Saturday, August 10, 2013

Bindel's 2004 Report to Glasgow Council

This is a review of Julie Bindel's (JB from here on in) 2004 report for Glasgow and it's relative value in 2013. Couple of things first before I get into this, firstly this is just my personal take on it shaped by 20 years plus exposure to the industry, 4 years in local government and 4 years in pre sales/marketing. Secondly this was a 64 page report and I have 62 observations and comments running into over 6 pages in abbreviated form, if I wrote this up as a report it would run into 12 to 15 pages without a bibliography. I would also point out that JB did answer me via twitter that she stands by this report  as valid for the UK in 2013.

Okay this is just a general observation in the use of language, grammar and punctuation. Throughout the report JB uses the term evidence with the meaning signs or indication, however the use of the word evidence in Local Government is for indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid. Obviously this could shape the belief that rather that being a sign it is a fact. This is interpretational but experience in Local Government would lead the reader to believe fact rather than supposition. Also within the report there is usage of speech marks to indicate a possible second meaning. This is to create another supposition based on belief rather than knowledge, for example I believe that JB intention was to "encourage" a belief in line with her personal views. See what I did there? This happens throughout the document especially with reference to dancers in the "interviews".

Now this will be amusing to any London club fans as Spearmint Rhino and Flying Scotsman are compared as a like for like through most of the report and it is only in a small quick paragraph that the Scottie is acknowledge as a strip pub and even then the "observer" in the venue failed to notice that the dancers collected before going on stage but stated that they collected after -1 for observation. There is table 2 which seems to indicate that private dancing takes place in the Scottie and only later does it concede that no private dancing takes place. For some reason the report forgets to inform readers that the dancing takes place on a stage. I was amused that the "Observer" was pointed to a pimp in the club as someone once pointed me out to staff as a drug dealer simply because I was monopolising the attention of his favourite dancer. I have even left the Scottie at the same time as a dancer I knew as a friend as she lived on my way home so I would drop her off. This does not mean prostitution just that I had a good friendship with that dancer. I would point out that also in 2004 that several pubs in the area (for those that don't know the Scottie is in Kings cross) would be visited by prostitutes close to closing time looking for customers. This wasn't anything about the Scottie apart from the fact there were men there which applied to several other pubs. Useful though using the locality to help paint the picture.

Now lets move to the covert interviews most especially with dancers as obviously there was little structure which is acknowledged in a table that part of the interview was done covertly. Now the issue is the dancers believe that the interviewer is a customer and approaches her as such using different marketing ploys to encourage her to spend money. From I love my job to woe is me I am going to make no money tonight, these are tools of the trade. I also wonder what guidelines were given to the interviewers as people can shape discussions and lead them in certain directions. I have had training in Pre Sales to do this and know how simple it is to get people to not only discuss what you want them to but also to use language to shape answers. Not saying this was the case but pointing out as woe is me answer could be dancer marketing, interviewer shaping the discussion or just woe is me. TBH though I know how well dancers do so guessing it is marketing. There is a classic line in the report that had me wondering just how na├»ve the author is? “There are indications that the dancers would attempt to maximise their earnings by extracting as much as possible from each customer they had contact with.” I am sorry but dancers earn their living from the payment by customers for their performance why wouldn't anyone want to maximise their earnings?

The report references a story from the Scottish Daily Record in 1997 where it is claimed 3 women were deported that were part of a trafficking ring. Unfortunately having looked under various versions of the description in Google there seems to be no reference to the case although even if there was one case both Pentameter and Pentameter II had no raids on any clubs throughout the UK. Certainly with the more stringent checks in England and Wales of dancers by councils it would be almost impossible for a dancer to be a victim of trafficking. If the one case is valid then that in over 20 years of my exposure to the industry is the only case that I have ever heard of.

Now jump to chapter A Front for Prostitution? This is a big chapter and to be honest it is hard to know where to start. The question of physical contact and dancers touching themselves during performances were raised however in 2004 there were no standard practises or guidelines for clubs so Lap Dancing obviously in clubs involved physical contact. With the changes in council regulations dancers are not allowed to touch customers nor customers touch dancers. In fact even a kiss on the cheek or walking the customer hand in hand to the private dance area has been stopped by some venues to ensure that council rules cannot be misinterpreted. The section on prostitution contains a lot of suggestions of selling sex yet no actual proof is offered on any of the 6 venues. With the much more stringent regulations councils are putting in place and the concern venues have for keeping their licenses I would suggest that the chances of prostitution are slim. Not saying that it would never happen but from my knowledge of the London scene of 20 years I can only think of one dancer who would arrange to meet customers at hotels etc and she was fired from 4 venues that I know of. However dancers do make friends with customers and sometimes you meet for coffee or a birthday drink that does not mean that sex is being sold just that normal social interaction is taking place.

Now lets jump to clubs in context: The claim of widespread opposition to clubs is strange as the research recently by Professor Phil Hubbard indicated whilst there were issues agreeing locations only 3% of the 941 people surveyed said there was no place for these clubs and then it just turned into NIMBY from some of those surveyed. As the numbers surveyed far exceed the numbers in the 2004 paper that were interviewed the results are more likely to reflect true public opinion. I note that an interviewee in London claimed issues with Spearmint Rhino and noise levels. Has this person never heard of environmental health? If the noise level was truly unbearable then the person could easily have had the venue even closed for repeat offences. Having worked in Local Government the club could have been shut if the noise was that bad. There is also the quote of one person who is local who is embarrassed by the club being near. That reflect a persons moral objection, I could easily say I would be over the moon to be near a club. My opinion would be described as irrelevant by those who oppose clubs and yet the statement that one individual is embarrassed is given weight as it reflects the author's opinion.

I could go on and on and on. I will point out that since the report was written we have had multiple academic researches done using much larger and more diverse samples. Leeds interviewed 200 dancers, Kent had over 900 individuals involved! Also JB has Lilith in the report which has been removed from the Eaves website and the freedom of information requests from Newquay, Camden and Wandsworth which suggests that the idea that clubs encourage sexual violence is in fact a fallacy. I have seen how wording can shape belief and how belief can shape wording especially in Local Government. The choice by Glasgow council of who to write the report suggests they had an intended end game and employed the person most likely to reflect their beliefs. This is nothing new in Local Government, I have done it myself on a couple of occasions and deliberately employed the consultant whose report would reflect the result I wanted. Certainly people would know of JB's beliefs before employing her and this would then bring into question how objective the report was ever going to be.

I am starting to realise that this is going to be longer than intended and I do apologise, there was so much to pick and choose from and trying to get those bits I wanted from my subjective opinion. Still anyone who refers to this report as valid for 2013 would also need to acknowledge that the Leeds and Kent researches are larger and more recent and have researchers who are much more objective. I would say that I have enough issues from the report to Glasgow that I would question in usefulness in the strongest terms.


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