For a girls’ night out, most women would likely choose a bar or restaurant over a strip club. But don’t worry about objectifying the male performers, ladies—a recent study out of the University of Colorado Denver found that stripping might actually boost men’s self-esteem.
CU Denver sociology instructor Maren T. Scull spent more than 18 months visiting a strip club in the western United States (specific details were excluded from her eventual report to maintain the anonymity of the establishment), observing 42 male dancers and conducting in-depth interviews with 22 of them. The majority of the men she spoke with had become more confident thanks to their experiences at work, where they said the attention and compliments they received indicated their power and allure—versus shame or frustration. Although the studied strippers occasionally became upset over negative comments from audience members, they usually brushed them off as a matter of personal preference and not a reflection of their own flaws.
“I was surprised that I wasn’t getting anything on stigma,” Scull says, “that they weren’t saying more about feeling like they were sacrificing themselves or putting effort into hiding their jobs from their family and friends. It does make sense knowing what I know about sex and gender.”
Based on past research, it’s more likely for female dancers to feel negatively objectified because they regularly experience such situations outside of the strip club—and see customers ogling as confirmation of their low self-worth. Men, on the other hand, have been historically admired when they’re the objects of sexual attention; think of the difference between the connotations of “slut” and “stud.”
In the future, Scull hopes to see more investigation on male strippers, specifically those who dance for other men. (This study focused exclusively on men who stripped for women, but we’re not complaining.)
Follow editorial assistant Mary Clare Fischer on Twitter at @mc_fischer.