originally published as: Fantasy: Adult Entertainment Exotic Dance by Judith Lynne Hanna, Ph.D. in Bourgeon Volume 3 #2
Since 1995, I have been studying the adult exotic dance industry nationwide. I have observed what happens in and around 133 clubs. I have interviewed dancers, patrons, managers, club owners, lawyers, prosecutors, legislators, judges, local government officials, police officers, community residents and business operators. And I have read the extensive news and literature on exotic dance. On this basis, I offer a few comments.
Exotic dance is a form of dance and art that is about fantasy. Dancers communicate not only erotic fantasy but also such messages as beauty of the natural human body, health and the pretense that clothing confers. Communication is through body movement and disclosure, high heels, closeness between a dancer and patrons, and admiration of patrons.
Performers say they are savvy entrepreneurs who are empowered, autonomous decision makers who control their bodies and performers with dignity. They want the freedom to manage their own exotic dance business without state interference, police harassment or male dominance. Subject of the gaze, dancers also gaze at patrons for clues as to how they might seduce them in fantasy. Looking and gazing are part of our normal stimulus-seeking behavior.
The exotic dancer placing her body within a financial transaction reduces herself to an object, or a commodity, no more than does a professional model, actor or athlete who earns a livelihood using his or her body.
Dancers with problems may not leave them at a club doorstep. As in any type of work, there are well-run clubs and dives, good bosses and bad, polite patrons and rude ones, stresses and pleasures. Creating a theatrical erotic fantasy is no more likely to affect a dancer’s interpersonal relationships than an actress onstage playing a killer. In fact, ex-dancers typically find their club experience applicable to other jobs and life pursuits.
Many misconceptions about exotic dance come from media portrayals, a misinformation campaign by religious moralists, generalizations from single cases, and lack of understanding of nonverbal communication. With applicable laws against crime, sexual harassment and business violations of health standards, exotic dancers and clubs do not need to be singled out for special regulations.
Judith Lynne Hanna (Ph.D., anthropology, Columbia University) is Senior Research Scholar in the Department of Dance, at the University of Maryland, College Park. Dr. Hanna has worked as a dance critic, and an expert witness on court cases related to exotic dance. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. “Fantasy:Adult Entertainment Exotic Dance” Copyright 2007, Dr. Judiith Lynne Hanna