When Mexican television star Sergio Mayer whips off a skimpy towel and bares his backside to an audience of shrieking women -- some of whom reply by flinging their undies onstage -- he calls it a social revolution against a culture of machismo.
Some of Mexico's priests call it an abomination for which the ogling audience should go directly to confession. Conservative politicians denounce it as a threat to family and motherhood.
But 25-year-old Paty, who was on her feet screaming hysterically through a recent show, sees neither social rebellion nor political polemics. She sees an opportunity to squeeze the naked pecs of a hunk she has previously seen only on her living room television screen.
"I'm dying to climb up there and touch them!" she squealed, refusing to divulge her last name because Papa does not know she is here. "Mercy! They are fantastic!"
Call it what you want: a troupe of some of Mexico's best-known actors have turned a beefcake-in-the-buff road show entitled "For Women Only" into the most controversial social phenomenon to shake the pillars of home, church and politics in this conservative Roman Catholic country in years.
In a nation where men-only clubs are still politically correct, where mistresses remain more normal than scandal, and where women's lib has yet to become a mass movement, the concept of an upscale male strip act emerging as a symbol of women's equality is nothing less than, well, shocking.
"My hairdresser was telling me that a few nights ago one of the spectators got up on stage and took off her shirt and bra in the middle of the performance!" marveled Guadalupe Loaeza, who chronicles Mexican culture and society in biting commentaries in the Mexico City newspaper Reforma. "But I say we need to strip off our old morals instead of our bras. It's time to take off our prejudices."
Inspired by the 1997 British film "The Full Monty," in which unemployed workers stage a strip show for a mostly female audience, 10 of Mexico's studly soap opera and movie stars created their own version. Instead of a line of bare backsides attached to unknown faces, however, this group's show is more akin to what would result if a U.S. producer put Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Jimmy Smits and Benjamin Bratt on stage and had them peel off a variety of costumes.
The results have been eye-popping in more ways than one.
In the central Mexican town of Puebla, local officials shut down the show when the actors refused to cut their finale -- the full disrobing -- then relented after posting guards at the foot of the stage to prevent too much bodily contact when barely clad actors mingled with enthusiastic fans (one of the show's most crowd-pleasing moments).
In the northern city of Leon, a Catholic priest took to the radio to order women who had attended the show to seek repentence in confession the next day. In unsigned newspaper advertisements appearing in virtually every town where the show has played, women are warned: "You are the pillar of your family and society. Think about it. Don't permit the destruction of your family or the denigration of women."
In cities across Mexico, demonstrators have heckled attendees and state lawmakers have introduced resolutions condemning the show.
All of which has served to make "For Women Only" a sellout and win its first foreign booking, in Las Vegas next month. (In Mexico, men are admitted only if they come dressed as women so as not to inhibit the free expression of the audience.)
"We knew it would be controversial," said Mayer, 33, a producer and actor in the show, which has been seen by nearly 200,000 women in the past 3 1/2 months. "We're breaking taboos and changing the mentalities of Mexicans going into the next century. But we never expected so much conflict from every level -- political, social and religious."
The show pokes fun at some of Mexico's most venerated icons. In the opening act, the dancers glide on stage to the eerie beat of Gregorian chants wearing black monks' robes emblazoned with silver crosses. Many priests might not care for what comes next.
In another scene, a line-up of Marlboro men -- still ubiquitous figures on Mexican billboards -- strip down to itsy bitsy briefs with the black and white spots of Holstein cattle. Or, how about the prim naval officers who tear off their uniforms to reveal most unofficial-looking bottom-huggers beneath?
"These guys are Mexico's new revolutionaries," said Debbi Hawley, 31, choreographer for the production. "We want to make people think twice about who makes the rules in their lives: Is it the church, the government? Who's running your life? Men want women to advance, but under their own rules."
"This is terrible," said computer engineer Andres Ordonez, 36, echoing the opinion of many Mexican males. "It's corrupting the cleanest image we Mexicans have: the woman, which translates into mother. We don't want our women to start being contaminated this way."
Of course, strip joints featuring women have long been available to Mexican men. Some of Mexico City's poshest restaurants feature waitresses in outfits that leave little to the imagination. And while small male strip clubs for women have opened in urban centers, they have an aura of sleazy, clandestine rendezvous that few women would boast about.
The open discussion -- and popularity -- of "For Women Only" comes at a time when the role of women in Mexico is making an incremental, but visible transition.
Amalia Garcia, for instance, recently became the first woman to head a major political party, the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party. Just last week, Mexico City's police chief replaced his male traffic cop force with an all-female squad in hopes of cleaning up corruption within the capital's law enforcement agency. Mexico's relations with other countries are managed by a woman, Foreign Minister Rosario Green.
Last month, a city agency established to promote women's issues called a 24-hour housework strike by women across the capital to draw attention to the value of women's domestic contributions in the face of the Mexican man's traditional aversion to helping at home. It was unclear how many women actually put down their mops and brooms.
But not all Mexican women think men's backsides are the best symbol of liberation. Teresa Ortuno, a 42-year-old state legislator representing the conservative National Action Party in the northern state of Chihuahua, introduced a resolution criticizing the show when it played in the state capital recently.
"They tell me I'm a moralist from another century," she said. "But it would be a shame if future generations remembered us for an event of this nature -- that we encouraged nothing more than a group of nude bodies squeezed together. It doesn't raise the cultural level of the community."
Maybe not. But it keeps the ladies swooning and snapping up tickets that sell for $15 to $70.
"I definitely wouldn't let my daughter come alone to this type of show because it wouldn't seem appropriate," one well-attired audience member said with an almost straight face. "But she convinced me to come with her." She paused conspiratorially as her 19-year-old daughter looked on, and added:
"My husband doesn't know. If he did, he would be mad with her and me. It's going to be one of our secrets."