On Friday, I saw my first burlesque show. On Saturday, I read the April issue of Poetry, which includes a Rae Armantrout poem called "Soft Money." This is how it begins:
because they're needy,
which degrades them.
They're sexy because
they don't need you.
They're sexy because they pretend
not to need you,
but they're lying,
which degrades you.
They're beneath you
and it's hot.
Is this poem about stripping? Maybe. Probably not. I've been to a strip club, and I've been to a burlesque show. I can only comment on the performance as a heterosexual female audience member, not as anyone with experience, or an education in the history of the striptease. But here are some things I'm thinking, and putting out there for debate:
1. (true/false) Strippers are stupid because they just take off their clothes for men; burlesque dancers are smarter than strippers because they know men want them to take off their clothes so they do it slower and with more jokes.
2. It can be sexier to conceal than reveal.
3. (true/false) Burlesque is empowering to women. (Why?)
4. What is sexy? Says who?
5. I love the stanza: "They're sexy because they pretend / not to need you," because this seems to epitomize sexiness for me. A nonchalant performance is way sexier than a nervous one. But, ultimately, "they" do need "us." The performer doesn't exist without an audience.
6. Interesting that so many burlesque audiences are female and/or gay.