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The Ethical Stripper


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The Ethical Stripper

24 Mar 2022 11:03AM   Views : 222 Unique : 149


This blog involves uncomfortable truths, harm reduction and the difference between lived experience and theoretical moralising. That's a trigger warning...

I’ve been reading a book about the legalities of lapdancing clubs in the UK, The Ethical Stripper. If that sounds unpromising, I can entirely agree: it’s not titillating, and occasionally slips towards polemic: but that’s understandable, given the author’s experience. And I think she has lessons for all of us, especially when we’re trying to look after the best interests of others.

People I respect a lot – like Jess Phillips, the Labour MP for a constituency not far from me – have been vocal in supporting more restrictions on lapdance clubs, believing this to be in the best interests of the women who work in them, including the author of the book, Stacey Clare. But the lived experience that Clare comes back to frequently is very different. She points out that any restriction of the legality of lapdancing would make her life more dangerous, not safer.

Making something illegal doesn’t stop it happening. It simply drives it underground, and straight into the hands of the unscrupulous: witness prohibition in the USA. The discussions are not in any way helped by the fact that many people believe that they already know all the answers, or put forward arguments based on a moral judgment but couched in terms of sweet reasonableness. All discussions of civic matters should, most people agree, be based on fact and logic, rather than supposition, taste or prejudice. Even my prejudice…

Of course, it’s fine to express a view that X or Y should not exist because it’s contrary to one’s own moral code. But we shouldn’t dress it up as anything but a private opinion, even if it’s one shared by many people. There are, according to Clare, a lot of dubious statistics around the debates around lapdancing, strip clubs, and associated harms.

One of the big objections is that any form of sex work objectifies the worker: but treating people as if you know what they do, how they feel, and making decisions on their part without consulting them is objectifying, and this is what classic ‘radical feminists’ do to . Clare outlines a rather horrifying series of structural problems in her industry which seem to her to be far more to her disadvantage than being lusted after… She doesn’t look like any form of victim (you can see her on YouTube), and the fact that the premises she works in are licenced doesn’t stop her being exploited. Three basic facts that are worrying, because most of us wouldn’t tolerate them in our own work environments:

1 lapdancers have to pay the club in order to perform there – it’s called a ‘house fee’ but doesn’t guarantee any work. Indeed, it’s in a club’s interest to have as many dancers as possible paying fees…
2 clubs usually set quite restrictive rules on behaviour and timekeeping, as do other beneficiaries of zero hours work and the gig economy – but the dancers are not employees, and have no rights as such – no holiday pay, no pension;
3 on top of the house fee, dancers are expected to pay the club a percentage of the fees they get from dancing.

What does it matter? I suggest three reasons. First, it seems reasonable to support, in principle, any group of workers who seem to be disadvantaged in their workplace and have clear ideas about what the problems are. In this case, the problems are the sort that I would have found intolerable in my own working environment – silly dress code, believe it or not, and officious timekeeping (I did actually have a boss who thought I should dress more fashionably. It didn’t end well.)

Second, there’s a degree of overlap between the models I photograph and strippers and lapdancers. They don’t seem to be bad people at all – just a deal more streetwise than most. There’s also an overlap with care workers, between both groups: a good night’s lapdancing is a deal more profitable than an overnight shift in a care home or hospital for a basic-grade carer.

And finally, there’s a part of me that reckons that if I don’t stand up for those I know when they ask it or need it, nobody may stand up for me when I have problems.

Intersectionality is a buzzword, and it also has an important meaning. That meaning is that any individual is a member of a number of groups simultaneously. I am white, heterosexual, over 65, and male – which means that while my views may conflict with other groups, at least some of the time I have interests and problems in common with black people, queer people, younger people and people of other genders. A black female activist, Angela Davis quotes a radical feminist as asking her if she was black, or a woman. Clearly, she’s both.* The big risk is that we get so caught up in one particular area of debate that we neglect the other dimensions: some of the bitterest battles in Clare’s narrative are fought between feminists who oppose all forms of sexual entertainment, and feminists who consider sex work emancipates and empowers them.

The old joke about the white male racist arriving at the Pearly Gates is relevant. As St Peter scans the paper work, he tells the supplicant: ‘I’ve got some bad news for you about God. She’s black.’

Intersectionality crops up quite frequently in Clare’s text: most of the workers she’s writing about are women: many are economically disadvantaged, and heavily dependant on working every week, if not every day. They may be single mothers, and even illegal immigrants – that much intersectionality means that they are the perfect victims, both economically and sexually. Clare is unusual in being white and eloquent, and I know very well what an unfair advantage that gives.

*Guardian Weekly interview 11-03-2022



dudler Plus
18 1.9k 1937 England
24 Mar 2022 11:04AM
Images are of Lois-Jade, who is a model and doesn't lapdance. She's on the strip club set at Greengate Studio in Stoke-upon-Trent.

Part of the lesson in the book is that we need to allow everyone to define themselves and what they want to do...
kaybee 18 8.3k 27 Scotland
24 Mar 2022 11:42AM
I am looking for a plumber ..... all plumbers coming to give me an estimate have to pay me for the privilege - and then give me back a percentage of the fee when the job is done.
It doesn't work like that does it - and nor should it for the dancers. That is the exploitation ..... not the dancing.
People should be free to chose their occupation and life-style (working on the basis that it is not illegal or against the 10 commandments (which are basically the rules for a safe and decent life)) and to be treated on par with everyone else.
Sounds simple - and it should be - but so many people just can't see it.
dudler Plus
18 1.9k 1937 England
24 Mar 2022 9:22PM
Thank you, Roy. The voice of reason!

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