Follow-Up Post: Smoking Bans in Strip Clubs

strip club smokingThis is a follow up to my previous post. You already know my position, but what about everyone else?

I posed the question of smoking bans in strip clubs on the largest stripper and exotic dancer message boards on the Web – StripperWeb.com – and received interesting feedback. In a poll of 28 users, 19 (67.86%) said they would support a smoking ban in their strip club. Only 7 users (25%) said they would not. The other 2 voters were indifferent.

Those who supported the ban had numerous reasons, but the majority of them were health-related. The long-term consequences associated with second-hand smoke was the number one reason for supporting the idea of a smoking ban. Other users said a smoky atmosphere made them uncomfortable. Some commented that smoke made their eyes burn and irritated their skin. Others said the smell was the biggest factor.

Those who opposed the idea were mainly concerned with a drop off in business. Many customers, they said, were ‘social smokers’ and enjoyed smoking while drinking. Others, who were smokers themselves, disliked the idea of having to go outside to smoke. They proposed smoking and non-smoking sections of the club, although it’s difficult to keep smoke confined to one area.

The majority of people polled at Stripper Web were strippers. But what about customers?

I dug up a couple of threads (here and here) from TUSCL, the largest social review site for strip clubs and community for strip club customers, and found nearly the same results. The majority of customers support smoking bans in strip clubs. Some customers fear the health risks, while others hate the smell and having to wash their clothes when they get home (or that their wife will smell the smoke on them and become suspicious). The customers who opposed the smoking bans were mostly smokers themselves. One user made the comment about the dangers of second-hand smoke being government propaganda to promote an anti-smoking agenda, which is I’ll just say is ridiculous.

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Follow-Up Post: Defending Strip Clubs Against Human Rights Groups

After researching the “Not Just Harmless Fun” report for other reviews of the work, I came across this article that touched on two more points that I’d like to address.

The author recaps the arguments made by CATWA through a series of Q&As. One question I’d like to comment on is this:

How does the strip club industry contribute to violence against women? What are the specific harms it causes?

Prostitution has been empirically shown to inflict a serious level of psychological and physical harm on women who are used for sex, and these harms also apply to women in strip clubs, particularly because strips clubs serve alcohol to groups of men who then buy strippers for private lap dances.

I agree that stripping can inflict long-term psychological damage and trauma for some people. Not everyone can endure the emotional aspects of being a stripper – the rejection, the rude and overly-aggressive customers, the strain on relationships with parents, spouses, boyfriends/girlfriends, friends, etc. It can be a lot to handle. I can’t appropriately speak on it since I’ve never been a sex worker, but I can empathize. Concerning the physical damage, there should be no long-term effects to the physical health of strippers. Not saying there isn’t, but I would think this would be more avoidable than mental health issues. Club security should ensure the physical safety of the dancers. Customers will be jerks sometimes and say rude and spiteful things. That’s almost bound to happen, unfortunately. Strippers should not have to fear for their physical safety. Being assaulted is not part of the job description and the clubs should be responsible to keeping it that way. Strippers pay cover and house fees for security.

How does stripping act as a gateway into prostitution?

The strip industry is engaged in glamorizing the degradation of women. The clubs market themselves as mere entertainment, rather than prostitution providers. They promote themselves to potential women workers as glamorous venues, rather than as quasi brothels, and so induct new generations of young women into Australia’s sex industry. The websites of the strip clubs cultivate an image of a homely, caring environment in which women will be well looked after.

The emphasis on not needing to have experience in stripping and the provision of on-the-job training enables strip clubs to act as a gateway to the sex industry.

I already discussed the role of marketing in my previous post, but that’s beside the point. I’m not sure many girls get into stripping or hooking because the industry looks so glamorous on TV and in the movies. I think we all know why they start stripping – the money. Money is the gateway to the sex industry. For some, stripping or hooking means much greater wages than their previous job. To others, it simply means steady employment. Not all sex workers are miserable and unhappy; some enjoy what they do. But most prefer stripping and sex work to the alternative – minimum wage, dead end jobs, or unemployment.

