Dispatches’ The Hidden World Of Lap Dancing

// 9 October 2008

Just caught this on the wonder that is Catch Up TV. Unsurprisingly, the hidden world of lap dancing was revealed to be highly unregulated, full of very naked women simulating sex acts on entitled menfolk (actually pretty shocking if you don’t know what goes on in these clubs) and spreading rapidly. As Object and the Fawcett Society have been highlighting over the past months, lap dancing clubs are currently licensed in the same way as a bar or kebab shop, so there is little local authorities or local people can do to stop them opening or get them shut down. Unfortunately, the programme makers seemed far more interested in the nimbyism / moralistic aspect of this campaign (not to mention trying to pack in as much naked dancey sexy music time as possible) than the impact of this lack of regulation – and the trade itself – on the women working in the clubs.

All of the clubs visited by the reporter were supposedly bound by conditions on their licence which stipulate, for example, that the dancers must remain a foot away from the customer, that they cannot simulate sex acts and that the customer must not touch the dancer. These conditions were quite clearly ignored in clubs across the country and, as the one ex-dancer they did interview explained, this means that the women have to continually go that little bit further to attract customers and earn money. This situation isn’t helped by the fact that many clubs demand an upfront fee of between £40 and £120 a night from each dancer that must be regained as quickly as possible in order that the women can start to make a profit. In one club, on a quiet night, two women offered the reporter sex in his hotel room for £300 as they weren’t likely to make any money in the club. In the VIP area of London strip chain Secrets, he was again offered full sex. When approached with the researchers’ findings, club owners claimed that such behaviour in “their girls” was rare and would result in dismissal. Fortunately, the programme makers didn’t provide the owners with any names.

That was about the extent of their concern, however, and the programme concluded by wondering if the government has essentially licensed prostitution on our high streets, right under our poor middle class noses (epitomised by the enraged residents of an upmarket London development who saw a ground floor sushi bar turn into a strip club overnight). Thing is, while Object and Fawcett’s campaign may be based on the impact of strip clubs on gender equality and with a view to tightening regulation in order that dancers do not feel pressurized to go further than they’d like, the kind of approach taken by this programme ignores not only the rights but the humanity of the women who work in the clubs. It’s based on the premise that we don’t want “that kind of people/behaviour” rubbed in our faces, rather than on the safety, security and freedom of the women many would like to pretend are some other species that should be neither seen nor heard.

More strip clubs and fewer regulations, along with an apparent total lack of enforcement of the existing ones, means more women potentially being exploited. And, yes, I don’t want to walk past strip clubs or be harassed by their customers, but I’m not the one having to decide whether or not I should give that blow job in order to secure the week’s rent. It’s these women who should be the focus of any campaign to regulate lap dancing, not the privileged nimbys among us.

Comments From You

Rachel McDonald // Posted 9 October 2008 at 8:55 pm

There was definitely a strong voyeuristic element to this programme. For an hour-long programme I was surprised that it didn’t get past the “look at the shocking behaviour of the “girls” in these clubs” point. Of course, what this meant was, as Laura observes, that we, the viewer, got a watch in inordinate (some might suggest gratuitous?) amount of film of naked/mostly naked women dancing for men.

Having said that, I think it’s great that Channel 4 are showing documentaries like this, that, if nothing else, draw people’s attention to some of the issues surrounding lap dancing clubs. One of the problems I come across a lot in trying to talk to friends about this sort of thing is a denial that there’s anything sinister or problematic in the world of lap dancing – and programmes like this will at least mean that more people question that point of view.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 9 October 2008 at 10:11 pm

i saw that. we had the volume low and it just looked like lapdance porn rather than something complaining about it. it was only bothered about the fact the dancers themselves were breaking the rules and not really interested in why or the effects. it touched on the sex encounter establishment licensing but didnt seem to point out any reason why the dancing was god or bad… i think it was supposed to be shocking for some and arousing for others. being sat with some guys we joked how stupid it was and expected no less from channel 4. however if id been on my own id have been more irritated

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 9 October 2008 at 10:30 pm

Dispatches did not show any other male customers frequenting these clubs and the undercover reporter ‘modestly’ kept his hands firmly away from the naked female dancers. If Dispatches had filmed male customers I have no doubt we would have seen how male customers interact with the female dancers. I have no doubt ‘paying male customers’ would not have kept their hands away from the naked female bodies or not engaged in sexually insulting and degrading the dancers.

I have never understood the common term ‘full sex’ because this implies sex is either half or ‘full.’ Correct terminology is penetrative sex. Totally agree Dispatches simultaneously displayed distaste towards to the female dancers whilst losing no opportunity to bombard viewers with never-ending images of totally naked female dancers engaged in sexual stimulation. It did appear Dispatches were more concerned with expressing disapproval of the female dancers activities and neatly ignored it is male demand which ensures such ‘clubs’ continue to exist and increase.

Lapdancing clubs are not just lapdancing clubs their business is the sexual exploitation and degradation of women for the purpose of sexually arousing male customers. Good to hear the ‘owners’ will sack any female dancer who flouts the rules but of course this is just talk because prostitution is the real purpose of these clubs and its owners are pimps.

Laura // Posted 9 October 2008 at 11:36 pm

@Jennifer: Totally agree with you on the “full sex”; I meant to put it in inverted commas.

Cara // Posted 10 October 2008 at 10:56 am

I agree with others’ reservations. It seemed more NIMBY “oooooh no can’t have that sort of thing going on in our nice middle-class neighbourhood” and a bit jobsworth, in that it focused on The Rules that were not being followed – as someone has said above, well, WHY not?

