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Stripped: Reading the Erotic Body

Maggie M. Werner

Stripped examines the ways in which erotic bodies communicate in performance and as cultural figures. Focusing on symbols independent of language, Maggie M. Werner explores the signs and signals of erotic dance, audience responses to these codes, and how this exchange creates embodied rhetoric.

Informed by her own ethnographic research conducted in strip clubs and theaters, Werner analyzes the movement, dress, and cosmetic choices of topless dancers and neo-burlesque performers. Drawing on critical methods of analysis, she develops approaches for interpreting embodied erotic rhetoric and the marginal cultural practices that construct women’s public erotic bodies. She follows these bodies out into the streets—into the protest spaces where sex workers and anti-rape activists challenge discourses about morality and victimhood and struggle to remake their own identities. Throughout, Werner showcases the voices of these performers and in the analyses shares her experiences as an audience member, interviewer, and paying customer. The result is a uniquely personal and erudite study that advances conversations about women’s agency and erotic performance, moving beyond the binary that views the erotic body as either oppressed or empowered.

Theoretically sophisticated and delightfully intimate, Stripped is an important contribution to the study of the rhetoric of the body and to rhetorical and performance studies more broadly.

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