When I first received the email warning me that a breasteraunt wanted to open in the middle of town, I snorted it off. “Yeah, right,” I thought. “Like they’re going to let them do that here.” The almighty They—those who are not me. The bucolic Here—Evanston, Illinois, which boasts not only Northwestern University and some Lake Michigan shoreline but also, I’d wager, the most Whole Foods square footage per capita of any town in a thousand mile radius and a population that yes, by and large does think it’s pretty special, what with our diversity and community and well-preserved Victorian architecture. It’s the type of place where you have to have three hearings just to put up a fence in your yard, where you’ll get a visit from the city if your neighbors don’t like the placement of your garbage can. It’s a nuclear free zone. These alarmists leaning on the horn about the Tilted Kilt, sort of a Celtic-themed Hooters, and calling me out as a “Parent of Evanston” who should be concerned weren’t going to get me parading downtown with a bull horn: “What do we want? Tits covered! When do we want it? Now!”

The restaurant sounded tacky, but complaining about skimpy uniforms wasn’t my style—especially when the whole thing seemed hypothetical.

It wasn’t until last month, when the developer had applied for a liquor license and it seemed like an approval might actually come to pass, that I decided to pay attention. I looked at the Tilted Kilt’s web site and read about the controversy in news outlets, and it was the comments following the articles and editorials, as much as “The Kilt Calendar Girls” video that I clicked on, that actually got my ire up.

“Quit the elitist attutude because you are a woman and wake up and realize what century you are in!”

“If you have three kids and dont want to go there, DON’T GO….This is the US of A. You are a socialist and need to live in Old Russia, and keep your kids inside….”

“Grow up and smell the deficit.”

Being told I was stupid for questioning a business venture made me question it all the more. And what I found upon examination was a perfect circle of capitalist fucktitude→ The overdevelopment of Evanston’s downtown during the boom years, the evacuation of the older buildings and the bust’s resultant under-occupation of the new ones, the scorn and disgust for those who don’t see the vacancies as reason to do whatever it takes to attract new businesses and bow down to the almighty revenue, the call for personal responsibility in the face of any resulting issue or problem, and the fact that if the restaurant was a success, it’d be the male developers and investors who’d rake in the big bucks, while the young women who worked there would receive the same relatively shitty pay as any other service drone while having to continually invest in a high-maintenance look and run the risk, should the context change slightly, of being told that they flaunted themselves like sluts and so deserved what they got at the after-party or in the parking garage.

Even six months ago I might have believed, or wanted to, that last worry to be over-stated or far-fetched, but victim-bashing has been high-profile this spring. When the New York Times ran a story on the gang rape of an 11 year old girl, they famously included quotations describing her sexy, mature attire (which I had something to say about), and, more recently, a Toronto police chief told a group of women that if they didn’t want to get raped, they shouldn’t dress like sluts. Somewhat relatedly, a commentator on CNN gave a long diatribe about how parents shouldn’t let their kids dress like tramps, and the opinion went viral, appearing in countless blogs and being recommended by over four hundred thousand people on Facebook, including several of my friends.

Oh, yes, I decided. In this climate, I have every right to have an opinion about a sexual themed eatery where the “entertainers”—so-called to avoid sex discrimination suits—dress as naughty school girls. I have a responsibility to have an opinion about it. I know that according to the CNN commentator and the indignant righteous everywhere, I shouldn’t blame society for my parenting weakness, that it’s all on me, but come on, I need some help here. My three-year old is tripping over shoes that are a size too big for her as I type this because I could not convince her to wear anything else before we had to get out the door this morning, so I better take some preemptive action before I have a middle school principal reprimanding me for “letting” my offspring wear a plaid bustier to band rehearsal.

I clicked on the petition to deny a liquor license to the Tilted Kilt, and I signed it.

But when I scrolled through the dozens of the anti-Tilted Kilt comments on the petition site—well, I have a contrarian streak, and they gave me pause, too.

“Our children should never be exposed to this kind of establishment!”

“I do not want to dread walking downtown with my dauthers.”

“Please spare our daughters from this damaging model of sexual objectification.”

“There are too many diseases in the world already that have no cure! All because of SEX! Temptation creates sex, sex. Please do not allow this Tilted Kilt to take place!”

Hmmmm. What do we mean by never? By damaging? By temptation?

True, when pro-breasterant commenters suggested that instead of banning a tax-paying business from town parents should instead use the presence of the Tilted Kilt as a teaching moment, I didn’t relish having the conversation that quickly popped to mind. My son’s the oldest, so I’d have to deal with him first.

