A CASE OF NAKED HYPOCRISY?

When claims emerged that hostesses at the all-male Pres­i­dents Club char­ity din­ner were groped, there was a furore. But what about those male strip­per nights where women throw in­hi­bi­tions to the wind...

Daily Mail - - Confidential - by Jan Moir

At the end of a long night of swelling bi­ceps and swiv­el­ling hips, grind­ing, thrust­ing, whip­ping and strip­ping, Donna Mitchell is not best pleased.

Out­side the Northamp­ton­shire County Cricket Ground, where she has just watched a troupe of male strip­pers called the Dream­boys per­form in a two-hour show, the 32-year-old re­cep­tion­ist is feel­ing short-changed.

‘For 45 quid, I wanted to see the full monty — and I didn’t,’ she cries.

Is she not happy? ‘Of course I’m not happy. I paid £45 for my VIP ticket. I was sit­ting there right at the front of the show. And I didn’t see one sin­gle full-frontal all night. Not one.’

She is warm­ing to her theme: ‘I’ve even seen her boyfriend naked.’ She points to a star­tled friend. ‘But I didn’t see a naked man tonight. It’s not right. It’s down­right crim­i­nal.’

that is a de­bat­able point, but what does seem against the rules of fair play is the dou­ble stan­dard that Donna’s dis­ap­point­ment so neatly demon­strates. If a man had talked about a fe­male per­former in the way she dis­par­ages the Dream­boys, he would be deemed des­per­ate, sex­ist, sad and ridicu­lous.

Yet, set in the same con­text and judged by the same rules, her com­plaints are con­sid­ered amus­ing and droll. No more than a laugh.

how­ever, when you re­flect on the febrile at­mos­phere sur­round­ing current sex­ual pol­i­tics — where ev­ery man is born guilty and the moral high ground is a fe­male-only zone of fu­ri­ous hash­tags and slo­gans — it sud­denly feels not funny at all.

Donna was part of a 7,000-ca­pac­ity crowd who jammed into the cricket club sports hall last Satur­day to watch the Dream­boys strut their stuff. In­stead of wil­low on leather, it is a night of tor­sos in leather and a pro­fes­sional de­ter­mi­na­tion to bowl over as many maid­ens as pos­si­ble.

the Dream­boys, Bri­tain’s an­swer to the Chip­pen­dales, are the most pop­u­lar troupe of male strip­pers in the coun­try, per­haps even europe, and the all-fe­male crowd — I spot­ted only one man — are up for a good time.

the eight per­form­ers, most of whom are pro­fes­sional dancers, put on a show that they prom­ise will take their fans ‘on a crazy jour­ney’.

Well, it cer­tainly takes them some­where, but is it any place we should want to go?

the Dream­boys mine the stereo­types of fe­male fan­tasy, dress­ing up as cow­boys, com­man­dos and top Gun pi­lots, then just as quickly dress­ing down again. they oil up in fire­men’s oil­skins, then peel them off in a blaze of rip­pling mus­cles.

And when they come on stage dressed in white naval uni­forms for a rou­tine based on the hit film An Of­fi­cer And A Gen­tle­man, the women go bonkers. If it is true that love lifts you up where you be­long, we be­long in a caul­dron of bub­bling hor­mones, a place where the hot, per­fumed air is reg­u­larly pierced by pri­mal roars of pros­ecco-soaked lust.

While Donna may have been dis­ap­pointed by the lack of full­frontal male nu­dity, the ma­jor­ity seem more than thrilled with the goods on dis­play.

In­deed, when the Dream­boys ven­ture into the au­di­ence to se­lect vol­un­teers to join them on stage, the women waste no time in grab­bing, grop­ing and fondling the per­form­ers with the rel­ish of the Man From Del Monte speed- se­lect­ing peaches for his range of canned fruits.

It’s shock­ing. Un­be­liev­able. It verges on the ob­scene. Again and again, per­fectly man­i­cured hands reach out from the throng to grab, squeeze and paw the young men in their midst.

If the gen­ders were re­v­ersed and it were males en­thu­si­as­ti­cally grop­ing skimpily- dressed fe­male bur­lesque dancers or strip­pers, they would be ar­rested on the spot.

TheY­would end up in jail, be hounded from po­lite so­ci­ety, quite pos­si­bly sacked from their jobs and pub­licly shamed for sex­ual ha­rass­ment, at the very least.

Yet, out here in hen party land, where the chat­ter­ing-class topic of gen­der pol­i­tics doesn’t make the agenda, it seems that any­thing goes.

the rules of the new pu­ri­tanism that have swept through so­ci­ety do not ap­ply here. the #Metoo and time’s Up move­ments, both sparked by the har­vey We­in­stein scan­dal, were formed to com­bat the sex­ual ha­rass­ment of women by men in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try.

