A Chippendales show seems like good clean fun. But is it?

Fri, Sep 21, 2012, 01:00

Is watching men strip any different from watching women strip? ANTHEA MCTEIRNANgoes to a Chippendales show to find out

FOUR SAILORS, three firemen and a spy walk into a bar . . . No it’s not a joke. According to the world’s premier male stripping ensemble, the Chippendales, it’s the living, breathing personification of female sexual fantasy.

And if the whoops, catcalls and audible intakes of breath in Dublin’s Olympia Theatre on Wednesday night were anything to go by, they aren’t far wrong.

Rolling with the times, the troupe of buffsters have introduced hoodies and hip-hop to the show, so there’s something for everyone in the audience.

But what’s this? There seems to be the need for some sort of building work on stage. You think they would have got all that fixed before the show.

The traffic cones are out and there is a handful of well-oiled construction workers at hand to handle the erection. (Oh do get in the mood. Double entendres are our friend tonight).

It’s all Hi-Viz vests and rude girl Rihanna singing about Rude Boys. It’s time to “get it up”, she sings. Thanks for the building advice Ri-Ri.

There are a lot of major incidents tonight. Now there’s a bit of concern about a fire. The Prodigy’s Firestarter accompanies a conflagration (is that the collective noun?) of firemen wearing vests and caressing axes. It’s definitely getting hot in here. So hot that vests must be ripped off for relief. The Chippendales get through a lot of vests. Their mothers must be raging.

After the fire is extinguished, there’s an international spying tryst. “The Ultimate Girls’ Night Out”, as they describe it, enlists the help of that ultimate lady fantasy James Bond. Mr Bond leaps around brandishing his weapon. There’s a bed. He manages to make leaving his socks on while wearing a shirt look faintly plausible as foreplay.

The Chippendale Bond talks – so that’s good. Women like men who talk. The fantastical sexual requirements of women are quite modest, it would seem.

The show is a cost-effective production. Three chairs, a bed, a lot of vests, some body oil and some hats. The profit margins must be massive. And the audience supplies the extras. There is no shortage of women eager to be plucked from their seats by a Chippendale.

“Me and Dave have been all over the world and we have found some of the horniest women right here in Dublin.” Bet they say that to all the girls.

Next up after Dublin on the touring schedule are Kaliningrad in Russia and Algodones, New Mexico, where, and I’m speculating here, the girls will wrest the “horniest girls in the world” crown from Irelands grasp.

Relax. It’s all good, clean fun. But is it?

Ann Traynor of Donaghmede is conflicted. She “came for the craic”. But she thinks men taking their clothes off for the titilation of women is “just as bad” as the other way round.

Her friend Lorraine Brown from Raheny is feeling less existentially anxious. “It’s a show. It’s entertainment. We’re not degrading them. We’re not looking down their jocks.”

Actually the whole night passes without a glimpse of a male member. The Chippendales demonstrate a judicious use of hats to spare their, and our, blushes. In this world of wall-to-firewall internet porn it’s almost quaint.

Angie Peppa, who is originally from Poland, is having the time of her life. She loves the show. “It’s the first time I’ve been to anything like this.” Does she think the Chippendales should reveal more? “Yeah!”

Eimear O’Toole, AJ Fitzsimons, Orla Carroll and Laura Traynor, all from Dublin, have come on a girls’ night out. They are singing from the same hymn-sheet when it comes to men stripping.

“It’s not sleazy, it’s for amusement.”

“There are no willies.”

“Unfortunately.”

“It’s not disgusting. It’s a tasteful amount of nudity.”

There are very few men at The Chippendales on Wednesday night. David O’Grady is conspicuous by his chromosomes. O’Grady runs the Chain Gang, an Irish male stripping ensemble. He’s here on a fact-finding mission and to pick up tips. At the moment he can’t get Irish men to join his troupe.

“I’ve one guy from Russia, one from Hungary, two Latvians and a Romanian,” he says. “Irish guys don’t have the confidence that they have the sex appeal to carry it off.”

Either that or their mammy might find out.

It does objectify men, doesn’t it? We produce the question we’ve been struggling with since the first thong appeared.

“Yes, it probably does,” says O’Grady. “But you can’t have one without the other. Any guy who wants to be on stage and adored and works out is going to be objectified. They are objectified, but not in a bad way. A risqué way. But risqué is not bad.”

Well he would say that, wouldn’t he?

And now for the climax. Cowboys for a Brokeback Mountain segment that sort of ignores the narrative. Then the traditional Chippendales’ naked-torso-with-collar-and-dickie-bow extravaganza.

I find myself clapping. I’m clapping male disempowerment. It’s not how I envisaged it would be. But they seem like nice boys and they’ve put on a good show. It would be rude not to.

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