“Mom, I want to have my fourteenth birthday party at the Twisted Kilt.”

“No, son.”

“Ah, man. Why not? Miles had his party there. You never let me do anything. Everyone has a bigger TV than us. I hate this family!”

“I don’t approve of businesses that train scantily clad young women of a very specific aesthetic type to offer sexual innuendo as they serve burgers. I believe this contributes to a climate of sexism—even to a culture of sexual violence. And although I know sexuality has been part of the marketplace since forever, I really think, as a young person, you should develop your own sexuality and discover that of others in a more organic, more egalitarian, less pre-packaged fashion.”

“Does that mean I should hide my search history when I look at porn on the computer?”

“I would appreciate that.”

“What about dad’s photography books?”

“Those are art.”

“Really? Even Tokyo Lucky Hole? Cool. Whatever. Paintball then.”

But would it really be that bad to have a masquerading tittie bar in town?

During my own adolescence, no one put blinders on me, and I don’t think I’m the worse for it. As a teenager, I worked in a diner for a guy who also owned the only strip bar in town, which was located in an alley a couple blocks away from the restaurant. (My friend and I were hired by him when he came through the car wash we were working as part of a school fundraiser—five bucks and you’d get your car washed by a gaggle of high schoolers in bathing suits.) Most of the bar’s dancers were imported to our small, rust-belt town; they came in on the Greyhound for week or two stints. When things were slow on my shift, as they often were, I’d sometimes be asked to use my parent’s Ford Fairmont station wagon to ferry the ladies between the restaurant and the seedy hotel where they stayed. Some of them were drugged and scuzzy. Some of them were nice, confiding or conspiratorial with me as I sat on the bed and watched them get ready. What stands out now is how pale most of them were; this was before tanning booths were ubiquitous, but just. Perhaps my own sense of self emerged intact because the women who came through on the Pittsburgh to Buffalo stripper circuit were not necessarily representing an ideal or upholding any rigid notions of beauty. I mean, for one thing, lots of them were getting around by Greyhound, OK? And reliable cars and tans weren’t the only things they were missing. There was no fake anything, to the discernible eye—the dancers had flopping boobs of various density; teeth that probably hadn’t been subject to orthodontia, let alone bleach; muscle tone that more often bespoke a penchant for cocaine or for chicken wings than a regimen of Pilates (or Jane Fonda’s workout, as would have been the case at the time). I saw that the men buzzed brighter around some of the dancers than others—I remember in particular a woman who looked like Crystal Gayle, with a tent of long brown hair and a Mona Lisa smile—but there was no one exact model. The quality of the most desired women was ineffable. Sometimes, running back and forth with coffee refills to a booth where some regulars were sniggering about something that had gone down at the club, I felt alienated by the presence of commoditized sex, and I was probably subject to a few more objectifying remarks than I would have been elsewhere, which could make me uncomfortable. Perhaps the environment did contribute to the feminist rage I’d be feeling a couple years later. But mostly I was curious. And generally I had a healthy body image, a healthy sense of my sexual self. I didn’t obsess about my imperfections, was vain but not encumbered by vanity. My feelings of sexiness didn’t lodge in the eye of the beholder or what I believed was seen there, and I was having a great time rolling around with my very nice boyfriend. If more than less, I basically wish the same for my own daughter.

But it does seem to be a different era. And yes, I do worry about how the image-onslaught of literally or figuratively photoshopped sexuality will affect my girl child. I do see the ways in which narrow standards of desirability can be warping to girls (and boys). For example, from what I gather, the ubiquity of internet porn has created, among other things, an expectation of what the ideal vulva looks like, a market for plastic surgery of the pussy. At my diner job, I had to wait outside the strip club when I was assigned to pick up one of the dancers there; I was never allowed in the door. But even if I had spent every shift with a front row seat at the rowdy bar, I’m pretty sure I still wouldn’t have thought to criticize the appearance of my labial lips. Clicking through the girls competing to be in next year’s Tilted Kilt calendar, it’s amazing how differences are canceled. White girls, Asian girls, African American girls, they all start to look like a mass—the same shape, the same expression, the same presentation. It’s depressing to me. Deadening. I can hope that my daughter acquires punk rock sensibilities and purposefully chooses an opposite track—and my son too—but I’ll tell you what, I notice that even the counter-culture girls I see these days have brilliant white teeth and smooth armpits. I’d place a bet that they don’t have much pubic hair, either.

So, although I couldn’t heartily join in some of the most dramatic hand wringing about the Tilted Kilt, I left my name on the petition. And when the day of the hearing for the liquor license came, I watched it closely.

