Erotic Performance and Spectatorship: New Frontiers in Erotic Dance, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Erotic Performance and Spectatorship

New Frontiers in Erotic Dance, 1st Edition

By Katy Pilcher


196 pages | 11 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2016-11-01
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Erotic dance is one of the most contentious issues in feminist debates today and a source of fascination in media and popular cultural representations. Yet, why is it that we currently know so little about those who perform erotic dance for female customers, or the experiences of these spectators themselves?

The result of a unique investigation within two of the UK’s leisure venues, Erotic Performance and Spectatorship seeks to rectify the aforementioned lack of insight. Through vivid ethnographies of a lesbian leisure venue and a male strip show, Pilcher’s research advances key debates about the gender and sexual politics of erotic dance, whilst simultaneously relating these to debates about the sex industry more widely. This book also subverts previous assumptions that only women perform erotic dance and only men spectate. Thus, this book stands out amongst other academic accounts, developing the debate beyond the established focus on erotic dance as either empowering or degrading.

This new contribution to the study of erotic dance – which provides a fresh theoretical perspective combining queer and feminist theorising, in addition to rich empirical evidence – will appeal to academic researchers and both undergraduate and postgraduate students within the fields of sociology, gender studies, sexuality studies, gay & lesbian studies, feminism and other neighbouring disciplines. It will also be of interest to feminist and sex work activists, policy makers, and practitioners.


Opening up more knowledge and insight into the world of erotic dance, this multi-method visual project challenges the senses to think critically about stripping. Using carefully crafted reflections on feminist and queer theory, this book addresses complexities such as work, labour, performance, spectatorship and relations of power. Importantly, this book provides a rare glimpse into the engagement of female customers as the ‘watchers’, showing how erotic dance is not only the domain of male leisure. - Professor Teela Sanders, School of Sociology & Social Policy, University of Leeds, UK

Katy Pilcher’s book is an exciting and challenging incursion into the world of sex work in the form of erotic dance. The book captures the sensory and embodied experience of utilizing ‘live methods’ – ethnographic research at its best. I was told in 1980 that the sociology of sexuality was ‘trivial’ and the author’s reflections on what it means to be a ‘sex work researcher’ indicate that, sadly, this view continues to exist. However, the insights and the issues that Pilcher raises will be of interest to social scientists, feminists and many others, who I believe will agree with me that this book is far from trivial. - Professor Sue Scott, Centre for Women's Studies, University of York, UK

An interesting and original book that brings a fresh approach to the study of sex work by looking at women as customers in erotic dance venues. Katy Pilcher pushes beyond conventional orthodoxies in three important ways: by questioning the heteronormative framing that assumes that women dance for men, by resisting the idea that erotic dance must either be empowering or subversive, and by showing its similarities to other forms of emotional and aesthetic labour in the service sector. A rich, up-to-date study that will be a must-read for everyone interested in gender, sexuality and work today. - Professor Rosalind Gill, Department of Sociology, City University London, UK

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction: Erotic Performance and Spectatorship Chapter 2. Queer Studies, Feminist Theory and Erotic Dance: Connections, Tensions and Possibilities Chapter 3. Researching Erotic Leisure Venues Chapter 4. Drinking, Bonding and Watching a Male Strip Show Chapter 5. A Lesbian Erotic Dance Venue: Sexual Politics, Pleasures and Power Chapter 6. The Aesthetic, Emotional and Body Work Practices of Erotic Dance Chapter 7. Conclusion: To Strip or Not To Strip? Reframing the Debate on Erotic Dance Index

About the Author

Katy Pilcher is a Lecturer in Sociology at Aston University. Katy has completed research projects relating to erotic dance, sex work, and ageing and everyday life. Katy has served as an executive committee member of the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association UK and Ireland for six years and is an editorial board member of Sociological Research Online. Katy has published within International Journal of Social Research Methodology, Sexualities, Sociological Research Online, Leisure Studies, Journal of International Women’s Studies, and she recently co-edited Queer Sex Work (2015, Routledge).

About the Series

Interdisciplinary Studies in Sex for Sale

Interdisciplinary Studies in Sex for Sale is a new and exciting series emphasising innovative work on the complexities of sex for sale, its practices, the policies designed to regulate it and their effects. It covers both recent and historical developments with an aim to explore multidisciplinary and international perspectives, expand theoretical approaches, and analyse matters which are the subject of controversy and debate in this field.

We welcome submissions of single and co-authored books, as well as edited collections that address sex for sale, its practices and regulation, including those with a focus on: comparative analysis; multi-scalar approaches; methodological perspectives; cultural and economic contexts; and the policies concerned with the regulation of sex for sale.

This series emerges from, and intends to expand the work of the European Concerted Research COST Action IS1209 ‘Comparing European Prostitution Policies: Understanding Scales and Cultures of Governance (ProsPol)’, a European network funded under Horizon 2020 (

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General