The Strip Club Adventures were only one chapter in the story of grappling with the peculiar kind of socialisation a young woman is ground down through and into – a process which begins almost overnight, ending just at the moment you get used to it – and I’m not sure I’d repeat it now, at twenty-four. I remember, though, how important those ill-judged expeditions felt. They signified transgression, and a journey into a space which was absolutely and categorically designed to exclude people just like me. I wanted to assert myself there, but the odds were not in my favour.
In 1963, Gloria Steinem went several steps further and went undercover as a Bunny in New York’s Playboy club. Her account was published in two parts, in the May and June issues of Show magazine – and if you haven’t read it, stop here and start now. Amongst many other subtle atrocities, we learn that eligibility for the role of Bunny is dependent on several attributes, in a very particular order: Beauty first, ability last. Apart from the casual sexual assault and violation of workers’ rights, the Playboy Club in 1960 seems a weird hybrid of school and sex – “Five demerits for eating in the Bunny Room!” and potential dismissal for neglecting to keep one’s ‘uniform’ clean. The overwhelming impression, though, is of an insidious infantilisation which begins to wash over Steinem and, eventually, her reader. She is exhausted, so are we, and so were the girls I met on my own adventures. Very little glamour; rather, monotony. In a kind of chilling tautology, neither my own experiences nor Steinem’s seem wildly different from the standard exposure of women to a culture saturated with misogyny. Do they touch you? Yep. Are they meant to? No. Depressingly: much like a bar on a Saturday night, then.