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Getting Unclothed And Personal

Last year, on my boyfriend's birthday, I promised to strip for him, but I never got around to it. Well, now it's his birthday again, and he still wants me to do it. I want to, but I have no idea how to go about it, or whether I should. I realize it's not the most feminist thing to do.

--All Dressed Up And No Idea

IT IS WITH a heavy heart that I invite you to join the ranks of oppressed women. Here goes: Rent "Striptease," an attempted comedy starring Demi Moore, and study it with a close friend by your side to comfort you through the excruciatingly insipid parts (any frame of film that includes anybody other than a fully-clothed Ving Rhames).

You were, perhaps, expecting me to have "feminist" concerns? I do. I'm concerned that the cartoon version of feminism -- 80's-style boo-hoo victim feminism -- is still taken seriously by so many people. The Walt Disney of victim feminism is Andrea Dworkin; herself something of a cartoon -- a large, angry infant-woman in overalls who seems to take pride in looking, well...aggressively ungroomed. Dworkin claims to have been brutalized by men with mind-boggling frequency -- more often, it seems, than many people take vacations. Just a wild guess, but if Andrea Dworkin looked like Rene Russo, she'd probably be writing sitcoms about sorority girls with talking breast implants instead of gems of "feminist discourse" such as "in seduction, the rapist bothers to buy a bottle of wine."

Feminism was supposed to improve women's lives, not lock them in a mind-jail in which there's one approved way to think. Regarding women dressing (or undressing) for men, that uni-think goes something like this: Any woman whose outfit says anything sexier than "time to plow the fields again!" might as well announce that she's a boss-lady, uh, boss-person, in the Nazi party; that is, whenever she gets time off from her day job clubbing baby seals.

That thinking is just dandy if you're trolling for a position in Andrea's end of the women's studies industry. If, however, your concern is keeping your relationship alive, kick Andrea to the curb and follow Demi's lead. But...but...aren't I advocating THE OBJECTIFICATION OF WOMEN? Well, yeah...including me. Although I do have a full-figured brain, I don't think the average man would find it, in and of itself, all that sexually attractive; not even if I dusted it with bronzing powder and nestled it into a faux leopard pillow with swingy burgundy fringe. Nevertheless, my brain is very good with the facts -- including the fact that men like attractive women. I can get mad about this -- for a moment or for a living -- but if I want a man, I won't get mad; I'll go to the drugstore and get some Revlon.

Since you already have a man, and, let's assume, a solid supply of Revlon, we'll move on to the dance-lesson portion of this column. In "Striptease," Demi strides on stage in a classic man's suit and tie, then takes her sweet, pinstriped time removing it, illustrating an important point: Stripping is less about showing what Ziploc bags of saline can do for a girl than about not showing it; at least, not right off the bat. That's why the dance is called "strip tease" -- not "strip smack a man upside the head with a lot of pasty white flesh."

Remember that you're not being asked to land a 747 or reattach severed toes. Stripping is something you do successfully every day -- get undressed. You're just going to do it a lot slower, and sexier, and to music; say, a little something by The Artist Presently Known By A Symbol Which Does Not Exist On My Keyboard.

If you're like a lot of women, you spend inordinate amounts of time cataloging the ways in which your body does not resemble that of Heidi Klum. Luckily, if your boyfriend's like a lot of men, he's going to be too awestruck, grateful, turned on, and stunned to be measuring the circumference of your thighs. Just have fun and act like you own the place, including the man in it.

For best results, come to his door in character -- someone else's character, like a traveling encyclopedia salesman. Wear a man's suit and tie, dark glasses, a fedora, a little paste-on/rip-off mustache, and pants long enough to cover stiletto heels. When he opens the door, he'll probably tell you he "doesn't want any."

"Oh, but I think you do, (insert his name here)," you'll say. Push your way in, pull your boom box from your encyclopedia satchel, and start the fireworks. Why? Because it's the feminist thing to do...except, of course, for those "feminists" who are too busy decrying the Clinique Beauty Bonus as a giant stiletto-heeled step backward for womankind to find a boyfriend to strip for.

Copyright ©2002, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, "The Advice Goddess," which appears in over 70 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.