Category Archives: Politics

East London Strippers Fight Back

Attacked by feminists on one side, and victims of poor employment practices on the other, strippers have had little support in their battles. We welcome new blogger Stacey Clare, who is a stripper and a founder member of the East London Strippers Collective.

It is said that when written down the Chinese word for “crisis” forms two characters. When translated into English these characters are understood literally to mean “danger” and “opportunity”. Right now it could be said there is a crisis within the adult entertainment industry, as legislation that seeks to censor the “threat” of open, honest and public expressions of sexual desire is gaining increasingly stronger footholds in Parliament. UK strip clubs are rapidly becoming a bastion in the battleground between freedom of self-expression and prohibitionist politics.

2014 is a time of crisis. Economic disparity and ecological disaster, mass unemployment and social unrest combine to create a climate of uncertainty. The future is unforeseeable, and no one is accountable – the perfect circumstances within which exploitation can thrive. Exploitation of labour in a capitalist framework is one thing; exploitation of sex-workers happens outside of a UK judicial system, which supposedly protects its citizens… Those that operate within the legal framework that is. Those who don’t probably deserve what’s coming to them right?

At this point in history, cases of employee discrimination that can be proven result in employment tribunals, yet strip club bosses and managers get away scot-free with discriminatory working practises of eye-watering magnitude. Strippers are regularly classified and discriminated against on account of breast-size, body-shape or skin colour, sacked without notice for any reason, fined for having chipped nails, bullied and intimidated by their superiors and customers alike. Why? Because strippers are denied employment status, leaving them with no legal protection whatsoever, despite in almost all cases being treated as employees, regardless of their right to independence. Employment rights of strippers simply do not exist, and there is no forum to speak out. However, let’s not forget that out of crisis comes opportunity.

Ladies and gentlemen, prepare yourselves for the arrival of the East London Strippers Collective. In April 2014, the ELSC held their first official meeting at a private location in Bethnal Green. There was a surprisingly good turn out of dancers, nearly all familiar with each other through the existing dancer community, and each bringing with them a wealth of experience working in the strip clubs of London. The power of this shared experience was tangibly felt in the room. A collaborative effort was made to organise a communal meal, followed by an open discussion around the dinner table that can only be described as… empowering.

What strippers have in common is simply, precisely that they have all been there. They’ve all tackled the same adversity, they’ve all been up against the same walls. They all share the embodied knowledge and experience of that feeling being onstage, nailing a strip routine and showcasing their strength and talent to an appreciative and supportive audience. They all know how demeaning it feels to hustle for tips, to fight amongst each other like cats for scraps.

There is a small but powerful group of these women who are bored of complaining about it and are now quietly discussing a better set-up. Using their working knowledge and combined wisdom, they are slowly and carefully creating a new movement; a manifesto is taking shape, underpinned by the principle of respect and the combined desire to create value and beauty. Among them are a wealth of resources and talents, as artists, designers, fitness instructors, nutritionists, writers, photographers, costumiers, and businesswomen all make up the core group. There is a buzzing almost electric potential that if they can consolidate their talents, as well as their sexual prowess, they could be an unstoppable tour de force.

There are droves of dancers who refuse to identify themselves as sex-workers, preferring instead the more evasive labels like dancer, performer, strip-tease artists or adult entertainers. The ELSC are strippers. The clue is in the name. While the ELSC openly and honestly stands in solidarity with other sex workers, it identifies a clear problem; organisations such as the International Union of Sex Workers and the Sex Workers Open University fail to represent the specific and very different agenda for strippers’ rights. Their advocacy for sex workers is invaluable and important, not in any way to be undermined or degraded – clearly however there is a significant gap where a union for strippers ought to be. By beginning to self-organise and collaborate, the ELSC is planning a series of events, from private parties to public talks, with the aim of creating a new audience who would rather be entertained by a group of radical, educated and self-reliant women, sharing their skills as well as the profits.

And undoubtedly, advocacy for strippers is needed. Already this year Diane Johnson, Labour MP for Kingston-Upon-Hull, North, has put forth the first reading of a private members bill, to ensure local authorities have greater powers to crack down on strip clubs, whether they want to or not. Existing laws give councils the option to enforce a nil policy and tighter controls on premises with a Sex Entertainment Venue license. Quite how these options can be written into statute and enforced is another thing altogether, which seems to beg the question; how well thought out is this private members bill? Sure it’s not just a stunt to curry favour with a particular pressure group and their associated electorate?

