Theaters of Prey: Strip Clubs in America
„I once talked to their boss (a woman) who told me flat out: We sell dreams to lonely losers and horny boys that will never come true. There will never be a shortage of them.“
Gentlemen’s Club, Live Adult Entertainment, Exotic Entertainment, Rest Lounge or Strip Club – regardless what society may dub them, these arenas are venues for men to perform as the voyeuristic audience and for women to serve as the sexual lures to draw them into this role. These clubs are part of contemporary mainstream American culture. They are spread around the country and located at places where we least expect to come across them, like residential neighborhoods, near motels, airports, industrial areas and car shops. The subject about the strip club is homogenous enough to span economic and cultural boundaries. The placards of naked women and grandiose lighting of the permeating sexual kitsch makes the strip club aesthetic creates an instantaneous attraction-repulsion paradox within passers-by. This raises a lot of questions about the function and the need of those dwellings in contemporary society.
To show the real ‘glow’ of the exotic bars the images are photographed during daylight when they look like ordinary houses or diners and can be seen as part of the mundane. This is the time of the day when the curtain between reality and illusion is dropped and all the dreams about the world inside are destroyed. The photographic images are visual observation of the outside architecture that becomes the crossroad for various social viewpoints on this kind of adult entertainment. The photographs represent the realistic outside look of these places with the labels that create the illusion of a great sexual experience inside, like a door to the paradise. All the titles of the ‘gentlemen’s clubs’ have double meanings and suggest sexual play and excitement.
Indeed, the titles of these places become the focus of this mediated documentary of nightlife experience. They capture the imaginary character of the strip clubs. However, in brought daylight we can see how the subject of sex is depicted on the social structures can seem simultaneously inviting and alienating. They are like a ‘trap’ for the visitors, where once they get in, they are drown into their dreamy world inside with always the same scenario – ‘to bite from the forbidden fruit’. The Strip Club markets sexual fantasy and elicits skeptical curiosity. It preys upon the need for fulfilled lusts and desires: a basic human need. But, what about the one who sign ‘independent contractor’? Who is the victim in this twisted game of lust exchange? Who continues hunting in this dramatic performance and who is being seduced in the „Theaters of Prey“?