Stripping, Sex, and Popular Culture

Stripping, Sex, and Popular Culture

Stripping, Sex, and Popular Culture

Stripping, Sex, and Popular Culture


At the heart of Stripping, Sex, and Popular Culture lies a very personal story, of author Catherine Roach's response to the decision of her life-long best friend to become an exotic dancer. Catherine and Marie grew up together in Canada and moved to the USA to enroll in PhD programs at prestigious universities. For various reasons, Marie left her program and instead chose to work as a stripper. The author, at first troubled and yet fascinated by her friend's decision, follows Marie's journey into the world of stripping as an observer and analyst. She finds that this world raises complex questions about gender, sexuality, fantasy, feminism, and even spirituality. Moving from first hand interviews with dancers and others, the book broadens into a provocative and accessible examination of the current popularity of "striptease culture," with sex-saturated media imagery, thongs gone mainstream, and stripper aerobics at your local gym. Stripping, Sex, and Popular Culture scrutinizes the naked truth of a lucrative industry whose norms are increasingly at the center of contemporary society.


One of my best friends is a stripper.

We met as five-year-old girls, growing up in the same middle-class leafy suburb of Ottawa, in Canada. It was a new residential development, full of kids riding bicycles and playing in the woods down by the Ottawa River. Marie's family lived on the street behind mine. the streets formed two interlocking crescents whose pattern meant that we passed each other's house all the time. Our families stayed put for twenty-five years - indeed, mine is still there - while we went to the same Catholic elementary school; the same junior high; and then on to high school together, in a building just across the playing fields from our old elementary school. I often went with her family to their cottage on a lake in the Gatineau Hills north of the city. Because my mother wouldn't let me have a cat or a dog, their Black Lab became my surrogate pet. We both went to the University of Ottawa for our undergraduate and master's degrees, while still living at home with our families. We often took the bus downtown to campus together where we met up with another neighborhood friend, Anita, for a weekly breakfast club.

Marie and I then came down to the United States at the same time to do our Ph.D.s, hers in English literature and medieval studies at a prestigious Midwestern university and mine in religious studies at Harvard. Marie used feminist theory in her research and teaching; she was, and remains now, a self-avowed feminist. After several years studying full-time, she switched to part-time status before leaving school completely for a while to work in administration at the Gender/Women's Studies Department of her university. She then decided to resume her program full-time in order to determine once and for all if she wanted to finish her degree. Knowing that she couldn't combine school work with her administrative job, she quit her position and, for income and out of curiosity, started dancing at the local strip club (there was only one in her small town), first on the day shift and then on the more lucrative night shift. She found that she enjoyed the job and that it let her manage her expenses, while still leaving plenty of time for library research and classes. At the end of the calendar year, she made the decision that she truly didn't want to be employed in academia. So, like many other people and for a variety of reasons, Marie left her Ph.D. program. But “Foxy” kept on dancing.

Meanwhile, I finished my degree and was hired at the University of Alabama as an assistant professor. My appointment was shared between the Department of . . .

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