By this time, more than 2000 people had signed their opposition to the restaurant’s opening in downtown Evanston, and critics packed the hearing. Defenders also came out, representatives from the chain and the businessman and his wife who wanted to open the local branch. In the face of accusations that revealing costumes and the serving of alcohol increased the risk of sexual violence, the company argued that they do everything they can to protect their employees from being disrespected; that there’s no sexual innuendo in the menu or marketing. They essentially said that the web site is misleading, that the Tilted Kilt is a high-end establishment that draws people in with pretty women, yes, but that keeps them with a big beer selection and a plethora of even bigger TVs that all have the game on.

“And let me make it clear, the entertainment is not the young ladies and women that are working there as wait staff. The entertainment is that it’s a sports bar,” Carol Mengel, the businessman’s wife stated at the hearing, according to the Chicago Tribune.

A-ha! Reading that quote helped me put my finger on what was bothering me most. I was more offended by the boosters’ denial that the carefully casted boobilitious staff was not offering sexual entertainment than I would have been if reps had said, yeah, we’re selling sexiness—whoo boy, have you taken a look at those ladies?—and that’s just fine.

Because look, I myself like to be waited on by beautiful servers. Especially as I get older, I like it inordinately. And when I used to go to clubs, I was happiest when foxy dancers-for-hire were shaking it on a platform in full view, the less clothing they had on the better. Who knows where I’d be putting my dollar bills if I were a guy, and actively enticed. I’m not saying I don’t have reservations about sex work; I do, along with a lot of interest. But about the concept of pushed up, spray tanned boobs as functional wallpaper, I’m finding I don’t feel too ambivalent.

It’s not too far afield from the reaction I had when I first learned there was a service that hired out bikini clad-women as house cleaners. Strippers, prostitutes, masseuses, dominatrixes—I get why someone would do and pay someone to do all those jobs. But stripper/toilet-cleaner? That gets my judgment going: Ewwwwwww.

While still in college, I had a friend who started stripping at a little dive bar. After a short time, she wanted to see what else was out there in the world of adult entertainment, and I made the rounds with her. The only place I remember going into was a joint with the TVs behind the bar and the stripper stage to the patrons’ backs. In the afternoon, when we walked in, one tired woman in a fishnet body stocking with a couple of dollars folded suggestively against her belly whirled desultorily around the pole while two of the three patrons at the bar looked the other way, at the game. This made such a depressing impression on me that I can recall the image as if I’d just turned away from it. If you’re taking off your clothes and dancing, whatever else there is to say about the dynamic, attention should be paid. Tits-out waitresses running back into the greasy-floored kitchen to get another ramekin of mayonnaise while recreating men let out a uniform cheer at a ref’s call—I call that a poor use of youth’s voluptuous blossoms.

After hearing testimonials from both sides on the day of the hearing, Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl delayed her decision about the Tilted Kilt, and the town had another week to question our views, comment on them, and berate the opposition. My own opinion was crystallizing, and, finally, I was putting both my feet down on one side of the fence and honing my battle cry: “What do we want? Reverence for the sexy! When do we want it? Well, it’s a goal!”

A week later, on May 2, the final verdict came in. Mayor Tisdale voted against the liquor license.

“We are proud of (our) diversity and are sensitive to anything that would stereotype or demean us,” The Chicago Tribune quotes her as saying. “The final straw was at the end of the liquor commission hearing,” she said. “I was given a business card from the owner that shows a picture of one of the entertainers — that is what the waitresses are called. She had no head — it was just breasts, a shrug shirt, a bare midriff and the kilt, that little skirt.”

Ah, Evanston. I knew They would never let that tacky shit open up in our town square. Good call.

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ZOE ZOLBROD's first novel, Currency, won a 2010 Nobbie Award. She was born in Meadville, Pennsylvania; went to college in Oberlin, Ohio; and got a MA from University of Illinois at Chicago. She works in educational publishing and lives in Evanston, IL, with her husband, the artist Mark DeBernardi, and their son and daughter. She's currently at work on a memoir.

35 responses to “Our Sexy Bodies are Being Undervalued!”

  1. SAA says:

    My boyfriend was talking to his 11 year old daughter the other day about nudity in movies, and she admitted it made her uncomfortable. Then he asked her what she thought about violence in movies, if that bothered her more, and she said no, it didn’t really bother her. I have nothing more profound to say than that’s pretty fucked up. Although, I would have said the same exact thing at her age.