Also concur that there was little concern shown for the women and girls working in these pits of vile misogyny.

Jam // Posted 10 October 2008 at 10:58 am

I saw this last night and agree with most of what everyone else has said – they did seem to repeat the footage of naked dancers rather more than was necessary. Although I do think that it was really important that it was shown, even if it left a lot to be desired – anything that adds pressure to the campaign to have the law changed (as I think this does) is probably a good thing.

The bit that left the greatest impression on me was when they had an actor go and pretend to audition to be a lapdancer at a club – the way the female manager was talking about how the girls were not allowed to look like wives and daughters, and that it was how they were ‘packaged’ that mattered. It really shocked me that she was so blatant in her objectification – literally – of these women, speaking of them as though they were things to be sold, and the best ‘packages’ would make the most money. Really creepy – but of course this wasn’t what Channel 4 wanted to pick up on, so it wasn’t commented on at all.

Lynsey // Posted 10 October 2008 at 11:07 am

I wrote a blog about this if anyone’s interested… http://lightupvirginmary.blogspot.com/2008/10/documentary-dispatches-hidden-world-of.html

Sian // Posted 10 October 2008 at 4:23 pm

It’s really disappointing that they didn’t manage to make a really interesting programme in the hour they had-but Dispatches has been awful of late so doesn’t surprise me unfortunately.

The working conditions at these places are awful, and I think any jobs that require you to pay upfront to work there ought to be made illegal.

I do think to a certain extent it’s not just nimbyism not to want strip clubs in areas where residential housing and business buildings are mixed and in close proximity though.

Solitaire, dancer // Posted 11 October 2008 at 1:39 am

Thanks, Laura, for one of the only blogs/comments re. Dispatches that seems to understand the dancers’ point of view and the issues we face. Dancing and prostitution are two different things – though both in the adult industry sphere – and being happy to do the first does not necessarily mean being comfortable doing the second. However spiralling house fees, increasing numbers of dancers per shift, and falling customer numbers, mean there is pressure to do more in order to secure dances, in terms of full-contact lap dancing (nothing more – NONE of the venues I have worked at in seven years as a dancer have offered or condoned the men touching the dancers, or us performing sexual acts on them, and if any girl was found allowing/doing this she would be barred). I’ve also heard of dancers offering to provide extra services after-hours or in the VIP room… though getting the money up-front, and usually not following through with what they’ve promised.

No-one in the current climate seems to be asking current dancers about our experiences/feelings. Don’t our voices matter? If we were heard people would realise many of the misconceptions. For example the comment from Jennifer:

“I have no doubt ‘paying male customers’ would not have kept their hands away from the naked female bodies or not engaged in sexually insulting and degrading the dancers.”

What makes you have ‘no doubt’ of that – have you spent time in lapdance clubs and seen for yourself how the men behave? I can only assume you have not, seeing as 95 per cent of guys do keep their hands to themselves, and 99 per cent are not sexually insulting or degrading towards us. Quite the opposite – I am treated wonderfully (the only place I’ve been repeatedly grabbed by customers was when I danced at a lesbian club – they had to have security guards either side of the stage hold customers back!). In an uncertain world for men now (they often tell us dancers they are unsure how to behave in the outside world nowadays – “do I compliment my female colleague on her new haircut or will that land me in a sexual harrasment case?” “do I hold the door open for that lady or not – will be thanked or scowled at?”), the strip club and its strict defined rules are a great comfort to them. Jennifer talks of ‘insulting’ and ‘degrading’ beahviours, but in fact it’s her comment that is insulting and degrading to men.

Audrey // Posted 11 October 2008 at 10:10 pm

My brother’s mates went to a stag do in Scotland and every single one paid for full sex or a blow job in two strip clubs. The dancers were literally prostitutes. And I’m sorry, and I realise that this will offend dancers, but I do not see how you can sell a sexual service to men for money – ie stripping and rubbing your vagina and breasts on their bodies – and not call that a form of prostitution. It is the very definition of prostitution. Come to terms with it anyway you want, but you will not convince me or the majority of other women that it is a different shade of grey. That is why I could never do it, whatever the money – I could never see myself as a commodity to be bought, used and disposed of by sad men who get a kick out of degrading women, and the men I know who go to strip clubs genuinely enjoy that. Trust me, they do not go there to see women as equals and my own partner sees them as vermin – women are defined by them as either servants in the kitchen or whores in the bedroom. What’s changed here by women that purposefully collude in their own degradation? I would hate for my daughter to become a piece of flesh for sale.

It is a form of prostitution like it or not. To package yourself as sexual commodity on the market, a set of body parts to be traded between men … what other definition of prostitution do you want?

Cara // Posted 12 October 2008 at 1:37 am

Solitaire – yaaaawwwwn. The poor men. It is indeed a complex concept for the poor dears to grasp, that we women are human beings.

It is indeed an effort to actually have to think about and consider our feelings and needs, rather than just follow the rules. Why can’t we stop moaning and accept that we are all the same. I mean, jeez, of course a friendly compliment on a haircut is exactly the same as saying “nice arse, love”, so if we complain about the second being, like, some boring PC thing dreamed up to make life less fun called sexual harrassment, we can’t expect the first! And yes, if we object to patronising benevolent sexism, being practically pushed out of the way so the man can hold open the door with a patronising wink and smile, of course men should just let doors slam in our faces instead!

