Essay III

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In her 2005 editorial "The Lap of Luxury", Elisabeth Eaves neatly describes the real job of a stripper:

When I worked in a Seattle peep show, I had a customer who told me his name was Excalibur and quietly slipped me his poetry. Part of my job, in that moment, was to make him feel like a Knight of the Round Table. This required only a show of curiosity and respect. He must have found those things hard to come by in the real world, though, because he paid me well to help spin the illusion.

With many customers, fawning is key. What a stripper sells is not her ability to dance or take off her clothes, but her ability to suspend the customer's disbelief.

If she is doing her job right, his bald spot and his mortgage cease to exist, and he enters an adolescent fantasy of sexual prowess, temporarily transformed into James Bond, Han Solo and Hugh Hefner all rolled into one. The dancers keep cooing and flattering until the money runs out. It's not duplicitous; it's what the patron signs up for.

I have little sympathy for these carping customers. Their complaints are the height of boorishness. It's acceptable to indulge your James Bond fantasies, but it's not acceptable, when the bill comes due, to remain convinced that you're James Bond. The dancers weren't in it for kicks.

During our class discussion I argued that the luxury fantasy was in its most essential elements a facsimile or play-act of hobbesian unity, wherein (feigned) desire begets desire (and money) which begets greater (feined) desire, and so forth. Let us call this the Theater of Hobbesian Unity.

Counter to the Theater of Hobbesian Unity is, I argued, a kind of anti-unity characterized first by the objectification and disdain with which the clientele views the dancers and the objectification and disdain with which the dancers view their clientele, the one only embittering and antagonizing the other in the mutual contempt of what we might call Hobbesian Dis-Unity. That is, where Hobbesian Unity is at once ascendant and unifying, Hobbesian Dis-Unity is its antithesis, at once descendant and dis-unifying.

To be sure, these are generalizations. Not every stripper despises her clientele (although is pity really that much of an improvement?), nor does every client view their stripper through the lens of outright objectification. Nevertheless, there do seem to be these two antithetical aspects to strip-clubs: Theaters of Hobbesian Unity masking, or attempting to mask, Hobbesian Dis-Unity. Yet if Hobbesian Dis-Unity is the result of objectification, what kinds of objectification are the culprits?

Analyze Hobbesian Dis-Unity in terms of the ten kinds of objectification (seven Nussbaum's, plus three Langton's) Raja Halwani discusses in his paper, "On Fucking Around". Suppose you were an industrial psychologist (yes, there really is such a thing) brought in to consult on a strip-club with a particularly corrosive atmosphere, one which has seen growing bitterness and antagonism on the part of both clients and strippers. Given your analysis of objectification, and in light of your reading of Eaves, how would you advise the club to improve the experience of client and stripper alike?