Male exotic dancers — more commonly referred to as strippers — have recently become somewhat unavoidable in pop culture thanks to the Magic Mike franchise. We might be more accustomed to hearing about them now, but why male strippers decided to go into, and decide to stay in, their unique line of work was only just investigated in a study.

Maren Scull, an instructor of Sociology in the CU Denver College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, conducted research on the motivation behind male strippers commitment to stripping and the effect their occupation has on the way they view themselves.

"Because stripping is a stigmatizing occupation, it has the capacity to negatively affect exotic dancers' self-definitions," Scull said in a press release. "I looked into what motivates men to continue dancing and found that stripping led to feelings of mattering, mastery and enhanced self-esteem."

Published in Deviant Behavior, the only scientific journal that addresses behavior that specifically violates social norms, Scull’s research uses information she gathered from nearly two years of interviewing and observing male strippers.

The majority of her findings found stark contrasts between male and female strippers in several psychological areas. Scull found that while female strippers cite money as the main motivation behind their continued participation in exotic dancing, male strippers continue dancing because it heightens their self-esteem and self-confidence.

Though most of the men say that they began stripping for the money, few of them earned more than $100 per shift; much less than their female counterparts. Scull found that they continue because stripping makes them feel desirable.

"Initially women who dance for men may experience a boost in self-esteem, but after time they suffer from a diminished self-concept," Scull said. "My research finds that men who dance for women generally experience positive feelings of self-worth. So much so, that men will continue to strip even when it is no longer financially lucrative."

Scull suggested that men and women ascribe different meanings to being sexually objectified, and that this could be the reason for the differences. Female dancers who, as women, more frequently experience sexual objectification, may be more likely to ascribe a negative connotation to it than males.

Scull found that the men enjoyed being objectified by the audience, and associated it not with disempowerment, but with a positive feeling of being desirable.

Source: Scull M. Reinforcing Gender Roles at the Male Strip Show: A Qualitative Analysis of Men Who Dance for Women. Deviant Behavior. 2015.