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Guest blog: Lapdancing - time to disparage the Farage?

(115 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 26-Apr-13 12:34:57

This week, UKIP leader Nigel Farage admitted visiting a lap-dancing club; according to the Guardian, he told journalists "I thought bloody hell, this is really good". Mumsnet blogger and author Rosie Fiore, who blogs over at Wordmonkey, is under-impressed.

"So this image popped up on Facebook yesterday, complete with a plethora of LOLs and likes. It seems loads of women think stripping would be a fun lifestyle choice, if only their boobies were perky enough.

And then a few hours later, I read that Nigel Farage, UKIP leader, ex-City metals trader and the UK's 'least unpopular political leader' (!?) has come under fire for admitting that he has visited lap-dancing clubs in the past and enjoyed it. He says it"s because he's honest and, unlike other political leaders, is not living in a 'PC world'. He insists that this admission is not evidence that he is anti-women.

When the accusation was put to him, he apparently laughed it off. 'That's really rather silly,' he said. 'I have to tell you, if I'd been anti-women, then the whole of my adult life would have been just that much simpler.' Don't know how to tell you, Nige, but gay and anti-women - not the same.

So both things got me thinking about strip clubs and lap-dancing clubs, possibly one of the oddest cultural phenomena I can think of. After all, the notion that a group of people of one gender goes to sit in a room, while members of the other gender take off their clothes to display their secondary sex characteristics - well, it's a bit damned odd, is it not? Here's what Camille Paglia, the redoubtable post-feminist theorist had to say about it.

'That's what the strip clubs are about; not woman as victim, not woman as slave, but woman as goddess.'

While I've always been fascinated by Ms Paglia and think a lot of what she has to say is ground-breaking, this one has never rung true for me. This is why. In 1991, when I was fresh out of university, I worked in a strip club in my home town of Johannesburg, South Africa.

I had graduated with a drama degree and every expectation of a glittering career on the stage and screen, but six months later I was working in a restaurant, and the stage and screen seemed to be getting along just fine without me. I rang my agent and expressed my frustration, and, probably just to get me off the line, he made a suggestion which changed my life forever. 'Write a play about out-of-work actresses working as strippers,' he said. The idea caught flame, and I decided to do just that. But in order to write, I needed to experience, so aged 21, I took a job as a food and beverage manager in one of Johannesburg's most notorious strip clubs.

In the few weeks that I worked here, these are some of the examples of 'goddess worship' I experienced in that fine emporium.

- Girls as young as 17 stripping completely naked (then illegal in South Africa, still allegedly illegal in the UK)
- Women stepping offstage and being paid their fee in cash, then instantly spending the same money in the club on food, alcohol and drugs
- Women working the lunchtime shift and then leaving to work as prostitutes in nearby hotels
- The manager threatening both strippers and patrons with a gun on more than one occasion
- A girl who worked in the club fell pregnant by the owner's son. He procured her an (illegal) abortion, and then insisted she go straight back to work. I saw her pack her vagina with tampons and cotton wool, swallow painkillers, then go on and dance. In between dances, she would curl up on the sofa and read comic books and giggle. She was eighteen years old.

So, not so much with the Goddess worship. While clubs vehemently deny that they encourage prostitution, a report commissioned by London Metropolitan University found that alcohol, drug addiction and pressure from punters mean that women often need to offer sexual favours to make the work pay.

It's not as lucrative as you might think, either - and there is zero job security. Generally, the girls pay a fee to the clubs in order to work, and only get paid if they are hired to dance. If there are too many girls (as there frequently are), they may earn nothing - but must still pay to be there. A study by the University of Leeds found that 70% of women had left a shift without any money because of the fees and fines they had had to pay the club.

So call me judgmental, but it seems to me that the very notion of the strip club or lap-dance club as it currently exists is anti-women, and that men that visit them and perpetuate the set-up are condoning it.

And even if you leave the whole sex industry thing aside, where does Mrs Farage come into the whole equation? There is a Mrs Farage by the way - a second wife, Kirsten, mother of Farage's two young daughters. Her views on the issue are not recorded, but I know I'd be less than thrilled if my husband's night out included a little light crotch-grinding with a woman he'd paid for. On the continuum of infidelity, that's pretty damned close to the danger zone.

So let's go back to Farage's assertion that he is not 'anti-women'. The accusation that he was sexist was levelled by ex-UKIP MEP Marta Andreasen, who left the party two months ago, citing Farage's gender discrimination and bullying. She has since joined the Conservatives. Her stance is particularly notable because she was the only female MEP UKIP had, since Nikki Sinclaire was expelled from the party in 2010. Even David 'Calm Down Dear' Cameron can boast a few women in his cabinet. UKIP now has precisely zero.

