Belfast Telegraph

It's men, not de-skilled lap-dancers, we should worry about

By Joan Smith

Let's be frank about this: lap-dancing is essentially a crap job with absolutely no career prospects, no status and no security. The dancers themselves are self-employed, have few rights, don't know how much they're going to earn and most of them will have left their shift without making any money at all.

And then there's the verbal harassment and unwanted touching from 'customers', who constantly break no-touching rules, or use the encounter to unload their hostile feelings towards women in general.

One former lap-dancer, Jennifer Hayashi Danns, has now written a book about the industry. Jennifer says that she had to drink a bottle of wine before she could bear to start work and recalls that punters called dancers rude names and made hostile comments on their bodies.

And that is confirmed by a survey presented this week at the British Sociological Association, in which two-fifths of the dancers interviewed reported that "customers are rude or abusive" towards them.

It's fair to say that the survey has caused a bit of a stir. An influx of less-experienced dancers suggests that hard financial times are making more women turn to lap-dancing, but, shockingly, that isn't what's made the headlines.

Instead, there were reports about the possible impact on customers of this 'de-skilling' among dancers. One of the survey's authors, Dr Teela Sanders, was quoted as observing that some dancers have "never even used a pole".

"There has been a dramatic slump in the acrobatic quality of the lithe ladies who populate clubs across the country," The Sun claimed on Wednesday.

"Lithe ladies"? What century are we in? I couldn't judge the skill of the faceless dancer in the photograph accompanying the report, but The Times worried about the effect of falling standards on the bankers and stag parties who use lap-dancing clubs.

I suppose there may come a time when we can have a grown-up conversation about the effect of such establishments, both on the women who work in them and our aspirations for gender equality.

Lap-dancing clubs proliferated between 2004 and 2008, before a change in licensing laws in 2009 meant that any venue that offers lap or pole-dancing be classified as a 'sex-encounter venue'.

There's no doubt that the climate for 'sex-encounter venues' is chillier than it was. I'm glad to say there's also been a decline in the number of witless celebrities willing to be seen in places where the sole purpose is to sell fantasies of male domination.

Almost a quarter of lap-dancers have university degrees, but that doesn't mean punters go there to meet smart women.

Modern masculinity really shouldn't need such props in 2012.

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