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Title:The fantasy of masculinity: a study of masculinity in strip clubs across three Midwestern metropolitan areas
Author(s):Krueger, Julie C
Director of Research:McDermott, Monica
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Dill, Brian J
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Sandefur, Rebecca L; Moussawi, Ghassan; Baker, Phyllis L
Department / Program:Sociology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):sex work
social class
strip clubs
Abstract:This dissertation interrogates the relationship between sex work and masculinity. The project was guided by the following question: how do female strippers and male customers (co-)construct and negotiate masculinities in strip clubs across three Midwestern metropolitan areas? Based on this question and 13 months of ethnographic fieldwork, I make three main arguments. First, I contend that the role of strippers is far from limited to providing opportunities for sexual arousal through physical stimulation or voyeurism. Through a range of interactional labor practices, strippers fulfill the emotional needs of male patrons and facilitate emotional expression, often concerning that which can compromise their masculinity. However, because these interactions are situated within the hypersexualized, masculinized environment of a strip club, male customers are shielded from the fear of being ‘insufficiently’ masculine or failing to adhere to masculine ideals. Second, I argue that much of strippers’ labor revolves around productions of gender, wherein strippers enable and amplify male customers’ enactments of idealized masculinities. Furthermore, I contend that the fantasy customers seek within strip clubs is not necessarily or exclusively sexual; rather, it is a fantasy of masculinity, which compensates for customers’ perceived inadequacies in their masculinity and projects onto the customer an idealized masculine self that can never be realized across all dimensions of patron’s life. Thus, stripping is simultaneously a product and producer of masculinity. Third, I maintain that male customers participate in the (co-)construction of gender by assuming a range of roles in relation to strippers, which are differentially experienced on the basis of class and enable customers to project an idealized masculine self. Thus, dominant masculinities are sustained and enacted in classed ways through the vehicle of sex work. Within these roles, customers engage in manhood acts that are often seemingly innocuous or kind, though they function to claim gender power and privilege for the actor. In sum, strip clubs serve as critical sites of gender negotiation, wherein male customers meet the demands of masculinity and cope with the pressure it exerts.
Issue Date:2021-04-23
Rights Information:N/A
Date Available in IDEALS:2021-09-17
Date Deposited:2021-05

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