The life of a sex worker can be tough, but the life of someone who’s unemployed and looking for work can be that much tougher. I wish some of these organizations would understand that abolishing strip clubs, brothels, escort agencies, and adult film does no good if there are no other opportunities created for the out-of-work strippers and sex workers. CATWA should focus its resources on creating new opportunities for women that offer livable wages and a better quality life for women in the sex industry.

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Defending Strip Clubs Against Human Rights Groups

human rights strip clubsBefore you read this, please do not misinterpret the message. I’m not advocating against human rights, or saying that what human rights groups do isn’t noble. There are countries where human trafficking of women, forced prostitution, and other illegal activities are rampant in strips clubs and brothels. There are places where the local mobs run the sex industry and government intervention is desperately needed. I am not defending those clubs; I’m not defending the pimps that force their women into strip clubs and brothels. I am defending club owners and managers who run a clean business and promote the welfare of their employees. Our federal and state government(s) have legislated human rights and worker protection laws. I think strip clubs in the United States, for the most part, are more ethically run than anywhere in the world. The problem is these human rights groups want to abolish strip clubs globally and accuse all strip clubs of perpetrating violence against women. Strip clubs are not inherently violent or exploitative; it has everything to do with individual management.

Today’s debate involves a study of the strip club and prostitution industry in Victoria, Australia. The author of the study, the Coalition Against the Trafficking of Women in Australia (CATWA), is a part of an international NGO with Category II consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. The organization aims to end all forms of sexual exploitation of women, and sees it necessary to completely abolish strip clubs, brothels, and pornography.

The report put out by CATWA, titled Not Just Harmless Fun: The Strip Club Industry in Victoria (PDF version here), makes bold claims about the industry. It alleges that stripping is glamorized prostitution and “facilitates violence against women.” The following quotes were taken directly from the report published by CATWA. I have not misrepresented these quotes nor have I misconstrued the context of said quotes.

CATWA’s position on strip clubs is that they are part of the overall prostitution industry, along with escort agencies and pornography. Thus, the organization believes strip clubs should be regulated in the same manner as brothels. That would mean losing the ability to sell alcohol and advertise in the mainstream media, and adhering to the same zoning/building restrictions as brothels.

CATWA says of the prostitution industry:

“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.”

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My response to “Why Strip Clubs Should Be Abolished”

strippersThe Unconscionable is a blog written by a current stripper and self-described feminist and activist. Her posts center around how stripping affects women and her customer experiences. She’s also an abolitionist, as the title “…Should Be Abolished” will tell you. There are a lot of reasons to be critical of strip clubs. For instance, instead of taking steps to ensure all of the dancers have at least some chance of success, management promotes a dog-eat-dog culture among workers. That’s a legitimate gripe. Or how some strip clubs treat customers. That’s another gripe.

However, some of the statements made in this blog post – “Why Strip Clubs Should Be Abolished” – are unsupported and really disingenuous. I can understand how each dancer’s experience can give them a completely different view of the industry, especially if they’re at a club with exploitative managers, overly aggressive customers, vindictive and manipulative dancers, etc. I can also understand that stripping can be incredibly difficult and emotionally exhausting. But this post demonizes strip clubs and all of those associated with business. It’s bad for the industry and spreads false ideals about strip clubs. I do not intend to attack or belittle anyone’s thoughts, beliefs or opinions – but I will express my own on this blog. Let’s start with each claim one by one:

“It is highly uncommon for any stripper to come from a functional two-parent home. There is a lot of truth to a stripper’s sexual abuse history but that is not all of us. However, all women and girls once they’ve stripped can claim they’ve been sexually abused.

