The normalcy of strip clubs in modern Australian culture

strip club man

And the implications for all women

Let’s talk about sex, biological sex, what it means to be born a girl and grow into a woman, in a prostitution and sex object culture.  Where living amid the  commercial sexual exploitation of our biological sex, our class, is just par for the course, and strip clubs now pop up like McDonald’s and Starbucks, claiming unsuspecting street corners from our coastlines to the back of Bourke.

In this ‘women are objects/property’ culture, an uprising is occurring, where community and council members are joining with the long held stance of women’s rights organisations, that the trade of exploiting, degrading and profiting from women’s flesh is unacceptable in an egalitarian and progressive society.

Strip clubs may be proliferating under the guise of glamour and class as legal and just places of business with the approval of our government, however no amount of gloss can change the truth of this institutions blatant degradation and exploitation, of the sex class on our planet called females, and the  implications for women as a whole in our country and our world.

“These establishments (lap dancing clubs) are not providing benign and harmless fun. Make no mistake this is sheer exploitation of women – sexual and financial. These are sleazy strip clubs and no amount of talk of being ‘up market’, ‘elegant’, and ‘top end of the market’ will change that.”Councillor Jim Coleman, Deputy Leader of Glasgow City Council, after reading a study on strip clubs commissioned by the Glasgow City Council.

Stripping away the gloss

Defining what Strip Clubs/Adult Entertainment Venues are

The Coalition against trafficking in women Australia, (the Australian branch of CATW International, a Non-Governmental Organization having Category II consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council), believe that ‘the prostitution industry should not be narrowly defined as simply street and brothel prostitution, but should be understood as encompassing escort agencies, strip clubs and the pornography industry’.

‘CATWA believes the Prostitution Industry poses a serious threat to women. The prostitution industry promotes a model of sex in which women are bought and sold as objects for men’s pleasure. Prostitution requires the objectification of women in order to exist and it requires, and creates, women’s continued inequality in order to function.’

‘CATWA believes that prostitution harms both the women directly involved in it and women more generally. Prostitution is harmful physically and psychologically for prostituted women, and this is supported by an ever-number of sociological studies. There is now substantial evidence that prostitution is not experienced as ‘just a job’ but, for the vast majority of women is experienced as a form of exploitation and sexual abuse. The prostitution industry poses a threat to all women through fostering a prostitution culture, where the buying and selling of women is normal and acceptable.’

‘CATWA believes that pornography and strip clubs can be seen to increase the legitimacy of the prostitution industry as a whole by depicting the commercial sexual exploitation of women as acceptable, and even entertaining and glamorous.’ Read more.

A project of the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) – WomensLaw.org, Defines prostitution as “the exchange of sexual acts for money, food, rent, drugs, and other material goods. Prostitution is a form of sexual exploitation. Sexual exploitation also includes:  • street prostitution, massage parlors or brothels, escort services, strip clubs, phone sex, pornography, and domestic and international trafficking.”

     “Strip clubs are part of the sex industry which started in slavery a couple of thousand years ago, and of course exotic dancing so-called throughout Asia is very much connected with prostitution. So stripping is a part of the industry of prostitution and it comes from women in a very subordinate situation being sexualised for men’s pleasure. So stripping is not a form of entertainment, and it’s unfortunate that it’s been normalised and represented as entertainment in a country like Australia which is extremely masculinist and has an extremely masculine and anti-woman culture in many organisations.” Sheila Jeffreys

If stripping were empoweringWhat goes on inside strip clubs, is this really what empowerment looks like?

Firstly, let’s look at the basics, of what the QLD Governments view on Adult Entertainment Permit’s, required by strip clubs in Australia, is; “Not all activities that might be considered ‘adult entertainment’ need to be conducted under a permit. However, if the genitalia of any performer or staff member will be visible, either deliberately or by accident, during the provision of entertainment or other activities at your venue, then you do need a permit.

