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Guest blog: Lapdancing - time to disparage the Farage?

(115 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 26-Apr-13 12:34:57

This week, UKIP leader Nigel Farage admitted visiting a lap-dancing club; according to the Guardian, he told journalists "I thought bloody hell, this is really good". Mumsnet blogger and author Rosie Fiore, who blogs over at Wordmonkey, is under-impressed.

"So this image popped up on Facebook yesterday, complete with a plethora of LOLs and likes. It seems loads of women think stripping would be a fun lifestyle choice, if only their boobies were perky enough.

And then a few hours later, I read that Nigel Farage, UKIP leader, ex-City metals trader and the UK's 'least unpopular political leader' (!?) has come under fire for admitting that he has visited lap-dancing clubs in the past and enjoyed it. He says it"s because he's honest and, unlike other political leaders, is not living in a 'PC world'. He insists that this admission is not evidence that he is anti-women.

When the accusation was put to him, he apparently laughed it off. 'That's really rather silly,' he said. 'I have to tell you, if I'd been anti-women, then the whole of my adult life would have been just that much simpler.' Don't know how to tell you, Nige, but gay and anti-women - not the same.

So both things got me thinking about strip clubs and lap-dancing clubs, possibly one of the oddest cultural phenomena I can think of. After all, the notion that a group of people of one gender goes to sit in a room, while members of the other gender take off their clothes to display their secondary sex characteristics - well, it's a bit damned odd, is it not? Here's what Camille Paglia, the redoubtable post-feminist theorist had to say about it.

'That's what the strip clubs are about; not woman as victim, not woman as slave, but woman as goddess.'

While I've always been fascinated by Ms Paglia and think a lot of what she has to say is ground-breaking, this one has never rung true for me. This is why. In 1991, when I was fresh out of university, I worked in a strip club in my home town of Johannesburg, South Africa.

I had graduated with a drama degree and every expectation of a glittering career on the stage and screen, but six months later I was working in a restaurant, and the stage and screen seemed to be getting along just fine without me. I rang my agent and expressed my frustration, and, probably just to get me off the line, he made a suggestion which changed my life forever. 'Write a play about out-of-work actresses working as strippers,' he said. The idea caught flame, and I decided to do just that. But in order to write, I needed to experience, so aged 21, I took a job as a food and beverage manager in one of Johannesburg's most notorious strip clubs.

In the few weeks that I worked here, these are some of the examples of 'goddess worship' I experienced in that fine emporium.

- Girls as young as 17 stripping completely naked (then illegal in South Africa, still allegedly illegal in the UK)
- Women stepping offstage and being paid their fee in cash, then instantly spending the same money in the club on food, alcohol and drugs
- Women working the lunchtime shift and then leaving to work as prostitutes in nearby hotels
- The manager threatening both strippers and patrons with a gun on more than one occasion
- A girl who worked in the club fell pregnant by the owner's son. He procured her an (illegal) abortion, and then insisted she go straight back to work. I saw her pack her vagina with tampons and cotton wool, swallow painkillers, then go on and dance. In between dances, she would curl up on the sofa and read comic books and giggle. She was eighteen years old.

So, not so much with the Goddess worship. While clubs vehemently deny that they encourage prostitution, a report commissioned by London Metropolitan University found that alcohol, drug addiction and pressure from punters mean that women often need to offer sexual favours to make the work pay.

It's not as lucrative as you might think, either - and there is zero job security. Generally, the girls pay a fee to the clubs in order to work, and only get paid if they are hired to dance. If there are too many girls (as there frequently are), they may earn nothing - but must still pay to be there. A study by the University of Leeds found that 70% of women had left a shift without any money because of the fees and fines they had had to pay the club.

So call me judgmental, but it seems to me that the very notion of the strip club or lap-dance club as it currently exists is anti-women, and that men that visit them and perpetuate the set-up are condoning it.

And even if you leave the whole sex industry thing aside, where does Mrs Farage come into the whole equation? There is a Mrs Farage by the way - a second wife, Kirsten, mother of Farage's two young daughters. Her views on the issue are not recorded, but I know I'd be less than thrilled if my husband's night out included a little light crotch-grinding with a woman he'd paid for. On the continuum of infidelity, that's pretty damned close to the danger zone.

