Our Night with the Real “Magic Mike XXL”

Male strippers are no joke.  We mean that literally: in Magic Mike XXL, the women aren’t laughing at the “male entertainers,” as the guys prefer to call themselves. They are turned on. Seriously turned on. Read on to learn about our night in the Bronx, at an underground strip club, when we experienced this notion first-hand.

But first: You could talk about the skimpy plot in Magic Mike XXL. You could talk about the stilted dialogue, and how it feels like it’s being delivered by actual strippers or pornstars (you know: guys more prized for their packages than their acting chops). But you’d be missing the point. Because what Magic Mike XXL is really about is fulfilling female fantasy. The moment the guys stop talking and start moving is the moment when they stop being out-of-work meatheads on a bromance road trip and start being the embodiment of (heterosexual) female fantasy.

Which means, less dick, more grinding. Sure, there are a few scenes magic-mikewhere the guys strip down to a thong, but these moments are few and far between — because, really, most straight women don’t get that turned on by the idea of a guy in a thong. What’s way hotter is Channing Tatum taking a break from his carpentry work in a tank top and sweatpants to grind along when a really good hip hop song comes on the radio — it’s part Flashdance, part Footloose, part Dirty Dancing, and it’s sexy as hell. Or Joe Manganiello improvising a solo dance to the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” in a convenience store, in order to cheer up the bored and lonely female clerk at the counter. magic-mike-convenience-store-joe-main-1 Manganiello’s routine (which he apparently practiced on his girlfriend, Sofia Vergara) involves a bottle of water and bag of Cheetos and trust us, this scene alone is worth the price of admission (also, you may now find yourself craving Cheetos). As Wesley Morris writes in Grantland:

Not since the days of peak Travolta and Dirty Dancing has a film so perfectly nailed something essential about movie lust: Male vulnerability is hot, particularly when the man is dancing with and therefore for a woman. It aligns the entire audience with the complex prerogatives of female desire. … XXL creates a world in which men want only to satisfy a specific idea of pleasure. … This movie doesn’t put you in the mind of a woman. It puts you in her libido. At least for me, what it means to be aroused has undergone a glorious realignment.

And as Richard Brody writes in the New Yorker:

Rome [Jada Pinkett Smith, playing emcee to the male strippers] is a sort of high priestess, or minister, of women’s grandeur. She employs her power to coax inhibited or unhappy women to yield to the power of fantasy—of their own sexual fantasies and desires—not as a form of submission, not even as their right, but as their due, befitting their status, she says, as a “queen.” That’s what she calls them, in front of the crowd of their peers, that’s how the dancers treat them as the center of their attention, that’s how they’re supposed to feel after they’ve been danced, and that is how they should expect to be treated by the men in their lives—at least, she suggests, in the bedroom. In her exaltation of women, she purifies and consecrates their desires.

It’s thrilling to see male strippers treated as objects of desire rather than objects of ridicule or bachelorette party gimmick. We learned this ourselves first-hand many years ago, when, as part of our job at Nerve.com, we went to an underground traveling all-male strip club in the Bronx (tough gig, we know). Our experience with male strippers up to that point was limited to a “firefighter” stripper that Lo, along with  Em’s sister, hired for Em’s birthday one year: he stripped down to a green thong (what real firefighter would be caught dead in a green thong?!) and his leg and chest stubble was a few days old and uncomfortably scratchy. The entire experience was hilarious, but not sexy in the slightest.

In the Bronx, on the other hand, we learned the meaning of “tying off.” We also learned that not all women giggle at male strippers; some of them take it very, very seriously. Here’s how we described the evening for a conversation with Nerve.com to celebrate the magazine’s tenth anniversary, back in 2007:

Lo: We did an online chat with the promoter and one of the dancers. It was like two different worlds coming together: these computer-nerd chat organizers and these guys who live in this completely crazy world of male stripping. African-American/Latino male stripping, which is completely different from the more sanitized white-boy gay guys who are pretending to give this, you know, fantasy. So we did the chat, and they invited us to be their special VIP guests at that week’s Friday night show up in the Bronx. We all got dolled up.

Em: Ridiculously dolled up.

Lo: And we go up there, we get out of the car, and there’s this huge line. There’s not a single white person in it, and it’s all women. And they are hungry for some male stripping. It starts to rain. Because we were special guests we went straight to the head of the line and cut all these people.

Lo: There was a catwalk in the middle of the room, and fold-out chairs all around. We’re sitting there waiting for the doors to open, and all the women come in, and everyone makes a mad dash for the front row. So the place fills up, and the manager we did the chat with comes by, he’s the emcee for the night, and he said, “We’ve got some special guests in the house from Nerve magazine,” and he points to us and holds up the issue. You could hear crickets in the room. [Laughs]

We just felt terrible. They were hardcore fans, and who are we? We’re not paying, we’re getting special treatment. It was just bad. So the show starts. We’re drinking heavily just to cope. The stuff that we saw that night — I didn’t know it was possible for women to act in such a sexually aggressive way. These women were hungry.

Em: It wasn’t legal, what we were watching. Full-on sex acts. They put fruit inside this one woman. Didn’t he eat the fruit out of her? And it wasn’t like a bachelorette party, where there’s a fun atmosphere and everyone’s laughing. It was totally serious.

Lo: Yeah. And at one point, they start pulling up our colleague, Jessica, whose judgment was not that great that night, because she was wearing a long skirt with no underwear. She had one foot up on the riser and one foot on the floor and he was pulling with both arms, and she was shaking her head, “No, no!” The emcee finally had to get right in front of him and say, “No, Chocolate, no!”

And he let go, but then two different guys went after Em’s sister Hannah and pulled her up on stage. At one point, one of the guys took his dick out and put it in her drink, like a stirrer. The whole entire audience — all of them — were like, “Drink it! Drink it! Drink it!”

Em: Hannah looked at me in utter panic. I looked around at the crowd and said, “I think the alcohol clears everything, you better just drink it!” The first time she went up, people were kind of cheering her on, like, “Go white girl! Go white girl!” The second time, they were definitely not happy that this white girl got pulled up twice. That just wasn’t fair.

Lo: It was considered dick hogging.

Em: Later in the evening, Hannah went to the bathroom. She was talking to these girls in the bathroom. They turned to her and said, “Having a good time out there?” Hannah said, “Yeah!” And one of them said, “Dick hogger!” and punched her in the face. I went up there, and I got booed off the stage because I wasn’t doing anything interesting.

In other words, what Magic Mike XXL gets right about the world of male stripping is that, with the right strippers, and the right soundtrack, and the right dance moves, women actually get turned on. But what Magic Mike XXL misses is that when one woman is up on stage, the other women aren’t necessarily cheering her on. Or, at least, they’ll cheer her on for about thirty seconds, and after that, they’ll get pissed. Because they want to be the woman up there on stage, getting grinded on.

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  1. A good friend of mine was an accountant for one of these productions. She said the same thing – lots of blowjobs.

    1. Wait, who was giving blowjobs to whom? At an underground strip club? And do you mean, simulated on stage? Or in the backrooms? Because what we saw simulated on stage was cunnilingus, not BJs!

      1. Now that you mention it, she did say, “oral sex,” not “blowjob.” I guess I assumed that based on the porn genre that centers around women blowing male strippers. I don’t know the specifics – I must’ve colored in the unknowns based on that porn genre too. That’s what happens when you let porn fill in the blanks.

        I don’t know how mainstream ANY male stripping is, but no, this wasn’t an underground, backroom thing like you went to. It was an established company that promoted the hell out of these events.

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