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From the Sussex edition of the Courier newspaper (which is my local paper), comes news that a cafe and bar operating near me is going to exploit a loophole in the licensing laws to operate a strip club: “Lap dancing clubs require a licence to operate. Premises with a dancing licence, however, can put on up to 11 sex events a year without requiring permission.”
The owner, Lee Probert, has been losing money operating as he has been and so hopes to find a new way to bring in customers. He says that he wants to offer something in addition to his original business, and so “We are not opening just to be a lap dancing bar.”
We need to operate a viable business and if that means we have to do things that are on the edge then we will give it a try.
We are going to do something different every night, whether it is a comedy club, live music, cabaret, gentlemen’s evenings or Adonis nights with Chippendales and drag queens. It is just something that is a bit different.
I am assuming that the “lap dancing” falls under “gentlemen’s nights”.
Of course, the “usual suspects” have come out of the woodwork to complain about this; a local Christian leader (Canon Andrew Cornes, of the Anglican church in the town) said that, “It will certainly prove to be a mistake, not only mroally but financially.”
The paper adds that, “Critics have warned that the change could lead to an increase in sexual harassment and sexual exploitation in the town.”
On the inside pages (sadly, not available as far as I can tell on the paper’s website), they have a For/Against piece, with Anna van Heeswijk, the campaigns manager for Object, arguing “against” and the owner of the bar arguing the case “for” (couldn’t they find any sex workers’ rights advocates, or sex-positive feminists, to interview? Or didn’t they think to try?)
Mr Probert mostly argues on the basis of the fitness and skill benefits of pole dancing, and adds that, “Gone are the days when it was considered a cheap profession and limited to women dancers only.”
He also pointed out that, “The industry has changed a lot since the 1980s and 1990s, and bar and club owners have discovered running a clean, friendly establishment makes their venues more attractive to both men and women alike.”
Ms van Heeswijk talks instead about lap dancing instead of pole dancing. She makes a generalised case against the working practices of strip clubs. She claims that:
Even in clubs where licensing conditions are adhered to, many women report a heavy psychological toll linked to dealing with, in effect, normalised sexual harassment.
Lap-dancing clubs are a form of commercial sexual exploitation and form part of a sexist ‘sex object culture’ which sees women increasingly sexualised in the media and popular culture.
My suspicion is that there is some confusion over terms. Not knowing anything more about Mr Probert’s business proposal than is in the paper, I do not know if “strip club”, “pole dancing” and “lap dancing” are all being conflated here (Mr Probert is quoted as using the term “lap dancing” in the article, but mainly to deny being purely a lap-dancing venue). Mr Probert seems to describe as his objective something closer to a modern burlesque house, with his talk of drag queens, cabaret and so on. I am particularly intrigued by the way he implies that he will be hiring male pole dancers (I want to go to that show!) It is also notable that he will not be operating a strip club as such.
Ms van Heeswijk, on the other hand, argues from such a generalised position that her points might be wholly irrelevant to the set-up being made by Mr Probert (indeed, perhaps he can design his business model around the most pertinent points regarding working practices so as to do better than the venues whose practices Ms van Heeswijk decries).