SINGAPORE — Civil servant Joanne Yan, 24, was looking for ways to spice up a private party for a girlfriend who was about to get married when she found just the right idea after trawling websites and forums.
After a booze-fuelled girls' night out at one of Singapore's premier clubs, shrieks of joy erupted when they were joined in their room at a five-star hotel by a surprise guest: a male stripper who did the "Full Monty".
"I wanted my good friend to have a blast on her last night as a single and I knew she would be game enough for a stripper," Yan said.
"Also, I think having a naked guy prance around a room full of girls would definitely lighten the mood," she told AFP.
In a country where public nudity is outlawed -- even Playboy can't be sold -- strippers say demand for their services is getting stronger despite deep-seated conservatism and the danger of being caught.
The police have the power to enter any place, even a private home, where they believe an obscene activity is taking place, but this does not stop strippers from advertising their services.
Typically white-collar workers by day, exotic dancers cater largely to professional Singaporeans in their mid- to late 20s, including heterosexual and gay gatherings.
Bryan Tan, 31, who heads 2niteok Entertainment and has been a stripper for eight years, said more Singaporeans now seek his services.
"The reason for setting up 2niteok Entertainment is to cater for the growing need of Singaporeans to hire strippers for their private parties," said Tan, who works as an administrative officer during the day.
"Striptease is very common in the Western countries, but recently the trend is increasing in Singapore."
The firm's website says rates start from Sg$300 ($236) for a 20-minute show by a male stripper who disrobes down to his underwear -- tips are optional.
To see the man fully naked -- known as "The Full Monty" after the 1997 movie of that title -- prices start from Sg$400, with extra charges incurred for "special requests" such as dressing up as a policeman or doctor.
But the firm's female performers only strip to their lingerie.
One of them is Jasmine Tan, 28, a human resource executive by day who performs three to four times a month.
"In certain months the number may double," she said.
"I believe men love to see a woman in sexy lingerie (rather) than fully nude. Moreover, I usually go alone to perform, so it may be quite unsafe as they may take my nude photos," she said.
Tan does not mind having a roomful of men leering at her body but insists "both sides are not supposed to touch each other's private areas".
"Some clients do ask me for sex after my dance, but I always reject them. I am not a prostitute, but just a striptease entertainer."
Strippers keep their side jobs a secret from their families because it is still a deeply conservative culture.
"In Singapore society, families and friends may find this striptease profession degrading," Bryan Tan said.
Under the penal code, "any person who appears nude in a public place" or in "a private place and is exposed to public view" can be jailed up to three months and fined up to Sg$2,000.
The law also stipulates that police have the right to forcefully enter a private place to arrest an offender.
Strip acts are usually performed in hotel rooms, homes or rented beach chalets, but there are signs that they are gaining acceptance.
A firm called Urs Truly Escorting Agency -- which employs three female strippers who charge between Sg$1,000 and Sg$1,500 for lingerie acts -- said parents are now requesting their services.
"Parents will ask our strippers to perform at their sons' bachelor parties, or 21st birthday parties," the company's sales supervisor, who wanted to be known only as Crystal, told AFP.
Bryan Tan said the most trouble he has encountered came from complaints by other hotel guests.
"When I'm performing in hotel rooms, many times the girls scream too loud and disturb the neighbouring guests. Then the hotel staff will come knocking on the door to silence us," he said. (Philip Lim (AFP))