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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.

FloraFox Sun 28-Apr-13 20:13:59

I haven't made any excuses for them. You still haven't given enough information for me to actually come to a view about it.

LazarussLozenge Sun 28-Apr-13 21:19:48

SwallowedAFly... I believe I seem to have also called a male 'silly' in that post.

And the situation that nomnew described does not conflict with anything I have said. Just that they seem to have put themselves in a rather silly position.

Approx 20 years ago, when I was younger, two lads knew did exactly the same in London. One was kept at teh club, whilst one was escorted to the cash point... no women involved, other than the dancers, and I still thought they were silly. In fact I may have used stronger terms.

My only comment on your opinion is that you can't take yourself out of your own opinions (ie the bit where you think the clients sit watching whilst feeling self-loathing/dancer-loathing). My comment may mply your are a prude, but taht wasn't my intention. Just that your obvious dislike of the practice is unduly colouring your opinion.

As I have stated, I am in no way tempted to visit such a club but that doesn't mean I will dismiss the reasoning behind the visits of those who do.

BasilBabyEater Sun 28-Apr-13 22:45:32

"I think the simple fact that you are clearly disgusted by the practice means that you will never be able to discuss it rationally or objectively."

Whereas of course, those in favour own rational, objective, considered debate. They're neutral, default, commonsense. And they get to define what's rational, objective, considered and they get to define the parameters of reasonableness.

For some reason.

Sausageeggbacon Mon 29-Apr-13 10:04:04

Flora okay maybe it is just me that thinks sharing a platform at a rally with a muslim cleric who preaches using a cane or a rod on a wife is okay is something no feminist would want to be seen doing. The case that they didn't know seems unlikely as the speakers were announced in advance. So the options are they didn't want to know about the other speakers or they couldn't care about anything the other speakers stood for.

Saying that it is not the only thing Object are being "lazy" on. They have on their resources page about striptease the Lilith Report which was shown to be wrong in 2009. So really lazy not to remove it or they feel that having an inaccurate report is worth it as people won't check. Scaremongering on something that is proven inaccurate, there are a lot of names I could call people who do that.

So two cases where sorry but to me (and it is only my opinion of course) where they are either incredibly lazy or they only care about their opinions and nothing else.

Nomnew Mon 29-Apr-13 11:09:55

"I think you were rather silly to try such a thing in such a country.

Did you not have google or local contacts back then?"

This was about 15 years ago. We were in the centre of town, it was an upmarket looking nightclub with dancing girls. We were sober. We may have been naive but I don't think we were silly.

We didn't have the language to really understand how the whole thing worked and how much the drinks cost.We never felt unsafe just ripped off.

Have you never been caught out abroad because you didn't understand the prices or the menu?

FloraFox Mon 29-Apr-13 11:42:31

sausage I assume you don't actually know any more details and you are simply parroting something you have read somewhere else to discredit Object. Similarly, you think just because Brooke Magnanti writes something everyone should immediately accept what she says, that she is somehow the final word in the topic?

Sausageeggbacon Mon 29-Apr-13 12:29:33

Actually Flora I think the mathematics proves the point on the second one don't you. The figures do not take in population growth not compare to any other borough without striptease so there was no control. Just two of the errors. Limiting of sample size is another. Doesn't matter who proved the maths wrong the fact is they are wrong.

As to the other one yes second hand. But then so it a lot of stuff people spout about striptease as is a lot of it people's personal beliefs.

Sausageeggbacon Mon 29-Apr-13 14:01:35

Flora it might be worth your while looking at this video here which is Dr Magnanti talking about the mathematics. As she points out the first errors in the report were shown in 2008 so does really ask why 5 years later the report is still quoted as a resource. It is longish the talk lasts 23 minutes or so before a Q&A

Trigger warning it does discuss rape and it is the hand maiden of the sex trade as so many people call her. However the maths are what they are.

FloraFox Mon 29-Apr-13 17:39:25

sausage Brooke Magnanti is not a particularly reliable source:

Also she has incorrectly represented statements made by Rhoda Grant and the Guardian had to retract the statements and print a clarification.

