I don't know when girls going to strip clubs became cool.
It's one of those weird things, like Furbies and the cheese-pineapple-grape Hedgehog, which no one really understands. We know on a superficial level why it happens. Ever since the Spice Girls made it cool, stars like Rihanna, Katy Perry, Emma Watson and even Princess Eugenie have kept it alive and kicking.
There's also a lingering suspicion it's what cool girls do. (My hipper girlfriends were always egging me on to come with them.) The cool girl is what modern girls are supposed to be and who we model ourselves on.
As Gillian Flynn puts it in Gone Girl, "Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex ... Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding." Never get fazed. Never get angry. Never break your cool. Be cool.
It's not just being a modern woman though. It's also been spun to me as being a modern feminist. It's about being a strong independent woman who ain't afraid of sex, daring fun or wobbly bits. (We're feminists! We're not afraid! Yay nipples!) It's also about embracing a male domain. If men can do it, we can do it. And we can do it better. (Watch me while I out-objectify you!)
To prove I wasn't embarrassed, and because I'd read a Caitlin Moran column on it, I went along with my girlfriends when they next went.
It was quite a challenge to dress for it. But it's one of the times in life you can dress like a cockatoo on LSD and no one gives a shit.
So. What was it like? Well, I was reminded of my late 90s school discos. Only with fewer asthma inhalers and more nipples. Red walls, strobe lighting, a stage, a disco ball and plastic chairs behind red tablecloths. A man in the tech booth gave a slurring, monotone introduction to each girl, "Heeeeeeerrrrrrrreeeeeeeessssss Roxanne ..." over a flat silence.
There was a girl stumbling around the place wearing nothing but stilettos. God, she was thin. But not unfriendly. She gave me a grin, "I'm going home soon," she said, clambering over my table and offering me her buttocks, "I don't really care." There was a curvy, glittering woman with a thick accent who shook like she was made from cherry jelly. She came over and sat on my lap for a chat. ("You're beautiful, can I steal you?") And a girl with thick blonde curls, a nose ring and glasses, who liked to shimmy into our faces.
They were completely pleasant, a little underwhelming, and very normal girls.
I thought I'd feel uncomfortable, but I didn't. I didn't really feel anything there.
I didn't morph into Rihanna, throwing dollar billz and grinding on them. I didn't morph into Germaine Greer and realise how to overthrow the patriarchy. It was just ... okay. It wasn't bad. It wasn't ecstatic. It wasn't anything.
But I did get sad. Not about the girls, about the customers.
There was a Lebanese dude slumped in a corner. He was handsome, wearing a hoodie, and looked utterly miserable. When a girl went over he was so morose he had to be coaxed into raising his hand to touch her. There was a large, round grandfatherly man who'd brought his shopping bags. He would laugh as the girls rubbed up to him, fondling them with a cordial, genial familiarity and chitchatting. I wondered if this was the only time he got touched. Then there was a lone 18-year-old dude who needed to shave.
The scene undercut any sense of glamour, sex appeal or daring. It was just a room with some women, some men in need of cuddles and uncomfortably sticky plastic chairs.
And I think that killed the feminist buzz for me. I couldn't feel the jubilant high of that stiletto-feminist-power-through-sex because it wasn't very sexy. I couldn't feel very powerful at all because I wanted to give the customers a hug.
I did feel like I'd broken into a man's world. And I suppose I proved to myself that I wasn't embarrassed about sex. Which are two points against the patriarchy. But does liberation always feel this miserable?
Maybe I was just in a bad mood. My friends had a much better night. They were laughing, drinking and shrieking, "what would Rihanna do!?" She probably wouldn't be checking her emails. Which is what I was doing.
Hey, I didn't get a feminist epiphany, but I did get 50 per cent off a lamp at Ikea.