A striptease is an erotic or exotic dance in which the performer gradually undresses, either partly or completely, in a seductive and sexually suggestive manner. The person who performs a striptease is commonly known as a "stripper" or exotic dancer.
In Western countries, the venues where stripteases are performed on a regular basis are now usually called strip clubs, though they may be performed in venues such as pubs (especially in the UK), theaters and music halls. At times, a stripper may be hired to perform at a bachelor or bachelorette party. In addition to providing adult entertainment, stripping can be a form of sexual play between partners. This can be done as an impromptu event or – perhaps for a special occasion – with elaborate planning involving fantasy wear, music, special lighting, practiced dance moves, or unrehearsed dance moves.
Striptease involves a slow, sensuous undressing. The stripper may prolong the undressing with delaying tactics such as the wearing of additional clothes or putting clothes or hands in front of just undressed body parts such as the breasts or genitalia. The emphasis is on the act of undressing along with sexually suggestive movement, rather than the state of being undressed. In the past, the performance often finished as soon as the undressing was finished, though today's strippers usually continue dancing in the nude. The costume the stripper wears before disrobing can form part of the act. In some cases, audience interaction can form part of the act, with the audience urging the stripper to remove more clothing, or the stripper approaching the audience to interact with them.
Striptease and public nudity have been subject to legal and cultural prohibitions and other aesthetic considerations and taboos. Restrictions on venues may be through venue licensing requirements and constraints and a wide variety of national and local laws. These laws vary considerably around the world, and even between different parts of the same country.
H. L. Mencken is credited with coining the word ecdysiast – from "ecdysis", meaning "to molt" – in response to a request from striptease artist Georgia Sothern, for a "more dignified" way to refer to her profession. Gypsy Rose Lee, one of the most famous striptease artists of all time, approved of the term.