Friday, July 26, 2013


A Shot in the Dark: My Night with the Male Strippers at Hunk-O-Mania

I had never touched an ab in my entire life. I didn’t know anyone who had one. But before the big night, I found this Yelp review of our destination, a male strip club in Hell's Kitchen:

I have to start this review by saying I ABSOLUTELY LOVE MY BOYFRIEND he is the love of my life, my angel, my heart my soul.  ok with that said...O-M- F'IN-G THESE MEN ARE SIMPLY OUT OF THIS WORLD! I didn't know a place like this existed.  AND LADIES PRAISE JESUS, MOTHER EARTH, GOD, BUDDHA, ALLAH whoever you freaking pray to THAT IT DOES!

Now I have been to Hunk-O-Mania, and I have touched some abs, and the more time passes, the more I think: Mirjana R., I see you.

“The show will begin in 69 seconds!" shouted the emcee. "Ladies, are you ready for your hunks to get absolutely butt-ass naked?”

Screams erupted from the throngs of women huddled on white folding chairs in a dark basement near Times Square. There was nothing subtle about Hunk-O-Mania, but we hadn’t come for a subtle time. I was there to roll out a friend’s last night of single-dom; she had cleared the event with her fiancé, who laughed and laughed and didn’t care.

You must arrive at least an hour before the show starts; the owner personally called the maid of honor earlier that afternoon to drive that point home. When you do walk into Hunk-O-Mania, you are then forced to buy two drink tickets, cash only.

This seems like an imposition, but is actually a public service. You will need them as gorgeous men of every ethnicity, hairstyle and build sidle up to you, drape their arm around your shoulders and lean in for a good, old-fashioned conversation. There may be as many as three hunks on your party of six at one time. You are also invited to buy lemon drop shots, which the hunks balance tenderly on one hand. I tipped for our drink service by handing one of the hunks a dollar bill; he took my hand, unclenched it, and dragged it down his chest into the top of his underwear.

So: even if you don’t like lemon drops, you will need a glass of warm champagne at the very least. Because after you chat about where you’re from and what you’ve been doing all weekend and they make small talk that weaves in actual details of their lives and they are ACTUALLY ALL SO ATTRACTIVE IN A NORMAL WAY which is the confusing part, you kind of don’t want them to take you to the strange back corner of the large room and give you a semi-private lapdance. You do, of course you do, because it is strangely elegant and surreal and because you're finally about to touch an ab and because they are wearing Axe body spray and that is also confusing. But maybe you also want them to be your lover or, after an hour of priming conversation, you feel your chosen one already is? (Mine had long hair; I’ve always been a moth to flowing locks. The bachelorette preferred one who was a hotter version of Eminem in 8-Mile.)

I’m no fragile Mary, but the two-hour show was some absolutely next level shit: an interactive experience where the bachelorettes (and one bachelor) were flipped upside down, twirled, and had all kinds of simulated sex with the hunks. Some of the ladies looked like they were bathing after a year in the desert, jumping up and down, unable to contain themselves. There was quite a lot of bare ass-grabbing. There were men in the crowd at the same time as onstage; I glanced over and saw a girl entirely covered by a hunk, only one spare arm sticking out, pulling him closer. My bachelorette looked like she was getting electrocuted during her lap dance, as if they were to touch two bare parts of their body together it would trip a wire. God bless her.

The next morning, I crawled over to get a bagel from the corner store, blinded by the July sun. I couldn’t pay for my order because I was holding five Hunk-O-Mania branded dollar bills. The long line of normal people waiting to pay for their breakfast didn’t understand why I couldn’t use what to them looked like a regular handful of cash. And if they didn’t get it, they never would, I thought, excusing myself to the back of the line.

As I lay in bed for the better part of that afternoon, I had ample time to ponder the mystery and the magic of what we had experienced. Where did the hunks live: with roommates, with their parents, with boyfriends? In Astoria, in Long Island ranch houses, in cramped Lower East side apartments? Why did I love muscles so much all of a sudden when I had never thought about them before? Had they wanted to be actors, or were they already? In New York, you could never really be sure.