  2. Greg Olear says:

    The few occasions when I’ve gone to a strip club or similar establishment, I am overcome with a feeling of extreme discomfort. I think it’s a combination of empathy for every last person in the place and the fact that my brain goes into Extreme Writer Mode. But I never find the experience erotic in any way, and I don’t really understand how anyone really could. Especially with all the big screens showing (male) athletes hitting balls, dribbling balls, and otherwise knocking the shit out of each other. The whole thing strikes me as profoundly pathetic.

    I think the idea of the place being a sports bar is the worst part about it. I mean, if you’re going to have a theme restaurant based on boobs, honor the boobs. Don’t denigrate the women further by making the waitresses take a back seat to Big Ben, Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, at al.

    This sort of place would serve the same purpose in Evanston that Times Square now does in NYC…a magnet for people I don’t want to spend time with, and can easily avoid.

  3. Angela V. says:

    Great article, Zoe. I particularly love your renaming of the Tilted Kilt to the Twisted Kilt. Seems more appropriate for their franchise. I, too, signed the petition to keep their breastaurant out of downtown Evanston.

    • Zoe Zolbrod says:

      Oh shit, Angela! Heh. I am terrible with names (as I think you’ve seen proof). I’ve got to fix that. Thanks for reading.

  4. Jessica Blau says:

    I always enjoy your posts, Zoe!

    Can’t believe I just sat through the whole calendar video. Makes me feel sort of bad for the girls with their over-plucked eyebrows and porny school girl outfits (disguised as kilts). They all remind me of girls you might in any mall food court. Like Bristol Palin all sexed out. Too young to understand the entire system they’re involved in here.

    • Zoe Zolbrod says:

      Oh my God, that calendar video is not even good, right? I mean, not even on its own terms. I know because I watched it several times. But never was I able to articulate the point about the eyebrows. Good observation.

  5. LOVE this. The journey of this article is so great, and all the viewpoints explored, fascinating

  6. Jackie R says:

    Oh my gosh, this may be one of the best sentences I’ve ever read: “Tits-out waitresses running back into the greasy-floored kitchen to get another ramekin of mayonnaise while recreating men let out a uniform cheer at a ref’s call—I call that a poor use of youth’s voluptuous blossoms.”

  7. Zoe Zolbrod says:

    Jackie, I bet as a former waitress you can relate. When I was reading about all this, my own server days came pounding back at me. But maybe nowadays it’s all computerized and so you don’t have to be running into the kitchen so much, enduring harassment from the fry cooks and so forth while you wheedle with them so they’ll give you that extra pickle some boneheaded customer asked for. Ugh.

  8. Mark Sutz says:

    Zoe,

    Fantastic take on the bizarre relationship our society has with anything overtly sexually exploitative. The weak excuses from the defenders are most often cloaked in issues of ‘freedom’ and ‘choice’ and they can rarely come out and speak the truth – “We’re selling masturbatory fantasies for patrons who are unable to enjoy an evening out without ogling, perhaps even groping, the mildly clad breasts and buttocks of their servers. We are proud of providing a safe haven for public erections that can remain safely trousered.”

    That said, I am, like you, ambivalent about some areas of sex work and human beings – I tend to not judge a woman, or a man, if they make a knowing, informed choice about the line of work they are getting into.

    But I do have a certain ick factor about Hooterish establishments (and have only been in one once, with coworkers I couldn’t stand at a job that poked holes in my soul) for many reasons varying from: how many of these lunchtime men would take this to the next step and whack off in the john after scarfing down a half-pound burger, to: why would any of these girls subject themselves to this example of übercapitalism which is so obviously exploitative.

    The only thing you miss about having this place in your town is the opportunity to make a quick judgment about a new acquaintance who may be a regular patron of the place. If I ever hear a person extolling the virtues of Hooter’s as a weekly tonic or a titty bar as a proper place to do, well, anything, I can just say to myself as I walk away (and yes, it might sound elitist), “This dude’s a jackass. One less person to take even mildly seriously. Later.”

    • zoe zolbrod says:

      On my Facebook page someone asked whether I would feel differently about The Tilted Kilt if they had sexed up male servers as well as female ones. We were conjuring up what the costumes would be, and I cracked up at the image of my predominantly female department having our Christmas parties and client lunches there. The pseudo sex and work comb just seems absurd to me, no matter the gender on either side of the equation. But absurd as it may be, I know it still happens.

      Part of what this debate has done for me is help me claim the label elitist. Yeah, I’m OK with saying Evanston is not that kind of town. And yeah, I mean it’s better than that. “Better,” maybe, but also, better.

