WHEN I TOLD MY boyfriend I wanted to go to a strip club with him, he did a double take. It wasn’t like me, true. But I had a couple of ulterior motives. First, I hoped to bring back the old sex-crazed lunatic in him. Second, I wanted to test my ability to handle jealousy.

Where better to deal with both than at an upmarket strip club? Its couples package would be an experiment that could either blow up the lab or spark a whole new line of research. But Mark was a bit worried. “I don’t want you to get drunk and launch into this long talk about whether I like a stripper,” he said. He wasn’t being a jerk; this was a legitimate possibility. “I won’t… I don’t think,” I replied.

It had always seemed to me that Mark’s relationships with his exes were carnal and liberated, whereas he and I tend to be in our heads about everything. Plus, I’m always overthinking his attraction to other women. So rather than skirt these issues, we were now going to see how it felt to tear that skirt right off.

The dancers weave around the floor like droids with breasts. We agree to each choose one stripper – mine would give just me a dance and his would give us a couples’ dance. Within 20 minutes, I spot a woman to my liking. My type, as it turns out, are women who resemble the popular, preppy girls who might have bullied me in high school: beautiful creatures with long, blond hair and perfect tans.

Angela is wearing a short lavender dress. What’s under the dress looks natural. To ease into the lap dance, the three of us chat awhile, as if we’re in a queue at Vida. Picking up on my awkwardness, she becomes instructive and shows me how to twerk in Mark’s face. I give it a shot: he’s so transfixed by my ass that he barely looks at Angela. Considering that my relationship with Mark is often so cerebral (debates, jokes, long, meandering talks) being straight up objectified feels sexy to me.

Then it’s Mark’s turn to choose a dancer. He takes forever, almost like a kid savouring his birthday wish. Eventually he picks Mila, a 30-something with a long, dark ponytail and leather garters who’d been dancing on the main stage earlier. It’s an unsurprising choice: she looks like the porn women he favours. But he’s bashful about receiving a lap dance in front of everyone, so we request a private space.

Now we’re alone with Mila in a room that reminds me of a divorced dad’s finished basement. Mila takes charge. She encourages us to move closer together, then slips her hands under the waistband of Mark’s jeans. She kisses my neck; her perfume is overpowering, her moans performatively loud. It’s a phony orgy, too synthetic for me to be in the moment.

But Mark (or Mark’s penis) is thoroughly convinced. Still, I’m not jealous. Maybe it’s the numbing power of the Champagne, or the fact that this bears zero resemblance to real-life foreplay. I take note of the elements of her handiwork (whispering in his ear and kissing his neck) that seem to be working him up.

Soon our half hour is over. “We could stay another 30 minutes,” Mila purrs. “I mean, sure, if you want to,” Mark fumbles, not realising that Mila is angling for another R2 000 jackpot. Clearly the blood is pumping in regions far afield from his brain.

By the time we arrive home, we’re too tipsy and tired for sex. But we make up for lost time in the morning, enchanted by what we’ve become after fixating on a bunch of random women’s

backsides: the chill, genuinely-not-jealous girlfriend, the fratty, inarticulate boyfriend. I may not have experienced Mark’s level of arousal but we learned the virtues of twerking, not talking.