Strip Club: From Fantasy To Addiction


Strip Clubs: From Fantasy To Addiction

KENT, WA. – They were a $100,000-a-year, white-collar couple with a dream home.

But last summer, Julie could no longer deny something in her marriage had gone terribly wrong.

The forty-something couple were on the verge of bankruptcy, the house was about to be repossessed, and Sam, who handled the family finances, had become increasingly moody and distant. (Sam and Julie are not their real names).

When Julie began to investigate, she found bank-card receipts from DejaVu in Federal Way and other strip clubs: about $75,000 worth spent over their 11-year marriage.

She was devastated.

“I worshiped this man. I believed in him. I trusted him,” she said.

Julie said the receipts for the last three years alone indicated Sam, whom she is divorcing, spent an average of $10,000 a year in pursuit of what she calls his “secret life.”  A strip club addiction.

Although Sam wasn’t available for comment, in the divorce papers he admitted to attending the Federal Way Deja Vu once a week, but only for several months.

Psychologists say Sam, not his real name, isn’t alone.

According to medical data, more than 10 percent of the population has sought professional help for some form of sexually compulsive behavior.

Sexual addiction, psychologists say, is the “secondhand smoke” of the adult-entertainment industry. And spending thousands of dollars a month on a strip club addiction, for pornography or prostitutes, isn’t uncommon.

Not all patrons end up risking homes and families. But for some, strip clubs in particular can make compulsive behavior easy. Clubs offer automated teller machines, accept credit cards and have an atmosphere removed from daily reality.

They are dim and windowless, and women are accommodating “objects” of customers – as long as the customers keep paying.

“Strip clubs create the fantasy that these men are wanted, that they are desired. The women are there to take care of their needs, to arouse them and to make them want to spend more money. And they’re good at it,” said psychologist Gary Wieder, who treats sexually compulsive individuals.

What customers forget is that the women, however, see them only “as money,” said psychologist Barry Moss, who treats women in the sex industry, often for panic disorders and depression.

“It’s an act. They realize the more they act that way, the more money they get,” he said. A private lap or couch dance costs $20 to $30, but the big money is in tips.

Clubs are to sexually compulsive men what bars are to alcoholics or casinos are to chronic gamblers, Wieder said.

He said a clue that a passing interest has become a problem is when more and more time is spent in clubs or in buying pornography or engaging in anonymous sex.  The second phase of the compulsion can bring serious consequences, including disease and loss of families, jobs and possessions, Wieder said.

Studies of men – and women, as well – show they often come from homes where they were emotionally or physically abused, where expectations were high and love conditional, he said.

Sometimes the behavior is triggered by stress or change, and it becomes a way to seek relief.

“As a culture we are used to having our needs immediately gratified,” Wieder said. “When they engage in this behavior, there’s a rush they might feel if they were falling in love or using drugs. There are some intense physiological changes that are temporary and pleasurable, and they seek to re-experience these feelings.”

Some do move on to criminal activities that injure someone else. But not all, psychologists say. In either case, it’s not a matter of simply stopping the behavior.

“For a certain percentage of these guys it’s too compelling and compulsive, like alcohol. Exactly like it,” Wieder said.

Those hooked often benefit from 12-step programs used in the treatment of alcoholism, special support groups and therapy with an expert in the field, he said.

Tom, who like Sam became sexually hooked on strip clubs, agrees.

Twenty years ago he began going to topless bars as casual entertainment. Gradually it became a way to escape from job and relationship stress. Two years ago, when his strip-club expenditures hit $1,200 a month, he realized he had a stripper addiction and sought therapy.

Breaking through the denial was a big step.

“It’s real important that men understand how entrapping it can be,” he said.

Today, Tom is recovering and urges other men to get help.

Julie said she tried to get Sam to go to counseling. She tried talking to him, but he was hostile.

As the couple’s marriage spiraled downward from the giddy dating days of nearly 20 years ago, there were clues of a stripper addiction, she conceded.

“I loved this man so completely and deeply, I was oblivious.”

Understanding the scene and having an effective strategy to deal with it could save a marriage.  Do you know where your man is right now?  A stripper addiction can be as devastating as an alcoholic one.


If you know you can handle the situation on your own or you’re just trying to cope with and understand the behavior, try

Support groups

Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous is a fellowship of individuals who feel they have problems with love, sex and relationships. It’s a 12-step program used by Alcoholics Anonymous and may found on the web at  There are other support groups as well, including some for spouses.


Originally By:  Nancy Bartley

Seattle Times South Bureau