In an age of ultra-political correctness, arbitrary genders and sexual consent forms, one might think that the archetypal red-blooded American male has been reduced to a quivering, confused soy-boy afraid to express himself lest he offend a woman. And, according to Bloomberg, one would be wrong at least behind the closed doors of your average strip club.
Like Amish teenagers on a big-city bender, men have been conducting strip-club "meetings" in droves - perhaps because of the new progressive mandate that guys be on "best behavior" in the workplace - lest an unassuming testosterone-filled gentleman be accused of mansplaining, man-spreading, or sexually assaulting a woman with his eyes, words or thoughts.
The past year has brought new attention to the sexist and harassing behavior women face in many workplaces, from explicitly sexual overtures to getting passed over for leadership positions and raises. After all that, the idea that a strip club is a good place to, say, bond with a client or co-workers seems especially reckless, said Marianne Cooper, a sociologist at Stanford University’s Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab. -Bloomberg
Reckless, maybe - but live adult entertainment is a $6 billion-a-year business, according to WestPark Capital analyst Ishfaque Faruk, and the industry is experiencing what he calls "consumer-staple type growth" of around 1-2% per year. Faruk follows strip club megacompany RCI Hospitality Holdings, which tells him that business customers are "still part of the financial model."
Cooper, the Stanford University Women's Leadership sociologist has taken umbrage at men looking at naked women during business hours, insisting that "Business does not have to get done this way," and that "It’s not that it’s central to business, but it is central to these kinds of dysfunctional toxic cultures where women aren’t seen as competent colleagues." (A counterpoint might be that forcing men to live in a world that shuns male sexuality by labeling it 'toxic' will, at minimum, lower reproductive rates among societies that subscribe to hyperfeminist ideals).
Earlier this year, Under Armour Inc. reigned in its employees meeting at strip clubs, explicitly banning them as an allowable corporate expense. "Strip-club visits were symptomatic of practices women at Under Armour found demeaning," according to the WSJ report of more than 12 current and former employees and executives.
Meanwhile, strip club business is booming.
The Rosewood Theater, a high-end Manhattan strip club popular with Wall Streeters, is planning to expand, with pop-up clubs taking test runs in four U.S. cities next year. At clubs in Detroit, Houston and Dallas, there are still plenty of corporate cards and briefcases. And shares of RCI, which owns about 40 adult-themed clubs and restaurants, hit a record high in July. -Bloomberg
"For guys just throwing corporate cards down, you hear more about it in bigger cities like New York and San Francisco, convention cities like that," said Dave Manack, associate publisher for strip-club industry magazine, ED Publications. "The rank and file club in Poughkeepsie or Lubbock, Texas, that’s not their bread and butter.”
According to an anonymous Rosewood Theater employee, around 150 customers attend each night, and hosts a "steady stream of customers until 4 a.m., when New York City's bars have to close," reports Bloomberg.
The arrangement is novel: The women who entertain the patrons aren’t formal employees -- technically, they’re guests invited by management. But they do earn money, in the form of tips from customers; club management instructs them to forgo perfume, so patrons don’t return home with a telltale scent.
Next year, Moon will take the show on the road, targeting the moneyed professionals in Silicon Valley, Miami, Los Angeles, and Austin, Texas, with pop-up events in existing clubs in those cities or at invitation-only parties in rented loft spaces.
As it is, company expense accounts only make up a fraction of revenue, says Angelina Spencer, the executive director of the Association of Club Executives, or ACE. The organization, which represents more than 1,000 clubs, estimates it at about 10 percent.
“It’s dropped considerably,” said Spencer, a former club co-owner. “Companies have mostly put the kibosh on it.”
And just because corporations have been cracking down on strip-club meetings, it doesn't mean clients aren't still wining and dining clients or high-fiving co-workers as they slip dollar bills into g-strings; people are either footing the bill themselves or lying about it, according to the report. Club names typically have an innocuous sounding name on credit card bills or expense accounts - which give employees (and husbands) the cover they need to remain in good standing.
Since August, RCI has announced the acquisition of clubs in Chicago, Pittsburgh, and has its eye on 500 more for potential buyouts.