  9. Becky Palapala says:

    Great piece, Zoe.

    All feminism aside, it’s great because it’s a study in the struggle for moderation and the space to think critically in a world that is essentially governed by unsophisticated pith, bombast, and sound bytes/slogans/buzzwords/buzzthoughts. How increasingly difficult it is to be–and be seen to be–someone who walks some kind of middle path or paused to really consider the implications–practical and abstract–of what they’re doing/saying.

    You look at two sides of the same issue and find, in any number of cases, THE EXACT SAME KINDS OF CRAZY PEOPLE because what is most important to those types is to have strong opinions. Period. What those opinions are is a secondary consideration. Pick a side, bitches.

    It’s easy for a person to choose choosing nothing rather than choose being associated with that kind of rank intellectual ineptitude.

    To be honest, in this particular case, I probably would have done exactly that. Nothing. This is in part because I tend to find something sort of pitiably/laughably earnest in municipal politics (ex: Three hearings to put up a fence), which is, admittedly, more appropriate in some cases than others. It’s easy for me to be apathetic and blow off any number issues with thoughts like, “Don’t you people have anything to DO?????”

    But also it’s because, in the broader philosophical context (and this is something that often has me walking the the “anti-feminist” line in certain feminist circles) naked/near-naked lady bars just don’t bother me all that much.

    I’ll go to a strip club if that’s the bar we’re going to. My husband and I stopped for a drink in a strip club when we were on our honeymoon. I have been to Hooters more than once.

    It just fails to trip alarms in my head, and I’m not sure why. I might roll my eyes a little, but I generally don’t feel any great amount of discomfort. Yet I’m certainly not a woman who, herself, tolerates being objectified. I still scold my own husband if he talks to my boobs. Then again, I understand that this quality makes Hooters a bad employment fit for me, so I don’t work there.

    It’s good to know, at any rate, even in the municipality, there are folks out there thinking it through, regardless of where they fall in the end.

    • zoe zolbrod says:

      “It’s easy for a person to choose choosing nothing rather than choose being associated with that kind of rank intellectual ineptitude.” Yup. And the crazy is what stands out. What would be the fun in quoting the plentiful reasonable comments? The reasonable ones almost seems the most comic, in context, because it’s like: You’re trying to discuss rationally with GO BACK TO OLD RUSSIA and SEXXXX IS COMING TO EAT YOUR CHILDREN? Who’s the fool? Well, me, maybe, if I care about looking like one. Er, maybe.

      I’m thinking of your mother’s day post, and one of the things that itches me about being a parent is the pressure I feel–partly external, partly internal–to have an opinion about a lot of municipal things (using the word loosely) that I’d like to be too cool for–and, well, that I usually remain too lazy for. The asbestos removal at my little one’s preschool. The qualifications of the new assistant principal at the elementary school. The math program the district is using. The funding for the libraries. When the half days are scheduled. The privatization of the summer camp sites. Yadda. Yadda yadda. And then there’s the owning of a house. You can imagine my annoyance and humiliation when my husband and I had to go to freaking mediation about the placement of our garbage can and the relationship of our side door awning to our neighbor’s new fence. (Yes, that really happened.)

      I have a few of friends going through tough divorces now, and I’m struck by how the whole court-lawyer thing forces them to alter their whole approach to life. Like, where they are usually pretty flexible, rational, people, the system punishes them for any variance at all from the court order or whatever, to the point that they can’t just let their ex keep the kids an hour later when it makes sense, stuff like that. I don’t know why I’m even bringing this up, but lately I’ve been seeing it as a symptom of so much–the all or nothing, the attitude of gotcha, the compounding of problems in the name of what’s abstractly right, or due, or fair. And the way normal people can get sucked into acting in ways that look really stupid.

  10. Art Edwards says:

    Well thought-out piece, Zoe. I thought you expressed the issues well. The strip club/diner examples were very relevant, not to mention interesting.

    And be glad your community has a choice. Not so in Portland.

    • gloria says:

      Oh, yeah. Portland is awesome. I had a FABULOUS conversation with my then six year old son about what they did in the place called DV8. And then we lived up in the worst part of town for a while and I got to explain all prostitution to him. Good time.

  11. Zoe, I read this yesterday on my iPhone and have been thinking about it since. Just the nuances of how EXTREME sides tend to be, and in particular about things sexual. I mean, to be fair people take extremist sides about all kinds of issues, but to the extent that there are any topics that inspire rational discussion . . . well, in this country (and many other countries, too), sex never seems to make the Sanity List.