Dammit, thinking is so HARD!

Maia // Posted 12 October 2008 at 4:05 pm

Dear Solitaire,

I am sooooooo happy that in this cruel uncertain world for all those poor bewildered guys who don’t dare give a compliment in case the chippy female recipient slaps them with a sex harrassment suit that there are sensible women like you to sympathise with them and soothe their fevered manly brows. It is truly heartwarming. As you point out, it must be a great comfort to them to be able to seek refuge in sex clubs with strictly defined rules. Otherwise goodness only knows what the poor critters would do! I shudder to think.

And good on you for defending men against Jennifer Drew’s ‘insulting and degrading’ comments. Men really need someone to speak up for them, don’t they? It’s about time.

I don’t know if you’ve considered this, but you might like to become an honorary member of a men’s rights movement. Not a full member of course, because you’re female, but they might let you make sandwiches for their meetings, or provide a sympathetic ear for all these bewildered victims of chippy feminists. You might even end up winning a Nobel Peace Prize.

Audrey. Well said!!!

saranga // Posted 12 October 2008 at 7:34 pm

At Cara and Maia:

I don’t wish to speaking for Solitaire, or putting words in her mouth, but I read her post completely differently to you.

I don’t think Solitaire is saying it’s OK for men to be confused about their roles, or that we should sympathise with them over that.

I thought her post was discussing the difference between lapdancing and prostitution, and how *in her experience* most men don’t grope the dancers. Her comments re men’s roles and the rules of the strip club are used to back up her experience that men don’t grope the dancers.

I agree with her, saying that all men grope dancers is insulting and degrading and on a par with saying men can’t help themselves when raping women. At no point did she say it’s OK that men are confused about the difference between harassment and compliments.

(Solitaire: If I’ve interpreted your post wrong, my apologies)

Lou // Posted 12 October 2008 at 10:49 pm

Maia – Excellent comment, sorry Soltaire but men are not idiots they don’t need clearly defined boundaries and rules that strip clubs supposedly provide to know what’s appropriate and what is not. This kind of rationale is not only laughable but incredibly infuriating. It places the blame on women (i.e they’re all uptight and difficult, so they HAVE to visit strip clubs) when in reality it just shows that men still have the power to cash in on evey privilege their gender provides them and can still essentially buy women. Profoundly depressing.

Qubit // Posted 13 October 2008 at 12:18 am

I actually agree men these days live in fear of being accused to sexual harassment. I think this has less to do with women and their behaviour and more to do with media interpretation of new laws and articles which imply saying hello to someone would lead to criminal accusations and similarly ridiculous things. Couple this with the fact a majority of guys wouldn’t dream of harassing a woman and have probably never seen this behaviour so find it difficult to believe it happens, then you end up with a situation where guys are convinced even really innocent behaviour by them will be taken as harassment and land them in horrendous trouble.

I think it is difficult to say whether a cynical comment about how men behave at a strip club is against men in general as I think it is fair only a certain type of guy/girl would go to a strip club regularly on his/her own. I get the impression that the majority of customers are in for a (fe)male bonding experience so I would expect reasonable behaviour unless it is a particularly nasty group because behaviour that would get people chucked out would be frowned upon and annoy the rest of the group. I would say as a work bonding going to a strip club is wrong as it excludes people not interested in the gender stripping. I wouldn’t be happy if my boyfriend went but I understand it is likely to happen on stag nights and there is little I can do. I wouldn’t go see a stripper myself unless it was unsafe for me to leave the group going early. As for friend’s and strangers I don’t feel I have any right to tell them what to do.

I could be wrong but I do get the impression there is a lot of scorn in a guys attitude to strippers thinking of them as ‘whores’ and unworthy. I am sure this isn’t true of all men but it is something I find slightly worrying, there seems to be a hypocritical attitude to it. I am not sure it would be easy to change this attitude. At the same time I am not sure it would be possible or even wise to try to shut the industry down, it would be seen as waking away rights from both men and women and just demonise feminism.

I think there should be regulations, that make strip clubs draw up fair contracts, with fair wages and working conditions and making it clear what is expected from the stripper. I know this seems far from ideal but I think we have to accept the society we are in and people (both men and women) would see a closure of strip clubs as their fundamental rights being infringed upon.

I agree that strip clubs should be considered sex encounter establishments (if sex shops and peep shows are then strip clubs definitely should be). It isn’t nibby to not want them in housing estate areas, they should be away from residents and children’s areas in areas where noise and rowdy (wo)men wouldn’t bother people, like ordinary clubs.

Audrey, do you mind clarifying, does your partner see all women as vermin, strippers as vermin or people who go to strip clubs as vermin?

Tony Moll // Posted 13 October 2008 at 8:34 am

I accept that strip bars should be regulated to protect children and to keep city centres family friendly, but why can’t you learn to accept that some people get their kicks out of looking at other peoples bodies.

And by the way, I know there are gay strip bars too. I wonder if any of the people on this blog hates them too.

Juliet // Posted 13 October 2008 at 11:30 am

Tony Moll, of course there is nothing wrong with people getting kicks from looking at other people’s bodies, whatever their sexual orientation. That’s not the issue. The issue is when getting kicks out of someone’s body is happening within a framework of abuse and exploitation. That’s what is unacceptable.

Danny // Posted 13 October 2008 at 11:37 am

There is one phrase, just one, in Solitaire’s post which cheers me up – “falling customer numbers”.

Saranga // Posted 13 October 2008 at 12:31 pm

@ Tony: What Juliet said!