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The ELSC has come together out of a shared sense of outrage and disgust among dancers, who have watched the decline in their industry and felt powerless to prevent it worsening. They have looked on, heartbroken, as their art form has been consistently dragged into the gutter; ideologically by the modern feminist movement who would seek to destroy their world, and literally by the grotesque working conditions imposed by industry operators motivated purely by profit. They seek to challenge current standards and set precedents within the industry itself, create our own set of working conditions in line with their agreed principles, and send out the message to wider society that, despite what the world thinks, they love what they do. If only they would get the chance to do it properly.

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Sexual Freedom Under Increasing Assault

First the the government banned ‘rape’ porn without properly defining it, meaning that people who are engaged in consensual acts can now be prosecuted, now there are concerted attacks by councils on sex clubs.

Fantasy Video, a cinema showing pornographic films to its clientele was closed down by Islington last year. A new business, Mr B’s, a private members film club that also shows adult films, opened in the same premises and is now on Islington’s hit list. Also in their sights are Oscar’s, a cinema catering to the gay community, and Abcat, a cinema in King’s Cross.

A central complaint appears to be that whilst on a visit to assess how compliant the Abcat cinema was with its licensing conditions, a pass was made at the inspector. Gosh, how awful! If this is a reason to close a sex cinema, then we must surely also close all of restaurants, pubs and bars in the borough – after all, people have passes made at them every night in these.

It’s worth noting here that Islington first granted licences to sex cinemas after eleven men died in a fire at an adult cinema in 1994, when the council’s original policy of not granting licences drove premises to operate underground. A disgruntled man who was not allowed in set fire to the premises. Because there was no licence, and no method of obtaining one, no one had enforced clear exits or other fire prevention measures.

Whatever one’s views on adult films, we should ask ourselves whether it is right for a council to try and enforce some sort of moral code even if it means that they will knowingly revert to a policy that the council itself has acknowledged played a part in people’s deaths.

It is also interesting to note that the attack on these establishments is being led by Labour councillor, Paul Converey, who also opposed the renewal of a licence for the Flying Scotsman pub in King’s Cross because, amongst other things, he ‘regularly spotted exotic dancers outside on the street smoking with very slight clothing barely covered by overcoats or other coverings’. This of course could be rephrased as, some strippers wearing overcoats and other clothes were outside having a smoke. That doesn’t sound as salacious. Let’s consider the further implications of this statement. He wants to close down a strip club because in part he thinks that the women – when not stripping – are not wearing enough clothes. Again, perhaps he should visit one of the pubs in Islington this summer. I am sure he will find much ammunition to have them all closed down on that premise. In any case, his comments are not far off those of the Canadian police officer who prompted the slut walks a few years back. Why should a councillor be able to proscribe how a woman dresses?

Councillor Converey claims that closing the sex cinemas down is common sense. Put another way, endangering the lives of people who are causing no harm is common sense. Perhaps we should do away with Health and Safety all together? Would that be common sense?

His other claims are:

  • Strip clubs have an ‘adverse effect on community safety’. Really? How so? He cites no evidence. Perhaps that is because there really isn’t any?

  • It is unacceptable to have such clubs near schools? This is, of course, a nonsense. For a start most do not operate during school hours, then there is the fact that people under 18 years of age are not allowed in, and finally there is no evidence to suggest that having a strip club or an adult cinema near a school or church has any impact on the lives of local schoolchildren. This is nothing but a rather pathetic attempt to conflate sexual freedom with paedophilia. This sort of false association seeks to polarise moderate people who, rightly, abhor anything that may corrupt those who are under the age of consent. It is not akin to paedophilia, however, and to suggest that it is is itself morally bankrupt.

  • That he is taking the actions he is taking in support of Christian and Islamic voters in his area – to me that is appalling, as it either implies that those who do not subscribe to an Abrahamic religion have fewer morals and fewer rights or that subscribers to Abrahamic religions are a significant vote and should, therefore, be pandered to (much the same thing, really).

Lest anyone be in any doubt about Islington’s policy, he states it clearly in his letter: ‘It is the policy of LB Islington to reduce to zero the number of establishments licensed for sex.’ Note, he does not identify a single type of venue. As we have seen, the targets are sex cinemas and strip clubs so far, but that is just the beginning. We can expect swingers clubs and fetish venues to be next on the list.

