It was a Wednesday night in early March. We had spent the day wandering the narrow, balcony-lined streets of New Orleans, stopping in quaint book shops and swaying to pop-up brass bands in the center square. There was a breeze coming off the Mississippi, bringing with it the briny smell of fish and centuries old stone houses.

And vomit. There was a distinct smell of vomit as my friends and I made our way from bar to bar down the infamous Bourbon Street, encountering new friends (alleged New Orleans Saints players) and new challenges (a drink consisting solely of grape slushie and Everclear) along the way. As we approached our destination we let out shrill giggles in anticipation; we were doing something none of us, as former student council representatives and current homebodies, had done before. Feeling young and alive and independent, singles in hand, we walked into the Bad Boys of Bourbon Street, an all-male strip club.

Confession: I saw “Magic Mike” in theaters three times. (Once was actually at a drive-in.) When Channing Tatum’s star-making film about male strippers with big dreams and hearts of gold came out in 2013, I told everyone who would listen about how good it was. The film is surprisingly smart, unafraid to dig into the class and racial dynamics that complicate the stripping industry. And Tatum is excellent, pulling from his own stripping past to bring a conflicted gravity to a character that could have been just a meathead. I would whip out these reasons whenever anyone questioned the film’s integrity, or my obsession with it. But without fail, every conversation would inevitably end with me saying, “And c’mon, it’s hot guys stripping.”

What can I say: a girl wants what she wants.

The Bad Boys of Bourbon didn’t disappoint. The boys were hot, they could move, and they did their damnedst to engage the cozy Wednesday night crowd. I watched as my friends threw singles on the stage and even participated in the show, unabashedly reclaiming this place as theirs.

I love objectifying men. Really, it’s one of my favorite pastimes, other than reading biographies for pleasure and drinking wine from a box. It may sound shallow, or even callous, but in a world built on the constant, unrelenting objectification of women, I feel no guilt in turning the tables. I watch certain shows solely for the man candy. I stare a beat too long at the cute boy across the airplane aisle. Last week I even called a statue of Andrew Jackson “foxy as all hell.” (Like I said, a girl wants what she wants.) There is an empowerment in assuming the traditionally masculine angle of removing a person’s inner self from their physicality, in acting unapologetic of your primal instincts.

Take “Grandfathered,” the FOX comedy starring John Stamos (“Fuller House”) and Josh Peck (“Drake and Josh”). It’s not a great show, at times sharp and pithy but all too often sweeping in its characterizations. But my best friend and I watch it every week, in part pulled in by our libidos — she’s an Uncle Jesse fan while I prefer Peck’s former-chubby-kid adorableness. As a TV snob, it’s a rarity for me to watch a show for aesthetics alone, but it’s refreshing to watch with half a brain, to whoop at the shirtless scenes like a bored frat bro.

“The Good Wife,” too, plays a cat and mouse game with my sex drive, as Alicia Florrick has reignited her sexuality and got some over the show’s seven season run. Alicia treats sex in a traditionally masculine way; when she wants it, she wants it, no strings attached. While this may complicate her own life, it invigorates mine. When her boss Will passionately kissed her in an elevator in season two, I rewound multiple times, and proceeded to tweet that all I wanted was to make out with someone in an elevator. When she pulled her estranged husband into a back room for a midday quickie in season four, I cheered. This season, when she hooked up with her grizzled investigator in her darkened office, my friend texted me her excitement in all caps, and I responded with a resounding “YASSSS.”

It shouldn’t come as a shock that women like sex. Women have attractions and urges just like men, whether they be for Channing Tatum or disgraced 19th century presidents. I find admitting these feelings to be an open act of feminism, a response to millennia of women functioning solely for men’s sexual desire.

And yet. As I sat in the Bad Boys of Bourbon Street, I couldn’t help but feel irrevocably, deeply icky. I couldn’t remove my own sensibilities from the situation; I couldn’t just be a man about it. What were these men’s real names? Did they always want to strip, or was this a stepping stone for some other dream? Do they have families, children relying on the money coming in from this Wednesday night show? Do they even want to be here?

I ran out in a panic, texting a friend “I feel like this is so violating.” That to support the industry didn’t feel like a feminist move. That I found it all really sad, and not at all sexy. I was confused; I’m pretty open about my sexuality, and I wholeheartedly support compensation for patriarchal wrongs. Maybe I’m more prudish than I thought, but I found the institution to be irredeemably abusive.

Can there be feminist retribution in recreating an industry that was established through eons of the normalized sexualization of women’s bodies? Just because men can pay to enter a dark room and watch a woman they don’t know remove her clothes, and have been able to do that for centuries, does it mean I should feel comfortable doing it in the reverse? I don’t think so. I want it to be easier, I want equal to be the same as equitable; an eye for an eye, or more pertinently, a tit for tat. But an institution founded in a society of objectification, of debasement, of violence, can’t be turned on its head and made clean. As the phrase goes, an eye for an eye means the whole world’s blind. And I need my sight to keep watching “The Good Wife.”

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