So let's go back to Farage's assertion that he is not 'anti-women'. The accusation that he was sexist was levelled by ex-UKIP MEP Marta Andreasen, who left the party two months ago, citing Farage's gender discrimination and bullying. She has since joined the Conservatives. Her stance is particularly notable because she was the only female MEP UKIP had, since Nikki Sinclaire was expelled from the party in 2010. Even David 'Calm Down Dear' Cameron can boast a few women in his cabinet. UKIP now has precisely zero.

It seems to me, Mr Farage, that you're okay with the exploitation of women, you're happy to visit a 'sex encounter establishment' even when you're married, and your party can't field a single candidate who represents 52% of the population. And in my view, if a man's idea of a fun night out is paying £20 to stare at the vulva of a young woman who has no job security, no employment rights and the constant threat of sexual harassment, he's certainly not pro-women. Just saying."

Rosie Fiore's new novel Wonder Women is available in eBook for the special price of £1.39, till May 1st. The paperback version will be out on 20th June.

FloraFox Tue 30-Apr-13 06:55:53

Sausage I would have assumed that if Brooke Magnanti was so keen on getting to the bottom of the numbers she would have reported male and female numbers separately and she would have identified stranger and non-stranger rapes. She also does a false comparison with Lambeth borough figures on the basis that there are no clubs in Lambeth. However, as far as I know, one does not need to be a resident of Camden to be allowed entry to a strip club and Tottenham Court Road (part of Camden) is the same distance from Hampstead (part of Camden) as it is from Lambeth. The distinction between the Boroughs is flawed.

Magnanti's report is so flawed and her agenda so palpable, that I'd need to hear a response from the authors of Lilith before accepting it is a zombie. If the numbers in Lilith are correct or incorrect but still meaningful, that supports a ban on strip clubs but that report is far from the only reason for a ban and therefore even if they are wrong, that is not the end of the story. There are other reasons to ban strip clubs as already pointed out in the thread.

Sausageeggbacon Tue 30-Apr-13 08:55:22

Flora I would love for the report writers to answer the questions as well. Strangely when asked there has never been a reply. So guess it will never happen. And yes the distinction of boroughs is flawed would like to ask the authors about that as well as it was a key argument in writing the report.

So we can take the issue about rape out of the equation as Lilith holds no value as you have pointed out. So we then get to the other issues.

Objectification as it is called or sexual desire as the average person would view it is fairly natural and occurs with or without clothes and will remain so as long as human beings choose mates for reproduction. Our whole lives we are viewed as objects... titles like employee, wife, mother these are all labels that take away from our individuality (and for the men yes the labels can apply to both sexes). Throughout life we will be objects it is part of how the world is. Sexual object just relates to the desire to reproduce.

Dancers are trafficked. Well no strip club was raided during Pentameter or Pentameter II so guessing that statement is inaccurate.

The dancers do it as they can't do anything else. Actually 87% of dancers have some form of higher education and around one third of dancers are funding their way through university rather than end up with crippling debts.

The dancers are exploited. In the same way that anyone earning a living is exploited, unfortunately to earn money people work and most jobs cause exploitation of some sort. The dancers now have the option though of joining either Equity or the GMB so at least there is representation. Plus the councils issue guidelines that clubs need to follow to look after the dancers.

The strippers are prostitutes grinding on men's laps. This fallacy is one that occurs because of the word lapdance, in the past it was true but now the guidelines say that dancers can't touch the customer and obviously the customer can't touch the dancer so quite how something sexual happens with no contact I am not sure.

Thank you TonyN for the information from the blog I have borrowed a lot of your arguments. And at this point I will stop with one last question to everyone who is commenting about wanting to close the clubs

Why do you believe you have the right to decide for 10,000 women their choice is wrong and yours is right.

FloraFox Tue 30-Apr-13 18:20:33

No we can't take the rape / sexual assault issue out. Just because the Lilith report may be flawed or even if it is flawed does not mean the problem does not exist.

