Thursday, April 16, 2009

Lapdancing - does it cause harm?

Costigan Quist has taken issue with a report I referred to in this posting the other day.

My main issue was with reality show Britain's Got Talent including an act at the very end which was to all intents and purposes a striptease - and one which got through the audition stage, too. Children are not normally permitted to view such material. Lapdancing clubs are open to adults only, yet this show brought what I feel is an inappropriate environment for children into our living room. For those who say that it was all good harmless fun and it was after the watershed, well, frankly, I would never have expected a programme which started at 7:45 pm, which is clearly aimed at families to contain such material. It was obvious that children would be watching and given that we were given no warning of what was about to take place, I could hardly get my daughter out of the room before it was shown.

Costigan's issue is with the Lilith Report's evidence about increase in reports of rapes and sexual assaults near lapdancing clubs. I take on board what he's saying that you can't prove cause and effect - but nor can you say that it is insignificant. I don't think you can dispute that these clubs do not help to reinforce the idea that women are equal members of society.

I found this study of lapdancing clubs in Glasgow and London interesting. It has no hesitation in concluding that lapdancing is a part of the sex industry and recommending that there should be much greater regulation of the industry with greater power to local authorities to restrict them.

Of concern was the way in which dancers reported harassment and pressure by both clients and management, and are the fall guys when the authorities discover breaches of conditions, which has also been documented here and powerfully here and here. What is particularly interesting about the last report is that it mentions a study of men in East London who paid for sex and who basically didn't even recognise the women who provided these services as human beings.

As well as all this, the office trip out to the lapdancing club with a client is seen as the norm. I actually know straight, male friends of mine who have felt pressure to participate in this type of outing and if it's bad for them, how on earth must it feel for their female colleagues? Have a read of this account of one woman's experience. I wonder what happened to the colleague who paid for this humiliating experience for her "as a joke."

I think there's enough evidence out there to make the case for proper regulation of lapdancing clubs and a recognition that they are part of the sex industry. I don't think it's healthy or appropriate for them to be seen as mainstream entertainment, either and I hope that the producers of Britain's Got Talent take note.

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Costigan Quist said...

There are at least three different issues.

1. Do lapdancing establishments increase rape and sexual assault? The Lilith report simply provides no evidence one way or the other.

2. Working as a lap-dancer. Lap-dancing may be a crappy job; but then so are lots of things. Sadly, not everyone can have a great job all the time.

I agree with some concerns though: it's clearly not right for a woman to be taken on as a lap-dancer and then to be pressured into prostitution, for example.

3. The wider effect on society. This is the claim that lap-dancing clubs cause men to see all women as somehow less than human and, by portraying women as sex objects, harm all women in society.

It's an easy claim to make and sounds sort of plausible. As you point out, Caron, there is some evidence to support the claim, but I don't think there's a lot.

To counter it, we could look at different countries and point out that nations where porn and lap-dancing is more prevalent also tend to be the ones where women have a higher status and more equality.

I would say the case is far from proven.

Costigan Quist said...

I realised I haven't commented on your main point: the "stripper" on the TV programme.

I didn't see it, but I'm sure there's a case to answer.

The only point I would make is that, looking back at family entertainment shows in the '70s and '80s there was no shortage of ladies wearing surprisingly few clothes. Perhaps that supports your point, though!

Unknown said...

Thanks for these comments, Costigan. Your point about rubbish working conditions is taken, but in very few jobs are people expected to give out sexual favours to their clientele or fend off unwanted advances - that must surely take the job to the level of unacceptably bad.

I don't think that it's just women, although they bear the brunt of the obvious harm, who are harmed by their portrayal as sex objects. One of my biggest concerns is that so many kids are growing up not learning the skills they need to form successful relationships and I'm concerned about the free availablilty of unregulated porn to children. It isn't healthy that the message porn gives them is that women are there simply to do a male partner's sexual bidding.

I remember quite a lot of 70s tv programmes that had elements we would not like to see repeated today. Remember Love Thy Neighbour, or Mind Your Language? They were as bad for other reasons as Benny Hill and the like were for women. The thing is, we would never think of resurrecting the spirit of either of the first two these day...

sinless69uk said...

Actually, I checked on the Metroplitan Police Website a few months ago. It showed Camden rapes year end Aug 07 57
year end Aug 08 26

A drop of 52.7% in one year!

This clearly shows that rape figures are subject to considerable statistical variation from year to year. To talk about a 50% rise over 3 years makes no sense.

Stephen P said...

Thanks for this, I'm researching a new blog piece.

You may find this report by the academic Phil Hubbard, currently in draft form, interesting:


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