Strip Clubs: Not So Harmless Entertainment

A male “friend” recently asked me: “Would you have a problem if your significant other went to a strip club?”

My gut reaction to this question is that it’s classic manipulation. There are only three options: you admit your fear that your man might “slip up”. You prove you’re not insecure by keeping quiet. Or you join the ranks of “cool” partners who encourage the activity. He gets what he wants by manipulating you into giving it to him.

But I prefer research-driven logic to on-the-spot emotional rebuttals, so I kept this to myself and decided to do some research on the subject, then respond via blog later.

What I read absolutely obliterated my respect for anyone who insists strip clubs are a harmless form of entertainment. I was horrified, and it takes a lot to horrify me.

Compunctions about sexuality-as-commodity, the objectification of women, naked ladies trotting about in the buff are all eclipsed by the insane human rights abuses rampant in this industry.

For starters, most strippers are employed as independent contractors, yet unlike other contract workers, they have little or no control over their hours or fees for services.

Most, if not all, club owners charge strippers to dance, and many demand strippers give mandatory tips to bouncers and DJs. One U.K. study reported that with all these charges, women forfeited 35% of their pay to club owners (Gatton, 2003).

Because they receive no base salary, strippers experience pressure to remain competitive with co-contractors–often by performing a variety of private services (Jeffries, 2008). Such services may include the ever-popular lap dance or bed dance, both of which involve grinding against men, oftentimes until they–ahem–achieve “release”.

Then there’s wall dancing, which I didn’t even know about and kinda wish I still didn’t. Wall dancers carry alcohol wipes that they use to sanitize men’s fingers (I’ll let you guess why, or you can read about it here) before dancing, one leg lifted, for men standing stationary on a wall.

When questioned about private services like these, women interviewed for this particular study responded with answers like:

“We were allowed to place towels on the guys’ laps, so it wasn’t so bad.”
“I don’t want him to touch me, but I’m afraid he’ll say something violent if I tell him ‘no’.”
“I don’t remember because it was so embarrassing.

The greatest concern for me–well, it’s neck and neck with human trafficking–is the constant disrespect for women’s health and safety, which simply is not tolerated in other regulated industries.

In addition to increasing market demand for private services, which themselves present inherent risk, club owners may fine women for talking back to or fighting with customers or for calling in sick. This strongly disincentivizes standing up for one’s personal safety and health.

Acts of violence are repeatedly perpetrated against strippers as well. Thanks to post-60s de-censorship, women now dance really close to customers. They are highly vulnerable to inappropriate and abusive contact and physical assault.

Over 70% of women surveyed by Holsopple (1998) said that they had at least once experienced each of the following: being grabbed by the arm, waist, or ankle, licked, punched, pinched, having their costumes ripped off, and/or having coins thrown at them. Many had also been kicked, slapped, and/or had had beer, ice, or garbage thrown at them. This behavior was endured from clients, as well as their employers.

Obviously, during private services, the risk of bodily assault increases, not to mention contact with clients’ bodily fluids. Many dancers report “digital rape” and clients pushing them to perform sexual acts (Associated Press, 2006).

Dancers are also highly encouraged to tan regularly and undergo breast augmentation surgery. No sick time means sick strippers. Some strippers also engage in regular alcohol consumption or marijuana use to “get them in the mood” for a show. After hours stalking is another serious problem.

And let’s not forget the psychological detriment. Many women have difficulty leaving the trade because they truly believe they can’t do anything else; find their personal romantic relationships negatively impacted; and have the psychological damage associated with repeated verbal and physical abuse (Holsopple, 1998).

Now I realize that every violation doesn’t happen every night at every club. But how, guys (and gals), do you know it’s doesn’t happen at the club you patronize? Do you research the places before you go? Can you actually say: “Don’t worry, honey, I already researched the place and made sure that acts of violence are rare and not tolerated by management, and the ladies have a union and get paid sick time”?

I am truly sickened by the logical fallacy of otherwise intelligent men, who have a social conscience about human trafficking, molestation, and healthy work environments in every other context, but yet just can’t seem to extend their daytime values to their nighttime activities.

Instead of worrying about what permission (or lack thereof) suggests about their partners, the real question men need to reflect on is: “What kind of man does going to a strip club make me?”

I’d say desperately uncreative and unable/unwilling to question the status quo. Holsopple’s subjects would answer:

“scum, psycho mama’s boys, rapists and child molesters, old perverted men, idiots… pigs… [they are] pitiful and pathetic, stupid and ignorant, sick, controlling and abusive. They smell so sour, they breathe very heavy and kind of wheeze when women are near. They are weak abusers who have to subordinate women and girls to feel like a man… I am repulsed by the sight, sound, smell, and touch of them… I’m embarrassed for them.”

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2 comments on “Strip Clubs: Not So Harmless Entertainment
  1. Lindsay Mcholme says:

    gracias por decirlo, sally. saludcita!

  2. Christa says:

    Thanks for the well thought-out and researched post. I’ve done some research on the porn industry and found strikingly (though not surprisingly) similar reports. That’s a whole ‘nother can of worms, though!

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I'm a smart, sassy, globally-mobile freelance writer, content creator, brand journalist and nonprofit storyteller. The world is my office. Email me to find out more.
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