Mr Convery further claims that ‘The simple fact is that, over the last few years, Kings Cross has changed considerably – and for the

better. Scores of new businesses and hundreds of new jobs have arrived in the area.’ This, he cites as a reason to close down legitimate businesses that already operate in the area, but those new businesses that he cites have not been deterred from moving in to the area in spite of there being sex cinemas, strip clubs, and other sex entertainment venues there. That in itself rather puts the lie to his claim.

So far this article has concentrated on Islington, but there is more. Spelthorne Borough Council has ordered the closure of Kestral Hydro, a nudist club in Stanwell Moor, near Heathrow, saying that a nudist club is not appropriate use of green belt land as it urbanises it. Does this mean that people can only strip in the city? Oh, no, Islington have decided that’s not allowed. Not all Spethorne councillors agree with the main policy. Stanwell North councillor Spencer Taylor has said: ‘There have been no objections from residents and green belt can also be used for recreational purposes.’ Given this, it seems odd that the council should try to close a club that is not harming any one and about which there have been no complaints in the ten years it has been operating.

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So, what can you do?

  • On 2 June 2014, an appeal will be heard at the Highbury Magistrates Court for Oscar’s cinema. Simply showing up and sitting on the side in support of the plaintiff (the cinema owner, Goerge Papworth) will, if nothing else, send a message to Islington and the court that closing down all sex based establishments is not supported by all.

  • Write to councillor Convery at paul@convery.org.uk and tell him that you do not support his actions.

  • Sign the petition to save the naturist resort Kestral Hydro near Heathrow. The petition can be found here.

Note, the author of this post is aware of other moves to shut down swinger’s clubs, fetish clubs, gay bars, and sex cinemas. Can it be long before hard won freedoms are also under threats, such as the right for men and women to enjoy anal sex and the right for same-sex couples to be treated as equals?

It’s hard to stand up and be counted because – even in this day-and-age – you can lose your job for being open about your sexuality, but if people do feel that they can be object then please do take one of the above actions.

Pull The Pin

Guest blogger Sephy Hallow, Deputy Leader of the Pirate Party UK, says sex is one of the fundamental underpinnings of our political system.

When trying to argue the point that sex is a fundamental part of our political system and an inherent feature of democracy, I tend to get the same reaction: you’re kidding, right? Sex, and more especially the sex trade, is seen as pure hedonism, an indulgence of an animal instinct that is as far removed from the civilising nature of politics as anything can be, and not particularly deserving of serious consideration or public debate.

Sex is for late-night channels, top-shelf magazines, and strip clubs – not the House of Commons.

In fact, the way that sex is annexed – shoved into these specific, hard-to-reach places that require deliberate, conscious intention to find – says a lot about the way we view sex: that it needs to be kept at the end of the channel list, or the top of a shelf, within society’s peripheral vision, but never centre stage in the greater public sphere. It’s also indicative in the way the ISP filtering debate has been set up; the great porn block might be up for debate, but most anti-censorship campaigns point to other, more serious losses. Factors such as restriction to information on sexual health or abuse helplines are frequently referred to in order to bring political clout and legitimacy to a debate which could otherwise be framed as Perverts versus Parents.

Sexual expression and freedom of access to stimulation is not seen as a right, but a hedonistic indulgence, and is therefore given as much credence as a demand for chocolate as a matter of public welfare.

But here’s the truth: sex is actually the linchpin of our democracy, not only linking together core political concepts – such as civil rights and social responsibility – but also acting as a pressure point which has been used time and again to shame people into silence.

It is also, thanks to our own embarrassment, a smoking gun pointed straight at our democracy.

Sex Bomb

As part of its mass surveillance, the NSA has been “gathering records of online sexual activity and evidence of visits to pornographic websites”, in order to use the information to shame “radicals” into silence. Of course, this isn’t the first time shame has been used as a censorship tactic, but with mass surveillance now looming over us all, the threat has spread from outspoken political activists to ordinary members of society with fringe political views. So what can we, the public, do about the use of slut shaming as an anti-democratic tool? The most simple, logical and productive answer has to be: remove the threat by removing the shame of sex.

I am aware that, in a certain sense, I’m asking humanity to turn its back on thousands of years of ingrained social pressure and sexual stigma, and embrace its carnal side – and that’s simply not going to happen, certainly not overnight. But I’m not asking society to change; I’m asking individuals to assess their embarrassment, and, if they can find no logical reason to feel shame for their preferences, to embrace the idea that they are not the bad guys. When a government threatens to remove your privacy and dignity, it is the threat that is perverse, not the porn you watch, and certainly not the content of your character. Exposing the sexual habits of a person without their consent is nothing short of a violation; so why is it that we shame the victims that are abused by the powerful?