Tony Moll // Posted 13 October 2008 at 12:33 pm


“The issue is when getting kicks out of someone’s body is happening within a framework of abuse and exploitation”

Then why not list what abuses taking place and offer specific solutions for them instead of condeming lap dancing as a whole.

Audrey // Posted 13 October 2008 at 3:08 pm

Well said Juliet.

Sorry Tony, but speaking from an academic (doctoral) position on the relationship between gender equality and the commodification of labour, the issue is not about forms of sexuality so much as about economic power relations and its impact upon identity construction. Reducing this issue down to ‘I like women’s bodies – ok?’ it a very simplistic and 2D analysis which does not address the socio-economic framework in which this is realised. I love sex, but I don’t work as a prostitute. I love looking at men’s bodies, especially that of my boyfriend, but I do not render him into a commodity via a capitalist exchange relationship. I would never treat a man like that, ever. Paying for women’s bodies renders them to be a commodity, and the embodied service they provide, to be a commodity.

Women are not commodities, they are people. Women are worth more than what men are prepared to pay for them.

I suggest you think this issue through at a higher level if you want to participate and make a genuine contribution.

Pete // Posted 13 October 2008 at 3:45 pm

Hello Audrey, I’m just curious as to where male strippers come into this relationship. Are they also worth more that people are prepared to pay or does the far greater number of lapdancers/female strippers outweigh that?

Im not asking simply as a bloke trying to be a pain in the arse, as looking back at what ive written it looks like a fairly confrontational question, I just cant think of a better way to frame it.

Tony Moll // Posted 13 October 2008 at 4:16 pm


“…on the relationship between gender equality and the commodification of labour, the issue is not about forms of sexuality so much as about economic power relations and its impact upon identity construction.”

I’m sorry but this is a bit wordy.

“Reducing this issue down to ‘I like women’s bodies – ok?’ it a very simplistic and 2D analysis which does not address the socio-economic framework in which this is realised.”

You like what you like irrespective of the “economic framework”.

“I love looking at men’s bodies, especially that of my boyfriend, but I do not render him into a commodity via a capitalist exchange relationship. I would never treat a man like that, ever.”

In plain English: I love looking at men’s bodies, especially that of my boyfriend, but I would not pay to see it.

“Paying for women’s bodies renders them to be a commodity, and the embodied service they provide, to be a commodity.”

Getting paid for a service does not make you a commodity.

“Women are not commodities, they are people. Women are worth more than what men are prepared to pay for them.”

Again, getting paid for a service does not make you a commodity.

“I suggest you think this issue through at a higher level if you want to participate and make a genuine contribution.”

I hope I’m making a contribution. I am certianly thinking it through and my opinions are genuine, even if we don’t agree. Sometimes speaking in plain English helps clear things up.

chem_fem // Posted 13 October 2008 at 5:24 pm

Pete, I have to admit I know nothing about male strippers so it would depend on their conditions of work.

For example I’d imagine groups such as the Chippendales would perform in gigs in a similar way to burlesque artists, in that they are booked for a gig and paid as any other entertainer. I’d assume that similar to other forms of entertainers they aren’t nameless faceless bodies, but rather acts people deliberately go to see. I think that is why feminists have few complaints about burlesque – although I don’t know for sure and would love to find out.

As for other forms of male stripping it would depend on the dynamic. Is there a particular equivalent where employment rights are as unbalanced in the venues favour as it is in lapdancing?

Audrey // Posted 13 October 2008 at 6:13 pm

It’s a good question Pete and best answered in light of historical gender inequalities between men and women.

Given the accepted premise that women have been traditionally excluded from power, voices marginalised, authorship denied, financially and socially dependent etc in relation to their male counterparts the manifestation of women serving the needs of men has much deeper, negative correlations with a history of oppression than that of men serving women.

Consider for example the dynamic between colonisers and their slaves: the idea of a black person ‘serving’ a white person is related to an inheritance of slavery, whereas the idea of white people serving black holds no such precedent.

When male strippers perform, as a group on stage, it does not echo or reinforce a dynamic of subordination, servitude and dependance through economic inequality the way that female forms of prostitution do.

Furthermore, there is (as far as I know) only one male strip bar in Brum called Tricky Dickies which had suffered from low customer footfall; we do not have a social or economic history where men have serviced women’s sexual needs in a domination/inequality/dependence relationship and few women would see buying a man for sex as normal, acceptable or desirable. Nor do you have male strip clubs where the men have to work as prostitutes as well as dancers because they are so desperate for the money. Strip clubs form and represent a very male centred interpretation of sexuality too, emblematic of a patriarchal society – basically that women exist to serve the sexual needs of men, rather than a dual cultural system where men serve the needs of women. Page 3 in the Sun is always a topless woman; there is never pantless man on Page 4. Pornography is largely orientated to male ideals of female sexuality, ie submission, degradation etc. This is why you see so many lap dancing bars but male strip clubs are so few they are newsworthy.

Prostitution – an outcome of economic inequality – is an artefact of women’s inferior position and businesses which trade women reinforce that. It is simply not the same for men. Thus, the power/commodity dynamic is different for male strippers than it is for women.

Personally, I would still never treat a man like that – no human being is a sex toy for me to use and dispose of.

I hope this makes sense!

