Morehead State University

Poster Title

Evolution of the "Hoochie Coochie" Show from 1893 to the Modern Sex Industry

Institution

Morehead State University

Abstract

The Hootchie Cootchie dance debuted in the United States at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Performed in the exhibit A Street in Cairo, Little Egypt gyrated her way into the hearts and pocketbooks of the white male audience. What started as a seductive belly-dance showcasing the best of what Egypt had to offer, later transformed into live strip and sex shows held regularly at rural carnivals and fairs through the 1970s. The hootchie cootchie girls were idolized by young and old men alike with many spending a half-day’s wages to see a short thirty-minute performance. Hootchie Cootchie shows often became the highlight of male youth and their transition into the world of adult sexuality. As the occurrence of carnival strip shows declined, the modern sex industry exploded with video pornography, gentlemen’s clubs, and peep show booths. Although both the occurrence carnival strippers and the modern sex industry have been moderately documented by research such as Robert Allen’s Horrible Prettiness and Wendy Chapkis’s Live Sex Acts, there is little analysis of how carnival sex shows helped influence, or inspire the modern sex industry. Additionally it is important to draw parallels between the similar roles that carnival sex shows held in former society and modern sex work hold within modern society. Further exploration in this field allows for a long view of our culture’s fascination with the sex industry. In addition, this research provides an understanding of how our culture propagates masculine, feminine, and sexual norms.

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Evolution of the "Hoochie Coochie" Show from 1893 to the Modern Sex Industry

The Hootchie Cootchie dance debuted in the United States at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Performed in the exhibit A Street in Cairo, Little Egypt gyrated her way into the hearts and pocketbooks of the white male audience. What started as a seductive belly-dance showcasing the best of what Egypt had to offer, later transformed into live strip and sex shows held regularly at rural carnivals and fairs through the 1970s. The hootchie cootchie girls were idolized by young and old men alike with many spending a half-day’s wages to see a short thirty-minute performance. Hootchie Cootchie shows often became the highlight of male youth and their transition into the world of adult sexuality. As the occurrence of carnival strip shows declined, the modern sex industry exploded with video pornography, gentlemen’s clubs, and peep show booths. Although both the occurrence carnival strippers and the modern sex industry have been moderately documented by research such as Robert Allen’s Horrible Prettiness and Wendy Chapkis’s Live Sex Acts, there is little analysis of how carnival sex shows helped influence, or inspire the modern sex industry. Additionally it is important to draw parallels between the similar roles that carnival sex shows held in former society and modern sex work hold within modern society. Further exploration in this field allows for a long view of our culture’s fascination with the sex industry. In addition, this research provides an understanding of how our culture propagates masculine, feminine, and sexual norms.