REVIEW / Where money makes the girls go round

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The Independent Culture
IN ITS continuing investigation of the mysteries of the male organism, Men Only (C4) ventured into the world of strip clubs and table dancing. Our guide was Reggie Nadelson, 'the Margaret Mead of the titty bars', a woman who had persuaded herself that by staring at men staring at women she might tease apart some of the mysteries of male lust.

Her desire wasn't really consummated but then maybe that was in keeping with the subject matter, a new breed of clubs which offer nudity without complications, an ocular version of safe sex. Pay enough money and one of the girls will dance on your table, or at least wave her parts in your face in a vaguely rhythmical manner. The men sit back like dazed proctology students, occasionally stirring themselves to stiffen a dollar bill enough to insert it into the garter belt - the only permissable contact in a place where money is the perfect disinfectant.

Reggie Nadelson spent some time wondering what the men got out of this curiously anodyne sexual display (it's sweet how some women are so reluctant to come to the conclusion that men can just be dumb peckerheads sometimes). I, meanwhile, was wondering why they weren't all under the table with embarrassment. I did know where to look, naturally, but that was only because I was separated from the object of inspection by a television set and the Atlantic Ocean.

The theory is that the men here were really no closer, even when the girls were risking stubble-burn with their wilder gyrations. The men are protected by the rules from the risk of rejection; they're not allowed to try anything so they don't have to worry about a slap in the face. And provided they have the money they can create a momentary illusion of intimacy. 'The feeling of being able to attract a woman that beautiful . . . makes you feel real good,' said one man. In truth this is like a cow thinking it's got a sexy butt because of the way the flies crowd about it - but, what the hell, he was happy and she was earning enough to be convinced that she was in charge.

Oddly enough several of the programmes in this series have had a bit of difficulty keeping it up for more than 20 minutes. This was no exception, sagging a little in the second half, where we just got more pneumatic bodies, more question marks and more sap-happy johns. And despite her pose of knowing toughness (she drawled her sardonic script like a private dick), she seemed to buy the line occasionally, accepting the protestations of some customers that it wasn't really a sexual thing, that it had as much to do with friendliness and talking as with soaped-up women writhing against plate glass. Wasn't it Margaret Mead who got taken for a ride by the natives she studied?

'Pointing Percy' (Men's Rooms, C4), a little film about men's lavatories, packed more surprises into its 15 minutes than Men Only's 50. It contained at least three things I've never seen on television before - a man hoicking his penis out of his pants before having a pee, another man cleaning a filthy, sorry, filthy toilet with a mop and a brief demonstration of the etiquette of cottaging (including the engaging information that one of the participants stands in a shopping bag, so that peeping policemen will only see one pair of feet beneath the cubicle door).

I'm not sure that I want to see them again very quickly, and I'm not sure that Kristiene Clarke's loose collection of facts startled us to any particular effect, but it was mildly intriguing to have one's dull expectations rattled in this way. I'll certainly know what's happening if a silent man with an empty Harrod's bag sidles alongside me as I stand before the porcelain, which means it was a lot more useful than most programmes I see.