I have a feeling *actual* victims of sexual abuse wouldn’t favor that statement. First, sexual abuse victims don’t consent to sexual abuse. No one is forced into stripping (I mean in legally-run strip clubs in the U.S. – not mobster-run brothels in Africa, Eastern Europe, etc). Women choose to become strippers and they are financially compensated for it. There are federal and state laws outlining what is and isn’t allowed. While it’s true that not all strip clubs enforce these laws, you can’t say none of them do. But if a woman finds herself at a club where management looks the other way, she’s free to leave that club immediately. Victims of sexual abuse, for the most part, lack the ability to remove themselves from an abusive situation. You cannot say this of strippers.

“Because many strippers age out of industry there is apparent psychological damage by the time they exit stripping.”

This is a very broad, sweeping generalization. You can’t say that simply because someone ages out of industry that means there will be psychological damage. Maybe she wasn’t speaking in absolutes, in which case I agree. I would further argue that strip clubs could do much more to help employees transition to post-stripping life (check out another post on that topic). However, it’s ultimately the responsibility of the dancer to plan an exit strategy from stripping. It’s not like they don’t know the day is coming.

“Sierra is just one of many who self-medicate to work. This type of problem is epidemic so it’s a no-brainer strip clubs should not be legal. If a woman has to self-medicate to perform her job then clearly something is askew with the job.”

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Socially Responsible Strip Club Ownership / Management, Pt. II

sex industryMy previous post addressed the issue of social responsibility in the sex industry, specifically in strip clubs. This post will discuss how strip clubs can become more socially responsible.

Let’s revisit the article from TUSCL mentioned in Part I. As you can imagine, some of the other posters dismissed his ideas as implausible and delusional. But not everyone felt that way. There is one question raised by the author that I’d like to address immediately – “wouldn’t it help your enjoyment if you knew the dancers weren’t being exploited behind the scenes?”

Yes, it would. It would help because it would alleviate the social stigma attached to people who work at and patronize strip clubs. Strip clubs are reviled by general society because of how management treats its workers. How many stories are there about former strippers who are financially destitute, psychologically damaged, or having trouble transitioning from club life to real life? I don’t think I have to tell you the stories are out there. Am I placing all of the blame on the clubs? Absolutely not. However, I do believe the clubs could do a lot more to help its dancers ensure their stripping and post-stripping lives are a little nicer. Like…

Providing therapy and counseling services for employees. The TUSCL poster who wrote the article mentioned this as one of his rules. One member attacked the idea, saying a club wouldn’t pay a therapist to tell a dancer she should work elsewhere.

It is true that some corporations provide counseling & support services as an employee benefit. Employees get a certain number of in-person visits and phone consultations as part of their benefits package. These plans offer debt management and credit counseling and therapy for stress, anxiety and depression. It also includes assistance for substance abuse and addiction problems, family and parental issues, domestic violence, workplace problems (harassment, burnout, performance-related issues), and more. They also offer career counseling, which helps people choose a career/occupation and plan for their future.

But why would a strip club pay for this? Considering the number of former strippers who experience financial difficulty, emotional/psychological trauma, or alcohol and drug addiction – you can easily make a case that free or affordable counseling service is vital to the well-being of employees.

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Socially Responsible Strip Club Ownership / Management, Pt. I

strip club stageMost people think sleazy strip club owners are synonymous with the sex industry – and for the most part, they’re right. There are hundreds of blogs written by strip club workers that will detail the level of sleaze within management. Strip club owners are characterized as a bunch of callous, money-hungry sociopaths who operate a business that forces the floor staff to beg for compensation from the other employees – the dancers – who are also responsible for making the entire operation successful. Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but think about it this way. What is a strip club without strippers? Answer: an old, shitty bar with overpriced drinks, a ridiculous cover fee, and an obnoxious DJ playing obnoxious music. Oh, and a bunch of middle-aged, horny men. Sounds great, huh? It’s true. Strip clubs are 100% dependent on the dancers to survive. If it’s a locals’ club, the owner depends on the dancers to build a solid customer base of regulars. If it’s a tourist club, the owner depends on the dancers to be able to draw customers into the club – and keep them there. Simply put: the club with the best dancers wins. Everything else is secondary.

