We pull into the shadowy parking lot in some corner of Los Angeles. I look around the deserted area, wondering where exactly we are, only half caring. Most strip clubs in L.A. are located in tucked away corners like this one.
I’m a little apprehensive as we walk around to the entrance and part the strings of beads to enter Cheetah’s—a strip club, a real live strip club! I’ve been dreaming of just such a place for years, but have never worked up the courage to actually go, until now.
I’d heard that Cheetah’s was "women friendly," and from the crowd I can immediately tell it’s true. There are plenty of guys but also a decent number of female customers who look like they’re having a good time.
My three friends and I take ringside seats along the surprisingly empty stage and animatedly set about checking out each new dancer. Many of them are what I expected—peroxide blonde, fake boobs, very L.A. and very boring. Some have a spark of creativity, and feign a glimmer of interest to tease out one of the dollars we hold in our hands, but many pass right by us or stare back with vacant eyes.
We watch as one girl after another maneuvers around the stage, shimmying up and then down the shiny silver pole, twisting and writhing in ways I can’t imagine my body doing. It feels surreal, this world of glamour and money and lights and ultra-femininity. I look and stare and whisper to my friends.
Though I’m having fun, the place starts to lose its charm when I have to get more change and still no girl has really grabbed my eye. I settle in with a new drink and a fresh stack of bills and hope that I won’t be disappointed by the next round of dancers.
When the next girl walks out, I’m transfixed. She’s the hottest girl I’ve ever seen. She’s wearing cave-girl attire: a leopard print bandeau top and hot pants — all tan skin, natural curves and gleaming black hair. She looks shiny, like she’s just put on suntan lotion.
She slithers along, making eye contact when she passes us, crawling back across the stage, putting her whole body into the performance. She toys with her shorts, thumbs hooked into the waist, before sliding them down her long legs to reveal black panties. I know that she’s the one for me, that I really like her and am not just an indiscriminate ogler, when I realize that I preferred her with her shorts on.
After her performance, I offer her a wad of dollars. "Thanks," she says. "I’m Gabrielle."
"Hi," I say shyly. "I really like your outfit."
"Me too," she giggles, then smiles before waving her fingers and gliding off the stage.
"Oooooh, you like her. You should get a lap dance."
"Yeah, get a lap dance! Get a lap dance!"
My friends are practically jumping up and down in their excitement, making me blush.
"No, no, you should get one. She’s totally hot."
"I know, I know, but let me think about it, okay?"
They’re so eager for me to lose my lap dance virginity, I’m afraid they may drag me over to her.
I need to get away for a minute, so I go to the bathroom. To my shock, I find her sitting inside, casually chatting with a friend. "Oh, hi," I stammer. "Is this your dressing room?"
She laughs. "No, but it’s almost the same quality."
I smile at her and then go into the stall, nervous at having spoken to her. When I emerge and begin to wash my hands, she admires my purse. I tell her about it and then take out my sparkly lip gloss. She asks to try some, and I hold it out to her, watching as her finger dips into the red goo. We talk a bit more about makeup and then she says, casually, "Did you want to get a lap dance?"
Did I? Of course!
"Yes, I’d like that," I say.
"Great, just give me a few more minutes and I’ll come get you."
I practically float out the door and back to my friends. 'I’m going to get a lap dance, and I arranged it all by myself! Ha!' I feel like gloating. I wait patiently, trying not to let my excitement show in a big stupid grin.
After a few minutes, she emerges and summons me, leading me to the other side of the stage, against a wall where I’ve seen other girls pressed up against mostly older men. She seats me on a plastic-covered couch, then takes a chair and places it a few feet in front of me.
"So people can’t look up your skirt," she tells me.
I smile to thank her for her kindness; it never would’ve occurred to me. I give her some larger bills, and we talk for a minute or two before a song she likes comes on.
And then, quite suddenly, it starts. She pushes me so my head is tilted back against the wall, the rest of me pressed against the sticky plastic, my legs slightly spread. She stands between my legs, then leans forward, pressing her entire body along the length of mine. She smells like sweat and lotion and some undefinable sweetness, and I breathe deeply. Even her sweat smells good, like baby powder.
Her soft hair brushes against my face and shoulders; her breasts are pressed up against mine. Then I feel her thigh against my hand; she’s climbed up on the couch with me.
This is definitely not what I expected. I’ve never been to a strip club before, but I thought I knew the deal—I’d seen 'Go', right? You can’t touch the dancers or you’ll get kicked out.
But what if they’re touching you?
What about her hand gliding along mine, the outside of her smooth thigh touching my arm, her slightly damp skin setting mine on fire?
The look she gives me is priceless: as her body moves downwards and she’s crouched near my stomach, I look down and her hooded eyes are on me, her face a vision of pure lust, her mouth slightly open. I’m sure it’s a practiced look, but it feels as real as any look I’ve ever received, and it enters and warms me.
I think I know what I’m getting into; I’ve read all the feminist arguments, the sex worker manifestos. This is just a job and I’m a paying customer: one song, one lap, one transaction. But all of that background disappears, likewise my friends, my family, L.A., everyone else in the club. It’s just me and her, never mind the music; it’s that look as she slides between my open legs.
I swallow heavily. I can’t move, and I don’t want to, ever again. I just want to sit here and let her brush herself against me again and again as I keep getting wetter. And then her hand reaches up, delicately turning around my necklace, a Jewish star. It’s the sweetest gesture, and something only another femme would notice or care about. She gives me a little smile as she does it, and I give her one back.
The song is almost over, and she gives it her all. Her body pushes hard against mine, pressing my chest, stomach, thighs. She’s working me so good this huge bouncer walks over and glances at us suspiciously, but she turns around and gives him a look that tells him to move along. I like knowing that whatever she’s doing with me is enough out of the norm to warrant the bouncer’s attention. I feel ravished in a way I’ve never felt before; it’s pure sexual desire, concentrated into whatever messages her skin and her eyes can send me in the course of a five-minute song.
When the song ends, I give her a generous tip, and she sits with me for a little while. She takes my hand in hers, which is delicate and soft, and I revel in her touch. It’s tender and sensitive, and I need this, need to hear her sweet voice tell me about her career as a singer, her friendship with a famous musician, her upcoming trip to New York.
I need to hear whatever it is she wants to tell me, true or not. My head knows certain things; this is a strip club, that was a lap dance, this is her job. But inside, inside, I know something else. I know that we just exchanged something special. It wasn’t sex or passion or lust per se; it was more than, and less than, each of those things. It was contact, attention, and adoration. Call me crazy, but I think it went both ways.
After we talk, I go back to my friends, but I feel a bit odd. I know they were watching, but did they see what really happened?
"That was some lap dance."
"Yeah, that was really amazing for your first time."
"She gave you her real name? That’s a big stripper no-no."
"I think she liked you."
I nod and respond minimally, still in my own world. For the rest of the trip, whatever I’m doing, wherever I am, part of me is still sitting on that plastic-covered couch, looking down at her, breathing her scent, reveling in her look.
I haven’t gone to any more strip clubs since, or gotten any more dances. How could they ever live up to her? I don’t know if I want to find out.
Rachel Kramer Bussel is an erotica author, anthology editor and instructor. She has edited over 60 anthologies, including Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, The Big Book of Orgasms and is the Best Women’s Erotica of the Year series editor. She writes widely about sex, dating, books, pop culture, body image and feminism. She Tweets (@raquelita) and consults about erotica at EroticaWriting101.com.