‘I Do What I Know How To Do’: Performing the Penis in Key West

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter challenges the heteronormative biases that distort research on erotic labour by offering a queer, site-specific ethnography of male sex work in Key West, Florida, U.S.A. Through thick description of one particular bar, its patrons, and its workers, the chapter explores male stripping as a form of public sex. Contextualizing ethnographic description within ongoing legal, philosophical, and feminist debates over public/private distinctions, the chapter revises queer critiques of privacy by developing a notion of privacy-in-public. Whereas queer theorists have demystified privacy to expose its thoroughgoing public character, Dean argues that sex in public generates a different order of privacy, one that remains uncompromised by either its crowded context or public discourse about it. Experiences of intimacy always involve sharing some kind of private space, whether conceived in physiological, architectural, or psychological terms. Discussion of the Key West strip club suggests how the relationship between public and private should be understood less as an opposition than as an intertwining. Finally, the chapter considers questions of exploitation by diagramming the club’s political economy of labour, elaborating the concept of potentia gaudendi in order to displace false oppositions between sex and work, or between pleasure and labour.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPerforming the Penis
Subtitle of host publicationPhalluses in 21st Century Cultures
EditorsMeredith Jones, Evelyn Callahan
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9781003108481
ISBN (Print)9780367622350
StatePublished - Jul 2022

Publication series

NameGender, Bodies and Transformation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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