Is it OK for a lesbian feminist to eat at Hooters or go to a strip club?

stripperI’m confused. I have been trying to write this piece for months now, and the truth is that I haven’t because I am confused.

I like tits and ass. I’m a lesbian, so that should come as no surprise.

But I’m also a card-carrying feminist. So, although I like tits and ass, I do not judge women on said parts or value or devalue them based on those parts.

But I do like to look (and, when invited, of course, to touch).

So, here’s my quandary: What’s a girl to do about places like Hooters and Twin Peaks or — eek — strip clubs when one both loves and respects the female body?

I’ve only been to Hooters once and to Twin Peaks once, believe it or not. But I have been to strip clubs many, many times.

My issue with the first two is that the set up is clearly based on the heterosexual male fantasy ideals. The girls are glossy and dolled up with skin colored tights, uniforms that leave nothing to the imagination and enough make-up to make me wonder if I would recognize these girls once they washed their faces.

They are trained to speak to customers in a certain way, all individuality stripped from their

“I’m here for your viewing pleasure” personas to create “the perfect girl.”

All fluff, no content — that’s my least favorite kind of girl. Fake is not my style. I like the real ones, with tattoos and Jeep-tousled hair and ripped jeans.

So when I went to Hooters, I tried to engage the server in real conversation. She did her best.

Even scooted into the booth next to me. But she was a shell of a girl, a cupcake that was all frosting and no cake.

And the server at Twin Peaks was even worse. She was like a Stepford server, programmed for certain dialogues, unable to participate in any others. She flirted and giggled and tossed her hair, but there was nothing — no one — there.

I’ve faired a little better in strip clubs, more so in the many I’ve been to in Portland, Ore., the strip club capital of the U.S., by the way. There you can go to a club where the girls are covered in tats and at least pretend not to give a shit about what you think.

I know: It’s still an act. But it’s way more fun and much easier for me to enjoy those girls than the “wide-eyed, I-just-fell-off-the-turnip-truck” variety who, I worry, moved to the “big city” for a better life and ended up stripping instead, like some sort of bad Lifetime movie.

It’s akin to my pornography quandary. I like to watch some of it — the “woman positive/sex positive/by-lesbians-for-lesbians/real-fucking-not-just-hair-brushing” stuff. But I worry about the women who have chosen that life.

I know they say it’s empowering, just like the strippers and the Hooters girls, who say they are “sticking it to the dumb man,” taking their money and laughing all the way to the bank or to law school.

Jenny BlockBut is it true? Or do we simply live in a culture that ultimately values women as objects over anything else? That pays women less than men? That values beauty over all else? That thinks that being fat is paramount to murder?

If it really was a choice, if women could really make the same amount of money doing other things (and not filthy, demeaning or back-breaking work either), would they really sacrifice their bodies and — dare I say it, their souls — to do this kind of work?

And as a lesbian feminist, can I go really go to these places? Am I part of the problem if I do?

I don’t mind being objectified by my lover. I love it, in fact, when she craves me and devours me. But I certainly don’t want strangers to look at me like nothing more than the shell that is my body and the mask that is my face.

I’m a whole person and I’m a daughter and a mother and a friend and a sister and a partner. And so are those Hooters girls and Twin Peaks girls and strippers.

And yet, I do like tits and ass. And so the quandary continues.

Jenny Block is a writer and the author of the Lambda Award-winning book Open: Love, Sex, and Life in as Open Marriage. Her writing appears in and on, Curve Magazine, Dallas Voice, Edge Media Network and many others. Her new book, O Wow! Discovering Your Ultimate Orgasm, is due out summer 2015 (Cleis Press).

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 30, 2015.