In For­mula One rac­ing, the grid girls have been banned be­cause of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness and the feel­ing that their glam­orous pres­ence at Grand Prix events is now ‘ at odds with mod­ern-day so­ci­etal norms’.

Mean­while, the Pres­i­dents Club char­ity closed re­cently fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions — never proved — that some of the 130 hostesses were groped, of­fered money for sex and sub­jected to lewd com­ments from male cus­tomers at a fundrais­ing din­ner in Lon­don’s Dorch­ester ho­tel ear­lier this year.

Of course, in the fraught world of mod­ern sex­ual pol­i­tics, there is no cor­re­la­tion be­tween strip­ping, pos­ing and serv­ing drinks, just as grop­ing a male strip­per is not the same as (al­legedly) rap­ing an ac­tress.

how­ever, it is in­dica­tive of the bla­tant dou­ble stan­dard that ex­ists and which un­der­lines the anom­aly that it is only male be­hav­iour be­ing crit­i­cised un­der a fu­ri­ous fem­i­nist mi­cro­scope, when, as ev­ery right­minded per­son knows, women are equally ca­pa­ble of be­hav­ing badly.

If there is a shred of logic to the #Metoo move­ment, it would do well to con­sider ex­pand­ing its sym­pa­thies to in­clude a #Men­too di­vi­sion.

NOWONDer male re­sent­ment is grow­ing about the pro­tec­tions and re­spect af­forded to fe­males not ex­tend­ing across the gen­der di­vide.

the un­com­plain­ing Dream­boys, who ac­cept that lewd be­hav­iour to­wards them comes with the ter­ri­tory, just have to grin and bear it. ‘It is whoosh, both hands, straight in,’ said Dream­boy Con­rad Bris­sett. ‘You’ve just got to smile it out.’

At the age of 48, the Birm­ing­ham­born per­former is the old­est dancer on the team, a vet­eran who has au­di­tioned for Bri­tain’s Got tal­ent and who closes tonight’s show by squeez­ing a sponge of soapy wa­ter over his chest, tak­ing ev­ery­thing off, but — sorry, Donna — cov­er­ing his mod­esty with a Union Jack flag.

Like all of the Dream­boys, he is philo­soph­i­cal and thought­ful about the un­wanted at­ten­tion: ‘I guess, in a way, we signed up for it. But, some­times, I have to say to the women: “hang on, I’m a hu­man be­ing, too.” ’

Kane Sil­ver, 27, has been a Dream­boy for a year. Orig­i­nally from Cardiff, he has worked in Los An­ge­les and been a back­ing dancer for per­form­ers such as the Pussy­cat Dolls lead singer Ni­cole Scherzinger.

Now, he has de­vel­oped a cop­ing strat­egy for a dif­fer­ent re­al­ity.

‘Some women come along and they are a bit more drunk than they need to be. Or they are a bit more for­ward than they need to be,’ he says.

‘Some­times, I say to them: “Would you do that to me if my mother was here?” I once asked this woman if she had a daugh­ter. And when she said “yes”, I said: “Well, how would you like it if I did that to her?” ’

And what did she say? ‘She agreed that she should stop. Over­all, I try not to let it af­fect me. Some­times, I do think: “Well, she was a bit rude. But she might have had a bad day.” ’

It seems strange to think that just 60 miles north of here, a ma­jor piece of re­search is un­der way to as­sess the suc­cess of the in­tro­duc­tion of misog­yny as a hate crime.

Not­ting­hamshire Con­stab­u­lary has con­ducted a pi­lot scheme — be­ing closely watched by other forces across the coun­try — which means that if a man as much as leers or whis­tles at a

woman in Not­ting­ham, he could find him­self be­ing charged with a hate crime and quite pos­si­bly put on the sex of­fend­ers’ list.

Mean­while, the world of male strip­ping is boom­ing. The Dream­boys have be­gun a 140- date UK tour, which will keep them on the road un­til Christ­mas, per­form­ing in con­cert hall-size venues.

Their ju­nior col­leagues in The Dream­boys Hen Nights di­vi­sion put on shows in night­clubs in 12 cities across the coun­try ev­ery Satur­day night. If any­thing, these events are even more rau­cous.

Trou­ble is not un­known. Ear­lier this month, at a sim­i­lar type of event, pho­tos emerged of a woman strad­dling a dancer on the floor of a venue in Mid­dles­brough.

And last year, af­ter a per­for­mance at the For Your Eyes Only strip club in Cen­tral Lon­don, one Dream­boy was charged with two counts of sex­ual as­sault when two women claimed he mo­lested them dur­ing a pri­vate dance in a se­cluded booth at a hen party. In the end, Florin Haiduc, 29, was cleared by a jury on both counts.

