Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Elephant in the Room - Morality and SEV Licensing

In the light of the Hubbard Report, the preliminary findings of which were covered most effectively by TonyN, I felt it would be of value to discuss the issue of morality and the licensing of striptease and lap dancing clubs. Readers of this blog will know that I firmly believe that no politician should, under any circumstances, be allowed to make licensing judgements based upon personal morality.

The governments own guidelines for SEV Licensing expressly forbid personal moral views being folded into licensing decisions and with good cause. The issue in my opinion is that if morals are ever allowed into the equation and clubs are denied licenses on this basis, then other, more extreme players will use the precedent to impose their radical views on society.

Let's imagine a time in the future where moral judgements have been allowed to be taken into account and many clubs have been closed. Now let's imagine another group of people activists that see the precedent and decide to use it for their campaign. The first group that would seize upon this would undoubtedly be pro-life groups and it is easy to imagine their argument.

"........Look, if they closed all of those strip clubs, surely they will listen to us and close those abortion clinics.....the clubs just had some naked women, while in the clinics they are murdering hundreds of children a day. It's immoral......."

Do you see where I am coming from. Who else could be inspired to act?

Well, we could see religious extremists demand an end to sex education in schools and use the morality precedent to bolster their argument. If you think this is unlikely, look at the alliance between islamic conservatism and the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child in Tower Hamlets.

Let's go one step further and imagine another pressure group demanding the inclusion of creationist theory in education or the banning of certain books from school libraries, because they are immoral. So my argument is that if morality is allowed to be considered as a factor, we run a huge risk that an entire bunch of socially alienated individuals will see the precedent as an opportunity to impose their skewed morality on society. It's that simple.

You may well be surprised to learn that SNP member, Sandra White plans to launch a private members bill that will empower councils in Scotland that close clubs on the basis that they offend the moral sense of elected officials. Sandra believes that 'lap dancing is exploitative to women and that it is a front for the sex trade' and she believes this because she know absolutely nothing about the industry and cares nothing for the welfare of dancers because she wants to see them unemployed.

Sandra said as follows when interviewed about her plan.

“I feel so strongly about this and that is why I’m going down this route. This would give councillors the choice to say if one lap dancing club is too many. Under this legislation they would be able to decide that and not risk being taken to court by lap dancing club owners"

So as we can see it is essentially a cowards charter that will empower fools to make foolish decisions without any oversight or risk of challenge. I am not sure what her chances are of getting her private members bill through are, I hope that common sense prevails and it's rejected, in fact her last attempt at imposing this kind of stupidity was defeated 76 votes to 45....

It never ceases to amaze me that feminist groups and politicians will ally themselves with any group or support any legislation, no matter how ill judged, if they believe it will support their long cherished desire to close every club in the United Kingdom. Do not forget Objects support for Levenson and therefore with that, their support for a shackled press on the basis that it will help get rid of Page 3.

Allowing people to impose their personal, subjective morality on society is the elephant in the room and unless sober, well informed judgements are made, it will trample every freedom that we have.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

An Ampthillian Speaks - Lou from the Hill

The opening of 'Shaylers' has, as you know provoked outrage from the residents of Ampthill and blog postings that cover the issue have attracted a number of comments from people both for and against the club. The most interesting comment was made by 'Lou from the Hill' and it embodies perfectly the mindset of the typical prohibitionist. 'Lou' commented on my posting, 'Carry on Stripping in Ampthill', which if you follow the link, you can read for yourself. Lets have a look at what 'Lou' wrote and ask some pertinent questions...

What an awful way to talk about the residents who have run a completely legal campaign (can you prove otherwise?

My posting commented about an act of vandalism to the site and also made mention to the fact that someone called 'Miss Rosy' suggested photographing customers as they entered and club premises. These are illegal acts that I guess were perpetrated/planned by a local resident. So the issue of the legality of the anti club campaign remains unanswered, although I do detect some sensitivity to the matter though.....

I believe the phrase innocent until proven guilty applies to us) about something which they genuinely believe (backed-up by evidence of other clubs) will have a significantly detrimental effect on the town they reside in and have been told numerous times the occupier is only doing to annoy people (I have heard this from him in person before you ask).

