It’s Ask Team Practical Friday with Alyssa! To end the week with a bang, today we’re taking on Bachelor and Bachelorette parties, complete with strippers and secrets. Don’t tell us we never tackle the controversial subjects! Because this is a complicated subject, both Alyssa and I wrote our own, slightly different, responses to the question, though we’re mostly in agreement. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the taboo:
Today’s question is from Elizabeth:
A couple my fiance and I are friends with recently got engaged. I’m happy for them, but slightly disturbed that in the same conversation where they announced their engagement they started talking about the bachelor party (and bachelorette party) and the strippers that they’ll have. Though it seems to be taboo, I personally believe that celebrating your impending marriage with your friends by treating it like impending doom and getting drunk AND hot and bothered by a member of the opposite sex that is not your intended seems to imply that you aren’t really ready to get married. They also said that whatever happened at the respective parties must remain a secret to the other, like “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” which seems to allow for all sorts of immoral things to happen. It seems disrespectful of the vows they will take, and of the vows my fiance and I will take, to say, “Well, it doesn’t matter what I do tonight, cause as long as you don’t know what happens, you’ll be there tomorrow.” I’ve read that these parties are supposed to prove to your friends that you’re still one of them, but it seems that this can be done without strippers, and without secrets, though perhaps not without the booze.
Am I crazy for feeling this way?
Would it be unfair to ask my fiance not to participate, since I no longer plan to participate in the bachelorette party?
Is there really any good way around this issue at all?
First, lets start with Alyssa’s point of view:
To answer your questions,
Let’s start off with a little ground rules. I’m going to say a lot of “bachelor” in here, but this advice applies to same sex couples also.
Also, and most importantly, this is not about strippers. SERIOUSLY. Therefore, I am requesting that those of you with strong feelings about strip clubs and strippers (be they positive or negative,) keep them in check as much as possible in the comments, please and thank you. We have women on APW that work in sexual advocacy as well as women who work (or have worked) in strip clubs or in things that easily get confused with strip clubs. Please keep that in mind.
Because, incidentally, this question isn’t really about strip clubs. This is about boundaries.
There is no harm in having feelings about anything. It’s how you act upon them that’s the important part. Your feelings on strip clubs are completely valid. However, it’s the question of whether or not you can ask your fiance not to attend, that’s where things get sticky.
You can absolutely ask him not to go. However, your absence from the bachelorette party shouldn’t automatically indicate his from the bachelor party. You deciding not to attend an event that you didn’t want to go to in the first place, does not mean that he needs to stay home from a similar event. If he asked you not to go to the bachelorette party, then you can ask him not to go to the bachelor party. But you’re really and truly not going because you don’t want to. Yes, your strong feelings for your partner are intertwined in your reasons, but he is not the entire reason.
That being said, yes, you can definitely say, “I’m seriously uncomfortable with you going to this bachelor party, and I would rather you didn’t.” Then you outline your reasons why. (I can tell from your letter that this isn’t about any kind of worries about infidelity, so make sure you convey that. That might be the first place he goes and it would turn the discussion into something that you never intended.) It’s quite possible he has similar feelings about the party. But maybe he doesn’t. And if you feel strongly about this, then this is a conversation that needs to happen. If even the thought of him going to a strip club makes you shake, makes your stomach hurt or makes you want to sob or yell, it is a valid problem and needs to be discussed. (And you’re not “making a big deal out of nothing.”)
That said, your partner may counter with reasons that he does want to go. And chances are, very few of them will have to do with unclothed ladies. It most likely will be about hanging out with friends at an important event, being a part of the group, not letting them down. And those reasons are just as valid as yours. A bachelor party is seen as a last hurrah, but in actuality it is what you make it. And for your partner, what he makes it may be a chance to hang out with his friends at an event that is important to them – their bachelor/bachelorette party.
[Note: I'm gonna be honest here. 90% of bachelor/bachelorette parties that go out with the intention of having an EPIC TIME end the same way: everybody, hyped up on their friendship, drunk on cheap well drinks and missing about 20% more of their cash than they intended to spend, standing in the parking lot watching as the betrothed ralphs up their tennies. (That's vomiting, for you more classy folks.) The reason they have to make that secret pact, if people found out what really went on, everyone would realize how lame they are.]
And here’s the other thing. “It seems disrespectful of the vows they will take, and of the vows my fiance and I will take…” Your vows have nothing to do with the other couple’s vows and their relationship has nothing to do with yours. Some people think bachelor parties need boobies and peen. Some don’t. To each his (or her) own. A bachelor party can most certainly happen without strip clubs or secrets, but this one isn’t. That does not mean that you and your partner need to keep the party’s events secret. So have the discussion. In the end, it’s his decision that he’ll have to make and he’ll have to deal with the ramifications with you – if there are any. This may not even be an issue, he might be feeling the same way that you do. (It is my personal opinion that most men and women like the IDEA of a strip club rather than the reality.) Your objections may be all he needs to say, “Nope, not a good idea, I’ll meet y’all for dinner and you can go to the club without me after.”
And if he doesn’t feel the same way and decides to go, well, this won’t be the last time you two will have definite difference of opinions on choices the other one will make. Figure out how strongly you object (without friends, family or even me swaying you) and then go from there. You’ll work it out and be better for it.
Now, Meg’s Point of Veiw:
First of all, let me start out by saying I agree with Alyssa. Check, check, check. But I want to add something else to this conversation: the idea of discussing and defining what your sexual boundaries are in your relationship.
Strip clubs can be a little scary, and complicated. They touch on a lot of powerful subjects like feminism, and sex work, our personal definitions of monogamy, and well, our fundamental ideas about sex. And as such, talking about strip clubs means talking about your sexual rules and boundaries within your relationship, which can be scary as sh*t, but necessary.
First up, your rules do not have to be the same as anyone elses rules. Your friends are not doing anything immoral, or disrespecting their vows, as long as they are respecting each other. They could agree to go to Vegas and each hire a hooker, and it would be none of your business. What is your business is what ground rules you set with your partner.
And that means a conversation. You’re uncomfortable with strip clubs, that much is clear. You need to figure out exactly why that is, and then start a conversation with your partner about it. That does not mean you get to tell your partner what he thinks about strip clubs. That means you get to ask him what he thinks and why. And that might mean, “I get really turned on by naked ladies that are not my wife,” and if that’s the case, it is not your job to tell him that is not an acceptable sexual urge. It’s your job to talk about it, and start to come to an understanding of what each of your sexual needs are, and where you are going to set your personal sexual boundaries.
And for everyone else, I’m assigning some APW sexual boundary homework: have a good long read through Dan Savage’s archives. If you’re exploring your feelings about strip clubs (or just want a really good read) I reccomend the excellent Strip City, by Lilly Burana.
Good luck, and brave talking.