I would dispute most of your other "evidence" on the points but getting to your last point, all legislation is a removal of choice to some extent. This is very nature of a society governed by the rule of law. There are a number of theories around why we legislate including prevention of harm (either to individuals, particular groups or to general society) and to create the type of society that we want to live in. All of these decisions affect or remove choice from some or all of us, including in the way we work.

Some of these laws recognise that consent or choice is not straightforward and can be flawed by other pressures. For example, we recognise that poverty and an imbalance of power in an employment situation are more important than the "rights" of individuals to choose to work for less than the minimum wage or to work without minimum safety requirements or for a pregnant woman to work up to her due date. You and I cannot agree that I will remove your kidney because I am not a surgeon but even if I was the most skilled surgeon in America, I could not remove your kidney in the UK.

In other situations, we don't allow people to make choices we think might be harmful to them, such as wearing seatbelts or taking illegal drugs or harmful to society in general, such as drink driving.

We also create a society we want to live in e.g. broadcasting and advertising standards, fair trading standards, competition laws.

Advertising laws already recognise that sexual and objectified images of women demean women in general:

www.guardian.co.uk/media/2013/apr/10/american-apparel-ad-banned

Some of these laws affect some people disproportionately. For example, a large man with a tolerance for alcohol might be a safe driver even with a few drinks over the limit whereas someone like me would not be a safe driver even a little below the limit. So laws can have disproportionate effects on some people.

There are lots of reasons why some people oppose stripping - some believe that the women themselves are harmed or a significant number of them are harmed though perhaps not all, some believe women in general are harmed, some believe society is better without it. In any event, we live in a democracy and we are entitled to make decisions that affect other people's (and our own) choices where we believe this is the right thing to do.

DutyElected Tue 30-Apr-13 18:41:11

That's a very thoughful post, FloraFox.

My minor contribution is to try to answer the question about 'who gets to decide' another way.

Perhaps, just perhaps, I campaigned hard and got democratically elected as a local politician and was then voted on my city's Licensing Committee and am thus able to vote on SEV policy and applications.

Perhaps I read threads like this and see the SEV apologists twist and turn and I wonder how the industry really works and is constructed and who is making the real money.

I have looked at the stats for two unitary authorities including my own with regard to SEV policies and the numbers of women sitting on Licensing Committees and the voting patterns; and it does seem that women who have the power to vote do not want to vote for SEVs as much as the men with the power to vote want to vote for them.

err objectification is not sexual desire.

how could anyone think that objectification and sexual desire are the same thing unless they have a very warped sexuality which is indeed synonymous with objectifying the opposite sex and then projects that peculiarity onto the rest of us.

emcwill74 Tue 30-Apr-13 19:12:05

What Flora says! Bear in mind that TonyN and the other contributors to that blog have an agenda of their own (and they really hate posters on MN who disagree with them!) When they claim it is all about the dancers and how they are protecting their choice, they are not simply doing that. They are protecting what they see as their 'right' to commodify a woman's body and [a narrow, male-defined version of] sexuality (basically, to see tits'n'arse when they fancy it). To ignore the wider effects on society by reducing it to the dancers' choice alone is to grossly simply the issue.

BasilBabyEater Tue 30-Apr-13 20:56:12

Also they frame it as if having laptops is a default and not having them is some kind of militant censorship, talking about taking away women's choices, when what they mean is that we'd take away men's choices to go to places where their desire to objectify women is validated.

What about the fact that by having these places, our choice to live in a society where we are considered full human beings, is taken away? Why do they feel so strongly, that we need clubs where women are objectified, that somehow freedom would be taken away if we stood up and said "actually, women are human beings, not masturbatory aids and we're going to take away one of the places which encourage men to forget that"?

The cleverest thing oppressors do, is to re-frame their oppression as the choice of the oppressed. Remember that editorial in the Times in c19 about how every man has the right to starve in the street if he wants to? They weren't keen on any other right for homeless men, but the right to starve in the street - ooh yes, they were very keen on that one. Pah.