    I’m intrigued by the comments regarding watching sexual vs. violent films with one’s kids. I have to admit that I feel exactly the opposite about this kind of thing. In fact, I feel as though these days, so many films have become so over-the-top violent, in graphically realistic ways, that it is almost impossible to view films about Important Topics with one’s kids anymore, because they’re so gorily “realistic” that they really are strictly for adults. I think about the differences between, say . . . well, an older film like The Color Purple, vs. a newer film like Precious, both dealing with brutal incest and abuse. Without comparing the merit of the two films (which are very different), I know that I was very eager to watch The Color Purple with my daughters (who are almost 11) precisely BECAUSE it was a great teaching film, a great chance to talk about certain hard realities, but without violence and gore being so “in my kids’ faces” that they were going to end up having nightmares and being completely freaked out. Likewise, I’ve recently watched the old miniseries’ ROOTS and HOLOCAUST with them, both of which they loved, and which obviously deal with loaded issues (both sexual and violent). Yet when I think of more recent films that touch on similar issues, I cannot think of a single film that could be viewed by a 10 year old without it literally being a bloodbath . . .

    I love the idea of film as a springboard for discussing real life issues with kids, and educate them about history and hard things . . . but I have absolutely no interest in my kids viewing a film that is so realistically and graphically violent that they’re literally checking their shirts to see if any brains have splattered on them.

    But this is a tangent. So many fascinating things here. I’m very struck by how flattened out and homogenous “beauty ideals” have become even in the counter-culture, yes. That freaks me out. I’m kind of horrified, bluntly, to think of punk rock and goth chicks with waxed pussies and gym-toned thighs. I’m not sure why this alarms me so much, but it does. I really worry about “sexual” becoming a human subcategory, like “rich” or “WASP” or something, rather than it being simply the human condition, if that makes sense. EVERYONE is sexual (with some really unusual exceptions), and through most of human history, while everyone appreciates a certain type of beauty, sure, there was also wide recognition that other people–fat people, disabled people, hairy people, whatever–wanted sex, wanted each other, and happily got it on, too. I feel as though somehow, internet porn, the media, something, has started to morph this somewhat. Like, I fear that there literally ARE men who would rather stay home and jerk off to a homogenous beauty on the computer screen, than have actual sex with a girl who doesn’t look like their fantasy. And I fear the extent to which girls/women seem to be buying into this and pandering to it, with the waxed vaginas and the making-out-with-each-other-at-parties-even-if-they’re-not-bi, and the boob jobs and the anal bleaching for chrissakes. I mean, truly. Whatever happened to the days when, if a guy was having intimate contact with your asshole, he was just thanking his lucky stars? Now your anus has to be ready for its close-up? This is not a good thing. It’s not good for our daughters’ generation of women, and it’s not good for the guys either. Life–and sex–is a lot less fun if it’s being made into a one-size-fits-all standard of perfection.

    It’s interesting: I have no formative/youth experiences with tittie bars and strip clubs. In this regard, I am weirdly “sheltered,” despite having grown up extremely urban. The only places of this nature I’ve ever been inside were live sex shows and such in Amsterdam, which I’m guessing to be pretty different from the Tilted Kilt (which I had never even heard of until reading this). So I’m not sure what I would think of a joint like this opening in my neighborhood. I don’t think I’d mind explaining to my kids what it was, and giving them my basic opinions, but I might find the idea of potential crowds of drunk, turned-on men (usually without female company, I assume) loitering around to be kind of creepy.

    Yet despite not having super strong feelings about breast restaurants or whatever, I–knowing Evanston well–am weirdly happy one will not be opening there. I mean: Evanston! I may not be strongly for or against tittie establishments, but I am very strongly in favor of “atmospheric towns” that give off very strong, particular vibes and have their own personalities, and all that is Evanston would be decidedly scrambled by having a topless burger joint in the middle of Main Street.

    • zoe zolbrod says:

      Hey, Gina, I replied to your comment, but I didn’t link it to your comment. You’ll have to click on the post if you want to see it.

  12. zoe zolbrod says:

    “I really worry about “sexual” becoming a human subcategory, like “rich” or “WASP” or something, rather than it being simply the human condition”–yeah, I totally get what you mean about that. I worry about that too. I wonder how much of it is being a curmudgeonly oldster–“in my day, a girl only shaved her legs and armpits every other day, and with a cheap bic razor!”–reacting to exaggerated media portrayals and how much it really affects people. But I think it does really affect people! But yet, most of the 20-somethings I see on the street don’t look like stepford sex, and, you know, sometimes they’re in couples and they’re holding hands.