NorthernJess // Posted 13 October 2008 at 7:13 pm

I have been to female strip clubs and to a male strippers performance. The dancing itself, which was amazing and beautifully executed- and probably better funded that most community arts groups (and people complain about their tax money going on arts project funding but will pay £50 for ten mins of a woman dancing exclusively for THEM?) but the way the women were dressed and the hair and make up they had on was my main problem. They were obviously talented, multi-skilled females and seemed to have excellent interpersonal skills, chatting to the paying customers, skipping from topic to topic with ease, why did they have to coat themselves in make up, which will end up killing their skin, and wearing such hideous, uncomfortable looking shoes- because they are portreying a fantasy. In the same way as BDSM or roleplay creates a fantastical world, then strippers do this for their customers. The difference between a fetish scene (where everyone is consensual and everyone in it for their own enjoyment) and stripping is that the women are being PAID. Now, this is whole part of the fantasy too. You are a powerful, rich man or woman and can therefore afford to spend what would feed a family for a month to watch a subordinate (covered up with make up and therefore playing the role of ‘whore’, and yes, I do belive that wearing make up except purely for artistic self-fullfillment, ie only applying it to the areas which the patriacal society has decided are attractive enought to be enhanced- the eyes, lips and cheeks- often with substances which actively break down skin cells and couse irreversable damage is subordinating yourself to patriachy) dance in a manner that your upbringing, if you have come from a prediominantkly Western background had decided is erotic. Until we get it out of our heads that money and power are GOOD things, and something to be FANTACISED over then strip clubs (and most gang culture, and the global markets repeatedly falling flat on their face) aren’t going to go away. As long as the women working within them are educated and informed of the phychology behind what they are doing, are safe and paid at least minimum wage then what is the problem? The same goes for male strippers- however the performane I saw, the audience, instead of having the power-role, seemed desperate to please the strippers, flirting with them etc. The men in the strip club, whilst being friendly towards the women, were not flirting as far as I saw it, they had no need to as, as is with most things, their power was already assured. In this way, until male strippers act and perform in the same way as female ones, as to the audinece of the strip club, then male stripping is almost worse.

I have to point out I have been to two strip clubs in my life, and this is only my personal opinion. There are probably loads of strip clubs out there that opperate differently.

Also, apologuise for spelling, am in a rush.

Laura // Posted 13 October 2008 at 7:42 pm

Audrey, you just said everything I wanted to absolutely wonderfully!

Geraldine // Posted 17 October 2008 at 7:30 pm

Hi, I didn’t watch the programme but after reading all of these responses, I couldn’t help but notice that nobody seems to think about what impact this has on the partners of the men who are visiting these places. I am in a relationship which I thought to be a good one with a very good sex life. I recently discovered that once a year when my partner goes to a certain event with his mates they all go to a lap dancing bar after where they pay for dances. I am trying really hard not to be upset by it but I do non the less feel really hurt! I haven’t said anything to him as yet for fear of being branded a bitter feminist but it has already changed our relationship. I am far from being a prude but I can’t help but see this as one step down from prostitution. I really wish that I could be ok about it but I just can’t and it’s made me think very differently about him and our future

Laura // Posted 18 October 2008 at 2:33 am

Hi Geraldine – I can totally empathise with your situation. Personally, I’d rather a boyfriend slept with someone else than had a private lap dance – at least the former is a mutually agreed and pleasant experience rather than a power trip / potential exploitation. If you feel upset you are well within your rights to bring it up with him, and he should listen to and respect your feelings rather than brand you a bitter feminist as you suggest.

Pete // Posted 18 October 2008 at 11:48 am

Thanks to Chem_Fem and Audrey for that, that makes alot of sense.

Cheers again

Lindsay // Posted 18 October 2008 at 12:45 pm

Geraldine, I was in the very same situation only it was 3 months before my wedding and my now husband was (albeit, not at first) alone. I still can’t think about it objectively and however liberal or open-minded I may be, I still feel that my boyfriend went out and paid (£300 in private ‘dances’) for a sexual service when I was at home.

The fact that you don’t even feel comfortable approaching the subject with your boyfriend shows how society has normalised this behaviour and women feel they are wrong to challenge this.

There would be an entirely different attitude towards women paying men to get naked and rub their genitals all over over them.

Rachel McDonald // Posted 18 October 2008 at 2:00 pm

Geraldine – I had a very similar reaction when I found out my husband was going to be going to a lap dancing club on a friend’s stag night. I told him I was upset about him going, which he initially didn’t really understand. Then I explained why it upset me so much (I too see lap dancing as tantamount to prostitution) and he understood and now more or less shares my perspective. I did find that I now see our friend who was the ‘stag’ differently (in a negative way) because I didn’t used to think he was the sort of person who would enjoy going to a lap dancing club, and it turns out he is.

Maia // Posted 18 October 2008 at 3:01 pm

Hi Geraldine,

Why the hell shouldn’t you feel upset about your boyfriend going to a lap dancing club and paying for dances? Why should you feel okay about it? It’s not okay, it’s horrible. If I found out my boyfriend did that I would totally lose respect for him, and it would make me question the whole basis of our relationship. I could never be okay with a partner who viewed women as commodities which could be bought. And if he would regard you as a “bitter feminist” or a prude for thinking that’s horrible and upsetting, then he’s the one with the attitude problem, not you. Of course you think differently about him now and question your future together. Who wouldn’t?

And you’re right, hardly anyone seems to even think of, much less care about, the feelings of partners of men who visit these places. The lap dancers and their clients least of all.

