Strip Club Etiquette: Part Two

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Illustration by Aaron Ughoc

Back to basics

As of 2015, Portland still hosts the most strip clubs per capita of any American city. This is because nudity is protected as free speech in Oregon, thanks to cases like 1985’s City of Portland v. Tidyman, 1987’s State v. Henry and 2005’s State v. Ciancanelli.  

However, not all American strip clubs are the same. Those in Portland, Miami, Hollywood and Decatur each hold different beauty standards and feature dancers representative of their city’s culture. This guide can be applied for clubs with male or female dancers, and is written so you—and the dancers—can have a fun night.

Not all that glitters is gold

Most clubs have a stated policy that patrons must tip at least $1 per song. Dancers told Vanguard in 2017 that spending at least $50 per strip club visit will earn you more fun.

Nobody is exempt from tipping, and if you’re not tipping, you most certainly are not seated at the rack—the closest seats to stage with the best views. Some female dancers report that female visitors may feel as though they aren’t required to tip, which just isn’t the case. Regardless of whether a dancer is male or female, cheering on their acrobatics or buying them drinks won’t pay their rent.

Remember why you (and they) are there

Strippers have the same access to sex partners as anyone with a hookup app and a data plan; they don’t need to have sex with patrons. Yet many dancers report patrons will often ask them for threesomes, relationships and more. If you ask a dancer for a threesome, they will probably laugh or rant about it later with their coworkers.

Dance clubs exist for dancing, and sex clubs exist for sex. Portland has several sex clubs for everyone on the sexual spectrum. Dance clubs are intended for classic appreciation of the human physique.

There’s room for everyone at a strip club: Blue-, white- and non-collar classes intersect in these spaces. Before entering, consider your intentions: Are you there because you want to see someone naked, but you’re not in the mood for burlesque? Are you there because you like acrobatics set to rap, rock or pop music? Are you celebrating a major milestone? Are you looking for someone to talk to? Or are you looking for something more?

Be nice, be cool

How would you feel if someone came to your place of work and followed you around, loudly critiquing your looks or job performance? As Kim Kardashian famously exclaimed on Keeping Up With the Kardashians, “Don’t be fucking rude!” So what if you don’t like how a certain dancer looks, dances or dresses? You can keep your opinions—and your dollars—to yourself.

In Volume One, I discussed why strippers maintain certain boundaries. Jaxon, who dances at Silverado, told Vanguard that if you know a stripper outside of the club, you can come watch them and hang out—as long as you tip. Just make sure to respect that this is their job. A strip club is not the place to ask and answer questions about your friend’s parents’ health or postbac thesis. Keep conversations light, and use your friend’s professional name.

If you really want to get to know a dancer better, ask for their Instagram or Venmo username—not their real name.  “Don’t ask my full name unless I can ask your social security number,” said Lilith Sinclair, a fetish model who dances at numerous Portland strip clubs.

What happens during a lap dance?

The short answer: not sex. Also, please remember that at no point do you have permission to stick your finger in anyone’s pussy or asshole. That’s sexual assault, and it’s gross and rude.

While some people like being watched by friends and strangers at the rack, others prefer a more private, intimate experience. Lap dances vary in cost and range from $20–50 a song, depending on the dancer and club. I prefer keeping to the rule Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and other musicians demonstrate in their music videos: I keep my hands on my lap unless otherwise directed.

Lap dances provide the patron with an opportunity to unapologetically appreciate physical beauty in a space where they are free to drop their guard and self-conscious feelings. Lap dances are also a sort of power exchange between dancer and patron. The dancer is taking money for a few minutes of physical and emotional labor, and the patron draws satisfaction from helping that dancer make rent. It’s like being a benefactor without having to fill out a tax form.

Where can I practice these tips?

In addition to the clubs Vanguard and other media have previously recommended, including Sassy’s, Acropolis, Stag and Mary’s Club, we also encourage looking to Portland’s suburbs for a different experience from downtown. The suburbs are also home to both of Portland’s male strip clubs.

Although the Boom Boom Room is no more—R.I.P. to this filthy Portland legend—it’s been reborn as Reveal Lounge. Other unsung Portland strip clubs include Shimmers Gentlemen’s Club, Riverside Corral, Dusk Til Dawn: Casa Diablo 2, Club Playpen, Spearmint Rhino, Dolphin II, Xpose and Beaverton’s Sunset Strip and Runway.

This is the second volume of strip club etiquette based on experiences in Portland strip clubs, written from Andrew D. Jankowski’s perspective, supplemented with dancers’ interviews. The first volume is available online, or in Vanguard print archives.

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