Lebanon (TML) – Jamil Daher claims it all began rather innocently.
“It wasn’t my idea,” he tells The Media Line. “I was at a bachelorette party and some foreign girls dared us to do something for the bride. None of the other guys did anything, but they pressured me to do something cute because I have the look and the body for it. So we had some fun and I danced naked for the bride and her friends.”
Daher thought of the strip incident as a one time stunt, but within weeks he says he was inundated with calls from women who had heard about the party.
“The word got out and women started calling me, lots of calls one after another,” he remembers. “I was shocked but I decided to do it as a proper profession.”
Daher bought some ‘work clothes’, took on the stage name “Jimmy”, made a promotional CD and was in business.
“I basically became Lebanon’s first male stripper,” the 32-year-old says. “Now there are other amateur male strippers, but most of them are not professionals.”
“You need to be in good shape, attractive and smell good,” he says. “But the most important thing is the skin.”
“Personality is a big part of stripping,” he adds. “You have to believe in yourself and know what to do and how to do it. You also have to be strong, because girls like you to lift them up and do tricks.”
‘Jimmy’ says both his skills and wardrobe have grown over the years.
“I have many outfits: I can be a gentlemen, waiter, cowboy, mechanic, pilot or teacher, but the most popular is the policeman,” he says laughing. “Everyone likes to be handcuffed.”
The seductions of the single 32-year-old seem to have worked.
“The women flirt with me a lot,” he says. “But I have my limits and I don’t date people I entertain.”
A personal trainer by day, ‘Jimmy’ says he has made a killing off his second job.
“I charge $500 for 20 to 30 minutes,” he says, adding that he plans to raise the rate to $750 this summer. “In the high season from June to September I have a gig almost every day and sometimes three events in one night.
Jimmy says that while his stripping started at a foreigner’s wedding, today he dances mostly for locals.
“Most of my clients are Lebanese but I also have many English speaking clients,” he says. “I dance for Christians, Muslims, Druze and women of all ages from 18 into their 60s.”
Jimmy’s only limit is gay men.
“Lots of gay men ask me to strip for them but I only strip for women,” he says. “I don’t dance alone and I only dance with girls.”
“I don’t want to be people’s bitch,” he says. “I do this for fun and extra money, so I have my rules and I want to be seen as respectable.”
Jimmy says he hasn’t suffered any serious rebuke from his family.
“Even if my family doesn’t like it, I am a free man with a free mind and I don’t base my decisions on my family,” he says. “So they have come to respect me and my decision.”
“Lebanon is not like it was 15 years ago,” he adds. “Everything has changed, not just in the entertainment industry.”
Sari Hanafi, a professor of sociology at the American University in Beirut, says that Lebanon’s unbound, uninhibited culture revolves increasingly around the body. “Lebanon is historically a very consumer-based society compared to other Middle Eastern countries,” he tells The Media Line. “Beirut has often been seen as the cultural capital of the Arab world.” “Meanwhile since the Lebanese civil war there has been a severe political disillusionment,” Professor Hanafi says. “Most of the Lebanese population seeks a distinctly apolitical lifestyle. This has led to a lot more investment in culture and is extremely important for understanding how the human body became the base of consumer society in Lebanon.” “When we study the cultural script of Lebanon – meaning the norms and behavior of Lebanese – we have to remember that Lebanon has a very complex, diverse and global culture, influenced by Western culture, Arab satellite channels, the Koran, the bible,” he said. “Lebanese have this exposure to these vastly different, diverse norms. This allows people to transgress whichever of the cultural scripts that they don’t like.”