I flipped through my last three and a half years in this city, a mental rolodex of my exes. The list read like a cast of characters that could work in a Hunk-O-Mania dance number: ex-Mormon vegan, sensitive Frenchman, hipster coffee brewer, Jamaican video editor, preppy musician bro.

The good ones had been creative, interesting and adaptive, just like the hunks, who moved to meet the tone and temperature of each woman. Each was different enough – the Eminem character gentle, conversational and bemused, my Lothario aggressive, direct and intolerant of giggling – to present a range of options. Hunk-O-Mania was a fantasy life in which we were all dating one man while simultaneously basking in the affections of his barely dressed friends, the Navy Seal, the Firefighter, the Cowboy. Hunk-O-Mania was like traveling through past and future, cataloguing all of the beautiful things a person could show to you, without the bad tempers and laziness and the self-seriousness, without the force of sheer effort that it often takes in New York to get a functional relationship off the ground. The pointless, repetitive texting. The mind-numbing inability to claim one thing and honor it. The eventual exhaustion of inborn optimism.

I’m not recommending we make Hunk-O-Mania a part of our weekly routines (although, yes, of course I will go with you). But I am suggesting that, for the straight up pissed off New York man or woman momentarily between crazies, the hunks might just help get you through.

Melissa Batchelor Warnke is a freelance writer and editor. She's worked in the Google Creative Lab, as a human rights grantmaker in Africa and as an anti-genocide activist. She is invested in research, strategy and writing that is people-centered – that honors and illuminates human experiences, stories & ideas. She tweets @thewarnke.

75 Comments / Post A Comment

Quinn A@twitter

I really enjoyed this! Next can we hear about the author's anti-genocide activism?

EDIT: Wow, that feels like a weird comment to leave on an article entitled "My Night with the Male Strippers at Hunk-O-Mania". But seriously, I want to hear about anti-genocide activism.


@Quinn A@twitter It's mostly a bunch of stickers she hands out that say "GENOCIDE: DON'T DO IT"


@Quinn A@twitter I was confused for a moment whether or not you were being snarky.


@Quinn A@twitter Agreed! Enjoyed the piece a lot, and loved the author bio as well.


@'riel @Quinn A@twitter A girl's got to have range. More to come re: life outside of Hunk-O-Mania (BUT IS THERE SUCH A THING)


@deepomega Is there an accompanying song by "Big Fun"?




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@frigwiggin I just had an image of your picture's eyebrows going up and down suggestively


@lora.bee Franz Sacher would be all over that, I'm sure.


@frigwiggin This needs to be a gif.



(Sorry, Franz.)


@frigwiggin MARRY ME


We hired a stripper for my friend's bachelorette party. He wore a Batman costume (she loves Batman) and came out giggling to the Batman theme music. It was super awkward to be a non-drinker when he did the simulated sex dance with each of us. He was a very nice young man but afterwards my house smelled like Axe and body oil.


@punzy I hope you didn't light a match in the house afterward.


@punzy Excuse me? They take dress up requests? I hope my future stripper has a Legolas costume in his inventory.


Also: yum. As someone with touch obsession and the constant need for being petted, this sounds like absolute heaven. But I would have to be soooo drunk to do it without feeling like an asshole.


@'riel Right there with you


I haven't been able to convince any of my lady friends to go to a male strip club with me.

Time for new lady friends.


@Gulf of Finland I have gone once...with a gay male friend...in Canada (where strippers can get ways more naked than in the US). There was definitely half-erect schlong with a makeshift cock ring. Not. Sexy. In fact, kind of traumatizing to an 18 year old with limited interest in naked male butt cheeks.


@swirrlygrrl the most troubling part of your comment is the word "makeshift".


@Gulf of Finland : I'll goooo with youuuuuuu!

fondue with cheddar

Wait...is the cowboy Matthew McConaughey?

fondue with cheddar

Oh. It's from a movie. Sorry, I assumed it was a picture of actual Hunk-o-Mania dudes.


@fondue with cheddar A girl can dream.


I have a friend who stripped during college, and once (or so he says) he came out onstage to strip for a bachelorette party and his mom was in the audience. She supposedly gave him a ride home after.