What evidence from other clubs? Are we talking Lillith here? Can you quantify the 'significantly detrimental effect' that the town will suffer? Are these effects documented somewhere or the product of your fevered imagination?

I don't want the club in the town centre - I walk around there every day.

The club won't be open in the day when you are walking around the town. Are you really trying to tell us that the presence of the club will, even when closed, cause you psychological discomfort? It doesn't really matter though Lou, you own the problem so its up to you to deal with. The town centre doesn't exist for your sole convenience and benefit.

A lot of the complaints about the application were because of lies in it (yes, we can and have proved this).......

What lies were told and by who? Where did you prove it? Did you tell the Council? How did the Council react?

.....and the fact that even before opening night, the owner was not running it according to the terms of the licence which have clear rules about the appearance outside.

Lou what are you talking about? How could the owner be running the club in violation of the terms of its license before it had even opened? The terms of a licence apply to open, trading clubs, not ones that are yet to open.

I should add the licence comes up for renewal in a year and there will no doubt be opposition again.

I have no doubt there will be.....

Also, as a woman can I say I hate the objectefication of women that stripping promotes - no, don't tell me strippers are empowered, that's not true and you're just lying to yourself if you believe that.

I never said strippers were empowered, just employed, but I understand your need to accuse me of something that I never said in order to try and make a point.

Also, you can't spell 'objectification'.

Lou accuses me of lying to myself. The reality as we can see from the comment is that the real liar is Lou. The comment made lacked cohesion, structure and supporting evidence. The lie that Lou was telling was the assertion that the existence of 'Shaylers' will have a negative affect on the town of Ampthill, a lie that is as flimsy as any anti club argument put forward by Object.


If you refer to the comments section of my article, you will see that Lou helpfully provides a link to Objects website, which at least explains why the comment they made was somewhat sense free.......

Moving Forward: One Year of StrippingTheIllusion

StrippingTheIllusion is approaching its first anniversary and as such I think this is a good time to see where we need to go as a blog. You will have noticed that over the past few months, my input has been sporadic to say the least. There is a reason for this, I am about to embark on a new project that will for the foreseeable future take up much of my time. So the blog will go one of two ways, either postings will become rare and over time we're just going to gather dust and wither away or there is the second outcome, where people start to contribute articles.

TonyN has been a brilliant contributor, his analysis of Hubbard makes great reading and I have little doubt that we will see more articles from him in the future. Also I recently received an e-mail from a dancer who wants to submit some pieces as well and I have to say that this is very welcome. To date the only dancer that  has produced articles has been Edie LaMort and her excellent work could really do with being complemented by contributions from other dancers.

In the light of the defeats inflicted upon the prohibitionists, we have an opportunity to help make the public understand what the industry is really about, an opportunity to counter the smears, lies and hatred spouted by groups such as Object and UK Feminista. We need dancers to submit articles to help us succeed in this objective. Lets face it, if every club is closed down, all it means for me is that I won't  have a place to go for a beer, for others it means being unemployed and having their plans uprooted and damaged.

I want the blog to be more representative of the strip tease subculture and if it is to achieve this objective, it needs contributions from people other than a handful of customers and one dancer.

I look forward to hearing from you.....

The Hubbard Report - An Initial Reaction

TonyN has been looking at initial results of The Hybbard Report and has provided StrippingTheIllusion with his initial reactions....

Well, many readers may have heard of research being carried out by Professor Phil Hubbard on Sexual Entertainment venues. The initial results are in, and although the full results are not due until March 2013, I have been given permission to produce a synopsis of the report. I will say at the outset of this post that the majority of the report is not surprising and does no harm to the industry; there is one sticking point which I will discuss in more detail and explain why I feel that it is not likely to affect the industry.

