Thursday, 9 October 2008

Documentary- Dispatches: The Hidden World of Lap Dancing

Sorry I’m a couple of days late on this one, but thank god for More 4, because I’m still without laptop. This episode of Dispatches followed a poor beleaguered reporter who was forced to go undercover in lap dancing clubs (it’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it). He discovered sometimes the lap dancers get a bit close (no shit) and occasionally, with the emphasis on occasionally, sex is offered.
Firstly, as a feminist, let me say I have massively mixed feelings about lap dancing. I completely agree that they should be licensed as sexual entertainment; not dancing. It IS sexual entertainment, and the law around them seems very ropey, and to have been designed with deliberate loop-holes. It does seem wrong. So I totally agree with that side of it.
BUT there is another side of it I just can't get excited about. I do not CARE if men want to go and watch women rub their fannies in their faces. I think the men are fools; they are paying mega bucks for what is essentially a load of hot air. I am also quite happy for women to make their money that way. It’s not what I want to do, but I am not going to deny others their liberty. Women are objectified everywhere you look, and it is depressing, but I can’t get excited about it when there are so much bigger issues facing women. To change the way magazines/ society sees women will take a hundred years, in my opinion. There are other fights we can win much sooner.
As for Mr and Mrs Jones going 'I hate the thought of what goes on in there' well, don't think about it! There is massively fucked-up stuff going on behind closed doors EVERYWHERE, but it’s none of your business. Part of it is just about one section of society trying to assert their moral values on another. One woman was like ‘we have to walk past it every day’, so what? It’s just like walking past a shop. It’s just a shop with a picture of a woman outside.
I understand to an extent why you’d be annoyed if there was a lapdancing club right beneath your block of flats because you might get comments from men/ a bit of hassle, but that is a problem with MEN, not lap dancing. And again, the licensing should be changed. That has nothing to do with what actually goes on inside the clubs, and the morality of it.
There is an odd group of people against lapdancing, and it seems a strange marriage between the very conservative and the feminists opposing the clubs. I want to really distance myself as much from the highly conservative people as possible; and I think feminists have a danger of looking po-faced and even anti-women in this debate. BUT porn and sex work is always something that divides feminists, and always will. I personally think prostitution should be legalised; and made safer. You can’t stop it. So make it safer for the women.
Personally I wanted to see more of the reporter’s FACE when he was getting the lapdances! I wonder if he got excited? Haha. Also, what amazing bodies the women had! Bloody hell. And how funny was that councillor bloke they interviewed for about 30 seconds? He was a comedy character in waiting!
So, licensing laws bad, busy-bodies bad, feminism doing it’s best and lap dancing not bad. That’s my position on it.


lookindie said...

Hmm, not sure that it's quite that simple; I agree that men who pay to watch women gyrate around naked are fools, and in that context I suppose that it's faintly satisfying to think that they are being deprived of their hard-earned money in this manner. But do you really think that the money is being diverted to the women whose job it is to dance for them? Rather the money ends up going to other disgusting, manipulative men, men whose involvement in the sordid exchange is significantly more distasteful.

Equally, I have the same attitude towards small C conservatives with nimby attitudes, but that doesn't mean that the social impact on residents is not more significant than you suggest. There's a (heavy irony) gentleman's club not far from where I live and the street outside it is often heavy with men in the evenings, whose behaviour often varies from aggressive to lecherous and back again. If it was at the bottom of my street, I would take the long route to avoid it, and as a young man myself I need hardly feel threatened; just... disgusted.

Elsewhere, you're absolutely right to say that the objectification of women is everywhere, and probably right to say that there are other fights which are more important. However, I think there are a couple of points to be made here. Firstly, while there may be other fights to be fought, this is a fight that can actually be won, and without an enormous amount of difficulty. Those opportunities are rare, and it's worth considering whether we should take them where we find them. Secondly, the problem - if you choose to view it as one - is now so widespread that it needs to be tackled right across the board.

Lastly, it can't be the case that 'liberty' is an appropriate word to describe the right to find employment as a sex worker!

All that aside - I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the programme; it was one of the best Dispatches I've seen for a while, and appalling but fascinating viewing.

I wondered about the man's feelings on the matter too, while he was being thoroughly gyrated upon. It occured to me that possibly he was gay - but hopefully just evidence that some men truly are turned off by the fairly obscene (in more ways than one) sex industry. Not sure how I'd react! Hopefully the same way...

lightupvirginmary said...

