Strippers are extraordinary women, working an extraordinary job. A thriving dancer has a specific kind of personality and skill set. For many women, stripping offers financial and professional freedom that is unparalleled in other jobs. It can allow women to be totally independent. There is flexibility in hours, contract lengths and work venues. It can be a wonderful and fulfilling option for a variety of performers. However, this is not true of all women in the industry. Consequently, it is extremely important that the more vulnerable are protected.
There is currently an ongoing conflict between women working in the sex industry and self proclaimed feminist organisations. The licenses of many clubs in major cities throughout Europe are continuously under threat. Furthermore, many others face objections come renewal time. The success of these campaigns would inevitably lead to many dancers being out of work and losing their livelihoods. For some, it would be a case of just moving on to another city or venue. However, many women are unable to travel for a variety of reasons, including familial, educational or professional.
Everyone has a responsibility to prevent exploitation
There are a number of reasons and arguments these organisations use as to why strip clubs are dangerous to women. The main reason is that they are allegedly venues that oppress and create a dangerous environment where the sexual slavery of women is normalised. There are two sides to this argument and many women working in the industry would put forward the viewpoint that they are, in fact, the ones exploiting the sexual weaknesses of men.
The reality is, there are poster women for both sides working in strip clubs and the sex industry as a whole. The women that are truly empowered by the job have a responsibility to keep their industry safe. They are the ones most equipped and in the best position to look out for other girls that are being exploited and preyed upon, not outsiders trying to speak on something they have very little real life experience of.
Dancer discussion boards are filled with posts and threads about the situation many are unfairly labelled as being victims of. However, there is often very little discussion about the dark side of the industry and, incredibly rarely, discussion about what to do when there is suspicion of exploitation occurring. Consequently, it is important that dancers learn warning signs and who to contact for help if there is a strong impression that another girl needs assistance.
Warning signs of trafficking
Here are the signs that are common across most forms of exploitation. STOPTHETRAFFIK provides the information below:-
-acts as if instructed by another, as though they are forced or coerced to carry out specific activities
-demonstrates signs of physical or psychological abuse, such as lacking self esteem, seeming anxious, bruising or untreated medical conditions
-seems to be bonded by debt or has money deducted from their salary
-has little or no contact with family or loved ones
-is distrustful of authorities
-has threats made against themselves or family members
-is not in possession of their own legal documents
If you suspect that a dancer in your club is being exploited then it is advised to contact the police in your area. Furthermore, there is a list of organisations in different parts of the world here.
Exploitation closer to home and protecting other strippers
Not all exploitation takes the forms of pimps and is as extreme as human trafficking. Sometimes being in love and a ‘boyfriend’ can create a similar outcome. It can be extremely difficult to help in these situations as it requires the victim to take action themselves. All you can offer is a friendly ear, support and the appropriate information to help with an exit plan. Dancers are often cash rich. Therefore, they are prime targets for men with less than honorable intentions. If you are a good earner, be aware who you are handing your money over to and who’s bills you are paying. It is far too easy for many women to slip into bankrolling a boyfriend that is using them for a free lunch.
Drugs and alcohol
Drugs and alcohol are not isolated to stripping and the sex industry. It affects the nightlife scene as a whole. However, dancers do drink on the job, regularly. This can be a breach of licensing terms in some positions in clubs such as bartending. Part and parcel of the partying scene is drugs and alcohol. If can be very difficult to abstain and some dancers need at least a drink to loosen up. This can quickly turn into more than one. If club management turn a blind eye to drug use then more than one drink can quickly turn into a line of cocaine. Thus the spiral begins.
Pick your clubs wisely and look out for other girls when recommending clubs to them. Those that have strict rules regarding intoxication have a tendency to have higher standards of care for their dancers in multiple areas. If you are worried about a friends mental health or sobriety, contact your local mental health service in your area. They can offer region specific advice and resources available and aid in the goal of protecting other strippers.
Taking ownership of our industry
It is not possible to rescue or ‘fix’ everyone. However, it is possible to be compassionate and aware of what is happening in your club. If we actually start protecting other strippers, then maybe there would be less for outsiders to be able to do on ‘our behalf’. Talk to each other and, more importantly, listen to each other. If there is a girl in your club that never engages, maybe try and strike up a conversation with her instead. It’s easy enough if you are a good stripper. You do it everyday! You don’t have to be best friends and be meeting up for coffee daily. However, you never know when that could be a total lifeline for an isolated individual. We need to wise up that the industry is not all sunshine and roses for some in the way it is for others.