There are 241 licensed premises regularly offering lap dancing or striptease in England and Wales. Nearly half (43%) of those applying for a Sexual Entertainment Venue (SEV) license have received no formal objections at all. This doesn't really come as much of a surprise: most people are not bothered about the venues and there tends to be only a small handful of complainants who may write in. Given that Portsmouth managed to obtain a massive response following a very vocal campaign by pressure groups to get the clubs shut down, with 113 against and over 3000 for the venues, the fact that some clubs receive no objections at all should not surprise anyone.

A survey of residents in towns and cities with lap dance clubs suggests that around one in five were not even aware there was an SEV operating in their town or city! Fewer than one in ten identified an SEV as a particular source of local nuisance, and in some locations this was considerably lower. Once again not a surprise, as we have seen previously from my report on crime that the belief that venues are an issue for police is a fallacy.

Some key quotes from the report follow:-

'Women, those over 40, those who have lived in their current home for over 5 years and those with children are most likely to argue there are too many lap dance clubs in their town. Women, those with children and the over 40s are least likely to suggest that striptease is harmless entertainment and most likely to suggest it attracts criminal elements and promotes sexism.' 

Without seeing the full breakdown of those commenting it is hard to judge how impactful this statement is.

'Around one in ten in our survey suggested there is no suitable location for lap dancing clubs. Very few believe clubs are suitable near schools, though the majority (55%) regard town and city centres as appropriate locations.' 

So here we have less than 10% completely against venues. And these would be women, those aged over 40, etc. And the fact that over half of the people surveyed were happy to have them located somewhere is a strong message in line with the responses to public consultations.

'Walk-along events were used to gauge the impact SEVs had on the night-time economy in four case study locations. These suggested that SEVs were not the most significant source of fear or anxiety for participants, with most instances of antisocial and rowdy behaviour being associated with other venues, notably pubs.' 

I am once again unsurprised by this. We have seen that violent and sexual crimes do not appear around venues on average and that pubs and night clubs are much more likely to have a history which would disturb people walking past.

'Women were more likely than men to pass comment on SEVs and express un-ease or anxiety about them. None argued that SEVs were a major source of antisocial behavior, or were able to cite any instances of harassment, noise or violence associated with such clubs: concerns appeared to coalesce around the normalization of male-oriented sexual entertainment and the encouragement of sexist attitudes among younger people.' 

This suggests that moral anxiety and disgust, rather than fear, may underpin many objections about SEVs. I almost burst out laughing when I read this! Mainly because the one thing that has been said by the new law is that moral grounds CANNOT be used as a reason to close a venue, and yet here we have research which shows that the only real objections are on moral grounds. Those local authorities that have put 'nil' policies in place might want to consider this.

SEVs which were discrete in terms of their signage, naming and exterior appearance appeared to generate least comment or concern. Sexist imagery and names were objected to by many of our participants. Well have to say this would be fair comment, after all some venue names were not well thought out. In terms of marketing signage should be appropriate.

Thinking about the days the barbers had a candy stripe pole to show who they were. Serious note though: when you look at Shayler's, the venue certainly doesn't look sexy; a balance between advertising and not embarrassing people as they walk past.

Well, the report goes on to outline methodology and the aims of the research. When the full report comes out, I may break these down, but wanted to get the results out. Here we go with the results:

'Our survey found that 22% of respondents who lived in towns with one or more SEVs present were unaware of these premises. One in four of those who were aware of such premises had visited a lap dance venue: of the rest, most had become aware of a venue by seeing on the street rather than reading about it in the media.'

Almost a quarter of people surveyed didn't even know that a venue was in the town. Also 18% of the people surveyed had been in the venues.

The issue with signage does come up here, the fact that venues attract their first time customers by the imagery. A discreet solution? Or maybe advertising that only works after the watershed. This could and should be discussed between venues and councils.

'One in five respondents identified a venue in their town that they thought caused particular nuisance: 65% of these were pubs or clubs, 20% take-aways or off-licenses and 15% SEVs. Pubs were most likely to be associated with noise, take-aways with littering and lap dance venues with crime and antisocial behaviour. This implies only around 3% of our respondents felt that an SEV was a source of particular nuisance. This can be contrasted with another UK survey (n=1875) where 57% of respondents felt clusters of sex premises would have detrimental effects on the vibrancy and vitality of their local high street (cf. 36% for fast food outlets and 19% for pubs/bars) (Local Government Association, 2012).'

