Strip club + boyfriend = unexpected sleepless night

Evening in the Red Light District

So, it’s the middle of the night, and I am wide awake, blogging here for the first time in three months (it’s been a busy summer). Why? Because this past weekend, Lovely Boyfriend has been in Amsterdam on a stag do (that’s a bachelor party for those of you from across the pond). And we all know what that means.

I knew that LB was going to be going to strip clubs on this trip. In fact, I was more prepared for this eventuality than he was — he kept insisting that no, no, it was a small group, he’s known these guys for years and no way would they be into that stuff. My response was dude, it’s Amsterdam. And it’s a stag do. Who are you kidding?
Indeed, I wasn’t convinced it wouldn’t go further than that. I’ve been to Amsterdam and seen the whole array of sexually arousing goodies the Red Light District has to offer. I know that it’s actually easier to find a live sex show than it is to find a standard strip club. There are hot, near-naked women beckoning from windows on every street, offering services for every taste and budget. I know how easy it must be for one thing to lead to another, when you’re far from home and probably a bit drunk and probably a lot stoned and you’re surrounded by all your best mates and everyone’s revved up and in full-blown Bloke Mode. So it was me, not Lovely Boyfriend, who dared to bring up the question, “and what about prostitutes?”

This really put the cat among the pigeons, as my gran would have said, and as a result we did quite a lot of talking about this particular aspect of the trip. Lovely Boyfriend was mortified at the very suggestion that he might think to visit a prostitute — my attitude towards sex work is about as liberal as it is possible to be, but although he tries hard to ‘get it,’ and usually does, he’s still made a bit squeamish by the idea of women hiring out their vaginas to men they don’t know. In the end, in spite of him insisting that the first part was really not necessary, we laid down a mutually agreeable rule of “paying for a sex act is cheating. Going to a strip club is fine.” I also insisted that he scope out any clubs first, to check that they seemed reputable, and to leave immediately without handing over any money if he even so much as suspected that the girls were unhappy, ill-treated or trafficked.

And with that, I packed him off to Amsterdam, and genuinely honest-to-god spent my whole weekend as happy as a clam. I went to visit my parents and did very little except eat good food, drink wine and catch up on all the family goings-on, and it was great. Naturally, I missed Lovely Boyfriend like mad, but I really didn’t give much thought to where he was or what he might be getting up to. We’d discussed it. He’d probably go to strip clubs. That was cool.

With hindsight, there was stuff I did not do that I should have done. I should have thought more carefully, and perhaps done some reading around about lap dances, for example. I blithely said that yeah, if he wanted to buy a lap dance that was pretty much OK. He shuddered at the very suggestion, so I guessed it was unlikely to happen and didn’t think about it much beyond that. However, I now discover from reading the comments here and elsewhere that many feminist wives, girlfriends and partners see lap dances as a sex act and therefore very definitely as cheating, and yeah, come to think of it… I see their point. When you put it in terms like “it’s a naked woman trying her best to arouse your man to the point of orgasm”, then yeah… that kind of sounds like a sex act. And in my personal little relationship world, sex act + someone else = cheating.

Lovely Boyfriend assures me that he did not receive a lap dance, so all’s well that ends well. He also came back full of bluster and a lot of “oh, it was all very awkward and quite boring really. Not erotic in the slightest. I was just bored.” Really, it was like so dull. I believe him — it probably was. But I feel a little like he doth protest too much. When I asked “but wasn’t it, you know, even a little bit fun?”, he responded in the negative. This was the reaction I had expected from him — he’d assured me before he even packed his case that he was looking forward to the inevitable (I assured him that it was inevitable) strip-club experience about as much as heading to the dentist for root-canal. And yet, now he’s back, I kind of feel like I would have preferred him to say “yeah, it was a bit silly, but it was a good laugh,” or the like. I can’t help but think he’s trying to spare my feelings — and if he is, that’s silly. I am super-cool with (ethical, reputable) strip-clubs and the hot ladies who get naked therein, and he knows that. So now I feel both suspicious of his blazé, yeah-it-totally-sucked response (several times repeated, may I add), and pissed off with myself for feeling suspicious.

But the main response I’ve had was totally unexpected, and it’s kind of hit me for six: I feel really, really uncomfortable about my body all of a sudden. I’ve always had problems in this area — I’ve been 5’11” tall since I was twelve years old, and although I would by no means describe myself as ‘fat,’ I am carrying a fair bit of padding around with me and have always been very aware of my largeness. I’m basically the size of a fairly well-built man. Sometimes, this has manifested itself as kick-ass “yeah, I’m tall and powerful and striking!” vibes… and others, it’s been a panic-attack-inducing, self-esteem-crippling horror.

Lovely Boyfriend has done wonders for this situation since he came along about twelve months ago. Over the past year, I’ve started to worry about my body less and less, to the point where recently, I’d pretty much stopped thinking about it altogether. In recent months I have enjoyed a more normal relationship with food than I’ve ever had since entering adolescence — I’ve taken up hula hooping and felt confident enough to practice in the park. This has been a great big huge supermassive deal, and I am endlessly greatful to Lovely Boyfriend for all his sterling work.

Except now it’s 1am, and I am sitting in my living room in my full-length pyjama bottoms and a big cardie with full-length sleeves, thinking about how ugly my body is. I am thinking about how lean and taught and fit those girls must have been — in fact, because I’m an emotional masochist, I’ve even been on the establishment’s website and had a look at a few of them. As expected, they’re all ferociously hot. It’s not the pouty lips or the huge, enhanced breasts that bother me, funnily enough — it’s more that now, Lovely Boyfriend has been up close and personal with ladies who don’t have bits of cellulite on their thighs. Ladies who can sashay expertly in those great big perspex heels and still not stand half a head taller than him, as I do in my bare feet (and as a result, these ladies have not adopted a slight, unwitting stoop). He’s spent an evening in the company of ladies who never have even so much as a whisper of body hair, who look bloody amazing in a G-string, from behind. It’s like: now he knows that these things are possible, that they don’t just happen in the fairydust airbrush-tastic world of Hollywood movies and magazines. Women can and do really look like this. And I just so don’t.

A big part of me knows I’m being totally ridiculous. That part of me is inwardly screaming that it’s 1am and I have to get up in five hours and go and give lectures and mark papers and take care of more important shit than this. And I’m confused, because I really feel totally cool about the fact that he went and did that and saw that stuff. I don’t think any less of him for doing it and I haven’t changed my views about strippers or (reputable) strip-clubs. I was just so absolutely not expecting to feel like this — to have a part of me, however small, worrying like crazy about how he might now be mentally comparing me to these hot, lithe ladies he saw anytime I happen to remove an item of clothing.

It seems that this is a wake-up call, more than anything else. I thought I was getting my body-issues house well and truly in order, but this one tiny thing has knocked all that for six. Clearly, I’m not as cool with myself as I thought I was, and there is still work to be done. But I can’t help but feel that there’s now new, different work to do than there was before. Because I feel like I can go back to bed now… but I don’t feel like I can take off the cardigan.

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