     Now remember herein after, that the entirety of the Prostitution Industry is highly gendered, being primarily about the exploitation and degradation of women and girls for male pleasure and profit.

“Prostitution is markedly gendered. The vast majority of those in prostitution are women, and the vast majority of punters are men. This, and other signs of the symptoms of structural inequalities, cannot be overlooked.” Finn Mackay

     In CATWA’s report on strip clubs, they define what regular business inside a strip club looks like, “In Queensland, the stripping industry takes such forms as ‘adult cafes’, peep shows and outcall agencies offering: masturbation, insertion (both vaginal and anal) and/or group acts (‘girl on girl’ only). Dancers may masturbate and insert objects (e.g. dildos, vibrators,
vegetables and strings of beads into themselves or other dancers’ (Jeffries and Lynch, 2007: 14). Moreover, strip clubs in Queensland allow the practice of ‘non-contact ‘Dating’ Services’ as well as outcall striptease services from the clubs. Customers may take a dancer on a ‘date’ outside the club. There are guidelines that say sexual contact should not take place but the practice mirrors other common forms of prostitution in much of Asia .”

Half of the male buyers, in a recent report on strip clubs in Glasgow, said they went to the clubs looking for prostitution (Bindel, 2004) Read more

     Further ‘A report on the strip club industry in Queensland described the activities that take place in private dances or lap dancing as follows: 6 [S]emi-nude or full-nude striptease performed for an exclusive audience (usually one person). It may involve ‘open leg work’… Lap dancers will often rub their bodies against audience members in a sexually suggestive manner, and audience members will touch the dancers in a similarly intimate way… caressing, kissing or suckling dancers’ breasts. The buttocks, back and thighs may also be caressed… (Jeffries and Lynch, 2007:7). The report concludes that ‘many will be surprised at… how sexually explicit the live adult entertainment industry is’ (Ibid: 18). Read more pg 6

“These clubs threaten women’s equality by reducing women to naked genitals for men’s viewing delight,” Professor Sheila Jeffreys

CATWA continue, “Rather than being separate, strip clubs and prostitution are Inter connected. The activities that take place in the clubs are clearly sexual and often involve a good deal of physical interaction between male buyers and the women who strip. Strip clubs often provide links to other ‘sex industry services’ and in some clubs the full range of prostitution activities is available, even though they are technically illegal. Read more (pg 5)

“In the clubs the sorts of activities that take place are where objects are stuck into them, they are grabbed and molested, the lap dancing they have to writhe on the laps of men and masturbate them through their clothes, and prostitution often takes place in private rooms so-called of the club, which is well documented around the world.” Sheila Jeffireys

High rates of sexual assault, verbal and physical abuse

“A study of exotic dancers found that 100% had been physically assaulted in the clubs where they were employed, with a prevalence ranging from 3- 15 times over the course of their involvement in exotic dancing. Violence included physical assault, attempted vaginal penetration, attempted rape and rape. (Holsopple 1999)
In another study, 51.2% of women working as exotic dancers were threatened with a weapon. (Raphael and Shapiro 2004)

In CATWA’s report on strip clubs, they site a US study where, “women in strip clubs frequently reported being ‘spat on’ and ‘sprayed with beer’, they report having cigarettes flicked at them as well as trash, condoms, golf balls and even dead animals (Holsopple, 1998). Men reportedly ‘pull…women’s hair’, ‘yank…them by the arms and ankles, rip…their costumes and attempt…to pull their clothes off’.”

“Women are ‘bitten, licked, slapped, punched, and pinched’ whilst male buyers attempt to penetrate them vaginally and anally with ‘fingers, dollar bills, and bottles’, according to the testimony of Kelly Holsopple who worked in a strip club for a number of years, and then went back to research the venues (Holsopple, 1998).”

“In her research she found that 100 per Cent of strippers she interviewed reported being abused within the clubs.”