Only 20% of people identified places as a nuisance and in real terms, just 3% of people thought venues caused issues. When you take this with the earlier research where people felt venues would cause a problem, it really puts pay to the claim of clubs causing a nuisance.

'Overall, 83% of people think SEVs are unsuitable near Schools or Nurseries, 46% near Universities/Colleges, 65% near religious facilities, and 45% near shops. Only 3% think SEVs are suitable in residential areas, 10% in rural areas, and 15% in industrial areas, though the majority (55%) feel town centres are suitable. Around 1 in 10 claim there are no suitable locations for SEVs. This group is most likely to regard SEVs as promoting sexism, and least likely to regard it as harmless entertainment. This group is most likely to report avoiding walking past SEVs at night. However, this group does not have an over-representation of people with children in the household, even though this was the population most likely to report nuisance from SEVs.'

Okay, everyone seems to have a different opinion here. The majority opinion is that Town Centres are okay. Interestingly 10% are against all locations so 90% are not against venues located somewhere. Very much expecting this with a NIMBY approach by some people colouring the results. I would take the 90% as a positive result although I think the researchers had to tone the results.

'The implication here is that SEVs are not regarded as a significant source of nuisance by the majority, but that a significant minority feel such clubs are inappropriate because they promote sexism, crime and encourage antisocial behaviour. This group appears to harbour concerns that SEVs might encourage and normalize particularly negative attitudes towards women. Perceptions of SEVs therefore appear to be strongly shaped by gender, though men living with children in their household, and those over 40, also appears significantly more likely to be opposed to lap dance venues. Religion and ethnicity made no significant difference to attitudes to SEVs.' 

The key phrase here is "a significant minority": without the actual figures, it will be hard to judge just how significant that minority is. Considering the fact the report said earlier that venues are not associated with nuisance crime reports, the fear of crime and antisocial behaviour is unfounded, and you then have to consider whether that minority willing to change their views, or if they have fixed opinions with little or no truth behind them. As to the negative attitude towards women, the people I have met over the years in venues are the least likely to have them: not saying we are all perfect or saints, but people would be much better looking at the imagery and lyrics in modern music as shapers of sexism in young people.

'Around one in three of our respondents claimed to feel reasonably or very unsafe walking in the city at night. This group was significantly more likely to say there were too many SEVs in their town than those who felt safe, and more likely than any other group to say they would avoid walking past a lap dance club at night. Women were significantly over-represented in this group, suggesting the presence of SEVs in the night-time city may have gendered effects. This was explored in our guided walks, which suggested women were more likely to note, and comment on, the presence of SEVs in their local towns than men. Here, unease about SEVs appeared more related to questions of class, morality and disgust than fear, with SEVs contribution to antisocial behaviour and rowdy behaviour deemed marginal, and in some cases insignificant, compared with other venues.'

Part of the methodology was to take people from the survey around town including walking past venues. The important thing to note is the claims of fear made to the survey suddenly seem to dissipate and become moralistic judgements. The statement we so often read about venues causing women to fear them seems not to be as accurate as we were lead to believe.

'Notably, SEVs that had discrete signage, were well-kept and did not overtly sexualize the public realm appeared least likely to provoke unease among participants in our walk-along events, who were concerned about the impact of advertising on children.'

This comes down to discussing signage with councils. I have no doubt that providing both parties are willing to co-operate a positive result will be forthcoming

We now move onto to the conclusions, some are no brainers others will require a little thought:-

'Opposition to SEVs appears mainly based on perceptions that clubs normalize sexism and promote anti-social behaviour rather than any direct experience of crime. Those who have children in their home appear significantly more likely to describe existing SEVs as a source of nuisance, while women are most likely to argue for fewer SEVs.'

So, belief that something is wrong rather than fact, which we have said so many times. Remembering that only 3% of respondents describe a venue as being a nuisance, this is such a small minority that until we see that full breakdown of figures, I question the significance of the statement.

