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I am standing half naked in a cheap hotel room with a male stripper when I find myself thinking about what to eat for dinner.

More than a month ago, I was put in touch with Jacob to write about his job as a stripper. I took it on reluctantly, because the details of his job had already been thoroughly explained in a Zula article.

In the article, he mentions getting introduced to stripping by “a lady” he met on an escorting assignment, how his loyal clientele comprises office ladies and university students, and the rave reviews he gets. The accompanying video garnered more than 140,000 views on Facebook alone.

All the same, I was determined to uncover something new along the way.

So when he mentioned that he had started a workshop teaching women how to strip, after realising there was a demand from his existing female clients, my interest was piqued. I was curious what a male stripper could teach women about their bodies that they don’t already know.

Barely halfway through a complimentary two-hour workshop and already bored, my friend Sindy and I get our answer: nothing.

To start, Jacob tries warming us up with ‘Strip Truth or Dare’, but his instructions are clumsy. Like an orientation camp instructor struggling to convince freshies to play an ice-breaker, he appears at a loss when Sindy and I don’t respond enthusiastically to his efforts.

Afterwards, Jacob proceeds to teach us “stripping moves”, such as how to sway our hips, touch our hair, and remove our clothes three times slower than we normally would. At one point, he grabs our hands like limp fish, placing them on his chest to demonstrate how it should be done.

Throughout the workshop, Sindy and I sporadically burst into bouts of forced laughter to ease the tension. As she begins boldly questioning most of Jacob’s suggestions, I observe her seething annoyance in amusement.

For the most part, Jacob’s moves are inelegant, as though he’s taught himself by reading an instruction manual, yet hasn’t quite internalised the psychology behind how to turn people on.

Granted, stripping is all a performance. But to make others believe it, you have to first fool yourself. And his graceless coaching makes me wonder if he’s even convinced himself that this is what he really enjoys doing.

“Think he earn see 4 tits [sic],” Sindy texts me later on. “Disappointed. No value from the lesson. I took pole lessons for a friend’s hen’s night before. Way more professional. They teach the art of seduction and choreographed moves.”

Her feedback sticks because we attend his workshop expecting to echo the good sentiments of his other clients. Yet Jacob didn’t demonstrate what he told me: “Confidence is already sexy.” In fact, most of the discomfort in the room seemed to emanate from himself.

In his defence, self-love is hard. Many people never learn how to be truly comfortable with their own body. But when it comes from someone who gets paid to show it off, something doesn’t add up.

Before we meet for the first time, Jacob insists on picking a quiet cafe. 15 minutes before he arrives, he changes his mind because the cafe is too crowded. Eventually, we settle on a bench outside the mall, though I see little difference since there are people sitting beside us.

He also insisted on using a pseudonym for this article, as well as threatened “legal action upon further consultation with [his] lawyer” when we initially left his social media avatar, which featured him in shades, untouched. (The screenshots have since been doctored.)

Despite being absurdly concerned about his privacy, his public Instagram account, where he openly mentions that he’s a stripper, contains plenty of nude shots with his face clearly visible. He has even used his own Facebook account to share a link to his Reddit AMA about the life of a Singaporean male stripper. 

“I will send them photos of myself, so they know it’s not some weird old man that turns up at the door. After they place a deposit, they can also have a Skype session with me, where they can ask anything,” he says, when asked how he helps self-conscious clients get mentally and emotionally comfortable before a stripping workshop.

“If they’re not comfortable doing something, we can customise it such that they don’t have to strip. On the day itself, I’ll ask them again.”

The lack of empathy in his answer frustrates me, but I chalk it up to him not being a woman.

What really astounds me is that by virtue of being a straight male himself, he assumes he understands what turns other straight men on. I share this ‘insight’ with a male friend, who laughs at the sheer delusion and audacity.

And my friend’s reaction is what ultimately convinces me to trust my gut.

When in doubt about someone, remember that social media will always reveal the most pertinent details of their personality. After stumbling on Jacob’s Twitter, Instagram and blog, the dissonance I experience finally starts to make sense.

In person, Jacob appears soft-spoken and slightly awkward. His body is naturally lean and his muscles are barely noticeable, resembling someone who has only just started working out. His choice of outfit is a form-fitting t-shirt, low rise jeans, and a silver necklace.

Online, however, he paints a different picture. On Twitter, he openly expresses disdain for “beta males” and anything that supports the stereotype.

