Following a hard-fought campaign by Object, the government announced on Friday that existing lap dancing venues can be compelled by local authorities to apply for a sexual entertainment license. It had already ruled that any new lap dancing venues could be required to apply for the license. The new form of license was introduced by the Policing and Crime Act 2009; previously, lap dancing venues were regulated in the same way as cafes and bars. Object argue that:
[The new licensing system] will allow local councils to listen to the views of local people and give far greater control over the number and location of venues. Most importantly, it will allow local councils to improve conditions within clubs through specific measures such as imposing ‘no touching rules’ or scrapping private booths.
The licensing system is voluntary, meaning local authorities can choose whether venues will have to apply for a sexual entertainment license or a standard license. However, Object believe that uptake will be widespread, given the strength of feeling exhibited by local authorities and local people in the consultations leading up to this announcement. Local councils will be required to consult with local people if the new licensing regime is not used.
The Times features an interview with a former lap dancer who wants to challenge the stereotype that working in a strip club means easy money for little more than taking off your clothes:
Like most, I went into it thinking I’d get good money, quickly. Wrong. I was in debt to the club before starting my first shift. My own clothes were deemed unsuitable so I had to ‘borrow’ a dress at £70, and shoes at £60. Some evenings, once I’d paid for a taxi home, I’d actually lost money. If I made £60, I’d done all right.
“On only two occasions did I ever make more than £100 a night. Although I never slept with anyone, I regularly went beyond limits I’d set myself.”
She does not recall any of the girls being coerced into the job. Cocaine, occasionally crack, was prevalent throughout the shifts. The competition between the girls made her feel like a failure.
“Of course you have to smile, pretend you’re enjoying it. That’s the act you have to put on. The impact of that is a gradual erosion of yourself.
“The worst thing was what I learned about men: that the way to make money from them is to be submissive and pretend to be stupid. What these men wanted was to exert power in a way they felt they could not in normal situations.”
Meanwhile, the ever-delightful Peter Stringfellow plans to use human rights law to challenge the new licensing arrangements, should he be forced to close any of his clubs. Because clearly his right to his ‘possessions’ (that’s apparently what his lawyer will be basing any case on) is more important than trying to regulate an industry in which women have to put up with crap working conditions and can be easily exploited and abused and which reinforces harmful, sexist attitudes towards women and female sexuality. Pass the sick bucket.