A ban on strip clubs in Edinburgh would not be a victory for feminism but instead an act that will force dancers to the unregulated underworld, strippers claim.
Edinburgh’s consultation on Sexual Entertainment Venues (SEVs) ends tomorrow. The West Port area of the city has famously been nick-named the “pubic triangle” because of the proliferation of strip and lap-dancing clubs there.
Critics from within the dancer community believe the consultation focuses on how best to drive strip clubs out of the public eye and could force stripping into criminality.
Shiri, a union representative for strippers at United Voices of the World, said: “The motivation to criminalise dancers in clubs comes from a middle-class feminist point of view. Predominantly those who will suffer from any action to making working in strip clubs harder, are working-class women, who have fewer choices when it comes to career options – many will be supporting family members or having to work around other commitments.
“Creating conditions that criminalise, rather than protect dancers, will only force women underground, where they will face greater dangers to their safety and no protections when it comes to workers’ rights.”
She added: “We believe this consultation should take dancers’ views into consideration – they are the people who will be most affected.”
Supporters of SEV reform say that creating a new SEV licence would allow the council to gain powers to set a limit on the number of venues allowed to operate in the city; including banning all venues. Rachel Adamson, Director at Zero Tolerance, said: “Sexual entertainment venues are a gendered issue – the vast majority of performers are young women, and the majority of patrons are men. These venues normalise the objectification and sexualisation of women.
“Using new licenses, the council could regulate venues to ensure proper workers’ rights, prevent harassment of staff, coercion or trafficking. The safety of performers at the venues must be the council’s top priority. Any action should be informed by what performers say they need.”
Many from within the industry have stated that the majority of modern arguments have been built upon the work of the “Lilith report” that linked an increase in strip clubs with an increase is sexual violence in Camden in the early 2000s.
However, the Lilith report linking sexual violence with the lap dancing industry has been challenged by academics such as Dr Katy Hardy and Dr Brooke Magnati. Dr Magnati had herself worked as a call girl to fund her studies as a young woman.
Stacey Clare, 30, who has worked in Edinburgh’s West Port clubs for years, said: “We are working very hard with two trade unions to establish workers’ rights in our industry, which has long failed to observe correct employment laws.
“If strip clubs are shut down we lose the opportunity to do that, and we are pushed further into the precarious gig economy, where it is a lot harder to establish workers’ rights.”
The city council has sought the opinion of city residents and the consultation ends tomorrow.