The fact that this "secret" is instantly perceived by everyone is not a contradiction; it's how the closet, and how camp, works. In her attempt to make it in Vegas, Nomi's secret/open sexuality becomes her mysterious, overwhelming asset. "She's all pelvic thrust" the awed dance coach gushes; and he and Zach agree in another audition that "Nomi has heat!" Per Core’s definition of camp, she expresses her inner, closeted whore in acts of artistic creation; her dancing is (as Nayan notes) also sex. Everyone who sees her is therefore bound up in the same deceptive performance—recognizing the truth but pretending not to.
The satire in Showgirls, and the intent, then, can be seen as directed squarely at the viewer. Verhoeven's film is organized in the tradition of the American success story— Nomi comes to town to make it big, and then she makes it big (while losing her soul). But the way she makes it big is through the secret fact that she is a debased object for sale. The implication, therefore, is that the American success fantasy and America itself are both also debased.To know what is in the closet is to be implicated in the closet—it takes one to know one, as queer theorist Eve Sedgwick has argued. That means that all the characters in the film—Cristal, Zach, that guy who is amazed by Nomi's pelvic thrust—are no better than Nomi; they're whores too, selling themselves, body and soul, for money and power. How could they recognize her otherwise? And as for those of us sitting there watching the NC-17 film and giggling at Nomi's crass, sexualized performance—well, what are we? When we laugh at the film, or see ourselves as better than the film, aren't we just like Nomi, pretending to be better than she ought to be, while reveling in what she really is?
Nayman singles out as especially satirical the scene in which Nomi's employer Al and the comedienne from the Cheetah Club comes backstage at the big show to congratulate Nomi on moving up. Al, who casually tells his dancers that they need to give him blowjobs, is presented as a paternal figure. That's the joke. A father proud of his daughter's success is just an ugly, lascivious pimp. "It must be weird not having anybody cum on you," he says wistfully as he exits—and then Nomi goes off with Zach, who cums on her as a prelude to giving her a big break. The rat race is all about pimps and whores—and you, over there, snickering because the rat race is all about pimps and whores? Verhoeven sees you too.
So Nayman is right, then, and Showgirls is a great, or at least a good film? I'm not so sure. His book definitely demonstrates that Showgirls is a coherent statement, and that its excess, its ridiculousness, and its tastelessness aren't arbitrary, but thematic. The theme in question, though, is built on cynically exploiting the stigma experienced by a marginalized group: sex workers. Nomi finds her past shameful and disgusting—and the entire force of the movie, its whole satirical pelvic thrust, is predicated on the fact that Verhoeven finds it shameful and disgusting as well, and that he assumes that his audience will also find it shameful and disgusting. That’s why he links capitalism and America to Vegas and stripping and prostitution: All of these things, the movie implies, are repulsive and degrading.