In the recent special issue of the Wessex Scene entitled The Sex Issue, I wrote a feature on the Sex Industry. My research methods involved an interview with a Chippendale and a student glamour model. However the most insightful part of my research was my visit to one of Southampton’s lap dancing clubs. Although the experience did alter my preconceptions regarding the sexual exploitation of women, I am still very aware of the many lap dancing clubs who exploit the women who work for them.
Today while surfing the internet I came across a news story that immediately caught my eye. According to the Daily Mail Online, a girl aged 14 has been working at a lap dancing club. Dressed in a black Basque, stockings and suspenders, the girl is reported to have given private lap dances to men at The Shadow Lounge in Weston-Super-Mare. As well as this, she was supposedly drinking vodka alcopops and told undercover reporters ‘This only my second night but I am a very good lap dancer’. The club is now under investigation and its owner Jesus Rodriguez-Casas has denied any wrong doing.
Going back to my own feature, I surprisingly found myself leaning towards, not the advocating of lap dancing clubs, but rather the acceptance of them. In my experience, the club itself came across as a business as opposed to a means of sexual exploitation and most of the women who worked in there appeared to be in control of what they were doing. I cannot argue the fact that the story concerning the 14 year old girl is disgusting. A girl of that age should be crushing over some American heartthrob, not erotically dancing for some grown men in Somerset. However some blame must be dealt to the girl. Nowadays children are much clued about what is going on the in the world. I am sure the prospect of earning a large sum of money at such a young age was alluring to say the least. Then there is the obvious issue of how she managed to land the job without having genuine identification? You would think that with the negative reputation that lap dancing clubs have, the owners would take every measure to guarantee that the girls who worked for them were of the legal age. According to Casas, he was duped by the girl and when she was asked to provide better ID to prove she was 18, she did not. So, clearly this shows that he had some sort of intuition telling him that the likelihood of her being 18 was very unlikely. Yet she was still able to enter the club on that night and perform for the customers. Meanwhile I’m thinking what the hell were her parents doing? Her mum claims that she thought she was ‘out staying with a friend for the night’. What friend I ask? When I was that age I wasn’t allowed out of the house unless my parents knew who I was going with, who I’d be coming back with, what time I’d be coming back what bus I’d be getting, what was the bus driver’s name, what time I’d planned on getting off that bus, how was I going to get from the bus stop to my house, etc. At the time I hated them for it. Now that I’m older I realize just how unbelievably lucky I was to have parents who loved and cared about my well being so much. they were prepared for me to hate them if it meant my safety was ensured. I am not a mother so it is easy for me to criticise. But whatever happened to common sense? Casas should have not let her back in the club when she returned and her mother should have interrogated her more when she claimed she was staying at a friend’s house.
This incident has angered me greatly. Firstly, because this young girl is obviously insecure and desperately needs the leers of older men to assert her worth; a tragic sign of the times. Secondly because what I have written above conflicts quite considerably with the feature I composed for the Sex Issue. You may be reading this and thinking that I am kicking up a fuss because she is underage, and that if she was 18 the story would not have been newsworthy or registered on my consciousness. To be honest I am partly thinking the same thing. Is it just her age that is the issue? I mean there are only 4 years between the girl and someone who would be deemed legal to work in a strip club. I myself know that the person I was at 14 was completely different to the person I was at 18. Or is it society’s perception of what lap dancing clubs are? My feature was all about opening our eyes up to an industry that so many of us have opinions about, but so few of us have actually experienced. If there are to be lap dancing clubs in England than surely there needs to be structures in place that ensure their employees have rights and are kept safe. But with clubs like The Shadow Lounge and characters like Casas, this will only furthermore fuel a negative attitude towards the industry.