Object strip club licensing campaign success

// 15 February 2010

Following a hard-fought campaign by Object, the government announced on Friday that existing lap dancing venues can be compelled by local authorities to apply for a sexual entertainment license. It had already ruled that any new lap dancing venues could be required to apply for the license. The new form of license was introduced by the Policing and Crime Act 2009; previously, lap dancing venues were regulated in the same way as cafes and bars. Object argue that:

[The new licensing system] will allow local councils to listen to the views of local people and give far greater control over the number and location of venues. Most importantly, it will allow local councils to improve conditions within clubs through specific measures such as imposing ‘no touching rules’ or scrapping private booths.

The licensing system is voluntary, meaning local authorities can choose whether venues will have to apply for a sexual entertainment license or a standard license. However, Object believe that uptake will be widespread, given the strength of feeling exhibited by local authorities and local people in the consultations leading up to this announcement. Local councils will be required to consult with local people if the new licensing regime is not used.

The Times features an interview with a former lap dancer who wants to challenge the stereotype that working in a strip club means easy money for little more than taking off your clothes:

Like most, I went into it thinking I’d get good money, quickly. Wrong. I was in debt to the club before starting my first shift. My own clothes were deemed unsuitable so I had to ‘borrow’ a dress at £70, and shoes at £60. Some evenings, once I’d paid for a taxi home, I’d actually lost money. If I made £60, I’d done all right.

“On only two occasions did I ever make more than £100 a night. Although I never slept with anyone, I regularly went beyond limits I’d set myself.”

She does not recall any of the girls being coerced into the job. Cocaine, occasionally crack, was prevalent throughout the shifts. The competition between the girls made her feel like a failure.

“Of course you have to smile, pretend you’re enjoying it. That’s the act you have to put on. The impact of that is a gradual erosion of yourself.

“The worst thing was what I learned about men: that the way to make money from them is to be submissive and pretend to be stupid. What these men wanted was to exert power in a way they felt they could not in normal situations.”

Meanwhile, the ever-delightful Peter Stringfellow plans to use human rights law to challenge the new licensing arrangements, should he be forced to close any of his clubs. Because clearly his right to his ‘possessions’ (that’s apparently what his lawyer will be basing any case on) is more important than trying to regulate an industry in which women have to put up with crap working conditions and can be easily exploited and abused and which reinforces harmful, sexist attitudes towards women and female sexuality. Pass the sick bucket.

Comments From You

Kelly // Posted 15 February 2010 at 5:46 pm

Oh god, I hate when sexists try to play the underdogs, using the same human rights angle? Like, even though complaints are piling in – that’s not fair cos I have a right to exploit who I want. Not so much human rights so much as Man Rights – I think Peter confuses the two and for so long as been rotting in his dungholes, he’s forgotten women form part of the ‘human’ bit. The types of stories you hear from girls at these clubs are never heartwarming. I’ll give you the sick bucket when I’m done Laura!

It just seems like it’s a big game – women are OURS, no we’re not – sexism and harrassment is fair game, just like buying coffee, no it’s not. To quote Finn Mackay, it’s a battle being fought over our bodies.

In other news, Object are amazingg!! Just shows what grass root work can do. I think an important underlying message here: women need to show we’re offended by sexism; and not just take it on the chin as part of our culture. It’s bullying and oppression, it’s not necessary and it needs to end.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 15 February 2010 at 10:17 pm

pretty positive step. regulation is important and it might be seen as less casual. im surprised, i was under the impression we were moving in the opposite direction!

JenniferRuth // Posted 16 February 2010 at 9:05 am

Object have done such an amazing job on this. I feel like baking them a massive cake!

Peter Stringfellow has probably never seen women as fully human so I am not surprised he is fighting to keep them as his possessions. I feel very optimistic that he will not win though.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 16 February 2010 at 11:24 am

Well done Object for never giving up and instead continuing to lobby for regulation of the sex industry.

