A response to Ms. van Heeswijk's article in the Guardian, from the perspective of a dancer with 14 years’ experience working in clubs.
Dear Ms. van Heeswick, after reading your article published yesterday, I would like to respond to each of your points from a different perspective…
1. Let me first challenge your assertion that dancing clubs market women as sexual objects for male gratification.
I firmly disagree. If so, how can an object dance with high heels and do pole dancing tricks? Behind every action of every worker is a human being taking decisions for themselves. If anybody objectifies us, it is your organisation.
We dancers are entertainers, entertaining an audience that pays our bills.
I also have to disagree with your statement that the presence of strip clubs increases the demand for “prostitution”. You offer no evidence for why this would that be the case? Is your view that men get turned on by strippers and then want to have sex? Is it men having sex you object to or women getting money for it? You article assumes that prostitution is intrinsically bad. Prostitution is consenting sex and shouldn’t be criminalized. If sex workers experience rape and other violence in the course of prostitution it is that violence that should be criminalized. You speak as if prostitution – that I call ‘sex work’ - is a ‘lower’ practice than stripping, but as a stripper, I will not judge other sex workers in a way that creates hierarchy.
You imply that women who work in lap dancing are routinely subjected to harassment, exploitation and the expectation of sexual services? We are not. But are we in your view less degraded if we have to work 40 hours a week for under £5 an hour in some other job and are still unable to pay our bills? Is it surprising that many women would rather make three times as much working as a dancer?
Real feminism should defend our choices and show solidarity with all women, and that includes working class women.
Yes, it is true that we have to pay nightly house fees to work in clubs. Paradoxically, those fees rose dramatically after ‘feminists’ like you pushed for harder legislation that increased clubs’ licensing fees. Yet, this does not even appear to be enough for you.
You try to prove your perspective with the case of ‘one woman’ who felt it was the hardest job that she ever did. I could name hundreds of women who are still in the industry by choice, but as you only mention one, to mention myself is more than enough. Still, you will notice that several workers’ collectives support my position.
3. Next, do lap dancing clubs indeed create a threatening environment for women and girls who live around the clubs? You support your answer again by referring to ‘one woman’ who spoke to Object. Can I meet her? Where is she? Where does she live? Because throughout my career I have generally worked in places that are much more discreet than your average pub. Again, Ms. van Heeswijk, why don’t you provide more evidence?
4. I agree with your statement that councils can still operate under legislation that equates lap dancing clubs with restaurants and karaoke bars. But I question why you’re so offended. Is not a karaoke bar a place where people perform, as I do during my shifts? Or do you object to us wearing few clothes? I don’t see why any of us need to ask permission to work in a particular neighbourhood. Do you know the location of many strip clubs, Ms. van Heeswijk? Because I have worked in places where even the locals did not notice that there was a stripping venue.
5. In your last ‘reason’, you assert that bars and pubs can get around the licensing regime by holding entertainment events on an occasional basis. Let me ask you again, why does it bother you so much that people work even only on an occasional basis? Why would you make it more difficult for us to work? Why not focus on protecting our rights as workers and fighting stigma with us, instead of making us your target?
I urge you and Object not to patronise working class women. Start including sex workers and trans women in your outdated discourses. If you don’t agree with my decisions, I simply do not care. But if you try to make my job even harder than it already is, this letter will only be the beginning.
An Angry Stripper
Sex and Censorship blog
Stripping the Illusion
With support from
Sex Workers Open University
English Collective of Prostitutes