It seems to me, Mr Farage, that you're okay with the exploitation of women, you're happy to visit a 'sex encounter establishment' even when you're married, and your party can't field a single candidate who represents 52% of the population. And in my view, if a man's idea of a fun night out is paying £20 to stare at the vulva of a young woman who has no job security, no employment rights and the constant threat of sexual harassment, he's certainly not pro-women. Just saying."

Rosie Fiore's new novel Wonder Women is available in eBook for the special price of £1.39, till May 1st. The paperback version will be out on 20th June.

wem Fri 26-Apr-13 13:27:11

Good post. The one thing I'd add is regarding his defence of being anti-women - 'I have to tell you, if I'd been anti-women, then the whole of my adult life would have been just that much simpler.' Now, there may be some context that I'm unaware of, but as it is, it reads to me like he's suggesting that if he had no sexual interest in women then he wouldn't have to bother having the irritating creatures in his life. A pretty anti-women stance!

KarlosKKrinkelbeim Fri 26-Apr-13 14:01:09

I'm not sure we should disparage someone who is clearly to be pitied ... if his life is so short of sexual excitement he needs to visit strippers (and I must say it's entirely clear why that might be the case) it feels a bit mean to put the hob-nailed boots on, I do beg your pardon, the platform fetish stilettos because I'm not an uptight DM wearing feminist, and kick the living shit out of the man.
however much fun it might be ....

AmberLeaf Fri 26-Apr-13 14:26:04

Karlos.

No one needs to visit strippers.

Good pot from the blogger.

LazarussLozenge Fri 26-Apr-13 14:28:00

One persons experience in one establishment, 22 years ago, located in a foreign country? And which is described as 'notorious'.

That is what we should use as a basis for why something is so wrong?

I've never actually been in a strip joint, doesn't interest me and (tbh) I can think of better thinks to spend my cash on, but I can't help thinking this is a rather narrow field of experience to base such weighty pronouncements upon.

AmberLeaf Fri 26-Apr-13 14:31:09

She isn't the first to say such things Lazaruss.

LazarussLozenge Fri 26-Apr-13 14:51:36

I don't doubt she is will not be the last.

Not saying she didn't see what she says, just pointing out it is one experience, 22 years ago in a known 'notorious' establishment.

What does 'notorious' mean in this case?

Can we draw parallels to other clubs? Are there clubs that treat their employees better?

Are there differences between female strip clubs and male strip clubs?

Is the Chipendales a celebration of manhood as a god (as per Paglia) or an exploitation of men?

KarlosKKrinkelbeim Fri 26-Apr-13 14:55:46

The exploitation of women working in these establishments has been documented on numerous occasions.
The whole existence of a strip club is based on the premise that women are commodities. The fact they are treated as such by them is disgusting, but hardly surprising.

timidviper Fri 26-Apr-13 17:00:18

Who ever exected to agree with Nigel Farage anyway????

every study i've seen has shown similar (re: frequently the women owe the club rather than vice versa at the end of the night, pressure to prostitute oneself further , bullying, harrassment etc etc).

UKIP has not one single female? so racist, misogynist, call benefit claimants parasitic, is there anything good about them?

Sausageeggbacon Fri 26-Apr-13 18:08:23

Interesting cherry picking on the stats. I have read the Leeds Uni report and although dancers can lose money on a shift they average between £200 and £250 for a shift (5 hours or so). So 4 shifts a week sees dancers earn between £800 and £1000 per week. The unionisation of dancers I think in the long term will help. My neighbour has joined Equity although more seem to be joining the GMB.

Any the only job where you can put all your clothes through as tax deductibles.

KarlosKKrinkelbeim Fri 26-Apr-13 20:30:16

I agree that "Nigel Farage talks shit" is on a par with "bear shits in woods" as a headline, timidviper.

FasterStronger Fri 26-Apr-13 21:05:12

He really is an odeous little man isn't he?

Corygal Fri 26-Apr-13 21:18:46

Smart post.

I can see people saying that anything about Nigel Farage is writing of the sledgehammer/nut variety, but sadly I don't think it is - there are an awful lot of other thickos out there.

Kiriwawa Fri 26-Apr-13 22:00:09

It's one of the 5 key findings of the report Sausageeggsbacon. Seems fair to mention it.

Frankly whether someone earns £200/hour or £20, it's a bit fucking shit that any workers have reported not getting paid at all for their work, no?

I find it interesting that you've chosen to mention the fact that clothes for strippers are tax deductible. What does that say about you I wonder?

sadly cocaine and vodka habits are not deductible and the women i've known who've done this kind of work have needed lots of both.

not much career longevity either obviously but no pensions, sick pay, holiday pay, minimum wage etc etc.

