Strip Clubs and You: How To Worship at the Temple

We finished our gig at 11pm, locked the inside doors on the tour bus so we could strip out of our costumes, then do our makeup wipe/cocoa butter/perfume nightly ritual.  We were going out on the town.

I found myself in Portland, before midnight with 24 hours to spare before we crossed the Canadian Border. It’s a town filled with music and the most strip clubs per capita in the United States.

What’s a girl to do?

Go worship.

At Union Jack's Strip Club in Portland.  Photo by Emilie Autumn.
At Union Jack’s Strip Club in Portland. Photo by Emilie Autumn.

So here’s the real lowdown.

I came of age in a household of boys. I have always felt like I was one of them. If mirrors didn’t exist, I would think I was a boy. It’s kind of like in that movie Babe, where Babe the pig is raised by sheepdogs and basically is one, but in a pig’s body.

I was raised by the wolves and I am one.

Women have always been these enchanted creatures to me. All of them. All sizes, shapes, colors – exotic, feminine other-worldly concoctions of mystery.

I started visiting strip clubs in Florida when I was 18. They were open two hours later than the punk rock club I used to hang out in. So once that was closed at 2am, my best friend, Jeff and I would always go over to the strip clubs to hang out for another two hours before we made the drive home.

In the strip clubs, I was surrounded by wild, unabashed, unashamed females. They knew something that I didn’t know. They moved their hips to the music like they were casting spells.

Rose McGowan in Planet Terror
Rose McGowan in Planet Terror

And I was hypnotized.

You might be reading this and understand what I’m talking about, or you might be reading this and getting pissed.

I have been accused of being anti-woman by visiting strip clubs. In the same vein, regarding my burlesque profession, I have been asked a million times…“How can you be a feminist and do burlesque?”

Easy.  I am celebrating my feminine self, my feminine power and inherent sensuality every single time I get on that stage to dance.

Where is the shame in doing something that I love to do?

For me, personally, I felt more shame working in an office doing menial tasks that I hated.

And sure, I’m going to go to a strip club and there are going to be girls there who love their job, and there are going to be girls there who don’t.  Just as if I was going to walk into my accountant’s office and there’s going to be people there who love their job and people who don’t.

The difference is how we view them. The difference can be in how we point fingers and shame or how we create our experience.
Now you can do a strip club in two ways…..
You can go as an obnoxious, a-hole, feeling high and mighty and talking down to the dancers, having a cheap experience and feeling it afterwards.


You can go like you’re going to have a religious experience and that’s what you will have.

Think about this:
There have been temple dancers for thousands of years, their stories have been etched in stone in the pyramids of Egypt. These temple dancers would channel the goddesses, swaying their hips with raw power.

Give me that now.

It exists.

I found it on the corner of 10th Avenue and Burnside under a sign of a woman’s curvy silhouette.

Salma Hayek in From Dust til Dawn
Salma Hayek in From Dust til Dawn

I am writing this post in an attempt to kill the taboos and have a much needed talk about etiquette based on what I witnessed last night. Whether you’re a man or woman reading this – all these steps apply:

  1. Get Ready Like You’re Going to Church. Take a shower, brush your teeth, get dressed up and smell nice. Everyone appreciates this.
  2. Elevate the Experience through Respect. Be courteous and respectful to the dancers. See it as a house of worship and you’ll be given respect back. Treat the dancers disrespectfully and well…there’s that old saying…”Hell hath no fury….”
  3. Approach the Shrine. Don’t be a stingy lurker that hangs out in the back corners and doesn’t tip the dancers. I saw this happening at the club we went to and it’s lame. Along the same lines, it also pisses me off when people do this to subway and street performers. If you are watching and appreciating, tip. Otherwise, just stay home and drink your beer in your living room.
  4. Confess. Pay genuine compliments to the dancers. Everyone appreciates that. There was a girl at the club the other night who was performing graceful moves from the bars on the ceiling and the pole. Her acrobatic skills had me in awe. I’m not very coordinated, and it was inspiring. It made me appreciate her skill in her body and it made me want to learn to be more flexible in mine. I tipped her and told her so. Her strength was incredibly sexy!
  5. Look, but Do Not Touch.  Treat the dancer as the goddess she is….a sensual icon. Do: Feast your eyes. Don’t ever touch.

And speaking of feasting your eyes, I dare you to not be completely enraptured by the raw, feminine power in Selma Hayak’s dance below. And if you’d like to get more tips from an actual dancer in Portland in her own words, check out Medusa Mayhem’s pointers.  She dances with joy and loves what she does.
Now watch this video and worship. I bow down to the wild women of this world.


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