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October 11, 2007

Female Strip Clubs Are All the Rage

Transvestites at Madame Jo Jo's prime the crowd.

Transvestites at Madame Jo Jo's prime the crowd.

Photo Credit: Richard S.

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The growing enthusiasm for explicit sexual entertainment is just part of Britain's new bad-girl lifestyle. Heavy drinking is another. By some estimates, U.K. women's alcohol consumption has doubled over the past decade. As binge drinkers, they hover near the top of the charts among women in Europe — itself the world's booziest continent. Says Moira Plant, a professor of alcohol studies and the coauthor of Binge Britain, "Young women are drinking more on each occasion, and over the past five years or so, it's become acceptable for them to behave in a way we'd only seen in young men."

Indeed, the British tabloids bang on about the rise of the "ladette," while ladette culture has been blamed for everything from spiking crime rates to child neglect. But educational researcher Carolyn Jackson, author of Lads and Ladettes in School, sees it another way. "There are aspects of ladette behaviors that should be celebrated," she says, "like women and girls' increased assertiveness and confidence. They aren't afraid to challenge gender stereotypes."

Leading the ladette charge in mainstream pop culture are hard-partying celebrities like Kate Moss and Lily Allen, the 22-year-old British pop phenomenon who admits to having done drugs, and getting drunk before shows. British soul diva Amy Winehouse conquered the charts singing about female orgasms and dodging rehab. At one awards ceremony, she heckled pop's own Mandela figure, U2's Bono: "Shut up, I don't give a fuck!"

Such ladette loutishness peaks during hen nights — the British equivalent of bachelorette parties. In the hen-night aisle at any Ann Summers store — the British chain of sex shops aimed at women that has increased tenfold over the past decade — you can buy chocolate cocks, willy tiaras, and Chat Up Stickers with slogans like, "Wanna feed my beaver some wood?"

On a recent Saturday night at Madame Jo Jo's, a small, dark club in London's seedy-chic Soho, the space is packed with 10 separate hen parties. To get a seat, each guest must pay an $80 cover charge. The "Barbettes" — transvestites dressed in slinky silver cocktail dresses — serve drinks to the all-female audience. The show opens with a Liza Minnelli impersonator and moves on to an ABBA medley sung by a trio of Barbettes in blue-gauze minidresses.

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