BasilBabyEater Fri 26-Apr-13 23:05:09

People are always so desperate to say how great it is to be a lapdancer because it's so well paid yada yada, but they're not keen for the women they love to do it are they.

That obviously excludes those who don't love any women.

Great blog post,.

vesuvia Fri 26-Apr-13 23:13:04

Sausageeggbacon wrote - "although dancers can lose money on a shift they average between £200 and £250 for a shift (5 hours or so). So 4 shifts a week sees dancers earn between £800 and £1000 per week... the only job where you can put all your clothes through as tax deductibles."

Although male footballers can lose money on a shift, they average between £20,000 and £25,000 for a shift (2 hours or so). So 1 shift a week sees footballers earn between £20,000 and £25,000 per week... As the male footballers only wear their football strips for work, their work clothing is probably tax-deductable (or, more likely, free).

Why are boys wanting to be footballers and girls wanting to be lapdancers? Lapdancing should not be as good as it gets for young women.

Vizzage Sat 27-Apr-13 08:01:50

The whole industry is horrid, but I expect there are many reasons why men go to strip clubs - maybe they're on a stag night, or been taken there by a work supplier, or just want to ogle girls; maybe they have a healthy attitude towards women, maybe they don't. Remember women also go to male strip events and we don't think of the women as being perverts who hate men, though we might disagree with the concept, dependent on our principles. But one thing's for sure, it's a horrid industry because it's dangerous, un-policed, it exploits women and it turns them into objects. Simple.

so let's say a woman did average £900 a week. no sick pay or holiday obviously and i wouldn't want to be girating naked on my first couple of days of my period so lets say she manages 40 weeks a year. that's 40k a year minus tax obviously.

and how many years do you think she can be a lap dancer for? what is the career longevity of gyrating near naked for men in competition with all the other girls there to get the dances or make no money? i'm thinking not long.

even if you take the optimistic view of her earnings (and ignore how much many of these women spend on drugs and alcohol to get through the work, and ignore the dangers and psychological damage) it's hardly a great career plan is it? in reality they won't hit that 1k a week every week and they won't hit it for long - only at the prime of being the newest/youngest/prettiest 'pick' of the bunch she's competing against.

for those who think it's all wonderfully paid and no harm done and women do very well out of it is it in that case something you'd advise your daughters to do? would you want the school's careers advisor to say to your daughter try the pussy cat club down the road the pay is excellent or would you think that inappropriate somehow? is it well paid and ok for some girls, 'those' girls, but not your girls?

sorry it's clearly not 40k - i forgot i went for the mean of the 800-1k a week figure given.

LazarussLozenge Sat 27-Apr-13 08:51:48

A footballers 'shift' isn't two hours. That is a game. Their time training is also recompensed.

I haven't met a single lass who wanted to be a stripper, and I assume those who are have the choice to work elsewhere. They aren't forced on to the stage are they?

Snorbs Sat 27-Apr-13 10:56:22

They're not forced at gun-point, no. But a lack of opportunity to do anything else plays a very big role. Arguably what plays an even bigger rile is the societal expectation that a young woman's prime reason for existence is to be a sexual object for men.

BasilBabyEater Sat 27-Apr-13 11:09:43

Also who cares whether they're forced or not.

Everyone always wants to talk about the women's behaviour "they aren't forced", "they earn xyz" etc. , but no-one wants to talk about the behaviour of the men aren't forced to go and watch them but make the choice to. We need to look at why men (and Nigel Farrage) have a view of women which sees them as pretty objects who are there to give them hard-ons and they have the right to go and pay for that.

What is wrong with men's view of women in this? Let's stop talking about the women and talk about the men. Why does Nigel Farrage think it's OK to go and watch a much better looking woman than him, cavort half naked around his lap for money and what does it say about what he thinks of women? Would he be happy for his wife or daughter to be a lapdancer, cavorting around the crotches of other ugly old men like him for money? If not why not?

Indeed. I've no doubt that some of these clubs are seedy, badly run, and at the worst, are fronts for other illegal activities.

However. May I dare suggest that it's the men that are being exploited by lap dancing clubs.

Now obviously it would be wrong of me to make such comments without having actually experienced these places. And I'll admit that I've probably been three or four times over the last 10 years. Each time was with a group of friends on a night out.

These places aren't cheap, and if you pay by card, there's a 25% charge for using it!! A dance is a tenner, and it only lasts a few minutes. The drinks aren't cheap either. Though on the plus side, it has to be one of the most relaxing and less threatening places to go and have a drink.

The other surprising thing is how many straight couples appear at these places as customers.

These places aren't always about seedy old men in macs, and under age girls. The good ones are pleasant places to unwind, and if you're careful, needn't be a rip off.

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