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Sexual Entertainment Venues and managing risk

Harlots is pleased to announce the initial finding of research into attitudes toward adult entertainment venues and an assessment of their influence on nuisance and safety in areas where they exist. The research is being carried out by the university of Kent and was financed by the Economic and Social Research Council Shaping Society.

Please note that these are the initial findings and that further updates and the final research data will be available


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Sexualisation, nuisance and safety: Sexual Entertainment Venues and the management of risk
Start date: 31 December 2011
End date: 30 December 2012

In the last decade, around 300 dedicated clubs have opened in England and Wales where the live display of nudity is regularly offered. Such venues have been accused of offering exploitative and degrading forms of entertainment which compromise the safety not just of female performers, but all women who live and work around such venues. However, there is no existing academic research documenting this. This research accordingly aims to collect such evidence, performing a grounded analysis of the impacts of such venues on surrounding businesses and residents. This will be achieved through an examination of the impacts of venues in a small town, a large town, a small city and a regional capital, chosen to represent the diversity of club styles and settings. The research will combine analysis of objections to club licensing, guided walks in the vicinity of clubs and an extensive survey of local residents.

This project is grounded in social science literatures on the sexualisation of society, fear of crime and the regulation of the night-time economy. The findings will be of interest to stakeholders in licensing, town centre management and community safety, as well as audiences in sociology, criminology and geography.


To date, there has been no academic research on the impacts of lap dancing clubs on the communities in which they are
located. The purpose of this research was therefore to explore how local authorities can best achieve the aims of licensing – i.e. maximizing public safety, minimizing public nuisance, and reducing crime and disorderin relation to SEVs. More widely, the aim is to explore whether SEVs have a place in England and Wales. The specific aims were:

1. To examine local residents’ perceptions of Sexual Entertainment Venues in four case study locations selected to be
representative of different styles and settings of clubs.

2. To explore the ways that SEVs change peoples’ experience of the night-time city, paying particular attention to
questions of gender.

3. To contribute to emerging academic and popular understandings of the anxieties that surround adult entertainment as it becomes more visible in the night-time economy of British towns and cities.

In the last decade, venues where the live display of nudity is regularly offered have opened across England and Wales. This ESRC-funded research collected evidence of the impacts of such venues on surrounding businesses and residents. Some of the key findings were:

• There are 241 licensed premises regularly offering lap dancing or striptease in
England and Wales. Nearly half (43%) of those applying for a Sexual Entertainment
Venue (SEV) license have received no formal objections.

• A survey of residents in towns and cities with lap dance clubs suggests that around
one in five were not aware there was an SEV operating in their town or city. Fewer
than one in ten identified an SEV as a particular source of local nuisance, and in
some locations this was considerably lower.

• Women, those over 40, those who have lived in their current home for over 5 years
and those with children are most likely to argue there are too many lap dance clubs
in their town. Women, those with children and the over 40s are least likely to
suggest that striptease is harmless entertainment and most likely to suggest it
attracts criminal elements and promotes sexism.

• Around one in ten in our survey suggested there is no suitable location for lap
dancing clubs. Very few believe clubs are suitable near schools, though the majority
(55%) regard town and city centres as appropriate locations.

• Walk-along events were used to gauge the impact SEVs had on the night-time
economy in four case study locations. These suggested that SEVs were not the
most significant source of fear or anxiety for participants, with most instances of
antisocial and rowdy behavior being associated with other venues, notably pubs.

• Women were more likely than men to pass comment on SEVs and express un-ease
or anxiety about them. None argued that SEVs were a major source of antisocial
behavior, or were able to cite any instances of harassment, noise or violence
associated with such clubs: concerns appeared to coalesce around the
normalization of male-oriented sexual entertainment and the encouragement of
sexist attitudes among younger people. This suggests moral anxiety and disgust,
rather than fear, may underpin many objections about SEVs.

• SEVs which were discrete in terms of their signage, naming and exterior
appearance appeared to generate least comment or concern. Sexist imagery and
names were objected to by many of our participants.


Opposition to SEVs appears mainly based on perceptions that clubs normalize sexism and promote anti-social behavior rather than any direct experience of crime. Those who have children in their home appear significantly more likely to describe existing SEVs as a source of nuisance, while women are most likely to argue for fewer SEVs. However, not all clubs are perceived to have similar impacts on their locality, and some communities seem more accepting of SEVs.
Some clubs are judged to be better managed, and some locations as more suitable. This implies the need for
considering each application on a case-bycase basis. Irrespective, current approaches based on excluding SEVs from residential areas or near schools appear to be widely supported. However, few regard SEVs as a major threat to
children’s safety, suggesting concern is primarily about the normalization of particular attitudes towards women
among young(er) people.The implications here is that licensing needs to take seriously its commitment to Gender
Equity and Equality, and that objections based on grounds of sexism and morality might be considered when determining
licensing applications given these might have implications for the appearance and naming of clubs (noting most people first become aware of lap dancing clubs in their city by seeing them on their streets).How to get further information

Outputs and summaries of the research findings are available online at:
Please contact P.Hubbard@kent.ac.uk for further details of the methods and findings.

Editors note

These initial findings are preliminary and only a small part is published here. Harlots will be happy to publish the complete research paper which will help in creating evidential based policy in the future. And policy based on evidence is especially needed to combat the hysteria that is often generated around this topic by parties ideologically opposed to such venues.

About Douglas Fox

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This entry was posted on 9 December, 2012 by in Campaigns and Groups, Feminism, Government Reviews and Change, lap dancing, Law, Research.
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