      Holsopple’s research is highly relevant to the Australian context where dancers face violence not only from their male ‘customers’ (pg 7), but also from club owners’ … “These dangers of the strip industry have been acknowledged by the Victorian State Government’s Prostitution Control Act Advisory Committee, which in 1997 found that ‘incidents of physical and sexual violence, sexual harassment and stalking were common’ in strip clubs (Sullivan, 2008, p. 200)” CATWA strip club report pg 7

WomensLaw.org states “Prostituted women are often victims of intimate partner violence by pimps and customers, often called “johns.” The methods of control that pimps and johns use are similar to the methods used by abusers. Some examples include:

  • physical violence, sexual assault, economic abuse or manipulation, isolation,,verbal abuse, threats and intimidation, and minimization and denial of physical violence.

Sexual harassment, verbal abuse, stalking, rape, battering and torture are all types of violence that prostituted women regularly experience.*

Women in prostitution have a death rate that is 40 times higher than women who are not involved in prostitution.**”  *, ** Melissa Farley research

In Stripped: The Bare Reality of Lap Dancing, “dancers reported ‘club rules being cast aside. In fully nude clubs, one former lap-dancer says, women would do handstands while spreading their legs, or allow customers to touch them.”

‘The often-rehearsed idea that lap-dancing can be empowering, or make women feel beautiful is nonsense, says Danns, when explicit insults are common. Nearly half of lap-dancers in the Leeds study reported frequent verbal harassment and unwanted touching. “They call you names, comment on your body, or your cellulite, and certainly [I know] from other women’s experiences, comment on your genitalia saying ‘that’s big’,” Danns says. “How can you raise your self-esteem through that? If you are going to take the compliments you have to take the insults.’” Read more

Mental Health and Well being

“Sixty-eight percent of prostituted women meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the same range as combat veterans and victims of torture.**”  *** Melissa Farley research

When Treasures – an outreach and support group for women in the sex industry, investigated reports and studies they found that “Research related to women working in various aspect of the sex industry is telling.  Such research indicates that women working in the sex industry are faced with higher rates

  • drug addictions[ix],
  • sexually transmitted diseases[x],
  • violent assaults[xi], and
  • mental health problems[xii] such as Depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder than the general population.

Between 66% to 90% of women in the sex industry were sexually abused as children[xiii].

70% of interviewees in a study by Silbert and Pines noted that childhood sexual abuse had an influence on their entry into prostitution[xiv].” Read more

In her 2004 report on Indoor prostitution, Melissa Farley described,

– “more than 10 studies that address similarities and differences between indoor and outdoor prostitution (Farley, 2004, p. 1099). Several studies found either no differences between the two or increased psychiatric symptoms among women in strip club (indoor) prostitution”.

– “Documenting the profound emotional distress experienced by women in two kinds of prostitution, a Canadian study compared strip club and street prostitution. The authors found that women who prostituted in strip clubs had higher rates of dissociative and other psychiatric symptoms than those in street prostitution (Ross, Anderson, Heber, & Norton, 1990)”.

– “In a separate study, we compared strip club/massage, brothel, and street prostitution in Mexico. We found no differences in the prevalence of physical assault and rape in prostitution, of childhood sexual abuse, or of symptoms of PTSD. We also found no differences in the percentages of Mexican women in brothel, street, or strip club/massage prostitution who wanted to escape prostitution (Farley, 2004, p. 1100; Farley et al., 2003” Read more (pg 7/8)

High rates of drug and alcohol addictions

In the two years Jennifer Hayashi Danns worked as a lap-dancer, she never met a woman who danced sober. Some took cocaine, the rest drank – whether they drove to work or not. At her worst point, Danns would have a bottle of wine before work, half a bottle while getting ready, and drink steadily through her shift. How else, she asks, could she walk up to strangers and ask if they wanted her to take her clothes off? Stripped: The Bare Reality of Lap Dancing

Men's choicesIt always flows outside the clubs; male sexual entitlement and the status of women

 

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