Gummy penises, male strippers

Michelle Depoali is an English graduate student and teaching assistant at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Along with female liberation came the bachelorette party—an excuse for women to act in the same degrading and unacceptable ways that men do at the bachelor party. It is the last night, supposedly, to assert oneself as a sexual being, which society seems to think that marriage kills. I’m not sure that a woman is naturally inclined toward wanting a bachelorette party, but it keeps the score even.

“You’ll get into the stripper,” my boyfriend promised. “Do you want some one-dollar bills?”

“Do you know me at all?”

My boyfriend’s response to my impending evening at my cousin’s bachelorette party offended me. Months before, he had attended my brother-in-law’s bachelor party. He told me nothing about the night’s events or my brother-in-law’s behavior.

“It’s like the Warren Commission files,” he said. “Your brother-in-law’s pre-marital record is sealed.”

My cousin’s party started with an intense game of “Pin the Macho on the Man.” (You figure it out.) After snacking on gummy and chocolate penises, the girls headed to a local bar, where the stripper was waiting. I was a bit uneasy. If the idea behind the bachelorette party doesn’t weigh on the feminist consciousness enough, then a male stripper does.

My cousin wore a veil and a penis-shaped pacifier to identify herself as the bride. The blatant symbolism was clear.

As we entered the loud Virginia Street bar, “happily” married couples yelled at her, “Don’t do it!” We were escorted to the back, where I noticed a young man, about 18 or 19 years old, dressed in a crisp, white Navy uniform.

He wasn’t hard to spot. A Navy guy in a country bar in Reno?

My cousin suspected nothing as he took the stage. As he started to sing “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling,” the fantasy began to take shape. Any woman raised in the ‘80s clearly understood that this was Top Gun, or as close to Tom Cruise as any of us Nevada girls were going to get.

He pulled my cousin onto the stage and proceeded to lose the Navy uniform. Shrieking women swarmed the stage. The dollar bills started coming out.

I couldn’t help but think about his age, his parents. The stripper stopped briefly when he realized that a member of our group was his dental hygienist. He waved and opened his mouth wide, showing his straight teeth. I was reminded that we live in a small town.

“Back that ass up!”

The lyrics filled the room as the young man gyrated in my cousin’s face. Her blonde hair created a halo effect around her, and it seemed like “the girls” were just partaking in some good, wholesome fun. Then he graciously bowed and sailed out of our lives.

I am ambivalent. It wasn’t as sleazy as I thought it might be. But the inherent problems with sex and power that make me reject this kind of casual sexuality were obvious.

So much for equity in the marriage ritual. Needless to say, I didn’t use any one-dollar bills.