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Although go-go boys are an entertainment fixture in many gay (and other) social scenes around the world, I used the author’s creative license in my creation of a character’s role as a club dancer at All the Feels. He performs, scantily clad and in a highly titillating manner, but his role at his father’s bar differs from that of many other go-go dancers.
“I get paid to go out and drink and be the center of attention, rather than paying to go out and drink and trying to get people’s attention.” (Jeff Tetreault, West Hollywood)
In order to get a good grasp on go-go dancing, I researched the experiences of both male and female club dancers.I soon realized that there are many differences between their experiences. To start, with female go-go dancers there seems to be a greater focus on creative costuming—rhinestones and miniskirts and torn bodysuits—where most male dancers merely wear designer underwear and jockstraps. There is generally more distance between the female dancer and the customers. Less touching is allowed, and female dances frequently are provided with security, so it’s more often a visual performance than a physical one. “I never had to do anything ‘gross’, like touch anyone or let them touch me, though there were some instances where men got handsier than I would have liked…” says former go-go dancer, Jessica Delfino.
The experience of male go-go dancers is closer to a stripper’s experience. Touching and even groping is commonplace, and even expected. “Cash bursting out of every pelvic fold they’re equipped with, they’re aggressively vying for all of the eyes and dollars in the room,” describes Jeff Tetreault, the West Hollywood go-go boy. Tetreault must provide his own security, as well. In other words, he protects himself from the sometimes aggressive crowds. “I’m essentially a zoo animal.” And Tetreault admits to being desensitized to the grabbing. “You know people think because they have a dollar bill they have a magic wand of some sort.” In addition, Tetreault admits to feeling quite competitive with the other go-go boys. “I want to look the best I can, have the best bulge, and I want to earn money. I don’t want to be outdone by someone. I don’t like when I see another dancer get more attention.”
Zachary Zane, a Provincetown MA, go-go dancer, offers words of wisdom for gay men who attend performances. Touching respectfully, according to him, is acceptable, but there are limits. “I told you it was OK to touch, but let’s not take a mile when I gave you an inch…or eight.” In other words, customers shouldn’t squeeze too hard or hang on too long.
Alcohol and drug consumption is common among both male and female club dancers. One male dancer reports that in his circles there is a lot of drug use among dancers, including weed, cocaine, and Viagra, as well as injections to make them stay erect. Female dancers do not have to concern themselves with drugs to make them appear sexually aroused, but they also report the party aspect of this lifestyle as a major draw. Diana Brownie, a Canadian ski town former go-go dancer said, “I had graduated (university)….and didn’t really want to grow up. Whistler is like Never Never Land for adults.” Another dancer said, “My favorite part was the party…”
In my research, I also viewed several episodes of YouTube’s Go-go Boy, Interrupted about a male go-go dancer who aged out of the scene. Jimmie Fowlie asserts that club dancing encouraged a long span of party life with not much to show for it on the other side.
For many dancers, alcohol and drug dependence are some of the most serious long-term downfalls of the club dancing lifestyle. Delfino suggests that it was also a hard lifestyle to withdraw from, as the money was fast and easy to earn. She felt she had needed guidance that she didn’t receive during this time in her life, as Delfino was hiding her go-go dancing career from her family. She kept going into debt when working other jobs and then then would return to go-go dancing to make the bigger, quicker money.
Many dancers, in fact, feel they need to keep their go-go dancing life secret from family, but when asked directly if they’re ashamed of their job, their response was largely no. Tetreault says, “It’s not something I’m ashamed of. I see it as part of my journey. It’s my job—it isn’t my identity.” And Delfino asserts that it actually brought her confidence. “Getting on stage for the first time was petrifying and exhilarating in the same moment.” At first, she was shy, but her confidence quickly grew when she realized she could throw off her fears and do anything to survive, even something taboo. “I didn’t feel like I was doing anything wrong. I didn’t feel naughty. I didn’t feel bad. I didn’t feel creepy. I felt like a young woman who wanted to go to school…”
One of the trickiest aspects of go-go dancing is the constant propositions by customers for services that can be described as “more than dancing.” Guo Yang, one of Asia’s most popular go-go boys reports that “It’s quite common to receive sexual requests, which is understandable considering the nature of our performances. But it’s all about how you deal with it…If the request is too weird, you are always free to reject it. The weirdest request I’ve received was people asking me for my worn underwear.” One dancer calls the offering of these extra requests “privates”, where you go back to a private location with a client to cuddle or engage in sexual activity.
Another negative effect of working as a go-go dancer is the societal judgment one must deal with. Tetreault says, “I get very insulted when people like to call me a hooker, whore, prostitute, or man-whore because I don’t do that stuff…” A go-go boy reports, “I have heard the most absurd things you can imagine for being a go-go dancer. Many of us have a degree and a nine to five job. We are just normal people with a slightly unconventional job. But in the end it doesn’t matter because we are surrounded by friends and don’t really want to be close to people with little, simple minds anyway.” Guo Yang states, “People generally have a negative perception of go-go dancers…A lot of people are under the impression that go-go boys are motivated purely by money and would accept sexual requests but that is just a stereotype and cannot be generalized to everyone.” Jessica Delfino’s mother kicked her out of the home when she learned how her adult daughter was paying her college tuition. And there are other repercussions to go-go dancers functioning prominently in certain aspects of society. Does it encourage unrealistic body image stereotypes? Does it encourage people to use sexuality to gain money and attention? These are fair questions.
Although the money may be called “easy” life as a go-go dancer is quite challenging.
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