me on this if you like the column, you'll
love the class. Sure, it's a bit of a commitment (60-odd hours over
four weekends), but you'll enjoy every minute. It all starts soon, so
go to www.sfsi.org for more information. Do it now.