Monday, January 30, 2006

Book Review: "Candy Girl"

This past weekend, in between the joys of family time and the drudgery of household maintenance, I was able to sneak in enough hours under my blanket with a flashlight to read straight through Diablo Cody's excellent book "Candy Girl: a year in the life of an unlikely stripper".

It was an entertaining and intriguing read that I experienced on at least three levels:

First Level: the Writing

As I've known from reading her blog "Pussy Ranch" for a long time, Ms. Cody's writing is an addictive treat. It's fun and funny. Hip. Crisp. Wickedly insightful. A pop culture riff on acid.

Let's just say that I stopped and marvelled at the brilliance of a sentence more than several times as I raced to know what was coming next. She has style and wit and intellect in spades - enough to fill the acrylic heels of both of her stripper shoes. Any writer who can both toss off a reference to 70's classic "Kentucky Fried Movie" and discuss the relative merits of the "coochie-cutter" outfits that strippers wear is aces in my book.

Second Level: Insight into the life of a Sex Worker

"Candy Girl" takes us through Diablo Cody's decision to set loose the free spirit trapped in her good girl life. To take one last chance to get her freak on, semi-naked and for pyramid shaped dollar bills no less.

Bored with her vanilla office-girl life, Diablo takes a plunge into amateur night at the local strip club - for the thrill of it. From there it's a year long descent into the world of a paid sex-worker. Descending from part time work at an upscale club, down to full time work in a "jack-shack" club in the wharehouse district, going full tilt with a stint jilling-off for cash behind the glass at a peep-show, and ending as a phone sex girl.

Learning the business. Learning to bank.

(Full disclosure: I managed to find and visit the "jack-shack" club on a business trip to her city. Didn't know it was a "jack-shack", where extras were available. Don't know what I would have done with that knowledge.)

Diablo takes us into that journey with her. Into the disfunctional family of the strip club - both the sorority and the competitiveness of the strippers. Into both the physical and emotional toll of the industry on the girls. It's a fascinating journey, with hard earned lessons.

If you ever wanted to know what happens in the stripper's dressing room, whether there are "extras" to be had in the Erotic Loft, or who's job it is to clean up the "swimmers", i.e. the pool of splooge that has collected on the floor of the customer's side of a peep show booth - this is the book for you.

Third Level: as a Strip Club Customer

Okay, I'm not unbiased. I come to this book as an experienced strip club customer. Her experiences on the other side of the tip rail come reflected back to me.

Several times as I was reading I was poked in the eye and confronted with a realization that I've known for some time now:

Sex Workers despise their customers.

I don't think that's too strong of word. It's deep seated and pathological. It comes through, for example, in the telling of the ritual of dragging birthday boys and bachelors up on stage for a sadistic girl-handling. (often a belt-wielding scene that I've personally witnessed many times in clubs myself.) Diablo mentally warns the guys to "get ready to be the victim of twenty stripper's pent up rage at men."

At best, it's a love/hate relationship: they love the wallet / hate the man. They are revolted by most customers, yet need more and more of them to "bank".

It's understandable. The relentlessness of the hustle grinding them down. The fierce competition for a schlub's attention, and the self-esteem damage that does. The long parade of unkempt, unattractive, pawing men who tip badly. It's understandable.

It's a dynamic that I've thought about often before, as a customer. It's mutually disfunctional, this cash transaction between entertainer and client. It's emancipating for both, celebrating the right - as Ms. Cody does - to rebel. To act badly. To get your freak on. A two way street. And yet, the transaction engenders self-loathing for both. Ah well, that's the bargain.

It's a great book. You should be so lucky as to read it.
posted by Semi-Celibate Man @ 3:09 PM | 0 comments


<< Home