Magic Mike isn’t a critique of capitalism, even if it is a stripper movies about dudes. “I don’t understand why if a guy is naked in public, it’s comedy,” asks Diablo Cody in an interview with Marc Maron many months before the movie came out, which is circulating again now. “And if a woman does it, it’s tragedy.” Because sexism, okay, but also, because herself. Because a few seconds before that Diablo says she “wouldn’t be here today” if she hadn’t “put walls up,” if she had “surrendered to it.”
At the same time Diablo was blogging from her peep show booth in the Midwest, so was I, in California. I did it longer than she did. Am I a real stripper? Did I “surrender”?
Unlike anything else you can do for money, including dangerous things, in sex work, needing the money is somehow the dangerous part. And it’s considered a lesser motivation than “intellectual” ones.
Marc Maron didn’t ask me (he asked Diablo, a writer), but: I’m a writer by necessity. I get paid for intellectual reasons: I can’t afford to do what is necessary for me – to write – without it being my job.
“It always looks better in the rear view,” a former drug addict and journalist advised me once, on talking about sex work and how I did it, as a journalist myself.
“There’s no such thing as gonzo journalism in this,” I told the interns at The Nation at a seminar last week. There’s no such thing as “doing it for the story.” While you’re “making your name” as a sex worker, you aren’t: you’re making your rent. There’s your body, and there’s the story, and at least to start, they’re both in the the same place.
(A twist: in Sheila McClear’s excellent memoir Last of the Live Nude Girls, she recounts both the divey strip club she worked at and the way she wrote about it at the time for publication, but without revealing she had worked there, until she wrote about it again for the memoir.)
Diablo Cody and Channing Tatum, each in their own way, stripped towards Hollywood. Magic Mike stripped towards – it’s not clear, actually, at the end of the movie. He stripped towards love? Artisanal furniture? Maybe he didn’t strip towards anything. Maybe he just quit. Can’t you just quit and change jobs? Without indicting the life you lived and worked at before that moment? Without it being a statement? Without taking swipes at the people in the rear view?