I really don't even care if the story is true or not, honestly.

fondue with cheddar

@frigwiggin That happened (off camera) in Summer School, which I just watched the other day for the zillionth time! C'MON BRING THOSE BUNS OVER HERE


@frigwiggin @fondue with cheddar It also happened on The Office! Meredith's son showed up to a character's bachelorette party, and everyone was horrified EXCEPT for Meredith, who (obviously) praised his ambition and starting throwing bills at him.

fondue with cheddar

@Alli525 AHH that's great. I love Meredith.

By the way, thanks for saying "a character," because I fell a few seasons behind and don't want any spoilers.


Oh god it sounds horribly awkward to have an oily stranger gyrate all over you. I'm glad you had this experience and enjoyed it! I'm surprised to hear they were normal looking, usually promo material shows all male strippers as overly muscled, leathery and with long greasy hair.


@iceberg I went to a bachelorette party in someone's house once with one of those faux-policeman types. He had a boom box and was extremely shiny, and I was SO MISERABLY UNCOMFORTABLE with his banana hammock in my face. It wasn't sexy; it felt degrading for both of us. And I like sex! And handsome men! But ugh. I have avoided stripper-occasions like the plague since then.

The only exception is the Jubilee! show in Las Vegas, which features enormous absurd feather-covered costumes and is so fabulously seventies that I couldn't even begin to get uncomfortable. I was happy to admire the handsome young men in their gladiator costumes and thongs from a safe distance.

Faintly Macabre

@iceberg While we were getting ice cream near our college, two much-shorter friends of mine were accosted by a wiry, very intense older guy who kept telling them, "I was in the CHIPPENDALES. The CHIPPENDALES!" and evaluating each's best features as they backed away to the ice cream store's wall. He probably could have been muscley and greasy about thirty years ago, but those days were long behind him.


@bowtiesarecool I've never been to a male strip club, but my experience with a club in which ladies take off my clothes echoes your sentiments. Look, I like boobs, but boy to I HATE having a sexual experience with someone who didn't actually, genuinely want to be there. And I didn't want to be there either. We were having a sexual experience that neither of us wanted. What could possibly be worse.

Certainly my feminist RED ALERTS contributed to my discomfort. But I think I would feel the same way interacting with a man paid to be in a banana hammock. I love sex, but apparently the biggest part of sex for me is feeling legitimate desire from another person.


@iceberg I've really enjoyed the experience of going to the club. Seeing a male revue at a regular bar or at someone's house is more awkward. At the club, it seems set up for both actively participating and just observing while hanging with your friends. It's more laid back, I guess, b/c EVERYONE is there for the stripping. At someone's house, the focus is on one person and one dancer and everyone feels obligated to 'dance' and the lights are on and "oh, my, stop that, that was my grandmother's couch!"

It's much more enjoyable at a bar designed for this.


UGHHH MY BACHELORETTE PARTY IS NEXT WEEKEND WHY IS THERE NO HUNK-O-MANIA IN DETROIT??? Seriously, things are pretty grim here, we could really use some hunks.


@hallelujah My bachelorette party is next weekend, too! (Although Hunk-O-Mania is basically the opposite of what I will be/will want to be doing. Diff'rent strokes!) I hope you find some hunks, or some hunks find you!


@hallelujah This is what Windsor is for!!! (please don't tell the nice people in Windsor I said that) Is Danny's still kickin', in all its full male nudity? I never had the pleasure, but the stories were legion.

Lisa Frank

My friend wanted to go to an "adult male revue" for her bachelorette party that sounds eerily similar to HUNK-O-MANIA but it was on the Lower East Side, not Times Square. It wasn't too awkward until one of the hunks came up behind me and shoved his hands down the back of my jeans and then asked me if I wanted a private dance. Something about that made me feel like somehow it's still the women who are on display.


@Lisa Frank Oh no, I'm sorry that happened to you. Although, who knows, maybe that guy was just a rando asshole who could've been fired for doing that.

Lisa Frank

@rathermarvelous Yeah, I definitely don't think it was sanctioned. When I flinched, he kinda winked and was like, "What you didn't like that?" It was creeepy, but it probably was that one dude and not like the MO of the club.