I love it when someone who is obviously intelligent disagrees with me! I like being proved wrong!
I agree; I am simplifying it. The people running the clubs are using the women as the men are (although some are women themselves).
Aggressive lecherous men are everywhere; but if there is an increase of verbal abuse/ other incidents (and tangible evidence) outside lapdancing clubs, then either more security should be put on at the clubs cost) or more police should be in the area (or the club should be closed). The harsh truth is women are subjected to men's animalistic behaviour everywhere and anywhere, and that is something that can only be successfully changed by the next generation of parents teaching their sons to respect women. A man who respects women would not go to a lap dancing club.
Liberty IS the choice to be a lap dancer, or a topless model, or a porn star. That's freedom, and I'd rather have that that the alternative, which is the 1950s or Sharia law.
On it's so, so true that not all men find huge fake breasts in their face appealing, or sexy. Many men have quite different ideas of what is sexy, thank god.

Anonymous said...

Agreed - but still not sure about liberty and the sex industry. If there was a club which paid impoverished black people to dress up as slaves so that rich white people could come and humiliate them, would you defend the right of the black people to earn money through being defiled, or conclude that it was an infringement of their liberty to be dehumanised in such a way?

By most practical definitions, you're right (broadly) to describe the choice as a manifestation of liberty. But the implications run far deeper.

Liberty is also the right to be free of (mostly patriarchal) societal pressures, and the 'choice' to become a stripper, a porn star or a prostitute is a choice which contributes directly to the normalisation of sexual objectification.

I dunno what the stats are but there was some survey a while back which discovered a shocking number of very young children aspire to being glamour models or even lapdancers; it would be naive not to think that the growth in what Ariel Levy calls Raunch Culture has not had a direct impact. These children grow up with the pressure of being told it is normal to surrender to chauvinism. That doesn't sound like liberty to me.

So by claiming the defence of 'liberty' for the woman who "chooses" to become a lapdancer on the one hand, the defender of the sex industry fatally undermines a different kind of liberty on the other; it helps consolidate the notion of a society where human beings are commodified, objectified and sexualised.

It is, in other words, a pretty dangerous business, and one we shouldn't be shy to condemn!

lightupvirginmary said...

I know what you are saying, and personally I am sickened by children wanting to grow up to be Jordan or a footballers wife. When I was a child I wanted to be a writer (still do!)
But a lot of people's dreams are not realised. And what if working as a lapdancer is more convenient for some women, what if some women (shock!) enjoy it? Occasionally, people enjoy being debased/ objectified.
As for your black people analogy; I'd bet a million pounds there is some porn out there dedicated to that; and I'd also bet SOME people would not object to being humiliated in that way. Sexuality is a peculiar thing and I personally would not judge any sort of kink (as long as there is consent).
But I agree, young girls should not aspire to be lap dancers. But demonising lap dancers will not stop that. It will probably do the opposite.

Anonymous said...

Well, yes, probably there are people who enjoy being paid for sex - just as there are probably people who enjoy being punched and punished in bed, but that doesn't mean we should enshrine their right to be beaten in law. They are doubtless able to continue doing as they wish in the privacy of their homes - they are, however, deprived of that right in public, licensed premises - which seems only fair.

But I take your point - obviously I don't think that demonising lapdancers, nor prostitutes, is the answer. Strict, careful regulation, with their health and safety prioritised, is obviously what is needed.

But that does not mean, as a matter of principle, that we should let the real profiteers of the sex industry - from club owners to pimps - off the hook. And if that means closing the clubs down, we should do it. I may very well be wrong, but my suspicion is that if the two clubs in Brighton were shut down tonight, the young women who ply their trade there would find legal jobs elsewhere, rather than being sucked into the illegal sex industry. In ten years time, when there might be many more clubs, that may not be the case - we need to nip in the bud the relationship between the entertainment and the sex industry.

I sound very conservative here, I know - believe me I'm not trying to damn people's sexual preferences.

lightupvirginmary said...

I actually agree with your entire last post, which rather kills the conversation, but is definite progress!

Anonymous said...

Oh no! What do we talk about now? Can't you disagree on a technicality?

Ossian said...

