According to the latest Magic Mike movie, stripping is all about having fun and feeling good. And the movie may be right—at least in the case of male strippers, a new study finds.
University of Colorado Denver sociologist Maren Scull spent two years interviewing and observing male strippers who dance for women. She found that male strippers reported higher self-confidence and self-esteem thanks to their forays into exotic dancing.
The men interviewed earned less than their female colleagues, and few took in more than $100 a night, so most had little rationale to stay in the business for the money. By contrast, cash is the main motive cited by women who strip—a 2010 study of UK strippers found they earned an average salary of $74,000 per year.
Instead, men who make their living dancing for women find positive affirmation in being found desirable, Scull discovered. "Because stripping is a stigmatizing occupation, it has the capacity to negatively affect exotic dancers' self-definitions," she said in a press release. "I looked into what motivates men to continue dancing and found that stripping led to feelings of mattering, mastery and enhanced self-esteem."
She postulates that the difference has to do with broader gender dynamics. Women tend to be objectified on a regular basis, so they may not enjoy having to deal with it at work every day. Men may find objectification more pleasant because they’re more rarely on the receiving end of it.
Since the research took place in one strip club, it’s not necessarily representative of the experiences of all strippers—some may make a lot of money, and some may in fact dislike being objectified on a daily basis.
Elsewhere in stripping research: The same sociologist has found that male strip shows reinforce stereotypical gender roles. Every woman may be a queen in Magic Mike’s world, but stripping’s still a king’s game.