Briefing on ‘adult entertainment’ consultation

April 19, 2010 at 1:35 pm 1 comment

The Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation:
# works to raise awareness of the harm caused to women through
prostitution and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation,
including stripping, lap dancing, pornography, sex tourism, mail order
brides, and trafficking for the purposes of prostitution.
# campaigns for legislative change necessary to: reduce the harm caused
through prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation; remove
current gender inequality in the law; challenge the behaviour of men
who buy sex.
The Scottish Government is once again looking at licensing of lap dancing and
similar activities. The Justice Committee has agreed to take written
evidence on Amendment 516 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill. This
amendment, lodged by Sandra White MSP, seeks to allow local authorities to
apply a specific licensing regime to adult entertainment venues, including
limiting the number of premises in the local authority area that are
permitted to provide adult entertainment.
The full text of this amendment can be found at:

Click to access amdt516.pdf

In our view activities such as stripping, lap dancing, pole dancing, and table
dancing are forms of commercial sexual exploitation. We are therefore
writing to urge you to respond to this opportunity. This is an extremely
important amendment, which would, amongst other things, empower Local
Authorities to decide on a local level of provision for lap dancing clubs.
Please read this briefing for information on why this legislation is necessary.
Current licensing.
Current licensing regulations do not provide sufficient controls for lap
dancing and related activities. For example regulations limit both who is
eligible to object to licensing applications, and the grounds on which
objections can be made. This effectively means that it is not possible to
object to the nature of the activity itself. Since we view such activities as
exploitative we are opposed to any regulation that condones or manages
these activities. Local authorities should have the option of refusing to
license these activities because they are exploitative.
These activities are incompatible with work on gender equality and on
violence against women. It makes no sense to sign up to prevention and
awareness work on male violence against women, or to fight for improved
protection for women from sexual assault and sexual harassment, and then
to condone such behaviour under the guise of ‘entertainment’. We cannot
have an equal Scotland so long as women are abused and exploited in this
Definition and use of term ‘entertainment’.
Lap dancing is referred to in the amendment as a form of ‘Adult
Entertainment’. There are forms of entertainment suitable for adults (as
opposed to children), but we are strongly of the view that it is inappropriate
to use the term ‘entertainment’ when referring to exploitation. Whilst we
accept that ‘adult entertainment’ is the commonly used term, it should be
made clear that this is a euphemism designed to disguise the true nature of
these activities, and to normalise sexual exploitation. Activities such as lap
dancing are harmful for the individual women involved and have a negative
impact on the position of all women through the objectification of women’s
bodies. This happens irrespective of whether individual women claim success
or empowerment from the activity.
It is essential to separate sexual activity or ‘titillation’, from exploitative
sexual activity. In our view a sexual activity becomes sexual exploitation if
it breaches a person’s human right to dignity, equality, respect, and physical
and mental wellbeing. It becomes commercial sexual exploitation when
another person, or group of people, achieves financial gain or advancement
through the activity.
Furthermore there is ample evidence to show that commercial sexual
exploitation eroticises women’s inequality, particularly through pornography.
Black, minority ethnic, indigenous and third world women suffer
disproportionally. (See and and
But lap dancing is popular!
The fact that there is a demand for sexually exploitative activities does not
make these activities legitimate: for example there is also a demand for
child pornography. On the contrary, once the idea exists there is pressure
on vulnerable women to become involved. There is evidence that once
involved, there is pressure on women to take part in further sexual activity.
See, for example, the report ‘Profitable Exploits: Lap Dancing in the UK’
Impact of commercial sexual exploitation.
In our view commercial sexual exploitation is harmful to the women involved, to families, to communities, and to society in general. In terms of the impact on ‘performers’, audiences and the public in general, there is a huge amount of information evidencing links between commercial sexual exploitation, drug taking and dealing, and organised crime. See, for example, above websites, and the report ‘A Critical Examination of Responses to Prostitution in Four Countries’ (2003)
Lap dancing as gateway to prostitution.
Scottish research with men who had bought sex in prostitution found that
31% of the men had located accessed prostitution through a lap-dancing
club. 34% of the men interviewed in Edinburgh who bought sex indoors
reported that they had located prostitutes in a lap-dancing club.
Significantly fewer (13%) of the men interviewed in Glasgow had located
prostitutes in lap dancing clubs (chi square (1, N=88) = 5.53, p = 0.02).
Edinburgh currently has seven lap dance clubs whereas Glasgow has four.
Although Glasgow City Council considers lap dancing to be a form of sexual
exploitation, current licensing legislation does not prohibit it. (Challenging
Men’s Demand for Prostitution in Scotland, 2008)
Impact on communities.