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If as individuals we can accept our sexual nature, we can disarm character assassinations that threaten our democracy and freedom of speech. By pulling the pin out of the hand grenade, you call your attacker’s bluff; either you’ll both blow up in a fiery explosion of sexual shame, or you’ll find the threat to have been a hollow one all along.

I’m not advocating for you to go and tell the world all about your personal kinks, and I’m not saying privacy isn’t important – quite the opposite. What I am saying is now that mass surveillance has made social embarrassment over sex a threat for all of us, we need to start considering what it really means to have a sexuality. By admitting that sex is part of our daily political reality, and encouraging a defence of your right to sexual privacy, we can confront the threat of censorship, simply through honesty, acceptance, and pride in the reality that humans are both rational and sexual creatures.

ASACP Rejects ATVOD Approach to Child Protection

The US-based child protection organisation, the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP) today issued a statement to clarify its position on the UK video-on-demand regulator ATVOD‘s approach to child protection.

ATVOD insists that UK-based porn sites must verify the ages of all visitors before displaying any hardcore imagery (even still images that can be freely found on Google Images or Twitter). In practise, this has made operating a British porn website financially non-viable, and the effect has been to close down – or drive offshore – much of Britain’s online adult industry. The only remaining UK-based adult websites are those run by more traditional TV, DVD and magazine companies, which make the bulk of their revenues offline.

This approach to regulation has puzzled observers, since ATVOD has no remit over any website outside the UK. Furthermore, there are already mature and effective parental control systems available. However, the regulator has been lobbying (using dodgy press releases that claim children are routinely watching porn) for the UK government to introduce legislation that would strengthen its powers. Recently, the government has indicated that such legislation will be introduced. Although the nature of the legislation is unclear, it would undoubtedly involve the official commencement of widespread Internet censorship – to be overseen by ATVOD, naturally.

There had been some earlier confusion over ASACP’s position, which had appeared at times to be supportive of ATVOD. However, in today’s release, the organisation stated it believes that:

…the proposed age verification measures are overbroad, and do not address the most important factor in this equation — the role of the parent.

ASACP also warned that censorship is subject to mission-creep:

Just as the recent UK parental filters turned out to block content ranging from non-erotic nudity to sex education, so this new bill can be expected to be overly broad in its definition of adult entertainment content.

To dispel any misunderstanding over ASACP’s position on ATVOD, the statement concluded:

With this in mind, ASACP cannot support ATVOD’s call for mandatory age verification, but continues to work with all stakeholders to develop a workable solution that protects the needs and interests of children, their parents and guardians as well as adult consumers and publishers of legal erotica, alike.

‘Rape Porn’: Our Response to Parliament

Parliament is currently considering, as part of the upcoming Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, criminalising the possession of what the government refers to as ‘rape porn’. Sex & Censorship have submitted a response to oppose this new law (Clause 16 in the new bill).

The response was written by Jerry Barnett of Sex & Censorship, and Dr David Ley, a psychologist specialising in sexuality. We raised seven issues, which are summarised below (Dr Ley’s response formed point 5).

  1. The proposed law results from a moral panic over ‘rape porn’ rather than any evidence of harm.
  2. Although headlined as ‘rape porn’, the wording of the law would criminalise consenting (but perhaps non-standard) sexual activity.
  3. The law blurs the distinction between consensual and nonconsensual sex, and so may hinder, rather than help, attempts to reduce sexual violence.
  4. There has been no evidence presented that viewers of the content in question may be driven to commit sexual violence as a result of viewing it.
  5. Conversely, there is evidence that such content may serve as an outlet for people who are prone to sexual violence and may reduce rather than increase their likelihood to commit harm.
  6. In general, possession laws are draconian as they place an impossible burden of legal and technical knowledge on members of the public.
  7. Censorship itself is harmful to free expression. Censorship laws should, therefore, only be introduced in response to compelling evidence of harm rather than on the basis of moral values alone.

The full response document (PDF) can be downloaded by clicking this link: S&C parliament rape porn submission.

