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Study delves into the psychology of college strippers

Published: Thursday, September 10, 2009

Updated: Monday, January 18, 2010

With Greensboro being one of the homes of the largest chain of adult gentlemen’s club in America, one might wonder a little about the psychology and culture behind the sex industry, especially considering the stigma southern America attaches to the adult entertainment industry. What is it like to be an exotic dancer and what drives one to aspire to such a profession? What biological and mental aspects play a role in the job? With people like Diablo Cody, born Brook Buse, the Academy Award winning screenwriter of the indy film, Juno, who was a stripper for one year, one also wonders if in fact the stigma many attach to the profession is really justified.

According to Psychology Today, Cody spent a year as an exotic dancer, writing about her experiences and finishing a memoir, Candy Girl. She wrote about her experiences speaking of the job in a neutral way and explaining she had become more liberated over time because of it, but also had encountered many sad and malicious people during her time as a stripper. This choice, according to her life history prior to stripping, would have been hard to predict because she was a “nerd” from a healthy family who graduated from the University of Iowa with a media studies degree. Psychologist Geoffrey Miller and colleagues decided to do a study at local clubs on income variances due to hormonal cycles in females. This study was based on several studies that show subconsciously women dress more provocatively and behave in a slightly different manner when ovulating. The study also showed that men find women more attractive during this time as well. During the course of the study, the team found that women who were at peak periods of fertility averaged $70 per hour, whereas otherwise they would average only $35-$50. According to Psychology Today, the research team was surprised that no one in the industry had noticed the pattern.

Slight and subtle mood variation may affect more than just income according to Science Daily. An international research team conducting experiments on perception have shown that the way we perceive emotions and facial expressions in others may inevitably bias our reactions and future perceptions toward them. The team made of researchers from America, New Zealand, and France, had participants watch facial expressions on video that morphed slowly from happy to angry and found that when participants were asked to identify the image they saw at the beginning of the video, they often chose faces that were more angry or happy than the originals. “Faces initially interpreted as angry were remembered as expressing more anger than faces initially interpreted as happy,” states Science Daily.

“We imagine our emotional expressions as unambiguous ways of communicating how we’re feeling,” said coauthor Jamin Halberstadt, of the University of Otago in New Zealand, “but in real social interactions, facial expressions are blends of multiple emotions – they are open to interpretation. This means that two people can have different recollections about the same emotional episode, yet both be correct about what they ‘saw.’ “It’s a paradox,” Halberstadt added. “The more we seek meaning in other emotions, the less accurate we are in remembering them.”

What’s more, the participants’ facial expressions were observed through subtle electrical signals that control facial muscles and were shown to have been emulating the faces they observed. With figures like Diablo Cody and Geoffry Miller opening up the adult entertainment industry to a wider audience and examining it with an unbiased perspective, both from a scientific standpoint as well as an artful and creative standpoint perhaps it will be shown that more I to be learned about the culture and psychology of adult entertainment and more will participate in the analysis.

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