Audrey // Posted 18 October 2008 at 3:22 pm

Geraldine, I can tell you now there are hundreds and hundreds of women out there right now who are going through what you are. I see it as a form of commercialised adultery frankly – aside from the gender equality issues etc it is effectively paying to have a naked woman rub herself on your partner which is gross. If you were to go out to the pub and have a man rub his genitalia on your body, I doubt your partner would be pleased. If he were naked with any other woman in any other scenario it would be cheating. And the final litmus test: would he be doing it if you were stood right there beside him? I doubt it. If your boyfriend thinks its ok to cheat on you as long as he and his mates are doing it with prostitutes instead of being emotionally involved adultery, then frankly how much love and respect does he have for you? When you met, did he say, ‘Oh and me and my mates go and visit prostitutes once every so often, but hey I am just that kind of guy’? I expect he would have a problem with you cheating on him, and you have every right to be angry as hell. The fact that he assumed it was acceptable is even worse – what a double standard of poor treatment. Its none of my business but get rid, or else live your life with someone that sees adultery and using prostitutes as acceptable. Hardly what you want in a partner is it? And what about if and when he is a dad, off to the clubs? Jesus.

Audrey // Posted 18 October 2008 at 3:24 pm

And another thing: you are not obliged to be with this man any more than he is with you. He’s taken liberties with your trust, respect, value…the list is endless. The beauty of 21st Century UK is having a choice over who your partner is, and don’t ever forget your right to that.

Geraldine // Posted 23 October 2008 at 9:29 pm

hello again and thanks for all your comments and advice. I especially agree with what Lindsay says about how society has made this a normal behaviour which makes women feel like they are being a spoil sport by challenging it. The irony is that my partner probably wont be going now due to work commitments but that is beside the point. For the same reason I still haven’t spoken to him about it and I’m not going to because I think I shouldn’t have to point out what is fundamentally wrong with it. Even if I did speak to him and tell him I really didn’t want him to go (this time or ever again) and he said he wouldn’t, I would STILL be fuming that he would have gone thinking it was ok if I had never voiced my thoughts!! Still thinking about what to do next but at least I’m not upset about it anymore, just baffled by his insensitivity.

I have very little sympathy for the dancers themselves. Lots of people (myself included for most of my lifetime) struggle to pay rent, uni fees etc but most of us get jobs in bars, restaurants and supermarkets to help. The dancers and the paying customers have a choice in this situation. The women at home often with children and often don’t know that there partners are there, don’t have a choice in this situation.

Thanks again, this has been very therapeutic!

elizabeth // Posted 24 October 2008 at 12:52 pm

it is interesting how some think that feminists will be pleased when we have strip clubs for men. which completely misses the point of course on gender equality.

and, when men strip, they dress as construction workers, builders, everything in fact which reinforces their masculinity.

when women strip, they engage men in fantasising about penetrating that women. she is submissive and so are her poses, this reinforces male domination and women’s submission, and this is one of the reasons why people do not want strip clubs in their neighborhoods, as it reinforces this power dynamic of mens domination and womens submission. men who see women in this way also see women in this way whenn the leave the club and this simply reinforces gender inequality.

Suzi // Posted 24 October 2008 at 1:20 pm

Getting back to the original comments about the Dispatches programme – please don’t call people who don’t want Lap Dancing clubs on their High Streets ‘Nimbys’. The protests are nothing to do with nimbyism but the very real concern that placing these clubs next to fruit and veg shops and newsagents sends the message that these places are ‘normal’ and buying a womans naked body for a 3 minute ‘dance’ is no different to buying a coffee, a bunch of bananas or a magazine. This is why campaigners have been talking about the ‘normalisation’ of the sex industry. Campaigning against lap dancing clubs is hard. People do want to call you names to shut you up – nimby, prude, anti-nudity, anti-sex. The campaigners are none of these. And as for moralistic – the campaign is moralistic in that it believes the exploitation of women is immoral. Since when did ‘moral’ become a dirty word?

Cara // Posted 24 October 2008 at 10:14 pm

Suzi – I’m sorry if my comment wasn’t clear. I didn’t mean that those who object to lap-dancing clubs in their local area are NIMBYs. I meant that the programme portrayed them as such, without addressing the very valid reasons they might object to such establishments that are *not* NIMBY i.e. as you say, the messages these clubs send.

I agree that campaigners are often portrayed as prudes and NIMBYs when they are not.

And I also agree that ‘moral’ is not a dirty word and is often used by annoying libertarians as shorthand for ‘sexless victorian prude!’.

elizabeth // Posted 25 October 2008 at 10:18 pm

cara i think you are right. on re watching the programme it did seem to show those objecting in a poor light. the concerns are not just about not wanting the sex industry on the high street, the concerns are about how the club owners employ women in these clubs. the fact that they have to pay for ‘dance space’ is always always buried. there is the impact on women’s safety outside of the clubs. but it is very very hard to raise these concerns without being called names. this does serve to silence those who speak out and many choose to stay quiet because of this. why are we not calling those who own lap dancing clubs pimps for the way they employ women. and why are we not calling the men who visit these clubs names and implying that they are sexually inadequate. these clubs are attracting a specific clientele. and it is this specific clientele who are changing town centres and turning them into no go areas for women and for families. every area has its red light district, but that has now become every ones high street. and woe betide if you dont like it… the implications are always that there is something wrong with you. as opposed to those who visit the clubs. as with prostitution instead of blaming the women, let’s place the blame at the feet of the club owners and the men who visit the clubs, not those who choose to speak out about it. as those who do speak out about this are not all women.