What about the trend to make so-called pole-dancing like a sport or gym machine thing. I find it ugly. I mean I have the same degenerate tendencies as any other man, but I don't think we should have these clubs at all. It's no good hoping for men to stop going there, though, as they're all mostly degenerate pigs (in short).

The government was typically careless and slapdash in changing the licensing in a way that allowed this to proliferate. It was some stupid law that wasn't supposed to have this effect, but they've just let it continue for years. Like the way they created a duff new contract for doctors and ended up letting them get zillions more pay for less work, but they just don't seem to bother to fix it.

I've never been to a place like that, except about 20 years ago when I was in the Philippines and somebody thought it would be a great idea to take me to one of their strip clubs. (The entire MacArthur Highway from central Manila all the way out into the country was lined on both sides with them.) I saw some really, really beautiful poor women get naked and the one I remember was dancing to Tina Turner's Private Dancer, which I actually thought (through my drunken haze) was really a beautiful and ironic sight and sound. I still love that track, and vaguely love that woman for chosing it - if she did.

You could have them afterwards if you wanted to but I skipped that, turned down the offer. I don't claim any credit for that, because it was probably only because I would have been in dead trouble with certain people afterwards.

Anonymous said...

I am a lapdancer and it really isnt as seedy as people think it is! Yes every club has a dirty girl and that will never change! To all the women who think it is disgusting in my opinion is a tad jealous, not of the fact that we are paid to dance naked but for the fact that we are desired and are sexy for a living, who wouldnt want to be told she is beautiful everyday?! Also i think women are worried at the thought of their partner/husband going to a gentlemans club because you all think we have sex with the men in fact NONE of my customers have EVER tried to have sex with me, yeah u get a few who ask but they will! Plenty of women come in and have a dance and they love it! as long as you are a sensible dancer and you explain the boundaries very few cross them! a lapdancer is a FANTASY where i work all the girls appear available but never are available! The atmosphere is freindly and about half of all the customers only come in for a drink because the girls are freindly and they have a good time! They prefer to be with us than at a club in the middle of town where there is little security and are at risk of drunken thugs! Personally i think the men who pay are fools, you could get more from a prostitute for less! But thats the way it goes, i will never stop dancing and my husband doesnt mind me doing it either, women are beautiful and a nice natural body is lovely to look at, i agree some women take things too far and that is wrong, but you should be comfortable being naked and if someone wants to pay to see u naked more fool them! we were born with no clothes on so i dont see the problem in taking your clothes off. i admit i love the attention! Being paid for the way you look does make you feel very good about yourself and it keeps you very fit! A good poledancer is as fit as an athelete! Maybe before you carry on slagging us all off i suggest you have a go on the pole. Try and learn a lesson or two and see what we have to do, you will realise it is alot harder than it looks and does infact take alot of strength,determination and rhythm. You will never stop us dancing, only make us more determined!

lightupvirginmary said...

Hold on- I didn't slag lapdancers off. I believe in a woman's right to choose, and that included gainful employment doing whatever she sees fit.
Thanks for posting, it was good to hear that perspective.

Anonymous said...

i know you were not slagging us off but alot of people do! i am glad you posted about us! i feel i have to have my say! People say they think its discusting to grow up wanting to be jordan or a footballers wife.. why?! if you disowned your daugther for that she would only hate you! and are you really telling me you went through 9 months of pregnancy and 18 years of looking after that baby for them to hate you? would you not want them to talk to you and tell you where they go and what they do so that you know and you can make sure they are safe? i did not grow up wanting to be a dancer but after having 2 chidren and still having a good body i thought why not! i need 2 jobs, one i can work weekdays and one on weekends and i see this as a very good way to earn, instead of partying with my freinds i go to work, am bought champagne all night and paid alot of money for having a good time! my mother and father both know about it, everyone makes their living in their own way! To all you people on behalf of all of us dancers i just want you to know it is a compliment to know people like you didicate their lives in trying to stop us, thank you for making us the centre of your world!

lightupvirginmary said...

I don't think its disgusting to want to be Jordan or a footballers wife; just sad. I grew up wanting to be a novelist. I think young women should be encouraged to use their brains before their bodies.
BUT- that is not everyone's path in life. And I don't see anything wrong in making money from stupid men and keeping fit at the same time. Your story proves women can make the choice for themselves.
That is part of what I cannot reconcile myself with as a feminist; that feminists want to take away women's choice. I went to a feminist conference at the weekend and they were talking about anti porn, and women not being up for sale, but what about women who like porn, and what about women who are happy to put a part of themselves up for sale? I think it is anti-feminist to push this agenda on women. I also find it a bit patronising. Adults make adult choices. As I will, and you will.

