Lap Dancers

I work in the East End of London and last Christmas I lost my temper with some of the ’lads’ in the office. They had the brilliant idea that for somebody’s 30th birthday bash, they were going to frequent the back room of some local pub and pay for a few ‘dances’. For a month leading up to the event, they rattled a collection tin around the office among the three of them.

All a bit of harmless fun for ‘young, healthy males’? Well, that’s doubtless the way they saw it. Anyone trying to point out that there is another side to the coin is often portrayed as a grumpy, frustrated old ‘Mary Whitehouse’ type.

If these young women dancers are making a real conscious choice, are in control of what they are doing and make some easy cash – great! Perhaps it makes them a lot of money very quickly – beats working on the checkout at Sainsbury’s?

I have a nasty suspicion that this rosy picture is not often the reality. In reality, women in these jobs are often working as all-out prostitutes, drifting between straight-forward prostitution, escort work and exotic dancing. What choices do people think they had when they set out on their ‘careers’ – did they have real choices between choosing a career to be, say, an architect, a nurse, a teacher, a dentist… and with all these choices, they thought: ‘No, to hell with it, I am going to pole dance to a group of baying chavs in a grotty back room in a London pub!’ Give me strength!

Recently there have been stories of young and dirt poor Eastern European girls being smuggled into this country to work as prostitutes. I saw a programme on TV where they followed a group of these women from country to country. They were herded across borders in trucks like cattle, having various bits of their anatomy prodded and poked in the process to see if they were up to the job in store for them. Jumpers unceremoniously lifted high, flesh prodded – no more a human being, just a piece a meat.

Some of these young women are beaten regularly by their pimps and made to have sex with up 15/20 men a night. Harmless fun? Would you want this life for your sister, your mother, your daughter? Well, these women a r e somebody’s sister, mother or daughter. Think about it.

Then, there are the other, chilling statistics about women who work in the sex industry. Over 80% of prostitutes come from a background of sexual abuse in childhood – a large percentage of that will be incest cases. In one study, 67% of those in prostitution from five countries met criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) – a condition suffered from by torture victims in war. In other words, they have to switch off their emotions, deaden, numb themselves – in order to enter into these constant close (and often violent) physical encounters with people they have no feelings for – other than disgust, pity and hate.

And what of the customers? The ‘chavs’ who go to back room lap dancing clubs may seek thrills in a dull and unfulfilling existence. They may feel frustrated at a lack of education or job opportunities. As a friend of mine said – a lot of people lead ‘shit’ lives. So in order to ‘enrich’ a stunted existence of their own, they create a market in misery for others.

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