Women who live or work near lap dancing clubs have reported harassment
and verbal abuse from men leaving / arriving at clubs. There can be no doubt
that the mixture of explicit sexual ‘dances’, and the availability of alcohol
creates an atmosphere, which is extremely unsafe for women, and that
woman with children, and families will avoid such areas if possible. This
effectively creates city centre areas which are ‘no go’ areas for women and
children. Public attitudes to ‘adult entertainment’ are changing, partly due to
the normalisation of prostitution and pornography in popular culture.
Findings show that younger people are more likely to be in favour of clubs
opening in their neighbourhood than older people, and opposition to them is
greater amongst women (63% opposed) than men (48%) (MORI/AEWG
Research carried out by Glasgow Chamber of Commerce in 2003 found that
three-quarters of city centre business believed that lap-dancing clubs would
damage the reputation of the city; half were concerned about the safety of
their staff in the vicinity of the clubs.
Negative impact on women ‘dancers’.
Women who have worked in clubs report assaults, attempted assaults, and
verbal abuse from men in the audience, and research has shown that a
worrying number of women report being stalked by customers. (See ‘Strip
Club Testimony’ by Kelly Holsopple,
A report ‘Violence and Stress at Work and in the Performing Arts’, by Giga,
Hoel and Cooper, University of Manchester, published by the International
Labour Office, Geneva, 2004, states that “Some dancers, particularly those
employed in “exotic dancing” such as stage dancing, table dancing and lap
dancing report social disillusionment and increased health problems due to:
costume and appearance restrictions, dirty work environments, coercion by
management and customers to perform particular types of dance, sexual
harassment, physical assault, forced sex and the effects of stigmatisation”.
Lap dancing has increased the vulnerability of all dancers. It presents a
potential for direct skin to skin, genital-to-genital, or oral to genital contact
in the guise of dancing. It increases the probability that dancers may be
sexually coerced or assaulted, and blurs the boundary between
entertainment that relies on sexual fantasy and that which involves physical
contact. Although many dancers were supportive of regulating lap dancing,
regulations introduced to date have not helped in reducing the impact of lap
dancing on the lives of dancers. The findings of this study suggest that
there is a need for a change in policy regarding the regulation of strip clubs
and their patrons. (From Erotic /exotic dancing: HIV related risk factors,
Lewis & Maticka-Tyndale, University of Windsor, 1998)
Whilst the sex industry promotes lap dancing as a glamorous and lucrative
dance form, the experience of women dancers is almost always very
different. As one woman said,
“If you’re masturbating someone through his trousers with your arse then
that’s definitely a sexual service. It’s outrageous that lap-dancing clubs are
offering that kind of experience when they only need the same license as a
cafe … No matter what the owners tell you, these places are 100% sex
industry.” (Jenni, quoted in Libby Brooks article, The Guardian, 19th March
Numerous articles and research studies have highlighted the poor working
conditions for women, as for example Nadine De Montagnac reported at a
Westminster parliamentary hearing:
“I have witnessed a lot of things going on and the attitude towards women by
the people in charge is appalling…the women entering the industry are
vulnerable people…they think they will be protected and safeguarded but are
being abused and brainwashed into it…It is a celebrity lifestyle which is sold
to them and they think that being sexy is empowering. You are only
empowered for three minutes when you are on stage; the rest of the time
you are not empowered… you have no rights; there is no sick pay; if you do
not like it you can leave, that is the answer to every complaint.”
(From House of Commons Minutes of Evidence taken before the Culture,
Media and Sport Committee, Tues 25th Nov 2008, available at:
Women involved in commercial sexual exploitation report adverse effects on
their mental wellbeing, and these can be both severe and long lasting. It is
widely acknowledged that most women need to disassociate in order to carry
out the unwanted sexual activity: they do so through the use of drugs and
alcohol, and/or by ‘splitting’ themselves off mentally. This is damaging to
women in the long term.
Make your views known to the Justice Committee
The Committee would welcome written submissions on this amendment. (See
here for guidelines Policy on treatment of written evidence by subject and
mandatory committees (pdf 15kb))
The closing date for written submissions is Tuesday 27 April.
Submissions should not normally exceed four sides of A4. The Committee
prefers to receive written submissions electronically in MS Word format.
These should be sent to:
You may also make hard copy written submissions to:
Justice Committee
Room T3.60
The Scottish Parliament
EH99 1SP
The so-called sex industry has expended significant resources on normalising
the abuse of women through activities such as stripping and lap dancing.
Club owners and managers profit from this abuse, whilst, contrary to popular
myth, individual women rarely report either immediate or lasting benefit.
Instead women are left feeling isolated and stigmatised. Furthermore such
activities undermine gender equality and so have a negative impact on all
women in Scotland.
We urge both individuals and organisations to make their views known on this
important equality issue.
Scottish Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation
c/o Women’s Support Project, 31 Stockwell Street, G1 4RZ

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