When Councils license strip clubs they allow full nudity and exposed genitals. There is not supposed to be any actual contact. But a performer can be within a hair’s breadth of touching a punter. So a standard dance means a young woman is bought to strip naked, gyrate, bend over, expose genitals and get as close to grinding on a man’s crotch as possible.
So a standard lap dance is basically paid-for foreplay
A man can buy this for £20 or less (£10 is becoming the standard price, sometimes just £5 for ‘2-for-1 specials’).
On top of this, lap dancers are ‘self employed’. They are not paid to work. Instead they pay to work – paying the club every time they want to work in it, so they are in debt to the club before they even start their first shift. They also typically must buy expensive ‘house clothes’, give a portion of earnings back to the club and are usually frequently fined. The only way women make a penny is through private dances with punters. But clubs invariably have far too many lap dancers in each night (often there are more dancers than punters). This makes competition to even get £20 (of £10 or £5) for a private intense.
In fact, even pro-strip industry researchers have found that 70% of lap dancers have left a shift without having made a penny.
So, as for ‘strippers being loaded’ well, you do the maths. How is that possible? The only way this adds up is a) if a lot more than a ‘dance’ is being offered and b) if the punter is so drunk that he’s paying £2,000 instead of £20 for a standard dance.
And evidence shows that sexual contact is standard in the industry. As is plying punters with free-flowing alcohol (and drugs) so that punters have no idea how much cash they are parting with.
Harm for Women in Clubs
Being bought to perform sexually night after night for money where there is no mutual desire, no reciprocity is inherently psychologically damaging, and yet this is the entire premise of the industry. Of course, lap dancer have to do a lot more as actual sexual contact is the norm across the industry. The harm of this is even more apparent as a great many women in the industry are already vulnerable and have already experienced abuse. Research indicates that 1/3 lap dancers are in abusive relationship. Every woman who has left the industry has told us that the overwhelming majority of dancers had come from abusive backgrounds. Many of the leading advocates of the industry quite openly disclose prior sexual abuse and even child sexual abuse.
Women who have left the industry also talk about how harmful it is to never be able to be yourself – a lot of time is spent talking to punters, ‘where you have to act dumb and massage his echo’ .. playing the ‘ideal girlfriend’. Yet at the same time, he then pays you to strip naked, spread your legs in public. ‘The whole psychology of it is just weird’.
Given that a standard lap dance is essentially foreplay and the financial stranglehold clubs have on performers (who are often already vulnerable), it’s hardly surprising that actual sexual contact or sex acts are the norm. So is constant harassment, assaults and propositioning for sex – by management, let alone punters. Drugs, dealing, financial fraud and serious physical and sexual assault are also rife. So too are underage dancers, prostitution and trafficking. Pimps source dancers inside clubs – after all they are little more than a grooming ground for vulnerable young women into prostitution. Pimps tout outside for drunk, sexually aroused, entitled punters to lead them to the nearest brothel.
Testimonies from women who have left, research and incidences in over half the UK strip industry confirm that the industry is little more than a ‘shop window’ for organised crime and all the abuse that goes hand-in-hand with this.
We are constantly told, strip clubs are ‘well regulated’, often by clubs with the worst breaches
However, the fact that a standard lap dance involves near sexual contact makes it almost impossible to tell from club CCTV or even on-site inspections whether or not actual sexual contact is happening and ‘rules’ (such as they are) are being breached.
This is not helped by the fact that CCTV always has numerous ‘blind spots’ (they are often pointed out to lap dancers by management). Or that clubs always seem to know when Council ‘inspections’ are taking place. Yet this is the only genuine, impartial evidence Councils really have that they are not licensing de facto brothels. ‘Codes of Conduct’ or statements of compliance from club workers (whether bouncers, management, DJs or lap dancers) clearly are not impartial and have been shown to be unreliable time and time again. In fact industry workers support clubs even after hard evidence of sex acts, mass fraud, GBH and even serious sexual assault of lap dancers.
We argue that it is an industry that is impossible to regulate or monitor. Councils are simply legitimising hubs of exploitation that they have absolutely no control over.
Harm to Women Outside Clubs
Given what is happening, entirely legitimately inside clubs, it hardly bodes well for when drunk, highly aroused men spill out into the streets. Not surprisingly, countless women have reported being – and feeling- threatened and harassed outside the local strip club. Clubs can quite literally create ‘No Go Zones‘ – breaching women’s right to free movement.
This has even meant women having to give up their place of work if near a strip club. And LBGT and other groups having to stop holding events in venues anywhere near the local strip club because of the wholesale harassment experienced.
Harm in Wider Society
The industry promotes deeply harmful attitudes in wider society – misogyny, male sexual entitlement, the dehumanisation and objectification of women, men’s power and dominance over women. International treaties alongside countless studies have recognised for years that these attitudes underpin men’s abuse of women and that they are directly fuelled by the porn and sex industries. The strip industry is quite literally a grooming ground for ‘Harvey Weinsteins’ – telling men they have absolute rights and sexual entitlement over young women. It is a nonsense to be *shocked* by The President’s Club in a society that legitimises and glorifies strip clubs – where men buy foreplay (and very often a great deal more) and where harassment is quite literally ‘part of the job description’ .
How Are Strip Clubs Licensed?
In 2005, the strip industry became totally de-regulated and clubs were licensed like cafes. Councils could do nothing to stop them setting up and, of course, the industry mushroomed uncontrollably. But a high profile campaign by pressure group Object and The Fawcett Society led to a change in the law.
From 2011, new legislation was introduced which meant that Councils could license clubs as ‘Sexual Entertainment Venues’ (or SEVs). Most adopted this licensing. This gave Councils sweeping powers to refuse to license new clubs, to refuse to relicense existing clubs (with licenses having to be renewed annually) and meant they could set a policy that no clubs should be licensed at all.
But, whether through apathy, ignorance, bias or fear of the hugely powerful strip trade, many Councils are not properly enforcing their licensing rights or responsibilities. They are still not considering the impact on women’s safety, let alone equality, and continue to license and re-license strip clubs, even in blatantly inappropriate locations or after extensive evidence of abuse and exploitation within and outside the clubs they license.
Strip Clubs = Anti-Equalities Law
A ground breaking precedent has now been set with not one but two successful legal challenges against Sheffield City Council. This highlights how all Councils are likely to be breaching equality law when licensing the strip industry.
Legally, Councils must try to eliminate harassment, discrimination and victimisation in all of its policies and licensing decisions. Yet this is the very definition of lap dancing and the culture it creates – with all attempts to regulate to prevent this proving futile. It is actually inconceivable that a Council can license the strip industry and not be in breach of equality law.
Strip Industry Slammed
In 2018, the Women and Equalities Committee report on Sexual Harassment slammed the strip industry and called for clubs to be shut where there is any evidence of harm (of which there’s already overwhelming evidence).
What Do We Want?
- The reality and harm of lap dancing understood and widely recognised
- Clubs shut and Councils creating a ‘zero policy’ towards the industry
- Club owners prosecuted, where appropriate, and assets seized
- Women supported out of the industry with meaningful exit plans – including alternative work
What are We Doing?
- We act as a hub of information, support and advice
- We are working with local groups, including many branches of the local Women’s Equality Party, to help raise concerns to individual Councils
- We are working with women from the industry to raise awareness and devise exit plans
- We are lobbying the Home Office to issue new directives to Councils over the reality of the industry and Councils’ rights and duties under licensing and equality law
- Find out more on our Publications page