Shannon // Posted 27 October 2008 at 6:41 pm

Hi, My name is Shannon and I’m currently researching a piece on stripping for one of my final projects for my Journalism degree – which was, in part, sparked by the Dispatches programme. I would love to speak to any of you about this, as I’ve read (above) that you all seem to be very well versed and opinionated about it.

Particularly Audrey, Solitaire and the guys, but all of you are welcome to email me. I am of the opinion that the Dispatches programme actually exaggerated issues within the stripping industry and was verging on scapegoating the clubs. BUT it is not my opinion I am interested in – IT IS YOUR OPINION I WANT. I am not a feminist, but realise that a feminist view is very important in my investigation, I do not wish to cause offence or change anyone’s mind.

If you’d like to speak to me about this issue or have any questions PLEASE don’t hesitate to email me on shanniesastar[at]hotmail.com

This is not my proper email address, it is my spam-y one, but for obvious reasons I would like to give you my other email address once I have established that you would be serious about discussing this. Equally, please do not send me spam.

Thank you all very much x

mckenzi // Posted 28 October 2008 at 2:10 pm

i think it would have made a much more interesting program for the dancers to wear the secret cameras, so the men who go in can actually take some responsibility. I worked as a dancer for four years and never once froke the rules and still came out a top earner. Most of the girls i know that have offered full sex for money between 400 and 800 cash usuall get the cash up front and the man usually gets stood up at the hotel or taken out by the doormen and beaten to a pulp as soon as the girl screams attack. the fact he gave the money is his business. i have broke more fingures and punched more mens faces than i probably have done dances, due to the very fact that as soon as those men walk throught the doors they seem to think they are above everything in there that is female. that is why the women are usually alot smarter and stronger and tend to rob them dry. make them feel like they are getting something special when indeed they just fell for the sales pitch. There are some girls out there who break the rules and unfortunatley for the girls on the film their identitie were not very well hidden and they will probably fall victim of some nasty violent attacks from other lapdancers that are enraged by the dirty girls.the underworld of lap dancing culture is a lot deeper than a load of slappers dancing for money, there are a lot of drugs, violence and theft involved and making a mockery of men. also surely some one must be liable for tarnishing of characters, people who watched that might actually believe thats what goes on and think thats what i did. like my mum and dad!!! cameras in the clubs are illegal and against the rules and the sleaze who volunteered himself to have so many lapdances for’research’ purposes is obviously a pervert. Lap dancing paid for my degree education and never once did i let my self be taken advantage of, on the contrary i think i rather took the complete piss, and a hell of a lot of money from the weak, one tracked minded men that probably sat at home with there wifes tutting to Dispatches Hidden world of Lapdancing.

kim // Posted 28 October 2008 at 2:39 pm

Most of the girls who do extras or prostitution are foreign. it is common knowlege eastern european.

“can i touch for 10 pounds”

I am a dancer, why do you need to touch me?? ballet dancers are entertaining would you try to touch them, no. Lap dancing is a form of entertainment, aesthetically pleasing not physically stimulating! Pole dancing is a brutal sport, and every man that walks through the doors are retards, pretend to be movie makers and modelling agencies. dont make me laugh empty your pockets then get home to your wife you worthless slime ball.

Those girls identities were definatley exposed to all who know them i have come across two of them before. They were tricked into doing a Private dance for £10, that was eventually viewed by the whole world.and an invasion into her privacy and people who didnt know she did that job sure do now. Many of my friends are single parents lapdancing to feed their kids and give them a decent life.

also would like to add you dont know a MAN as a species, until you work in a lapdancing club

(police men, doctors solicitors and mps even just joe bloggs pretending to be a modelling agent, girls can see right through you and the girls that dont are thick).

Maia // Posted 29 October 2008 at 11:09 am

So Shannon says she’s not a feminist…?! Okay. Well, presumably she doesn’t believe in equal education and job opportunities for women then, or that women matter as much as men. If it wasn’t for feminists she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do her journalism degree.


elizabeth // Posted 31 October 2008 at 10:18 am

the guy who went undercover from dispatches kept his hands by his side when the girls performed a private dance for him. what it didnt show by doing ti this way. was that the average punter in a lap dancing club does not keep his hands by his side. it would have been a very different programme and probably not one that would have been shown if it filmed some of the average punters in a lap dancing club who do not keep their hands by their sides and who are incredibly drunk. and when these guys are evicted by the clubs by the bouncers after they have behaved ‘inappropriately’ what this hides is the fact that an assault has taken place for which the perpetrator needs to be bought to justice. the bouncers in these clubs are exacting their own justice and perpetrators are never being bought to justice. the clubs see this as the girls being ‘looked after’ which also takes the responsibility away from the men who visit these clubs and who do and will continue to assualt these girls. the girls who work in this industry need protection not some sort of kangaroo court run by neanderthal bouncers. dispatches did the best they could with what they had and they did uncover what really goes on in lap dancing clubs. those with vested interests, including the dancers will do their upmost to run down the programme as they are benefiting from this industry.

the girls on the film will be blamed for breaking contracts, the clubs need to face sanctions as it is their premises license conditions which have been broken. make the club owners responsible not the girls and make the men who visit them accountable.

Sam // Posted 6 November 2008 at 12:06 pm

I think the real test as to whether it is Okay for women to work as a lap dancer is to ask yourself if you’d be happy if your daughter did it?

