And we don't just mean that they're really good at it. No, the Norwegian court system has ruled as much, when they last week found in favor of an Oslo strip club that had refused to pay a 25% tax on entry fees. Lawyers for the club argued that sword-swallowers and comedians aren't taxed in the same way, and strippers deserve equal status. The judges agreed, saying "Striptease, in the way it is practised in this case, is a form of dance combined with acting." (Wait, they're faking it?) To celebrate striptease's graduation from the ranks of high smut into low art, we offer a few flossy tidbits from its history:
- The ancient art of the strip tease traces its origins to Sumerian tablets, which detail the descent of the goddess Inanna into the Underworld. At each of the seven gates, she removed an article of clothing or a piece of jewelry. As long as she remained in hell, the earth was barren. When she returned, fecundity abounded.
- This myth was reincarnated in the New Testament as the famous "dance of the seven veils" of Salome, who performed for King Herod.
- In the 19th century, French colonists in North Africa and Egypt "discovered" the dances of the Ghawazee, especially a courtesan dancer known as Kuchuk Hanem, and exoticized the image of the nonwestern woman as one who would disrobe as part of a dance performance. It is likely that the women performing these dances did not do so in an indigenous context, but rather, responded to the commercial climate for this type of entertainment.
- American strip tease nurtured its roots in carnivals and Burlesque theatres. The art and business enjoyed prosperity as the United States economy grew out of the depression of the 1930's through the fifties. In the sixties and seventies, with changing cultural expressions of sexuality, it declined in profitability and status.