Stringfellow clearly believes human rights means the right for men to treat and view women as disposable sexualised commodities. Doubtless Stringfellow will claim this latest legislation denies individuals (ergo men) freedom of choice wherein ‘choosing’ to reduce women to men’s sexualised commodities is supposedly ‘choice’ not perpetuating the white male supremacist system over all women and girls.

Octavia // Posted 16 February 2010 at 11:48 am

Oh, comments section of The Times interview is just depressing, as I suspected it would be. Is it a requirement that any article relating to the sexist, objectification of women MUST contain at least two comments talking about how “men are naturally programmed to treat women as sex objects, it’s in their biology, they can’t help it, so get over it”?

NO! Men aren’t “just animals” who, bless ’em, can’t help but stare and drool and touch and (in their heads at least) dominate; who can’t help but let the content of their pants do their thinking for them. That they’re powerless to ‘biology’. That, to me, is all just a very convenient excuse for a lack of normal, civilized self-control.

Men are humans who are perfectly capable of respecting other fellow humans, not subjecting them to, and encouraging, demeaning behaviour.

Mobot // Posted 16 February 2010 at 8:19 pm

Glad to hear this campaign has produced some encouraging results. Without wishing to derail too much from the positivity of this topic, I’d just like to share that I’ve been a bit miffed by what I’ve heard from members of Object in the past. I’m always a bit cagey when it comes to making moral judgements about what other women do, particularly where class issues tend to be involved. At an event where members of Object were present, I voiced my concerns about university educated women essentially telling other – often working class – women that stripping (for example) is wrong. This didn’t go down particularly well and I felt like I was being lectured, which was odd, as everyone in the room, myself included, identified as feminist and as such I expected it’d be a safe space to throw ideas around. It made me want to ‘back off’ a bit from this kind of campaigning, particularly as I had friends who had been strippers who felt that attacked by feminists. It’s a minefield, I know – I don’t buy the idea that objectifying women can be ’empowering’ as claimed by some people, but I also can’t quite bring myself to associate myself with what’s perceived as the ‘moral highground’ if it alienates other women who I see as my equals. Anyway, like I said, apologies for the rant and good work on the campaign. Just have a few negative associations with Object that need shaken off.

Jessica901 // Posted 16 February 2010 at 10:14 pm

Natural? You only need to look at how oppressed races of men have treated white women much more human than privileged white male counterparts. And still now, when speaking to my Chinese and Indian male friends, I tend to be treated way more human than when white older males talk to me, or how I’d be treated at a lap dance club. I forget I’m even female talking to more oppressed males. It’s just a power game extending to other races, groups, cultures, beliefs – whatever biology those in power can use to keep these oppressed groups down, gets used. Women having the more obvious surface biological differences get the most propaganda handling their oppression.

Any clown can see the degradation at these clubs isn’t natural. It’s a synthetic setting. Degradation is so natural it’s payed for! and leaves many girls scarred for a long time – what’s natural?!

Octivia, I’ve given up with newspaper comments – it’s just a celebration of edge culture – good natured comments are a fish out of water. The more subtly racist, offended at the imaginary PC scapegoats, sexist, looking backwards you are the better. Trouble is, edge culture isn’t limited to free internet commenting. Hence why Object has to work so hard. Good nature, genuinity, feelings, are looked down on with this culture increasingly as weak.

coldharbour // Posted 16 February 2010 at 11:06 pm

“men are naturally programmed to treat women as sex objects, it’s in their biology”

Quite ironic considering this is the kind of deterministic polemicist view Jennifer Drew wheels out every time there an article on the sex industry. I can see how male capitalists like Stringfellow can reduce themselves to conflating biological sex and behavior if it leads to legitimizing deregulation in their enterprises, feminists on the other hand adopting that philosophy just seems perverse. The greatest protection for workers in any industry is better regulation (so in this sense the new law is a good thing) and the right to legally collectively organize in the form of a trade union. It’s unfortunate Jennifer Drew and Object want to deny sex workers the same basic human/employment rights as the rest of society.

