DANNY: I am not-so-freshly back from my fifth Mardi Gras, and let me tell you, there is no greater celebration on earth. No Christmas, no 16th birthday, no green-beer-guzzling St. Patrick’s Day compares to the joy I experience in New Orleans on Fat Tuesday. It’s a time when everyone from drag queens to Jesus freaks carting wooden crosses converges to have a good time with each other, without stereotypes or preconceived notions getting in the way.
Mardi Gras came about because of religion, and it’s steeped in tradition, but these days it’s mostly about tits. How we got from celebrating Christ’s death and resurrection to yelling ”Show your tits,“ I can’t be sure. In any case, the entire event is totally debauched, and I love it, even as it tosses me against the brick wall of my feminist sensibilities. I’m not crazy about the idea that strippers and prostitutes flaunt their bodies for money as well as men’s pleasure. But have I flashed my body for beads, for a string of cheap colored plastic pellets made in Japan? Oh, you’d better believe it. I have yelled and begged and bargained and bared my femalian protuberances in front of many a flashing bulb and video cameraand without the least bit of shame or remorse.
I guess the reason why I like this annual exercise in bacchanalia is that it’s so liberating. After all, I’d never bear my breasts on the streets of Nashvilleand that’s the whole point of Mardi Gras. But why do we feel the need to exhibit ourselves in the first place, and at what price? A friend who went down this year told me that she teased and taunted men from a balcony for hours and has never felt a rush like that; she’d never had that kind of control over men before. This gave me pause. Do men control womenespecially strippers and hookers, who regularly expose themselves in exchange for cashor is it the other way around? A writer for this very paper told me he went to a strip club recently, and one of the girls fell for him; she wouldn’t leave him alone. I just had to laugh because she worked him for his money and still had him fooled months later.
These girls at the Grasthey’re everything from your college ho to your librarian’s assistant. Strippers could be your garden-variety undergrad. Me? I’m just an adventure junkie who’s not afraid of a little attention. Whatever the case, there is something incredible about pointing to a guy and saying, ”Come over here and kiss me right now,“ because he’s cute and has good beads. All of which leads me to believe there’s a little of the stripper in all of us. And you women out there thinking, ”Not me!“yes, you too.
Let’s call a spade a spade. When women go out, we dress to be noticed by men. How many girls are out on the town Saturday night makeup-less in their baseball hats and baggy jeans? Flashing tits and ass isn’t too long of a leap from wearing the clingy black pants and low-cut, cleavage-revealing V-neckit’s all about ”look at me!“
Everyone wants to be noticed; to be the center of attention and controlsexual or otherwiseis a heady feeling. Just like any other vacation, Mardi Gras is a time to let your proverbial hair down and do things you normally wouldn’t consider doing. I’ll be there next year and every year after that until they’re wheeling me down the street and I have to pull my breasts out of my socks to flash ’em.
BEN: I too have been to the bizarre, rum-soaked spectacle that is Mardi Gras. And I will concede that I had a mind-blowing, spirit-fueled, voyeuristic experience...when I was 21. It’s certainly a fun time for anyone in his collegiate years, but I don’t know if a blind acceptance of exhibitionism for exhibitionism’s sake is a terribly good idea.
First of all, ladies, don’t be fooled into thinking you’re accorded the same amount of respect as any other woman once you’ve exposed yourself for a shoddy piece of plastic. If there’s one thing men and women actually have in common, it’s double standards. For men, this would be one of them: We’ll whisper sweet nothings, we’ll tell you we respect you, and we’ll say that showing us your ta-tas is all part of the ”tradition“ of Mardi Gras. But I guarantee you that once your shirt goes up, every man’s mental Rolodex puts a check next to your face. And the more times that shirt goes up, the more checks there are. Do women’s bodies have a power over men? Sure. But that power can come with a price: your self-respect.
Saying that exhibitionism is a bid for attention is a bit obvious. People showing themselves off wantonly and freely for useless junk are obviously desperately in need of being looked at. Being a bit of a voyeur junkie myself, it’s not my inclination to dissuade you. In this day and age, though, getting that kind of attention has its downside. I don’t know if you remember that wondrous festival of ”peace, love, and music“ that was Woodstock ’99, but things got, shall we say, out of control. Reports of women being forced to expose themselves to thunderous chants of ”show your tits“ were par for the course, as were reports of gang rape. What was once an amusing lark of ”I’ll show mine if you show yours“ seems in recent years to have turned into ”Show me, dammit!“
I know women don’t want to hear this, but you can’t just cock-tease a drunken twentysomething continuously and not run a risk of getting hurt. It’s not at all right for males to behave this way, but that certainly doesn’t mean they’re going to change their behavior. Because no matter how evolved we like to believe we are, we’re all animals. Flashing a crowd of testosterone-fueled men is like taking your house-trained dog, tying him to a pole, and dangling a raw piece of meat in front of his face for hours.
Keep in mind that as much as you want to snicker at the idea, strippers are professionals. They may not necessarily do it for the joy of it, but they’ve conceded the blows to their self-esteem. They also have a roomful of large men to protect them should one of the dogs try to break his chain. Amateur hour can be a lot of fun, but sometimes it’s best to leave it to the pros.
Got a question for Danny and Ben? E-mail them at email@example.com.
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