However, the dancers are expected to tip out everyone, including the DJ, bouncers, house mom, and sometimes the bartenders, barbacks, managers, VIP hostess, and doormen. Tips are usually determined by a percentage of the dancer’s earnings for that shift. Basically, instead of treating the dancers as invaluable assets to the company, the owners treat them as expendable. And the fact that strip clubs don’t actually pay anyone also tells you how much they value employees.

A member of TUSCL (a social review site for strip clubs) wrote a blog post discussing his proposed criteria for socially responsible strip club operation. In his post, he outlines 14 rules that cover everything from dancer compensation to security details. The premise of his post is that since there is so much interest lately in socially responsible commerce, why not a strip club with socially responsible business practices? He asks, “wouldn’t a business where it is so possible to be socially harmful have the most to gain?” and “wouldn’t it help your enjoyment if you knew the dancers weren’t being exploited behind the scenes?”

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Why Strip Clubs Should Consider Smoking Bans

strip club smokeAs you’ve probably noticed, most of the posts on this blog defend the actions of strip clubs and its employees. But there are many indefensible aspects of strip clubs and the adult entertainment industry, and I think this is one of them. Most strip clubs refuse to ban smoking inside the building to avoid offending/losing a handful of smoking customers. These clubs are putting the smoking preferences of a few customers ahead of the long-term health of all of the customers, dancers and club employees. Non-smoking customers shouldn’t have to choose between destroying their health and frequenting their favorite strip club. Not only is it bad business sense (which I’ll explain later), but it’s one of the more socially irresponsible decisions a club can make.

In fact, not only are less people smoking now than in decades past, but the majority of the population now supports smoking bans in all public places. Because seriously, who wants to go home smelling like an ashtray? As if it weren’t bad enough that I have to wash or dry clean my clothes after a night at the strip club, I’m left with one powerfully disturbing thought when I get home – I’m actually breathing the crap that’s stuck in my clothes for hours on end. Are clubs that concerned with placating smokers? Is it worth sacrificing a pleasant and healthy atmosphere to retain smoking customers? I wrote a blog post about this very topic on another blog. My argument boils down to three specific points:

1.) Most of the customers do NOT smoke. Yet everyone suffers the consequences of breathing polluted air and smelling like a cigar factory. Everything in the club absorbs smoke – the chairs, the furniture, the carpets, the drapes, the tables, and even the paint on the walls. It only takes one customer puffing away like a chimney to make the entire club reek. And it’s damn near impossible to filter/purify/circulate the air well enough to make a difference.

Here are the numbers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 19.3% of U.S. adults are current smokers. The percentage of adult smokers has been trending downward since the 1990s. Think about that – over 80% of adults are nonsmokers, and that number is likely to increase in the coming years.

But what about strip club customers? How many of them smoke? Unfortunately, the data isn’t that comprehensive. But here are some stats to ponder:

  • 29% of adults below the poverty line are smokers, as opposed to 18% at or above the poverty line (NHIS, 2010)
  • 9.9% of adults with a degree from a four-year college/university are smokers; nearly 24% of those with only a high school diploma are smokers (NHIS, 2010)
  • Over 30% of those making less than $24,000 per year are smokers; only 13% of those making $90,000 per year or more are smokers (Gallup survey, 2008)
  • 53% of all U.S. adult smokers earn less than $36,000 per year; 75% of all U.S. adult smokers earn less than $60,000 per year (Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, 2009)
  • More unemployed adults smoke (42%) than those working full-time or part-time (26% and 24%, respectively) – 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health

These stats confirm the income disparity between smokers and nonsmokers. A disproportionate number of smokers are low-income and uneducated. I’m not sure strip clubs would lose many customers if they instituted smoking bans, but if they did, they likely wouldn’t lose many big-spending customers. They would, however, make the other customers very appreciative – and chances are those appreciative customers have more money to spend than the others.

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