Laura // Posted 17 February 2010 at 9:29 am

@ coldharbour – Do Object want to deny sex workers human/employment rights? This campaign was about regulating the licensing of strip clubs, not calling for them to be banned or for workers there to be denied rights. Indeed, Object say that they hope the new license will enable councils to put rules in place that will go some way towards protecting workers.

coldharbour // Posted 17 February 2010 at 11:48 am

They opt for the “Nordic” model which effectively still makes prostitution illegal prohibiting any effective self-representation for sex-workers. I find the ultra-sexual conservative nomenclature on their website rather disturbing to be honest, their philosophy seems to mirror the Judeo-Christian principle of asexualising society as if thats what the majority of woman automatically want (because nice girls are never sex-positive). “Challenging the demand for prostitution” is not something society should or indeed can do by the nation state (i.e. the police and the courts) regulating consenting sexual behaviour. The “demand for prostitution” is an immensely complex social phenomenon that is a byproduct of a multitude of factors, its not something that can be reduced to solving by outdated and inept state legislation.

Jessica901 // Posted 17 February 2010 at 5:14 pm

Some of us aren’t interested in workers rights… our concern is the licensing of lapdance clubs on every street, the abundance of these clubs. Of course it’s easy pay for some women – does that mean it’s right objectification can be paid for? That there’s places men can go to to see women dehumanised…

Some of us just aren’t liberal feminists and see the bigger picture instead of having our heart strings pulled at every derail. The bigger picture is that these clubs are a form of evil, that’s if you see paid for oppression as evil – I do.

Jessica901 // Posted 17 February 2010 at 5:24 pm

Coldharbour – really? I’ve been to an Object meeting. Object are in favour of sex as am I. They just want culture to reflect the full range of sexual appetites of women. Not just males’, often involving degradation. They wouldn’t care if sex was in our faces day by day, they state their problem being the *type* of female sexuality we’re sold, which is very narrow. That lap dance clubs involve degradation is no secret.

If prostitution is pay per rape (as many sex wokers attest), then it should be illegal. Full stop. There’s no complication to it. It’s rape when women involved in the work say this is the case.

And please! Stop playing the ‘prude’ card. you fully know has nothing to do with Object’s or any feminist’s aims.

makomk // Posted 17 February 2010 at 5:26 pm

coldharbour: nah, you’re missing the important distinction. The “naturally programmed” argument denies men’s responsibility for their own actions. Jennifer Drew and co believe that men are responsible for their own actions while claiming that society programs them all to act that way.

Laura Woodhouse: it’s kinda hard to shut down a whole bunch of workplaces without affecting the employees – and shutting them down is the point of this bill. Then there’s stuff like this Fawcett Society report on how the sex industry and its “degrading imagery” is hurting good professional women – that had a big influence on government policy, and it requires an awful lot of contortion to interpret it in a way that doesn’t attack the workers.

In particular, there’s no way to read the statement “yet lap dancing clubs are a form of commercial sexual exploitation and fuel sexist attitudes towards women” such that it doesn’t either (a) accuse the women of working there of hurting other women, or (b) strip them of agency.

Jane // Posted 17 February 2010 at 8:20 pm

From a lap dancer herself:

‘Elena doesn’t believe that lap-dancing is about sex, instead, she says,”It fosters sexual violence. It is damaging even if people are doing it voluntarily. I chose it and that’s part of the problem. Even if lap-dancers did make loads of money, it would be irrelevant – paying a lot for something doesn’t make it all right. The point about lap-dancing clubs is to ask what they represent culturally and what they do to all of us, not just women working in them”.’

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/mar/19/gender.uk

It really makes me angry how the people bemoaning worker’s rights don’t actually listen to the workers themselves – just the Stringfellow et al rhetoric!

Just like prostitution, consent is shady when ‘informed’, i.e. I’ll strip off for everyone, doesn’t mean I *want* to do it for everyone. It means, consent is scrapped for money.

Mobot // Posted 18 February 2010 at 11:01 am

Again, this always ends up being divisive stuff, let’s not attack each other about it, divide and conquer and all that!