'However, not all clubs are perceived to have similar impacts on their locality, and some communities seem more accepting of SEVs. Some clubs are judged to be better managed, and some locations as more suitable. This implies the need for considering each application on a case-by case basis. Irrespective, current approaches based on excluding SEVs from residential areas or near schools appear to be widely supported. However, few regard SEVs as a major threat to children’s safety, suggesting concern is primarily about the normalization of particular attitudes towards women among young(er) people.'

I do not doubt some people will worry about this, but discrete venues should not be an issue. The provision for venues in suitable locations should minimise exposure to children and considering the opening times of a lot of venues changes in signage will mitigate the risks to children. Although nothing will help them with the sexualisation on TV.

'The implications here is that licensing needs to take seriously its commitment to Gender Equity and Equality, and that objections based on grounds of sexism and morality might be considered when determining licensing applications given these might have implications for the appearance and naming of clubs (noting most people first become aware of lap dancing clubs in their city by seeing them on their streets).' 

This sentence took a little aback after all the positive messages in the report. However, we should note that the use of the moralistic approach to judging venues was not put in place in the previous change in the law; so currently trying to take a moral approach would go against the legal position. I would question morals being a guideline especially as they cannot give a standardised approach. So the question is if a moralistic view was taken on SEVs what would follow? It would certainly be interesting to see a test case before the European Court about whether a business be closed on moral grounds.

Overall a very positive report, certainly going back to a case by case review rather than this misfiring nil policy. I think that in a survey that was performed on 941 people and only 10% totally against venues once again shows the moral high ground is extremely wobbly, with nowhere near as much support as campaigners against striptease venues had hoped.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Objects Out Of Date Resources

Tony N spent some time looking at Objects media resources to consider exactly how strong the basis of their argument against clubs really is.....

Object links on Lap Dancing Clubs, have 12 resources they quote so I wanted to examine just what they are and how relevant they are to the UK in 2012.

The first quoted resource is by Julie Bindel and was written to deliberately strengthen the stance of certain campaigners in Scotland. The research is now out of date due to the 2009 changes in Law. Having worked in consultancy to government bodies I can safely say that the end result is usually what the person who commissions the reports wants and so the report is written in a way to show the results wanted at the outset. Given that Bindel has written inaccurate reports in the past and her bias this wouldn't be something I would choose to back my arguments up.

The second piece seems to not be available on the net any more.

The third piece is not found either.

The fourth resource, Eden I is based on Lilith (see below)

The fifth resource is the Holsopple, a really rather old report from America that has no validity in discussing current UK trends.

The sixth resource is drawn from a book dealing primarily with prostitution. The striptease issue draws its information from the Holsopple report so has the same issues.

The seventh resource is based on US Midwest and Melbourne Australia. Not really sure how either applies to the UK.

The eighth resource is everyone's favourite the Lilith report. We all know that it has been shown to be a waste of paper and the fact that Object still trot it out knowing how poor the research is would in my opinion make them liars.

The ninth resource is from Chicago researchers into Prostitution and once again I would question the relation to the UK striptease scene.

The tenth resource is about policy to protect dancers/customers in Scotland. This is partially based on the Bindel report but does not suggest closing so much as changes in practices.

The eleventh Resource is from research and studies in Australia and again I find that I question how it applies to the UK.

The twelfth and final resource is from the University of Florida... think I have said this before but not sure how this applies to the current UK striptease scene.

Also people will have seen the book that Object are so fond of quoting, 'Stripped' by Jennifer Hayashi Danns and Sandrine Leveque. Well this one also gets me, a book written by an ex dancer and co-authored by a then paid member of staff of Object. I found it interesting that in interviews Danns has clearly stated that just closing the venues is not what she wants. So we have a book that is in part written by an organisation that knowingly quotes inaccurate information. 

Not sure I would believe everything in the book.

The key issue that TonyN has underlined is the intellectually flimsy basis of Objects campaign. The fact that the resources page contains so many out of date links also illustrates that Object themselves seem to have lost interest in a fight that in the beginning they thought would be a quick win.....