    When I talk about being more comfortable with violence than sex in movies, I’m talking about cartoon violence, basically–Star Wars, for example. We started off parenting being in total non-violent hippie mode to the point of not wanting Tillio to have toy tanks to being awash in guns, ammo, books about guns, books about ammo, and shows about shooting–Top Shot, documentaries about war, documentaries about the history of guns, etc. (He’s not drawn to gory movies or even movies in general, so much.) It was in some documentary about the Civil War that there was a mention of prostitutes, and T asked about it but quickly wanted to change the subject when he realized what the subject was. He does not like talking about sex in a family setting. Romance, yes, to some degree, but sex, no. I feel like I have to watch myself to not become the obnoxious, aggressively “cool” hippie parent who is forcing a conversation about sex onto her embarrassed, reluctant son. So part of my fear of sexy content in shows in the discomfort I think it would cause him.

  13. Well, I’m glad the female exploitation restaurant/bar doesn’t get to open in your town, Zoe. Places like that make me sort of sick, and aren’t there enough of them, anyway?

    If it’s a burger restaurant, kids will go there. Mostly little boys. Apparently (as you point out) they are already developing unnatural ideas about women (such as the idea that no women have pubic hair, because there isn’t any to be found in the internet porn that they can watch whenever and wherever). God forbid they start thinking that every girl is there to serve them and wants them to stare at her boobs. Oh, wait…that happened a long time ago.

    I was just reading a very funny line on a thoughtful professor trying to seize the “teachable moment” to help his young daughter understand the cultural problems females face. This is from “The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost” by Rachel Friedman–sorry to digress, but I have a point.

    The author (as a child) and her film professor father are watching “The Little Mermaid.” Dad says, “[This story] is just not equitable. Ariel has to give up everything for this guy–first her voice, then her home. On a very real level, Rachel, she has to give up who she is. What are we to make of this?”

    I guess if the Tilted Kilt does ever open, at least you can walk in, point at the exploited entertainers and ask your kids, “What are we to make of this?” Teachable moments, indeed.

    Best,

    Liz

  14. Richard Cox says:

    This is well-reasoned, and I don’t have a strong enough opinion about Hooters-style restaurants to write a worthy response to it. However, I read most of the other comments and I’m somewhat baffled by your flip-flop on the issue of sex versus violence.

    To me it seems America’s strange relationship with sex is what causes these places to flourish in the first place. I’m not sure that being exposed to implants while you eat a burger contributes to violence against women, but if it does, I’d say our general acceptance of violence in art could also be a factor.

    When I’ve been to Europe, I don’t remember seeing many Hooters-style restaurants. But there are strip clubs (where you can have sex with the women on the premises) in the downtown district of Zurich, for instance, and there is porn on public TV after midnight. Sex is part of life, and sex-as-business is as well. In my opinion the attitudes toward sex there are far healthier than here. Violence as well. Perhaps they’re more grown up than we are because wars have been fought on their soil and they have a better sense of what’s really important.

    I don’t have children and don’t feel qualified to comment about that. I’m sure my attitudes will evolve if and when I do. But I remember that when my conservative father restricted all access to any sort of nudity in film, all it did is make me more curious, and that eventually led me to figure out how to unscramble the porn channels.

    Maybe if we didn’t make such a big deal out of sex, we wouldn’t live in country where discussions like this were even necessary.

    • Richard Cox says:

      “Perhaps they’re more grown up than we are because wars have been fought on their soil and they have a better sense of what’s really important.”

      Although this doesn’t explain why Australia and New Zealand are also more mature about sex and violence than the U.S. And we did fight a bloody civil war here. So I dunno.

      • zoe zolbrod says:

        Interesting points, Richard. This thread has made me think more about the sex/violence question, too. Just the fact that they’re lumped in together–sexandviolence. And lots of times sex is the opposite of violence and other times its synonomous. And there’s a continuum of both, which I didn’t really think through when I said I’m more OK with my son watching shows with violent content than sexual content. I wasn’t talking about graphic violence. Maybe a light saber or laser gun is more equivalent to cleavage, and in that case he sees plenty of both. And maybe a full-on splatter scene is like a cum shot? In which case, yeah, R ratings are handed out unevenly. But mostly I’m just going by what one particular 10-year old boy gravitates to, and what he seems uncomfortable about–at least up to this point, and at least in the presence of his mother. And whereas I used to be all “Why is sex rated R and violence rated PG, that makes no sense, that’s so stupid,” now I’m like, Oh, maybe kids don’t want to be getting turned on during family movie night, and vice versa. I wonder if in Europe there’s less of an ick factor when kids think about their parents having sex. I remember a Dutch friend of mine telling me that when he was in high school and he and his girl were making too much noise while they were going at it, his mom would pound on the door and tell them to quiet down.