Key traits of beta males include being sensitive and emotional, being called ‘the nice guy’, and being afraid to stand out. In contrast, alpha males are supposedly “real men”, “a man’s man”, and are known to be desired by women.

Yet masculinity, like all other gender constructs, isn’t that clear cut. Dividing men into mutually exclusive categories presupposes that one is better than the other. Furthermore, most men possess alpha and beta qualities in varying amounts over their lifetime. Implying that being ‘softer’ is inherently ‘lesser’ results in suppressing beta qualities, and can do more harm than good—something I see clearly manifesting in Jacob’s behaviour.

When Jacob shares that he needs to regularly groom himself for the job, behaviour traditionally associated with being feminine, I play Devil’s Advocate and ask whether being a stripper has influenced his views on masculinity.

I catch a split second of defensiveness before he replies, “I would say performing actually helps enhance the guy’s masculinity. It’s empowering for the guy to know that he can entertain so many ladies.”

Predictably, Jacob doesn’t perform for men. Since the Zula article on him was published, he has taken down his ads. Now, he relies on word-of-mouth to get new clients.

He admits, “When you put an ad online, you can expect at least 50% of responses from gay men. They’re also willing to pay more. But I guess it’s just not something I would want to do. If I’m not going to enjoy it, I’m not going to do it.”

I question why it makes him uncomfortable, but he clams up and simply suggests that it might be because he hasn’t done it before.

Even though Jacob is articulate over Whatsapp and on his blog, where he regularly fleshes out his contrarian views, he isn’t keen to delve into his thought processes in real life.

Hence I can only assume from his views about males being the superior gender that his stripping workshop was never about empowering women. Perhaps it was about seeing them foolish enough to get naked for him—all while paying him in the process.

Jacob maintains an avid admiration for the stereotypical alpha male and strives to be one himself, making it easy to predict the type of male role models he idolises.

These include brash and politically incorrect figures, such as US President Donald Trump and Alvin Tan, a Malaysian sex blogger and porn star.

Their qualities serve to fuel Jacob’s own unusual aggressiveness against societal norms such as monogamy, getting married, and having kids.

For starters, he compares marriage to a financial investment. Referring to the 50% divorce rate in the US, he says, “If I ask you to put all your money into an investment that has a 50% chance of failing, you wouldn’t do it. No rational person would do it.”

Jacob admits that these views stem from his observations of society instead of his personal experiences. When he brings up his disbelief in marriage, which he calls “the whole traditional Disney marriage kind of thing”, he appears to be fighting the idea of it rather than its reality.

He adds, “The 50% divorce rate doesn’t even include those who stay in unhappy marriages because of their children. The whole legal system is biased against the men, especially when they get a divorce.”

Ironically, even though Jacob appears to be critical of everything and wants total control of his life, he speaks in sweeping statements and accepts broad statistics at face value, as long as they support his extreme viewpoints.

Both in person and online, he makes it clear that his friends who have chosen the traditional path of marriage and children are weak-minded and selfish. I won’t be surprised if he classifies these men as beta males.

“Most people I know don’t really have strong views like me. Some of my friends with girlfriends don’t even know if they want kids. Sometimes only one party will want kids, but they’re still together because their own views are not really strong.”

While I empathise with his insistence on going against the grain, something about his rebellion reminds me of a childish tantrum. There is no depth to Jacob’s fight; he is a rebel without a cause. In escaping one stereotype, he conforms to another.

For someone who tries so desperately to stand out, perhaps he just wants to fit in. And like many of us, I guess that his deep-seated issues stem from his family environment.

But the moment I steer the conversation towards his parents, his guard goes up.

“They don’t know about me being a stripper. Why bother?”

I ask if he thinks they’ll mind.

“Maybe. I don’t know.”

Make no mistake, Jacob is completely entitled to being his own person. What first bothered me were the stellar reviews he allegedly gets for both being a stripper and running his workshop.

Later, realising the stark contrast to mine and Sindy’s experience, I spoke to other people who know him too. A few validated my gut feelings, so I felt obligated to write this.

It didn’t help either that he was full of inconsistencies, a result of loosely stringing together caricatures of men to create the alpha male he hopes to be. Yet I know he probably isn’t the only one who does this.

So this isn’t just a story about a male stripper (who I really wouldn’t recommend). It’s also a story about our broken definition of masculinity and the men it produces as a result—men who feel like they have to hide parts of themselves or pretend to be someone they’re not.

It’s a reminder to find a way to reconcile the person you are with the person you want to be, so you don’t end up an empty shell of neither version.

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