August 25, 2014

Taking it All Off

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

I spent most of my weekend writing a strip scene for my work in progress. Well, not a standard strip scene; my heroine has a burlesque act that is key to how she expresses her sexuality.

Originally, when I was mentally mapped out the skeleton of this book, I’d envisioned her as a straight-up stripper–erm, erotic dancer–but my friend and critique partner made this face when I suggested it. You know the face. Yeah, that one.

Yeah. Kinda like that.
Yeah. Kinda like that face.

I’d envisioned an empowered heroine who took her clothes off not in some inner city titty bar or in a skeevy road house, but in a classy club where she turned the whole potentially debasing experience into an expression of her sexual power. When I told my CP that, she made The Face. “You’re going to have a hard time selling that.” See, my CP has had a very, very eclectic life, one which somehow involved getting to know a group of strippers (I’ve yet to get her to drink enough red wine to tell me the whole story.) If she says it’s not gonna fly, I believe her.

Unwilling to give up easily (surprise!), I turned instead to burlesque. I like burlesque; I enjoy me a good show especially one with a flair for the dramatic. Burlesque manages to turn the tawdry into deliciously naughty. It’s classy and sexy and fun. Painted with the tones of old circus shows crossed with vaudeville and dance halls and decadent turn-of-the-20th-century clubs like the Moulin Rouge, burlesque is a damn good time. Added to that, yes, it is empowering. I’ve watched documentaries on modern burlesque shows, current burlesque classes, and the history of burlesque. I’ve seen testimonials from women recovering from emotional and sexual conflict and abuse who cautiously are re-learning how to value their selves and their bodies through burlesque. I can’t possibly understand it fully, but I find it fascinating and inspiring.

It’s a sad state of society that male striptease doesn’t bear the same stigma that accompanies women strippers. Certainly, the successful movie Magic Mike painted the male revue as a fantasy for the women patrons, the boyfriends they never could have in real life. I’m interested to see how and if the recently released the documentary by actor Joe Manganiello, La Bare, a behind-the-scenes feature on the lives of male strippers, supports or disproves this image. (It also features model Ruben, stage name “Angelo”, who was an Ellora’s Cave Caveman cover model and who was gunned down while defending another man outside a Dallas club in 2012.)

See? FUN
See? FUN.

But until then, I vicariously burlesque.

Do you think there’s a difference between stripping and burlesque or are we just kidding ourselves? Will Romancelandia be able to handle a heroine in non-erotica/erotic romance who takes her clothes off for money and doesn’t apologize for it?

Follow Lady Smut. We never lose our flair for the dramatic.

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  • Post authorKel

    I think there is a difference, mostly because men do not usually take their clothes off out of desperation and women might. Horrible though it is, when people are desperate, they give power to anyone who is willing to give them what they want; in this case money. Little girls do not think to themselves “When I grow up, I want to be a stripper” and until they do, the profession will be one of desperation and despair.

    After all, most things become what people bring to them. When webring shame and degradation, that’s what the profession becomes despite the fact that it could be about beauty and art and athleticism and power. We as a society do not value beauty, nor grace, nor even dancing… things that we covet as humans, things that children do when they are happy. We sort of suck.

    And it’s partially tied into rape culture and into classism and racism and sexism and the fact that a huge part of this country was founded by hypocrites and we still haven’t grown past that. We think anything that makes us feel is shameful, and we try to hide it and smother it…

    Sorry, tangent. So yes, I think there is a divide between stripping and burlesque – burlesque is “naughty”, while stripping is “seedy”. You can take classes for both, and while there are high class strip joints, there aren’t really burlesque dives.

    And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean there’s a difference in the sort of people who attend each.

    • Post authorKiersten Hallie Krum

      I plan to hit up a burlesque club in NYC at some time in the next year when schedule allows. Need me some first-hand exposure to get the true vibe.

      Reply to Kiersten Hallie Krum
    • Post authorM. Keep

      Since you brought up race, I will also mention that we inherently view the things that white women do to be classier than what black women do, and there are by far more white women interested in burlesque than black women.

      We also devalue the way black women dance and find it to be trashier and sluttier, which is an absolute shame. But I definitely feel that this is a part of the reason why strip clubs, strippers, and the ‘stripper moves’ are often looked down upon.

      Reply to M. Keep
  • Post authorLiz Everly

    I have some friends who are burlesque dancers and yes burlesque is quite different from stripping. And it’s even a bit different in Great Britain, in that they seem be be a bit more “fun” and “naughty.” It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a stripper. The last time was in an office situation and it was QUITE inappropriate for an office. I felt for the guy who received the stripper-gram–and for the rest of us who witnessed it. I left the room at one point it was so humiliating for all concerned. There was nothing artful about it. It was pretty nasty.

    Reply to Liz Everly
    • Post authorKiersten Hallie Krum

      One of the documentaries I watched was an British annual festival of burlesque. Crazy

      Reply to Kiersten Hallie Krum
  • Post authorLaura Roberts

    There’s a definite difference! Burlesque is all about the art of the tease, and burlesque dancers rarely get down to total nudity (often because of laws involving cabaret performance venues, where you have to at least be wearing pasties and a g-string). Strippers bare it all, and usually not all that artistically – at least based on the clubs I’ve been to. There are performers out there who enjoy crossing between the two, but as one burlesque performer I know put it: “There’s no money in burlesque, and there’s no room for art in stripping.” That being said, I don’t think one or the other is superior – it’s just a matter of what you’re hoping to get out of viewing the performance. And, in some cases, how much you’re willing to pay to get it.

    Reply to Laura Roberts
  • Post authorDarla G. Denton, Writer

    There is definitely a difference in how each one is perceived. Burlesque being more an art form and stripping being something scandalous done to make money.

    However, that being said, I think both professions can be a way to securely express yourself in a confident and fun manner. It all just depends on the atmosphere and the confidence of the performer.

    Reply to Darla G. Denton, Writer
  • Post authorM. Keep

    I don’t think the core of what burlesque dancers and strippers do is very different, but their audience and reasons for doing it will be.

    I find that the audience for burlesque primarily tends to be women, and dancers do not tend to do it for the money. They do it because they find it liberating, that it builds confidence, that it’s about the social aspect of joining a troupe, and it tends to be more tongue in cheek.

    Exotic dancers, meanwhile, are in it for the money and the audience is male, but that doesn’t mean they don’t also do it for the same reason burlesque dancers do it. The liberation, the confidence, the social aspects.

    Some people are forced to be strippers for the money, but the same is true for almost all jobs. I certainly didn’t dream of becoming a legal office assistant, or a receptionist, or a stripper, when I was younger but I’ve been all three out of necessity to pay my bills.

    Stripping, for me, has been the most empowering, however.

    Reply to M. Keep
    • Post authorMadeline Iva

      There you have it — what you have inside you is what you bring to the party, and I’m sure it overwhelmingly influences both kinds of experience.

      Reply to Madeline Iva

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