Sausageeggbacon Tue 30-Apr-13 21:28:45

Flora So there is no proof of rape/sexual assault being linked to striptease without the Lilith report so it becomes a point of view and if you look at say Newquay where rape halved after the introduction of a club I certainly can't see any correlation. So okay point of view with nothing to validate it.

As you point out legislation can limit choice, however striptease is not illegal in this Country so the choice is valid legally. If the law changes then fine but till then a valid legal choice.

So your point of view is stripping will be negative on women, that is your point of view and while I don't agree I can respect it. However I would suggest you take time to talk to a dancer or two to find out what they think.

Still I doubt that people will talk to dancers, they will judge from the comfort of their own chairs.

Best view on Objectification I have seen is GirlWritesWhat on youtube. She can exlain it better than I can.

At this point we are going to talk in circles so going to bail out as we are now just locked on points of view. So long as Lilith isn't pointed at as a valid argument I am happy just letting everyone have their points of view as I have made mine.

FloraFox Tue 30-Apr-13 21:53:21

Sausage I have friends who were strippers and prostitutes, one of whom stayed with me for a while at the time she was dancing. I realise you may want to think of yourself as edgy and open-minded because you have a friend who is a stripper but don't assume those of us who are against it are sitting at home clutching our pearls.

I suggest you check back with your friend after she stops dancing and ask her what she thinks looking back on it. Ask her how empowered she felt when a guy told her her arse was too fat for him or her tits were too small. Ask her how much money she had to pay the club for the privilege of being allowed to work and how often she went home with fuck all to show for her efforts. Ask her if she had to pay tax and NI on her earnings would she still have done it. That is, if she can even bear to talk about it.

Sausageeggbacon Wed 01-May-13 06:39:51

Flora I will. Considering though there are 10,000 women estimated dancing at the moment as you said one or or two opinions would not even be a statistical bump either way. Although considering striptease has been going since 1958 I would have thought any issue with dancers would have shown by now if there was something major.

What I do want to do is kill the other Zombie stat that pops up about Bristol. There is a report that was produced by Bristol Fawcett that showed a high number of sexual crimes occurred in the vicinity of of 3 strip clubs. What the people who got the report neglected to do was point out that the clubs were in the same area as all the major night clubs in what the council and police call a crime impact zone. In the 2011 review of licenses whilst the location was acknowledged NO BLAME was assigned to the strip clubs.

Think the issues with assigning blame to clubs when they are located in the same area as nightclubs, bars and restaurants is difficult unless there is some sort of bench mark. Got a good example of this with the clubs in Stockport. One is deep in the heart of the night time economy and another is less than a mile away. Not surprisingly the one in the night club area is surrounded by violent crime (rape and sexual crimes are listed as violent when using the police.uk website). However the other one has practically nothing based on the figures for 2011. These figures are based on the same research principles as the Bristol Fawcett figures.

Anyway I must stay away unless I see the Zombies rearing their heads and munching into peoples brains.

FloraFox Wed 01-May-13 08:25:03

Have you actually read this one or is this another re-spout from a punter's blog?

Still, keep up the good work, eh? hmm

Sausageeggbacon Wed 01-May-13 09:12:58

Actually I read the council minutes which I was sent a link to.

Zombies are out there.

LazarussLozenge Wed 01-May-13 20:10:02

Having read through Lilith these past few days, I feel any report that has such 'shock factor' trigger words embedded deserves naught but the shredder.

'‘performances in which the breasts, genitalia and excretory organs are exposed’'

How strip dances are described within the opening pages. Excretory organs... really?

I believe the writer got a bit carried away in trying to stir up outrage.

What is more of shame is that she used the name Lilith, arguably a fine example for feminists everywhere (if you miss out the baby snatching, which was probably only put in to demonise her).

BasilBabyEater Wed 01-May-13 21:55:04

Isn't the arse part of the excretory organs then?

Oops, sorry, it's the bit Nigel Farrage talks through, forgot.

<Boom, boom>

Sorry, I'll get me coat.

LazarussLozenge Thu 02-May-13 15:28:48

If you're lucky a gentleman will hold it for you.

Most 'excretory' organs are well hidden. Unless she's deliberately exposing them... whch I don't think is really part of most dances.... unless you pay more perhaps.

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