I'd need to see a response from the authors before I would conclude anything about the mathematics. Surveys are notoriously difficult to get right and usually can't simply be taken at face value.

People's views about stripping may be personal if they are involved in it (as dancers or punters) or may be moral, ethical, religious or political. My views are political but just because other people have views that are founded in other beliefs does not negate either their views nor mine. One thing for sure, this issue is not about maths.

Sausageeggbacon Mon 29-Apr-13 18:39:30

Flora I take it you sat through the maths and can discard the fact the first error was not found by Magnanti. We were not discussing the personal opinions but if Object should have a mathematically incorrect report as one of its key resources.

DD has sat and watch the video and she agrees with Magnanti in terms of the errors in the Maths. Forgetting the opinions of people about striptease legislation has been drawn up based on the report, councils have set guidelines based on the report. The mathematics on this subject and the zombie statistics in Lilith (which the guardian and Newstatesman didn't question) have no relation to the errors made in her on work. The piece from the newstatesman which seems most relevant "Magnanti is not as careful in deploying research to advance her arguments as she is in debunking the statistical sleight of hand of others"

FloraFox Mon 29-Apr-13 18:53:38

Sausage the discussion was not as narrow as whether Object should be using that report as a resource.

Brooke Magnanti is consistently put forward by sex industry lobbyists as the last word on anything she discusses. She totally undermines herself by misrepresenting the statements of others and also other research.

There's a lot more to the legislative process and council guidelines than this one report. I don't believe the various studies that have been produced across the board on any aspect of the sex industry in the past 20 years have particularly advanced the discussion on the principles nor how we as a society should legislate for these issues. Whenever a study is brought up, it just leads to data wars over surveys and statistics, which, in this area, are inherently unreliable.

Sausageeggbacon Mon 29-Apr-13 19:30:26

Flora bottom line is the Lilith report is used by so many people as a reference and it is wrong. So as obviously the data is unreliable as you point out people especially Object should stop basing arguments on the report.

And yes people tend to make opinions based on points of view but mine were shaped by spending time with a dancer who took time to explain things for me. Shock horror, intelligent, articulate woman dances by choice. Two years ago I would have been very much like you but I realised that taking jobs away from 10,000 women would be more wrong.

FloraFox Mon 29-Apr-13 19:49:28

sausage - this is the problem with surveys - most people do not understand how to use them. You have said about the Lilith Report:

The figures do not take in population growth not compare to any other borough without striptease so there was no control. Just two of the errors. Limiting of sample size is another.

If this is correct, it does not mean the report is wrong, it means it is unreliable. There is a very important difference.

Your entire view is shaped by discussions with one individual? hmm I think you need a bigger sample size and perhaps some broader political thought.

Sausageeggbacon Mon 29-Apr-13 20:18:44

Flora I see you decided not to watch the video so you really haven't grasped how badly flawed the Lilith report is. Fact is you are basing your stance on how you feel about a person not the figures. Still I can see that the facts hold no place in your opinion.

As to my sample size of one actually it is 5 as I have met a few of her friends when they have come round but what would people who actually work in the industry know?

FloraFox Mon 29-Apr-13 20:29:38

Sausage I have no intention of spending 23 minutes listening to Brooke Magnanti, particularly given her record for inconsistency. You brought her views into the argument and you summarised her position. It's not on to bring this up then expect people to go off and listen to 23 minutes of something. At the end of the day, if what you are saying she said is true, it still doesn't make the original report wrong but unreliable.

Maybe try speaking to some women who have been dancers and have stopped?

My opinion is not based on the Lilith Report. When you say "I can see that the facts hold no place in your opinion" you are being needlessly personal because you are not able to put forward an argument.

ibio Mon 29-Apr-13 20:56:16

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

FloraFox Mon 29-Apr-13 20:58:06

As above.

