Feminism | The philanthropic ogler? Er, surely there's some mistake

by Caitlin Moran

LET’S BE clear about this — I am no hater of men. I am on their side. Indeed, more importantly, I think there are no sides. I am of the opinion that, broadly speaking, we are all well-meaning idiots clinging to a giant lump of rock, hurtling faster than we can ever really comprehend to our doom, and that pretty much the only thing that enlivens this unfortunate situation is the hope that men and women might create a single, opalescent moment of a love beyond fear — or, failing that, at least get laid without catching a disease.


However, last week I had a moment that made me doubt if women and men will ever see eye to benignly lolling eye. A report by the British Psychological Society on lap-dancing clubs revealed that customers could be divided into three categories: “lads”, “gourmets” and “philanthropists”. The notion of the “philanthropist” ogler pitches the reader right over the handlebars. Of all the motives we had taken into consideration for men to enter a strip club — drunkenness, curiosity, braggadocio, libido, loneliness, being too plain to see breasts any other way — I don’t think any of us allowed for the possibility that there were guys going to strip-clubs to make the world a better place.


But the report concluded: “Far from seeing dancers as unwilling participants in the sex industry, [many] regular visitors believe that they are helping the women.” For guys, this new theory is a big break. Although chiefly stunned by the self-delusion, I also can’t help being quite happy on behalf of men. After all, it may have taken 150,000 years of human progress, but the fellas have, finally and happily, found an act of altruism that consists solely of looking at naked women. This is the one they’ve been waiting for. It is the E=MC² of tits. The atom bomb of bum.


Much like the girls at the clubs, men are now spinning tits and ass. They’ve found a post-Nick Hornby justification for perving that only a churl could argue with. They’ve managed to find a way to bust New Man out of the kitchenette and into Hooters in Bethnal Green. You have to applaud man’s cunning, squirming, low-down weasel brains for finding a way to continue being low-down squirming weasels a little longer.


Of course, the notion of the philanthropic dirty old man may all be a lucky fluke. One cannot dismiss the possibility that the British Psychological Society’s questionnaire had only three tick-boxes on it. “Do you attend strip clubs in the capacity of a) a “lad”, b) a “gourmet”, c) some kind of drunken, sweaty, semi-aroused out-reach worker?” As is so often the case, what initially looks like genius may be a simple clerical error.


But if it is true, and men are entering strip clubs with the sole intention of making women’s lot a better one, I feel impelled to tell them that there are easier, cheaper ways of doing this. Shelving, for instance. Women love being helped by being given shelving. Lending a hand to carry a large Christmas tree to a car — chicks can’t get enough of it. Fudging critical data for an overdue report — thanks, guys.


To be honest, this whole rigmarole where women pretend to have sex with the floor while men blow the best part of £200 on three beers and a pair of breasts seems a bit of an effort. Men, have you ever considered Gift Aid? Besides, we women don’t want to ruin your great night out with our neediness. Strip clubs are supposed to be where man feels like a mighty lion, lazily surveying a savannah of easily chasable tits — not the staff room at Enfield Social Services.

But then, the psychology of strip clubs has always been odd. As a stripper once said to me: “Strip clubs are where women who hate men take their clothes off for men who hate women.” They are never going to become a balm to the human condition.


Personally, I am no friend of the strip club. Three years ago, Victoria Coren, Observer columnist, and I were thrown out of Spearmint Rhino, Tottenham Court Road, after the bouncers accused us of touting for trade as prostitutes. Obviously, it wasn’t the first time that this had ever happened to us — at the Comedy Awards in 1999 we had our sauna raided by police — but at the time, we were actually at the Rhino at the behest of their PR.


Ironically, this was with the purpose of writing a feature on how strip clubs were becoming more women-friendly. When we were ejected, Vicky was wearing woollen tights and a knee-length skirt. I was in a suit that had originally been purchased to attend a Quaker wedding. Every other woman in the building was wearing Perspex heels, and a thong being used as an impromptu piggy-bank.


Of course, we’ve subsequently thought hard about what it was that caused our ejection. Vicky suspects there might be a large underground movement of men who can’t get enough of 200 denier M&S tights. But in the light of this new report, I realise now what the real problem was. We just weren’t needy enough.

Tony’s feelgood factor

TODAY’S expected election announcement will remind many putative Labour voters that, despite their political instincts, the matter of the war in Iraq still rankles.


However, there is a way to dispel these uneasy feelings — click on! A US-based website launched in the wake of the UK playing Goose to America’s Maverick* in the Middle East, 69,435 US citizens have already e-mailed their “thanks” to Tony via its pages. More than 1,000, meanwhile, have left messages of appreciation which will leave most British voters feeling simultaneously uncomfortable and proud about how cynical they are in comparison.


Some of the best include: “Tell the BBC to go to hell!”; “Your Euro-brethren are panty-waists”; “You’re no lap-dog in my estimation – you’re a swinging Dick!”; “YOU THA’ MAN”.


My favourite, however, is an impassioned analysis of the subsequent long-term power-shift in the Middle East from an ex-serviceman, which ends with “P.S — on a lighter note, my wife has now shifted her decorating tastes from French Country to English Country in the aftermath of the war.” International diplomacy’s loss has been Cath Kidston’s gain.

*You know, from Top Gun.

Mourning has broken

TICKETS for Glastonbury went on sale on Sunday at 9am, and had sold out by 12.10pm. Given this fact, I should imagine the clientele of this year’s festival will be radically different from that of preceding years. In place of the usual dregs, freaks, loons, fruits, rubes and caners, this year’s falafel will be the province of mothers with small children, joggers, farmers, priests, postmen and gay clubbers at the end of a three-day crystal meths bender. I mean, who else is up at 9am on Sunday?

In the year 2525, maybe

IT HAS happened. Last Sunday, Radio 4, the 8pm news, and the female newsreader referred to “Twenty twelve”, rather than “Two thousand and twelve”, when discussing the year 2012. Although it sounded thrillingly futuristic and exciting, I can see why people are still reluctant to adopt the format. It did also have the slight frisson of a three-year-old counting to thirty-two, badly.


Source: Times Newspapers Ltd. 05 April 2005


{Tanya Pretorius' Bookmarks: Feminism, Caitlin Moran}


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