What is it about burlesque that I don’t like?

I know I’m supposed to like it. It’s what we intelligent, feminist, sex-positive people are supposed to want our stripping ladies (and gents) to look like, to do. The gradual, oh-so-artful, reveal, all with a nod to the past, to some vanished/revised quite serious art form.

I’m supposed to like it because it’s subtle.

I’m supposed to like it because it features women of all shapes and sizes.

I’m supposed to like it because it’s smart, because it’s clever, because it requires “talent,” and creativity.

But I don’t like it.

I don’t like it because I always feel like I’m either witnessing or participating in some in-group, aren’t-we-clever-and-sex-positive exclusive, pissing ritual.  And I don’t need to participate in group-defining, exclusive, pissing rituals.

I don’t like it because it’s not dirty. Because it’s not transgressive.

I don’t like it because while sex should always be fun, it never should be silly. Or rather, it should only be silly when it’s really intimate.  Non-intimate silliness, for me, is a buzzkill.  And feathers, and tassels – and all the other accoutrements of burlesque – reside firmly on the silly side of the silly/fun divide.

Maybe that’s not quite right – maybe silliness is ok, as long as its punctuation.  In the case of burlesque, silliness isn’t punctuation, it’s plot.

I don’t like it because it’s not, ultimately, about the pretense that the dancer wants me, but rather, about the (far less compelling) pretense that the dancer will, in fact, get naked.

It misunderstands what is, for me, the glory of a strip club, which isn’t nudity. No, nudity is banal, crude, even redundant, for me, in those clubs.  (Sometimes I fantasize about a strip club in which there’s no nudity.  That would be hot.)

The sad glory of a strip club is the fantasy that every woman there wants to, might, go home with me.

When I go to a strip club – infrequently, admittedly – whether I go alone, compulsively, or with a partner, to have fun – this is what I’m paying for, what I want.

This is why, I think, I find burlesque so unsatisfying – because it’s not aiming for me, for my desire.


  1. I like the idea of people doing transgressive things together… and
    burlesque does have both an inclusive and an exclusive aura to it. The
    dancers are a little clique-y, girlfriend-y, got-your-back-y, in a way
    that strippers don’t have. Strippers seem to be autonomous, and maybe
    it’s the mythology around stripping, but there is an edge of desperation
    to strippers that burlesque dancers don’t project.

    Desperation is hot. Why? Dunno. But it is- the anything-could-happen vibe is right up close to the surface.

    I get the thing where strippers are there for you, and about you and burlesque dancers are there for themselves…

    I like this post.

    You are not about artifice- you are about fantasy, but not artifice…

    My thoughts.


  2. I enjoy burlesque, but your opinions on it are exactly how I feel about strip clubs designed FOR women. It’s just one silly night of laughs and the men never even show the goods. Maybe I went to the wrong one. Yes, I’ve only been to one years ago.

    1. I’ve been to exactly one of those – Hunkmania, in New York. I’ll say this – it was insanely hot for me. I could imagine myself in the dancers’ shoes, grinding on every woman, collecting desire. And I could just observe the legions of fully clad, sexy women, being abused and turned on, and allowing themselves to be touched by strangers. And that was hot.

      But the presentation of the guys? Ew.

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