I've never been to a strip club. The right mixture of snobbery, overthinking, and neurosis has generally kept me away from the poles, strangers, and dance routines that (I'm guessing) occur within. Maybe I've just been a coward. I don't know.
While I worked my way through all these digital skin joints, a handful of questions sprang to mind. The most prominent of them was pretty simple: Why am I here?
I am a videogame player, though, and as such I've had plenty of opportunities to virtually explore games' takes on these sexual havens. The likes of Duke Nukem Forever, Grand Theft Auto 4, Mass Effect 2, Saints Row, and many others have opened the entry doors to those strobe-lighted arenas over the last few years.
DNF's journey to the club is a dick-led machismo fantasy (literally) in which our titular hero must quest through "Duke Nukem's Titty City" in search of such items as a condom, a vibrator, and a bag of popcorn in the hopes of receiving a particularly arousing lapdance. GTA 4 features two clubs, Honkers and The Triangle Club, both of which allow protagonist Niko to get up close and personal with one aspect of Rockstar's skewered vision of The American Dream. The Saints Row games have a variety of clubs, most of which feature dudes and gang members congregating around the live dancers and their breasts. Mass Effect 2 has blue-boobied sensual dancers in space. There are countless others. You get the idea.
While I worked my way through all these digital skin joints, a handful of questions sprang to mind. The most prominent of them was pretty simple: Why am I here? As is often the case with some of the things we do in videogames, it's a seldom asked yet nonetheless important thing to think about.
Why am I taking this Eastern European immigrant to get double teamed in the back of some club in New Jersey when there are corrupt mobsters to stop? Why does Commander Shepard, the hero who's on an apparently urgent mission to save the galaxy from oncoming annihilation, feel the need to take a break to catch some erotic asari dancing? And what the hell does popcorn have to do with satisfying a stripper?
Well, the obvious answer is that I do it just because they're there, and just because I can. Going to a strip club in a game functions in much the same way shooting or running over a NPC does: It's something people do in reality even though common societal pressures typically tell them not to. That's probably not fair to those who just want to enjoy a good dance every now and then,, but the fact that all the dancers and poles are pixilated naturally makes them less real, and thus alleviates much of the stigma that would be found if you were to attend a virtual club's real-world counterpart. This is pretty normal.
It's not that strip clubs are inherently evil - they're a legitimate business, they're definitely nothing like shooting or running over someone, and lord knows plenty of adults of all kinds have a good time attending them. There's nothing really wrong with all that.
But it's not outrageous to say that they're still the kinds of places we're discouraged from going. There's a reason professional sports teams add stipulations to certain players' contracts that state that they must avoid them entirely. There's a reason that we don't exactly tell our kids about the awesome times they can look forward to at the "titty bar" when they get older. And there's a reason those who cling to possibly foolish moral absolutes, like myself at times, gasp at the very thought of one. Justified or not, strip clubs are still something of a social taboo. They're like a lesser form of pornography - a type of instant sexual gratification. You pay to see the boobs and bulges, you get the boobs and bulges, and you go home satisfied. It's usually a good time, I'd imagine.