But seriously, I keep hearing that ‘playing the prude’ card is just part of the anti feminist backlash etc. and in general I’d be inclined to agree, it’s a red herring…

BUT at the same time, my experiences of Object lead me to think, ‘well if this alienates me as a socialist feminist, how must it make other women feel?’

For the record I believe that I object to much of the same stuff as Object… but I’ve had enough of being shouted at by middle class women because I’m not living in a world where I think we can ‘consciousness raise’ other women out of making choices we disagree with.

Maybe it’s just the fact that I’m at a prestigious uni and there’s a clash of culture going on. I know not all who oppose strip clubs and the like are uppity and patronising but for the love of god, why do I keep coming across these people?!

Jane // Posted 18 February 2010 at 3:42 pm

Mobot, I’m not gonna apologise. I always see attacks legitimate only when thrown from someone with greater privilege.

Middle class might have privilege of upbringing, but feminists, especially those against objectifaction and porn, get more crap than any other type. Divide and conquer is what a lot of social feminists seem to do, here for e.g, who miss the bigger picture.

Go back to my comment with the lapdancer story, even she can see the important aspect of Object campaigning is the wider impact of objectifcation on wider society.

So middle class girls shouldn’t get a say in their objectification, when at universities trying to compete against the odds, because they already have wayy too much privilege?

I think we’re all too eager to jump on cliche ‘man hater/ sex hater’ arguments with porn, lap dancing – given by a dominant culture very opposed to feminism- because it depends what side of edge culture we’re on. Yes, prude is a totally inappropriate slur to use against a feminist, I’ve yet to meet any against sex itself, as a radical feminist. Mostly just against the slim portrayal of sex.

Personally I’m of the belief middle class women and working class are on the same footing, as women oppressed, hated by society in equal measure. Why it matters whether those trying to campaign get shouted at for ‘not doin’ it right’; and some being too annoying and ‘privileged’ (as a woman in a patriarchy?!)

earwicga // Posted 18 February 2010 at 5:38 pm

“Personally I’m of the belief middle class women and working class are on the same footing, as women oppressed, hated by society in equal measure.”

Personally I believe this is bullshit!

Laura // Posted 18 February 2010 at 10:10 pm

Yes, I hardly think it’s fair to say middle and working class women are on the same footing, just look at the level of vitriol spewed at women perceived to be ‘chavs’ for a start, nevermind the lifelong effects of being born into poverty.

Mobot // Posted 19 February 2010 at 12:21 am

@Jane: oh well, if *even* a stripper agrees, you must be right! Sorry (and yes, I will apologise, if only for saying things that might exacerbate a divide where there should be solidarity) but a classic sign of privilege appears to be insistence that there is no privilege!

Nobody is saying that just because someone is middle class or university educated that they inherently have less right to an opinion, or a less valid way of campaigning than people from working class backgrounds. But the ‘bigger picture’ to me suggests that, as third wave feminists argue, women and patriarchy do not exist in a vacuum. Neither are monolithic, they are relational concepts. Women can be instrumental to other women’s oppression on the basis of class – look at early feminists! They did so much to progress our rights in the greater scheme of things, but at the expense of other ‘less important’ women. Please explain to me how the women who effected and benefited from political change and the women who were invisible in this movement were equal. Ok, so that’s a historical example. I like Bev Skeggs’ writing on gender and class – she discusses how being middle class in contemporary UK society is about ‘respectability’ and morality – this has implications for working class women that are not just about the common struggle of all women for equality with men. Without the context, what on earth is the point of this elusive ‘big picture’?

PS sorry for derailing. And I very much doubt that anyone in this thread would dream of accusing anyone else of ‘man hating’ or being ‘annoying’. I’m only pointing out a moral dilemma about who gets to tell whom what’s right and wrong.

Jane // Posted 19 February 2010 at 12:32 am

You’re entitled to your opinions, me to mine earwicga. Ffs..

