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Andrea is on vacation. Check out this column originally published Jan. 3, 2007.
Recently, my boyfriend and I were at a strip club and bought a lap dance. My experience has been that, as a girl, the hands-off rule generally doesn't apply to me. However, out of respect for the girl, I don't touch until she invites me to. This one invited me to touch her. Caught up in the moment, my boyfriend asked, "Can she touch your pussy?" I was a bit shocked because I assumed that was off-limits but she said, "She can, but you can't." So I started touching her on the outside of her G-string. I got a little braver and went under her G-string but still stayed outside. She moved a certain way during her dance, and my thumb kind of slipped right in. A few seconds later, she stopped. She was nice and hugged me, and told us to come back any time. Did I go too far? I feel guilty that I may have made her feel like a hooker. Or is it really no big deal? I'm embarrassed to go back, and I've asked my boyfriend to not make that request in the future. How often does this sort of thing happen to a dancer?
Just what we needed, a new set of ethical dilemmas and moral failings to keep us awake and tossing on those long dark nights of the soul that tend to hit around this time of year.
I really don't think this is the sort of thing that used to bother people before half the female grad students in the country started stripping and writing books and doing performance art (oh, so much performance art) about it. For that matter, I don't think other girls used to feel as permitted or as obligated to go grope those girls for money at their places of work. I'm not entirely sure that what we're seeing here is really an accurate demonstration of human sexual behavior in the wild there are too many layers of politics and performance in there to tell what's really happening but I'm confident we're at least seeing some genuinely new situations and their accompanying etiquette issues.
I've known any number of post-everything strippers, hookers, and dominatrices, but one in particular comes to mind. She'd been working at a womyn-owned, crunchy-organic peep show, but surprise! she could barely make her rent. So like so many before her, she'd given up her ideals and gone where the money is. Once she was hired by the grimy mainstream porn theater and Olde Lappe Dance Emporium, she was coming home with her pockets and God knows what else stuffed with fifties every night but complaining to me that some guy came while she was wiggling around on him and ew, ew, gross, yuck, how dare he? I commiserated at the time because I'm a wimp like that, but honestly, isn't that an occupational hazard? If you're going to be a sex worker, you deserve to be treated with respect and decency, of course, and what you say goes as far as who's allowed to touch where with what and so forth, but come on. Into each stripper's life a little semen must fall. If that's absolutely not going to work for you, dance behind glass (for lower tips) or, hey, get your Realtor's license or something.
Most of the female sex workers I've known have been at least passingly bisexual, but even those who really aren't seem quite genuinely enthusiastic about female customers, both prospective and actual. There are elements of novelty to the appeal, I'm sure, just as there are elements of safety and sisterly enthusiasm. What there ought not to be, and what you ought not to worry about, is an expectation that female customers aren't really customers that is to say, that they're not paying the sex worker for sex. While many women who go to strip clubs or book time with a dominatrix may be doing it to please a (male) partner, or as a learning experience or a lark, or just to make a statement of some sort, it would be pretty silly for a sex worker to be surprised when a customer, male or female, appears to be interested in having some sort of sex with her.
Your dancer granted you access. Maybe she liked you (or likes girls in general) or maybe she was milking you for tips, but whatever, she said yes. She has a sense of how sturdy or flimsy a barrier her G-string presents to curious fingers and was probably not surprised when you got where you got. The most telling thing was that she invited you back whenever, which she was certainly under no obligation to do. I think it would be fine to go back there and fine to whisper, "Sorry I got fresh last time" and fine not to. It would also be fine for her, in turn, to refuse you service, but I bet she doesn't.
Andrea is teaching Sex After Parenthood at Day One Center (www.dayonecenter.com ), Recess (firstname.lastname@example.org ), and privately. Contact her at email@example.com  for more info.