Giv­ing ev­i­dence, he said that when the bride-to-be and her brides­maid squeezed his groin and scratched his back, he asked them to stop. The bride was ‘ab­so­lutely fine’ when she left the booth, he said, but later made a com­plaint which ended up in court.

It seems re­mark­able that a male strip­per se­lected by a woman to per­form for him in pri­vate could still find him­self on the wrong end of a sex charge, but per­haps this is in­dica­tive of how the pen­du­lum in the sex­ual pol­i­tics arena has swung too far in one di­rec­tion. Mr Haiduc is no longer a Dream­boy, while his ac­cusers have van­ished back into the fog of le­gal anonymity.

The on­go­ing suc­cess of The Chip­pen­dales in Amer­ica and films such as The Full Monty and Magic Mike has put a new gen­er­a­tion of male strip­ping firmly on the map — one that they like to think is a lit­tle bit classier.

As one Dream­boy ex­plains, strip­ping used to be the pre­serve of ‘body­builders with two left feet, bless them’. Now, it is re­garded as more of a per­for­mance, with most Dream­boys boast­ing a pedi­gree that in­cludes danc­ing in West End mu­si­cals and pop videos.

The troupe’s chore­og­ra­pher, Jor­dan Dar­rell, 33, feels that it is ‘more of a bur­lesque than a strip show and there is hu­mour, too’.

In­deed, The Dream­boys ap­pear as a Mex­i­can mari­achi band at one point and even wave un­fea­si­bly large sex toys at the au­di­ence. Even so, the women do some­times get out of con­trol. ‘Of course they do,’ says Jor­dan. ‘They creep up on stage in the black­out and try to grab us. If it gets too out of hand, our se­cu­rity get in­volved.’

In a re­cent investigation into the sex­ual ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion of The Chip­pen­dales, where it is not un­known for the per­form­ers to be bit­ten and scratched by fans when they run through the crowd, News­night’s Emily Maitlis went to Los An­ge­les to in­ter­view a Chip­pen­dale called Ryan.

‘It’s very rare, but it does hap­pen,’ he told her, adding that he did not feel ob­jec­ti­fied be­cause he was a par­tic­i­pant in the show and ‘ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion means some­one’s re­duc­ing you against your will — this is not against my will’.

Still, he has never played on a cold night in Northamp­ton, where the pros­ecco is cheap, the shots are flow­ing and girls are be­ing sick be­fore the show even be­gins.

WHATdo you hope to see tonight? I ask a group of women in sparkly tops and hen party hats. ‘ We want to see boys and lots of hard bod­ies,’ says one. ‘Boys, boys, boys!’ chant her pals.

I ask one of the older au­di­ence mem­bers what she thinks of it all. ‘I know what women are like,’ says re­tired ma­chin­ist Beth Bol­shaw, 65. ‘And some women get more out of this than others.’

In the dress­ing rooms, The Dream­boys have shaved their bod­ies — they don’t wax as ‘it’s too painful’ — and the air is heavy with fake tan and co­conut oil.

‘Baby oil has too many parabens. We use co­conut be­cause we like to be or­ganic and nat­u­ral wher­ever pos­si­ble,’ says Luca The Latin Lover, aka Luke Baker, 29, a for­mer ball­room dancer, na­tional sprinter and six years a Dream­boy.

He con­firms that they rarely go full-frontal be­cause ‘the ma­jor­ity of venues won’t al­low it. The most you see is bum’. So, do they wear thongs in­stead? ‘Oh God, no,’ he says. ‘ We wear black pants. We don’t just get our bits out.’

Does he feel ob­jec­ti­fied? ‘You get a few who take it too far, but you have to be pro­fes­sional and deal with it. I laugh it off, even if in my head, I’m think­ing: “My God, what the hell is go­ing on here?” But I knew what I was walk­ing into.’

Af­ter each show, the boys travel through the night to the next gig on their coach, which is equipped with beds. No women are al­lowed on the coach, but that doesn’t stop them try­ing to board it each night af­ter the show.

It sounds like a night­mare that never ends, but The Dream­boys man­age to be po­lite, even gen­tle­manly. ‘ Oh, they just get very huggy,’ says Kane. ‘They say: “Ooh, let me touch your mus­cles!”

‘Hon­estly, I have no idea why they think they can do that. But then, I am not a woman. I don’t know how their brains work.’ SOME names have been changed.

Pic­tures: MUR­RAY SAN­DERS

Harm­less fun: There is no sug­ges­tion that any women at The Dream­boys con­cert in Northamp­ton (above and right) be­haved in­ap­pro­pri­ately

Pic­ture: TOLGA AKMEN / FT COM­MIS­SION

Scan­dal: The Pres­i­dents Club din­ner at the Dorch­ester (top)

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