Add to this that I'm in a happy relationship and that my girlfriend feels the same way (I imagine, I haven't had a conversation yet).
I don't want to be THAT GUY in the bachelor party who bows out, but I also can't imagine myself walking through the doors. What's the etiquette here?
—Fully Clothed and Thrilled About It
Thank you for your note, which turns our attention toward the sort of gentlemen’s club primarily connected to Pall Mall by the menthol 100s lifted to glossed lips during smoke breaks. The question you present is timeless: Every weekend, in Miami and Montreal and everywhere that bachelors party, thousands of men wrestle with such ethical issues, sometimes while baby-oiled women wrestle one another before their unsure eyes.
It would be unreasonable to condemn strip clubs outright: To do so would be to impugn the art of burlesque, the sport of pole-dancing, and the philosophy of those ladies who call themselves “feminist strippers,” many of whom will agree that (despite the injustices done to some sex workers) the only person clearly being exploited in the basic strip-club transaction is the patron.
That said, I appreciate your visceral distaste for the stereotypical strip-club experience, with its crass commodification of flesh, its organized criminals and sloppy regulars, its Barbies molded with 600-cc bags of silicone, its Budweisers sold at 1,200-percent markups. There is no denying that strip clubs tend to be horribly tacky and that the “classiest” establishments among them, being corporate-built virtual environments, lack even the honest virtues of authentic skeeze. For these reasons, I discourage bachelor parties from going to strip clubs.
Instead, have the strippers come to you. If there is to be a stripper element to a stag party, it is often more affordable and always more comfortable to entertain at home (where home might be some dude’s apartment but is more likely a hotel suite). You select the talent, the music, and, as at an exclusive club, you control the guest list, so that your evening will not be spoiled by the pungently ungentlemanly behavior of other patrons.
Mr. Fully Clothed: Because you say that you “hate the idea” of strip clubs, I must respectfully wonder whether you understand the fact of them. Have you been to such an establishment? If not, consider treating this bachelor party as an opportunity to develop an informed opinion. After receiving approval (or, perhaps, non-disapproval) from your girlfriend, just go and hang out. Enjoy your $18 Heineken and tip a dollar per song for a floor dance. You’ll probably hate it, but at least you’ll be hating it knowledgeably.
If you choose to go this route, be alert to serve as a conscience or comptroller—a counterweight against bad ideas. Assert your level-headed presence should any members of your party begin arranging for the bridegroom (or anyone) to enjoy a dance in a private room. There is, per Chris Rock, no sex in the Champagne Room. (Even if there were, you of course wouldn’t want to be an accomplice to that betrayal or responsible for the waves of shame undulating therefrom.) There is no sex in the Champagne Room, but there may be a $1,500 hand job or a $21,000 blackout, and a stand-up guy like you can help to avert such calamities.
If the above arguments do not compel your attendance, then just say no. Simply explain to your friend that strip clubs bum you out, that you don’t want to be a buzzkill, and that you’ll rendezvous with the group at the next stop. (There is a next stop, right? A bachelor party shouldn’t end at a strip club. Not very shapely. At least arrange a dive-bar debriefing or a midnight supper.) Before you go, give someone $20 to buy the groom a lap dance, then leave the other guys to their date with Destiny (and Fantasia and Bambi and Cherise).