I’m not a person who desperately tries to get angry over who is more abused by the system – just angry by sexism. I’m angry how feminists like me, who don’t give a shit about the world apart from how it affects her, aren’t given a voice. Liberals trying to force their idea of feminism on everyone. You can’t be a feminist without having the rest of the world on your shoulders. Why feminism never appeals to the masses – it’s a big liberal bitching fest about who feels sorriest for rice workers in Africa. I’ve lost count of the times innocent women are attacked for harmless opinions on the f word – the attack onset only if she’s a feminist, then people feel entitled to immediately throttle her with contrasting or more liberal opinions (see breastfeeding thread and countless others). Yuck. This high horse thing has no appeal whatsoever. And it’s not the mods I’m talking about.

I think feminism needs a serious revamp. Why should a feminist be raging liberal, and have to tread her feet more than random trolls? For example, someone can be angry at the sexism she faces, but not really care about ‘chav’ oppression amongst other things.

Laura // Posted 19 February 2010 at 8:11 am

@ Jane,

I’m angry how feminists like me, who don’t give a shit about the world apart from how it affects her, aren’t given a voice. […] …someone can be angry at the sexism she faces, but not really care about ‘chav’ oppression amongst other things

Feminism is about liberating all women from the many patriarchal oppressions that prevent us living our lives freely and in a self determined way. If you only ‘give a shit’ about yourself, that’s individualism, not feminism.

FeminaErecta // Posted 19 February 2010 at 10:51 am

@Jane

I think that in some cases you are right- we live in a world where unfortunatly many people only do ‘good’ things in order to feel better about themselves, or make themselves appear ‘better’ than other people in their peer group, a constant state of one-up-man-ship that can be depressing. But this is a character flaw, if this was found in the world of business it would be a good thing.

However, I am a ‘liberal’ (I’m not, I’m a Feminist Marxist, but you get my point). I can’t say things I want to say in the real world without being branded a ‘domestic extremist’ and having my name put on a photo-sheet so I get followed by police whenever I walk accross London. I can’t say the things I think in the office without being ostricized by my fellow workers. I can’t dress how I want to dress or have my hair the way I want or not shave my legs or just be myself without having ‘dyke’ comments shouted at me in the street. I can’t go anywhere on my own without someone commenting I won’t be ‘safe’. I can’t even read the Guardian on my lunch hour without a bitchy comment from a co-worker, (who doesn’t ‘give a shit’ about anyone else but herself, will make a massive fuss when she finds out she being paid less than a man (as she well should) but won’t sign a petition against Shell Oil building gas refineries in national parks, or Nestle exploiting people in the devolping world because it’s ‘nothing to do with her’) that I’m ‘up-myself’. In the popular press people like me are laughed at, stigmatised and called things like ‘looney left’. Thats right, it is perfectly acceptable in this country for a daily newspaper to equate caring about other people and thinking that sharing wealth and resources , and giving everyone the same chances as everyone else, with a derogatory term for mental illness.

When I come online to a place like ‘the fword’ it gives me hope that I’m not alone, that other people are as angry as me not just at the opression we suffer as women, but at all opressions. I have learnt so much from this website and its contributors, about cis-privelige, about being ableist (which I hadn’t even thought that much about before much to my shame). I’ve been shot down before in the comment threads, but you take it and learn from it. This is the only chance I get to talk to other people and learn from them about issues that I am dealing with without being made to feel like an outsidor or a freak, or being patronisingly patted on the head by my frineds who tell me how much they love my ‘little rants’.

If you don’t care about anyone else but yourself, fine, but don’t have a go at people who do because we get it everywhere we go, we don’t need it in out safe space.

gadgetgal // Posted 19 February 2010 at 11:04 am

@FeminaErecta – beautiful, and right :)

Julie K // Posted 19 February 2010 at 11:49 am

@ Jane – you’re angry about how “feminists like you, who don’t give a shit about anything except themselves, aren’t given a voice”. Well, why not just turn that around for a second? If you don’t give a shit about anyone but yourself (and I’m struggling to see how you can call that “being a feminist”), then why on earth should you expect anyone else to give a shit about you?

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