It’s safe to say University Career Services doesn’t offer any advice on entering the lucrative field of exotic dancing.
Still, striptease on the Yale campus extends beyond the Saybrook Strip and naked parties. At least two currently enrolled Yale students have experience in the exotic dancing industry (both declined to comment on the record), while many more Yalies have paid for the privilege of seeing girls and guys take off their clothes.
And as long as you’re willing to pay a couple of hundred dollars — plus tips — the Elm City offers a vast range of adult entertainment options. This week’s issue of the New Haven Advocate includes advertisements from over 50 adult-oriented establishments, from spankings by Lady Sierra to the “midget Little Miss Dynamite.”
But when it comes to strippers, Yalies are less into bondage and more into bonding. From birthday parties to fraternity rushes, striptease is just another offbeat weekend activity — an alternative to watching a video or playing PlayStation.
Typically, Yalies hire strippers, not escorts. While strippers usually limit their contact with clients to lap dances, escorts provide “full-body massages,” an operator at New Haven’s Fantasy Entertainment said.
At Zeta Psi, a party last fall with strippers allowed prospective rushees to get to know the fraternity and its members.
“I think it’s something to show that we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” Zeta Psi president Ben Grover ’03 said. “You can get the house pretty packed. Pretty much anybody who’s heard about it tries to come over.”
One athlete said teams are known to take recruits to strip clubs like the Catwalk, especially during breaks when most other students are off-campus.
“When recruits come on campus, they want to meet girls,” the athlete said. “And when there are no girls on campus, we take them to strip clubs.”
The athlete also said strip clubs offer an exciting form of entertainment that can be enjoyed without violating rules prohibiting recruits from drinking on official visits.
“It’s not like we’re going to sit around and play Pictionary,” the athlete said.
And according to NCAA bylaws, it is not any more illegal to take a recruit to a strip club than to play Pictionary — after all, rules allow teams to entertain prospective athletes “on a scale comparable to that of normal student life.” In other words, if you’ve got a recruit, the Catwalk’s fine — just don’t give him a beer.
But it’s not just athletes and frat boys who enjoy stuffing dollar bills into the G-strings and thongs of their favorite dancers.
As a freshman, Barbara Yu ’04 decided to hire strippers for two friends who shared a birthday. Not knowing where to look for a stripper, she resorted to an Internet search engine.
“I just went online and typed in ‘strippers Connecticut,'” Yu said.
Yu hired a company called Centerfold Strips, a New York-based agency that advertises “the ultimate upscale exotic entertainment experience.”
With clients as far-flung as California and Florida, Centerfold Strips is able to offer a wide selection of ethnicities and body types, operator John Carperelli said. For male strippers especially, many companies also offer party planners a choice of themes — firefighters or policemen, for example.
“Are you looking for someone blond, someone busty, someone classy, someone fun?” Carperelli said he asks potential customers.
At first, everything at Yu’s party went according to plan: two strippers showed up and proceeded to disrobe and give the birthday boys lap dances. But Yu said the party was entirely disappointing.
“The room was silent,” she said, “It wasn’t even rowdy, or slightly amusing. It was just a weird, intimidating experience.”
Howard Han ’05, who attended a stripper party last fall with some of his Sigma Chi brothers, said he was not sure what to do when the stripper’s routine began.
“At first, it was an awkward silence when she was going around and giving lap dances,” Han said. “It was kind of weird. We — asked if we should cheer or be respectful.”
Han said the stripper got nauseous and left halfway through the routine. As compensation, the students were offered two dancers for the price of one the next time.
Perhaps the awkwardness that often accompanies lap dances is unsurprising. After all, it’s not just like walking in on your roommate. It’s like walking in on your roommate with 20 of your closest friends and a case of Bud Light.
And stripping involves a well-established code of conduct that usually prevents sexual contact between a dancer and her client. Most strippers are accompanied by a bodyguard who lays down strict rules before a show begins, warning onlookers that any touching is prohibited.
These “pimps,” as many Yale students describe the bodyguards, are often less than intimidating. Yu said the woman who accompanied the strippers she hired was even smaller than the dancers themselves.
“She stood in the corner, crossed her arms, and watched,” Yu said.
Then again, perhaps bodyguards are not needed to prevent Yalies from getting overly frisky with their guests. Marie Pascarella, a manager at the Catwalk — which sponsors “Yale Night” every Tuesday — said students are among her club’s most timid customers.
“College students tend to be a little shy — especially if they’ve just turned 18,” Pascarella said.
Sometimes, though, Yalies have other reasons for being less than forthcoming with strippers.
Three years ago, a freshman ordered a male stripper for her freshman counselor’s birthday. The counselor was surprised and embarrassed when the stripper — dressed as a policeman — showed up at the door, the now-senior said.
But this embarrassment was more than mere shyness.
“A couple of days later, my roommate was brushing her teeth when my counselor walked out of the shower,” the senior said. “Two minutes later, her girlfriend walked out. She was out to everybody but her freshmen.”