Some Questions for “Stop Porn Culture”

Recently I have had the ‘pleasure’ of engaging in active debate & discussion with members & supporters of Stop Porn Culture (referred to as SPC from hereon). It’s no secret that I legitimately enjoy a good intense rigorous debate but when it comes to SPC members & supporters I feel flustered. It’s not because they are getting the better of me, it’s not because I can’t find studies/facts against their claims, it’s due to the fact that I can produce studies/facts that dismiss more than a fair share of Dr. Dines arguments. Yet they ignore these and engage in childish behaviors such as name calling, slut shaming & accusations.

In my previous article  I had addressed some concerns that I had about research methods used by SPC, the lack of including homosexual/transgendered/lesbian/female on male humiliation pornography in her (Gail Dines) studies. I correctly predicted a response of ‘most lesbian porn being used by males for their enjoyment’, thus it contributes to patriarchy & the degradation of women. While I do agree that some lesbian porn is more than likely targeted at heterosexual males & heterosexual couples, this statement ignored my other questions & concerns about SPC’s focus. I still stand by my beliefs that if you are against an industry, you shouldn’t cherry pick bits & pieces to fit into your agenda.

Furthering my point on SPC’s bullying, slut shaming, passive agressive snarkiness, I recently stumbled upon this gem while checking my Twitter feed. A retweet of Gail Dines’ making a snide boorish response to my article with this tweet (In case it’s removed by Dines, the quote was “@LaniacUSA @PornPanic @bindelj We don’t have lesbians in SPC. We make everyone take a heterosexual test and swear allegiance to marriage!” . Seriously? She has a PhD, yes a doctoral degree in sociology, is the chair of a college department & head of a international organization (SPC) & cannot (or will not) garner up a better response than a somewhat infantile holier-than-thou approach. Yet, when anyone with conflicting views of SPC posts anything remotely similar they scream & cry afoul. Gail I’m a grown woman with a college education, please don’t resort to elementary-middle school playground style rhetoric & attempts at satire. Just answer the questions & address the criticism with facts or don’t respond.

A question that Gail has been asking women to attending her seminars/conferences & classes has been “Do you shave your public hair?”. Gail believes that the act of shaving ones’ genitals is a part of an ‘ever growing porn culture’ & feeds pedophile type of urges. I disagree with her for a variety of reasons. Apologies in advance for my going into TMI mode; I personally shave (or at least groom) my pubic hair & genital regions for numerous reasons. The first being personal hygiene during my menstrual cycle, I have awful menstrual cycles that will often leak no matter what method of containing I use. I do not enjoy getting blood clots tangled in my nether regions.

Secondly, as I have mentioned, I’m lesbian (not that it should matter) & my last partner had tongue & genital piercings, you can probably imagine how much that hurt when not shaving.

Thirdly, why does this even matter? It’s not Gail’s or anyone elses’ business of the reasoning behind to shave or not to shave (especially consenting grown adults). What’s next is Gail going to go after the razor industry? However all points aside… my questions are if a MALE professor had asked a group of young college aged girls this same question would it be appropriate? Would Gail & SPC throw a tantrum demanding that the professor be stripped of his credentials & charged with sexual harassment? What about beards? If Gail has so much criticism of shaving pubic hairs, why hasn’t she spoke out about women demanding their male mates shave their beards to make them more kissable?

As always stay safe, think for yourself & be kind
– Kat Cooper

Please feel free to follow me on twitter @RealKatCooper & I can be also found on Facebook.

Censored UK: Where Are We Now?

While we at Sex & Censorship are following – with increasing trepidation – the endless drift towards censorship in the UK, we’re sometimes reminded that many of our supporters can’t keep up with all the news and events. That’s hardly surprising: Britain is currently experiencing wave after wave of moral panic, and it seems that hardly a week goes by without more bad news for free expression. So here is a brief round-up of some of the main issues comprising British censorship at present. I’ve undoubtedly missed stuff: feel free to add it below. Of course, a short blog post can’t hope to explain everything that’s taking place. I’m currently documenting British censorship in a book, Porn Panic: please join our mailing list to be alerted when this is published.

Law

  • The Obscene Publications Act: the grandaddy of all censorship laws, outlawing the distribution of content that might “deprave and corrupt” its audience.
  • Video Recordings Act: since 1984(!) the BBFC (a private organisation) has had the right to censor videos and DVDs, and they seem to have a particular problem with pornography, making UK video among the most censored in Europe.
  • Protection of Children Act: originally designed to criminalise images of child abuse, but sometimes misused, even to harass viewers of legitimate pornography.
  • Dangerous Cartoons Act: yes, you can become a sex offender for possessing a sexual cartoon featuring a character that might appear to be under-age – such as seen in popular Japanese anime cartoons.
  • Extreme Porn Law: three years in jail for possessing images of what the government considers to be “extreme pornography” – even if they are images of yourself participating in consensual sex with your own partner.
  • Rape Porn: a planned extension to the extreme porn law whereby you can be jailed for possessing an image of a sexual act that appears to be non-consensual (whether it is actually consensual or not). Quick, delete those bondage photos!
  • Gagging law: no, it’s not about blowjobs: it’s a serious attack on the rights of political campaigning organisations to speak freely, disguised as a law to regulate lobbying.