SmellsLikeTeenStrop Mon 29-Apr-13 21:10:21

' The impact of adult entertainment on rape statistics in Camden:a re-analysis.
Brooke L Magnanti, PhD.

Brooke L Magnanti aka Belle de Jour. Isn't this a bit like a manufacturer of cigarettes coming out with research that shows that smoking is perfectly safe and may even have health benefits?

BasilBabyEater Mon 29-Apr-13 21:26:40

Er, yes.


yogababycheshire Mon 29-Apr-13 21:42:19

As long as women allow themselves seen as sexual OBJECTS and not as lovers, wives, mothers, sisters and friends we will never be equal to men. sad

BasilBabyEater Mon 29-Apr-13 21:52:39

As long as men permit themselves to see us like this, we'll never be equal.

It's not just about women's choices and what they permit, it's also about men's choices and what they permit.

Why are they going to these clubs in the first place? We need to put much more spotlight on men's choices because that answers more questions. Accepting that men will go to these clubs, while condemning or excusing or critiquing or analysing women's choices, accepts that there's no point in analysing men's behaviour because somehow objectifying half the human race is not worthy of remark.

yogababycheshire Mon 29-Apr-13 22:01:35

Good point well made basil!

DulyElected Mon 29-Apr-13 22:10:58

Council policies on Sexual Entertainment Venues are set by Licensing Policy Committees and these committees are often divided as to which way they they want to push the policy within the available legislation. Hence it goes to the vote and a simple majority wins.

It is common for deputations and consultations to make claims that the councillors would very much like to see substantiated at the meetings, but which aren't, for all sorts of reasons.

FloraFox Mon 29-Apr-13 22:36:25

I've now read the report written by Brooke Magnanti and it seems to me that it asks more questions than it answers. I'm not defending the Lilith Report (which I have not read) but I can see from Magnanti's paper:

- On her numbers, over the time period covered by the Lilith report there was a 26.9% increase in the number of rapes in Camden, that still seems a statistically significant increase
- She gets to her figure by recalculating the rapes numbers on a per head of population basis. However she includes rapes of both men and women on the basis that Lilith Report included both. I don't see the point of including rapes of men in this report - it would make a significant difference to the per head of population numbers as there is a much higher rate of rapes against women than men. It's not possible to see from her data whether this would affect the trend over time.
- She makes a statement that the Lilith Report did not distinguish between stranger and non-stranger rape but stated there is an assumption that the clubs would impact stranger rape more. She doesn't split the numbers to see whether they show any trends.
- She does acknowledge that a lot of rapes go unreported, which to my mind is a flaw inherent in any attempt to produce statistics in the area.
- She makes a number of sweeping policy related statements at the end about the causes of rapes. It's clear she has an agenda.

As I said, I'm not defending the Lilith Report but I am massively sceptical about anything purporting to be balanced from Brooke Magnanti in particular and studies on the sex industry in general.

Sausageeggbacon Tue 30-Apr-13 06:33:38


-So the report was cherry picked over 3 years and did not include the first 2 years as it would not have given the same impact in increases. Would you not assume that any report would start from before the first year so there is some idea on what happened before?
-Lilith used data including male rapes, Magnanti is not writing a new report therefore to be consistant is seem obvious she would use the same data.
- Once again she is not rewriting the report just showing how flawed it is. For me the key is this Zombie statistic continually being paraded round like some ultimate truth.
- It is an inherent flaw, one which Poppy and Eaves ignored in the first place to try and prove a point. One which looks foolish all things considered. But there has been no answer so far to under reporting
- Yes her agenda is selling her books. Almost as bad as the people who want to make decisions for 10,000 women that they should not have jobs based on their agenda.

So long as people stop quoting the Lilith report as though it is a bible I am with you Flora. The recent researches by Leeds and Kent Universities were not agenda driven and I would suggest if people want to use studies those would be better.

Interesting though that when a wider data set is used with Camden and taking into account the figures for Newquay (which Magnanti does in the video) the number of reported rapes for both go down. Doesn't prove anything but sort of shows Lilith really is a Zombie stat.

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