Anonymous said...

Lots of good points here, and it's interesting and educative to read the viewpoint of a lapdancer. But I think that the key here is trying to examine this notion that people who oppose the sex industry are anti-choice and want to deprive people of pornography or make them feel ashamed of their sexual proclivities.

I think more accurate is that people who oppose - for example - the widespread production and sale of pornography are fighting for a principle. That principle - broadly that the sex industry is often tied up with the abuse and exploitation of women, and the reinforcement of negative gender stereotypes - can be compared to principles we discussed earlier. For example, the principle that it is wrong for men to beat women.

Now, just as before, there will be women who wish to be beaten, and will doubtless continue to do so, and there will be many more women (and men) who both use, and wish to make, pornography. They too will surely continue to do so and I have no moral objection at all to their doing so. They will be doing so through choice, yes. But that is not incompatible with a society which aims to uphold an important principle, which discourages porn.

It is, after all, possible to have a principle and apply that principle liberally, and that is what (I think) most rational feminists endorse.

I oppose censorship in all its forms, but I also strongly support the notion that communities, societies and indeed governments can strive to educate their stakeholders in good principles. Not moral high-handedness, nor political correctness, nor anti-choice; but merely pro-fairness, pro-equality and anti-exploitation. And injected with a healthy concern that when societies ascribe commerical values to people, they run the risk of debasing them.

Right, back off my high horse. Apologies if earlier comments sounded like an attack on lapdancers, as opposed to the scumbags that own and run the clubs.

lightupvirginmary said...

But if they are fighting for a 'principle' (which I am not sure I agree with, but I'll go with it) then why should one facet of society impose their principles on another? Why can't one live one way, and others live another? Not everyone has the same set of principles, which is why I don't think that feminists can take a general view on anything, actually. Feminists are divided on this because there is no compromise.
What about soft porn, or vanilla porn? What about women who make a lot of money from it? Again, I have no wish to make money in that way, but I don't care if others do. If there is a risk of exploitation etc then like with lapdancing, it is the clubs/ producers/ those in charge who should be taken to task, not the women (oh, you said that!)
The sex industry does largely portray women in a pathetic light. But so does mainstream media, and this imaginary society that actually cares one way or another about women, or porn, it's just a mirage. It feels like a moral judgement. Women want to look like blow up dolls now. But there are still many intelligent women out there making alternative choices. I just find this 'don't do this' attitude so patronising. Let people make their own minds up.
Your idea of society does sound utopian, but maybe in the next world...

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree that one section of society should not impose a set of principles on another, and you're probably right to label the argument I was trying to make as utopian. And I should probably have clarified that although I like to believe that society can establish good principles, I do also believe that they must be principles that we can broadly agree on. A good comparison might be, by way of example, the smoking ban, which lots of people hate but which a majority seem to think is a good idea on grounds of health, if not personal freedom.

So I'm not suggesting that people who oppose (or have grave doubts about) pornography or lapdancing impose their ideas on others - rather I'm kind of hoping that eventually they can win the argument by convincing people that their ideas are right. Personally I've never done anything to campaign or anything like that against the sex industry, indeed I've almost certainly used pornography myself more often than I have constructed arguments against it - but only by talking through ideas can we test them and see if they're right. I'm by no means sure that mine are, but I'm working on it...

Ossian said...

There was a series about a year or so ago that followed a woman trying to make a living out of lap dancing, and she had to pay so much money to the clubs for the privilege of abasing herself nightly that she was practically running at a loss. She would have been better off on minimum wages, or on benefit, I seem to recall, by the end. It got worse from week to week. A lot of them are trying to get pin money to keep them while they study etc. Billions for fat, drunk bankrupt geezers in banks but send your students out to strip for bank notes from the same fat, drunk, bankrupt geezers.

Unknown said...

Feminist have ruined this generation and will do so for the next they just want to control everything that makes normal Joe's happy. That's why chivalry is dead women badmouth men like lightupvirginmary create tension anger.So what if you are against lap dances and porn it's a free country and any kind censorship should be illegal.I'm all for woman's rights and equal pay. If you just want to censor everything you don't believe in freedom.