Lily Rowan

@Lisa Frank YES. That is exactly what I hate about Hunk-O-Mania (and similar) -- the women are still on display! At strip clubs with female strippers, the men mostly just sit and watch. No, dude, I don't want to participate! You stand over there and look pretty for me. We can chat later, but you may certainly NOT turn me upside down on the stage.


@Lily Rowan to be fair, I have been to bachelor, bachelorette, and joint bachelorette/ette parties at female strip clubs, and in all cases, the intended(s) was pulled on stage for part of the show. That seems like more of a "my friends have brought me here for a scheduled bacchanal" thing rather than a gender thing.

The hands down the pants thing sounds awful to me, and I was once ambushed in a non-strip-club setting by a male stripper (who I did not yet know was a male stripper) who gave me a surprise lap dance (of his own accord, I guess he thought his professional skills would translate to the dating scene? They did not.) and that was not fun, but in the male strip club setting that sounds pretty comparable to the female strip club dynamic- the employees are trying to get the (presumably attracted to them, given their attendance) customers to buy/tip more through displays of sexual behavior. "The women are still on display" only in the same sense that the men are on display at a female strip club- the audience are marks to the tip-compensated employees. There are easier ways to see women actually on display than running a male strip revue. Like just straight up going to a female one.

Lily Rowan

@emmycantbemeeko Ah, OK. I've only been to a strip club with lady strippers once, and everyone stayed in their own place -- dancers on the stage (or working the room), audience in their chairs.

fondue with cheddar



My current beau has ripply washboard abs...but I think it's mostly because he's 6 feet tall and maybe 150 pounds? I still enjoy touching them very, very much.


@swirrlygrrl Congratulations, how wonderful for you.

No, I'm kidding. I mean, I'm actually being earnest. Abs! Abs for all who wish them!



(Sorry, you triggered my Simpsons reflex.)


@yeah-elle Prior to this dude, I have never really cared for abs. I still don't think I care for them all that much in general, but oh in this specific instance, I am all about getting his shirt off and my hands on him. He also has almost the perfect amount of chest hair (I'd be happy with a bit more). Okay, if I am not careful this is just going to degenerate into me dramily describing all the wonderful physical characteristics of this man.

@stonfruit I do enjoy twirling towards freedom...


@swirrlygrrl Chest hair - seconded.


The beginning part of the show description is sooooo appealing with all the normal hot dudes making polite chatter and engaging you. It sounds like a Japanese host club which I would totally go to if a New York version existed because yes please attractive gentleman tell me I'm pretty and ask me about my day while I get schwaaaasted.


@chrysopoeia RIGHT? I think this sounds lovely. Single-serving, no-pressure interactions with good lookin' dudes while i drink whiskey and try to make them laugh? It's like everything that was good about dating without the bad shit, after which I can go home to my lovin' boyfriend. Attention: People Who Make This Type of Thing Happen... MAKE THIS HAPPEN.


@RoxxieRae Yessss. I really like the idea of ambient flirting, or "a fantasy life in which we were all dating one man while simultaneously basking in the affections of his barely dressed friends." It sounds soooo much better than the weird, slightly creepy one-on-one at a bar situation.


@rathermarvelous @RoxxieRae It's the Platonic ideal of the bar scene and right now some business-savvy person is making no dollars on this brilliant idea. I don't understand the world.


@RoxxieRae Escorts?


@chrysopoeia meeeeee either. Could it be that savvy business people buy into the rhetoric perpetuated by OTHER savvy business people about us ladies being too delicate and prudish for such a thing?


@Gulf of Finland blech, no no no. I don't want to pay $1K for a handsome young fellow to pretend to be interested in me, I want to pay like... a $20 cover and $12 for a glass of well whiskey for a handsome young fellow to pretend to be interested in me. At a place that is not my house or the kind of motel where I could afford a room.


@chrysopoeia This is pretty much the Porn for Women plot from 30 Rock--a TV channel with a handsome man asking about your day and making affirming comments.


@chrysopoeia I don't know, it sounds like it would just give me reeeeeally bad blue balls. Which is why I don't really understand those Japanese host clubs either.