JoJo // Posted 7 November 2008 at 12:29 am

I have been a dancer for over 6 years, and I am aware that everyone has there own opinion, yes it is for mainly the enjoyment of men, but also for couples, women, many like to watch the art of a body in the different ways that women can move, other men come for fun – usually to humiliate one another, some come to stare at the body, and yes the odd one’s are perverts. But this does not mean to say that we look at all men like that – in fact most men just want to talk and half the time we are there it’s like being an agony aunt! I think it does take a lot of strength, personality and backbone to do this job. It’s not easy ,I agree, but if you keep your head then it can be exhilarating. The occasional man has tried to touch, as it’s in the instinct of man, but most do as you say. I, for one, have never been to a club were girls have given blow jobs or sex, in my eyes that is an illegal brothel and the management should be sought after and closed down. All dancers have different reasons for dancing, they generally wish to do this and I haven’t met anyone that has been forced into it, unlike alot of protitutes, of which it is a shame that they give that much of their bodies, but I have met women that do this (usually from poverty and war stricken countries) and for them it can be there only option – usually to help their families. Obviously it can make you think a bit differently, but I feel more safe in strip club than in a normal club – whereas I have been groped etc. My parents know what I do and abviously so does my boyfriend, who are proud of me. I just like to add that we do have brains, I use my money towards a business and to look after my family. Until I decide its not for me, I will dance while I can.

London Strip Club // Posted 7 November 2008 at 9:53 am

Or maybe you could ask your daughter if she’s happy doing it? After all, it’s more important that they’re comfortable doing the work they choose rather than the people around them.

Shannon // Posted 12 November 2008 at 12:36 am

Of course I am very aware, and indeed thankful, that I am able to study and work in an industry that I love. This does not a feminist make however. I don’t really want to discuss my opinion of feminism, as that’s not really needed.

I will mention, though, that my specific course is Fashion Journalism. The fashion industry is constantly attacked by feminist writers/theorists/groups without really understanding the ins and outs of it, the art/concept side of it, for example.

Anyway, that’s not for here, basically I just wanted to point out that that yes, I appreciate the advances that early feminism provoked, but now, now that we have all we need (equal rights, job opportunities etc), is it not a bit stagnant now?

Especially considering that in the industry I’m a part of, it is the straight men that are a rare thing.

Brody // Posted 26 December 2008 at 4:51 pm

For the past two and a half years I have worked in strip clubs in the UK and abroad. In that time I have danced in many clubs and visited a lot more. Not every club is the same, and as a responsible dancer, It is up to me to make sure that the club I work in is run legally, with all the girls conforming to the rules of the club. Unfortunately a lot of lap dancing bars are run by lax managers, who are more interested in profit than the welfare of the dancers. I agree that licensing on these establishments needs to be reviewed and tightened, but not for the frosty suburb neighboring the club, but for the safety and protection of the dancers.

In my experience lap dancing bars are hugely entertaining and great fun, to visit and work in. I started dancing to get myself through a financial crisis, and have carried on dancing because it is such a fun, stress free, well paid job. I will continue to dance full time and part time till I don’t want to any more. I have always been very open about what I do for a living with both friends and family because I am not ashamed of my profession.

On the whole the majority of men will conform to the rules of the club and keep their hands and derogatory comments to themselves. In fact I have had more problems with female patrons unable to keep their hands by their sides. If a man does break any of my rules or make me feel uncomfortable, I do not hesitate to end the dance and show them the door. I have never and will never go any further than a strip show. I firmly believe that If a girl has to offer extras to secure money and dances, then she is not good at the job and should look at doing something else.

It is the lack of good management not the lack of good girls that has made this industry what it is. If a girl has a problem with the owners and management of a club, there is no-one for her to turn to, there is no stripper union. Clubs can charge horrendous house fees and take huge commission of earnings, that can on bad days mean a dancer goes home with minus.

All things considered, with better legislation and support for dancers, there is no reason that lap dancing cant just be considered a fun evening entertainment, where people can relax with easy conversation and the view of women’s beautiful bodies.

Cat Rowe // Posted 28 December 2008 at 7:59 pm

Hi everyone, I’ve been reading this blog with much interest and the variety of view points have summarized the debate that’s been going on in my head for a while now. I’m a feminist and instinctively against lap dancing as I feel it objectifies women and taps into the whole male as ‘owner’ and women as slave ideology. But I’ve also been wondering lately if part of the problem is the way we celebrate female bodies in the sense that our definition of what is beautiful is limited. I think the issue of men admiring a woman’s body who they may never speak too or know touches a raw nerve for women in a way that men do not always understand. I think this is because women are still judged predominantly in terms of their looks and body image and therefore men having the power to admire other women’s bodies without any emotional commitment cuts deep into our own insecurities. Plus – and I think this is a biggy – most lap dancers are hired because they look a certain way i.e. slim, big boobs, curvy ass, pouty, and this is very stereotypical. Maybe if the industry celebrated all female forms it would make it less ‘divide and rule’ for women and ease the tension. I think this idea could be transferred to porn and any kind of representation of female beauty as well.

Still after writing this I just don’t like the idea of the clubs. Someone writing above (soz writing in a rush!) wrote about the stances and poses of chippendales and burlesque shows compared to LP dancing and I think this is a good point too. Body language reveals power and I think this is where I’m instinctively against it as it seems to be about capitulating to what the man wants rather than dancing as an expression of your own power and sexuality. Plus pouty, doe eyed poses always remind me of stereotypical little girls so we’re on dodgy territory anyway. Maybe I’m wrong. I like the comments from the dancers themselves as it sheds light.

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