        I know in Europe people are less freaked out at the site of a bare boob–and based on my one ancedote, their kids getting it on–and that does seem like a kind of maturity, but I don’t know about rates of sexual violence or sexual harassment or about double standards regarding sex workers, despite their legal status. Or about rates of sexual pleasure or open-mindedness or whatever else would be classified as a measure of sexual maturity. My friend who lives in Marseille reports a really limited gay culture and a lot of homophobia. In plenty of European countries, there’s more classic sexism than there is here–women getting paid less for the same work, having less opportunity for advancing professionally, having less equalitarian marriages. I don’t mean to narrowly equate sexual maturity with gender equality, though.

        Using the word “maturity” reminds me of my son again. He just was in a dance where boys and girls were partnered and had to hold hands at times, etc. He would come home talking dismissively about which boys got all red-faced and clumsy when they had to touch their partner. “They’re just not mature enough,” he would scoff. He, of course, is not mature enough for many movies some of his peers are ready for–he’s always been behind on that curve; he couldn’t watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer until he was 7. But he’s comfortable hanging out with girls when many of his friends aren’t. Maybe sexual maturity has something to do with being comfortable recognizing as people those who one’s attracted to. But, yeah, also probably to do with being able to acknowledge less interpersonal aspects of sex and attraction, and that they don’t mean the world’s ending.

        Oh my god, I think this comment is as long as the post.

        • Richard Cox says:

          Good point on needing more information to have a clear picture. It’s easy to say “People in Europe are better!” because of anecdotal experiences. That probably wasn’t a fair way to conduct an argument.

          I mean, it’s a feeling you get when you’re there, the relaxed attitudes toward sex, but that doesn’t tell me anything about rates of sexual violence.

          I love what you say about sex and violence, as if it’s a continuum just because the two things are hot button issues. I’m not sure why they’re so often lumped together.

          Also, I didn’t realize someone else asked you the same question about your attitudes about your son’s viewing habits evolving. It was an offhand comment and now you’re having to waste a lot of space defending it. My bad.

          However, I still find American attitudes toward sex to be odd. Remember the Super Bowl nipple thing? The nipple that wasn’t even actually on display? We freaked out over that but not the bald sexuality of beer or Go Daddy commercials? I know that’s another anecdote, but I’m sure we could cite a thousand more. I think the country could stand to lighten up a little where nudity and sex is concerned. In fact I think Hooters should stop making the girls wear shirts. Hahaha. Just kidding.

  15. zoe zolbrod says:

    Yeah, I remember the wardrobe malfunction. That was embarrassing.

    At the same time Evanston was buzzing about the Tilted Kilt, there was also a controversy about a human sexuality class at Northwestern that included an optional presentation about female ejaculation that ended up including a live demonstration. People were shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked. And disgusted. I can’t tell you how many times I heard some phrase along the lines of: “They pay 50K to go to that school and that’s the kind of thing they’re teaching?” I had the opposite reaction. I thought it was great that there was a class to explore the crannies of sexuality. That to me seems a step in the direction of sexual maturity. But I am apparently waaaaaaaaaaay in the minority on that one. They ended up canceling the class entirely over this one-time thing. Boobs and beer had many more people on their side than this class did.

    I think I typed so much about the sex and violence thing in movies because I’m not exactly clear on my own thoughts about it.

    • Gloria says:

      Zoe, I mentioned this to Stacie above, but I’ll reiterate to you: if you haven’t seen This Film Is Not Yet Rated, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It helped me wrap my mind around the sex/violence (in movies, not life LOL) thing a little better. It’s a good watch.

      • zoe zolbrod says:

        I’m going to check this out, Gloria. I vaguely remember hearing about this movie but I wasn’t that interested at the time, but it seems I’m interested now. Thanks.

  16. Funny thing my bf like to go there but would not “allow” me or my daughter to work there—-Hypocritical much?
    Don’t worry gals, we have Waiters in Boxers and Eva longeria and Mortons are coming out with a chain for women with only scantily clad very well endowed male waiters who give us gals that “friendly” vibe. I can’t wait! our hubbies and bfs have whats coming to them!!! Me and my girls are going out—-w/out chaperons! I like to think Hang Ten or Sausages or Woodys would be the name….Men get ready—its about us—because we are the WOMEN…..

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