@chrysopoeia uggghhh I watched this really depressing documentary about Japanese host clubs, and most of their customers are prostitutes looking for a safe interaction with men. It was so sad. Then I actually saw some when I was in Tokyo, but they don't really bother Western women.


@Megasus That actually sounds really interesting. What's the name of the documentary?


@rathermarvelous I believe it is "The Great Happiness Space: A Tale of an Osaka Love Thief."


Getting into muscles on dudes in my 30s has been so weird! I always wanted stringy sensitive boys, and then I turned 30 and was like GIVE ME THE HUNKS.

(Getting off birth control and into professional sports has probably influenced this. MUSCLEBOUND HUNKS.)

Little Miss Bossy

@sophia_h Not just for Christmas?


This year, I went to a male strip club in Montreal (le 281). From outside, the waves of women screaming intermittently made it sound wonderful and exciting. When my friends (some guys and girls - club protocol dictates that any male visitors be accompanied by women) and I walked in, there was a guy on stage, erect and probably 8 inches long, doing a dance and lathering some fluorescent gooey material all over his body and schlong. It was kind of awesome. But nothing like that happened again. Mostly, it was guys in super low-slung jeans walking around and waiting to be asked for private dances. For the dances, they'd grab their (flaccid) dicks and stretch 'em out while pretending to get it on with you. The thing about men is, you can tell when they're turned on and when they'd not (it's right there!) so as they danced, you knew that it was all mechanical. They looked at your with dead tiger eyes and no smiling was allowed. My giggly girlfriends and I tried to keep straight faces, but it was very difficult. As he gyrated on us, one of the guys said to one of my girlfriends, "You want this don't you?" and she tried to answer, "Yes" with as serious a face as possible and failed.

Male strip clubs = floppy dicks = high potential for awkwardness.


omg before I even read this, I must say that I went to Hunk-O-Mania for a bachelorette party that I organized about 8 years ago. It was HILARIOUS, but kind of horrible. The funniest part was that I was kind of horrified, as were my fellow slutty friends, but the pregnant, normally kind of conservative (in terms of flagrant displays of sexuality) bride LOVED it. So weird.


I went to Hunk-O-Mania and the guys did not make small talk with any of us. The gyrating started immediately and was very uncomfortable. There was a lot of touching and they also tried to drink our drinks with us.... Not my scene. Though what you describe sounds fun. Wish I had been there with you guys.


It seems like women react so differently to male strippers than men react to lady strippers.

The first possible way to react is with hilarity- this is the same outlook that inspires penis-shaped lolipops are bachelorette parties. It is CRAZY AND HILARIOUS that these men are doing this!

The second possible reaction is with discomfort. This is the same outlook that makes women hate dick pictures. "Ugh I do not need some random junk in my face, thanks."

The third possible reaction is with over-the-top love and lust. That seems to be what this article's party was- "Simulated sex acts," "But maybe you also want them to be your lover or, after an hour of priming conversation, you feel your chosen one already is?"

None of these are BAD reactions, but they're all different from any time I (a man) have been out with other men at a strip club. It's just an interesting contrast.


@beetnemesis Maybe it's because guys are used to being told by societies that naked ladies are pretty great, whereas there's not nearly such a cultural consensus on naked dudes, so there's no one comfortable script to tap into?


@Apocalypstick Seems likely.

OK, we have a project for this week: let's come to a cultural consensus on naked dudes.

christopher hart

beetnemesis Christopher Hart read your comment about this post and i likes your line women react so differently to male strippers than men react to lady strippers.


But was there an astronaut Mike Dexter? Otherwise NO DEAL HUNK-O-MANIA.


I thought about this article over the weekend and my appreciation for it grew. Excellent job capturing a mental state through prose.


What I know is that most women do NOT receive the sexual attention that we deserve. Women are just as much sexual creatures as men are. So, why not enjoy the same erotic encounters that men indulge in? Many women (like myself)would enjoy the entertainment and affection of the experience versus the sexuality of it. Primarily because we are loyal and dedicated women. Women who would just as much enjoy their man in front of them. Maybe it is good for both men and women to have this experience once in a while. Surely your love life wouldn't get boring.


@frigwiggin I just had an image of your picture's eyebrows going up and down suggestively

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