Opinion: People Are Appalled I “Let” My Boyfriend Go to a Strip Club

Carolyn Light

I don't own him

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My partner’s brother celebrated his 40th birthday last weekend.

He wanted to spend the day with his two younger brothers — one of whom is my boyfriend.

What are you guys going to do to celebrate? I asked my partner.

He wants to go to the casino and play poker, then get some food, my boyfriend said.

Sounds fun, I said. Try not to lose all your money though; we need a new dishwasher.

There’s something else, he said. It may or may not happen.

Oh? I asked. What is it?

He might want to go to a strip club after the poker room, he said. He paused. I wanted to know how you feel about me going.

Oh, I said. Well? Are you planning to cheat on me with one of the dancers or something?

What? he asked. No, of course not.

Then I don’t care, I said.

I mean, I’ll honestly probably focus on the football game on the screen, I’m not really that into strip clubs, he continued.

I really don’t care, I said. Go, have fun. Celebrate your brother.

Later, I was suffering through a lunch party hosted by one of my friends.

I love her, but I don’t love all of her friends. We don’t have much in common. As we were sitting around the table, one of her friends turned the conversation toward me.

Where is your partner? she asked me. I thought you’d both be coming this evening.

Oh, it’s his brother’s birthday, I said. So he’s out with his brothers, doing brother things.

That’s nice, she said. What are they getting up to?

They’re playing poker, getting dinner, and potentially heading to a strip club, I said.

The record screeched to a halt. There was a clap of thunder. In the distance, sirens.

Everyone looked at me, and her smiled faltered.

You’re letting him go to a strip club? she asked me. It didn’t escape me that she put her hand on her own partner’s arm as she said it.

I mean, I’m not letting him do anything, I said. He is his own person.

I know, but like, she looked around the room for support, obviously, there are naked women in a strip club. She giggled nervously. It’s their job to be naked.

I’m aware of what a strip club is, I said.

What if he gets a lap dance? she asked.

What if he does? I answered.

The whole group sat, watching the exchange. She stared at me.

I would be so uncomfortable with this, she said, looking sideways at her boyfriend.

How come? I asked.

Because! she exclaimed. Naked women! I don’t want my husband around other naked women!

Yeah, I can get that, I said. I don’t know, it just doesn’t bother me. I’d be upset if he cheated on me with one of the women in the club, but I’d be no more upset with him cheating there than I’d be with him cheating anywhere. I’d rather he be at a strip club with his brothers than be on a secret date with someone else. Cheating is unacceptable; I don’t consider strip clubs cheating.

That’s so good of you, said one of the men in the room.

It’s not good of me, I said. I don’t own him. I just trust him.

The conversation turned elsewhere, and I looked at my watch, counting the minutes until dessert.

I imagine that my interrogator at the party is uncomfortable with the idea of her husband at strip clubs for multiple reasons.

First, I imagine that she holds some quiet insecurity about their marriage. Second, I imagine that she holds some quiet insecurity about herself. And lastly, I imagine that she mentally denigrates sex work as a whole.

I don’t know her well enough to say any of this for sure — I’m speculating. But, if I’m correct, I understand her discomfort with the idea, and I recognize the differences between us — I’m not insecure about myself or my relationship, and I also take no umbrage with sex work.

None of the dancers in the club are trying to fall in love with my partner. If they dance for him, they’re doing it because it’s their job. It’s transactional. They’ve found a (sometimes quite lucrative) way to pay their mortgage and support themselves, and I applaud that. I also can think of little that seems less romantic to me. I’m not worried about anyone trying to sweep my partner off of his feet.

I’m also not concerned that my partner holds any confusion about how the dancers view him. He’s not there to fall in love; he’s not under the impression that he’s special. He’s not going to walk out of there and think Wow, she really liked me. There is no disconnect for him.

But more than that, I don’t let him do anything. I don’t own him, and I don’t control his activities and movements. Sure, I do not want him sneaking around behind my back. I don’t want him going on dates with other people; I don’t want him to engage in physical or emotional intimacy with people outside the confines of our relationship.

He doesn't want me doing these things either — we do not have an open relationship. But, we do have a great deal of trust, and I don’t worry about him stepping out on me inside of a strip club — or elsewhere.

In the end, he called me around 7 PM that night.

They played poker, and they had a lavish dinner — but they never went to the strip club. The birthday brother wasn’t in the mood, and my partner and his other brother had never really wanted to go in the first place.

The lunch conversation was for naught. Much ado about nothing.

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We're all just out here, doing our best. Pondering: Mental Health | Feminism | Relationships & Dating | Social Climate

Chicago, IL
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