Regulation

  • Although they’ve never been mandated by Parliament or the British people to do so, Ofcom have consistently refused to allow hardcore sex on TV: even on adult channels at 3am. Almost all other EU countries, and the US, allow porn to be broadcast.
  • A private body, ATVOD, has taken it upon itself to drive much of the online porn industry out of the country, or out of business, by mandating strict website guidelines that make profitable business effectively impossible. They claim an EU directive gives them this right, although strangely, none of the other 26 EU member states have taken this action, and erotic/sexual material continues to be sold legally elsewhere in Europe without such restrictions.
  • Internet blocking: There were at least two attempts to introduce mandatory Internet censorship laws into Parliament last year; while these both failed, we expect similar laws to have more success in the near future.

ISPs

  • Mobile networks: since 2004, mobile operators have voluntarily censored Internet access from phones until the owner proves they are over 18. This censorship covers all sorts of material, and many adults as well as teenagers are denied access to much of the Internet from their mobile phones.
  • Broadband filtering: since December, ISPs have voluntarily begun to offer “porn filters” to home-owners, under the pretext of “protecting children”. However, these filters block, not just porn, but dozens of categories of content for entire households, and offer the bill payer a means of restricting Internet access for others in the same household.

Policing Speech

A raft of laws against “malicious communication” and “terrorism” have been used to jail people for speech alone. Increasingly, the important line between expression and action is becoming blurred in the eyes of the UK authorities. These days, writing can be considered terrorism, and jokes tweeted in poor taste can see you dragged into court.

Academia

There is a worrying trend towards increasing censorship within universities, which (one would have hoped) should be beacons of free expression, debate and discussion. For example, several student unions have banned the Sun newspaper, not for its dodgy news or political bias, but for displaying that most terrible thing, the female nipple.

What now?

Censored UK is a reality. We struggle with limited resources to expose these attacks on free expression, and campaign against those who try to push us even further in this direction. If any of this worries or outrages you, please donate to our campaign and help us restore some sanity!

Why Are We Protesting on March 15th?

Since the London protest was announced for March 15th, I’ve been asked by some UK pornstars what the event is about. Although Stop Porn Culture (SPC) is well known for its anti-sex campaigning in the US, it is a new introduction to the UK. Their conference next month is aimed at setting up a presence in this country.

SPC is the brainchild of Gail Dines, probably the most prolific anti-sex campaigner around today. She sells a fantasy world in which the all-powerful porn industry is plotting to turn everybody into promiscuous, sex addicted, pornstar wannabes. And she makes a good living from this, having written three books, and regularly featuring in the press and on the speaking circuit.

Dines claims to have studied the porn industry for over 20 years, but a quick read of her work reveals that she neither knows or cares how the industry works. Her job is to scare people into believing that the porn biz is huge and powerful and coming to destroy their children, and then use that fear to build her profile and bank balance. She spreads the usual anti-sex myths – such as porn addiction – and throws in a few of her own, like claiming the porn industry is worth $96 billion, when in reality it might be 2% that size. She is the hero who will take on and destroy the evil Porn Empire. But of course, she needs lots of money to fight this crusade. Although she claims to be a radical, Dines (like so many anti-porn feminists) finds more in common with the religious right than with progressives.

Like all supporters of censorship, Dines hates free speech, and her favourite tactic is to shut down debate. Last year, she attempted to get the industry XBIZ EU event shut down by calling for a boycott of Radisson hotels if they hosted it. Her letter to Radisson, like so much of what she writes, is a work of comic genius, and worth a read.

She attempted similar disruption to our protest of her event, leading her supporters to bombard our event page – which they did. Women who opposed them were attacked especially strongly. Although some supporters asked me to block the haters, I chose instead to support their right to free speech, and responded as follows:

Dear Gail Dines and Stop Porn Culture:

Your coordinated spamming of this event page has been noted. Our response is as follows:

1) We note that we have rattled your cage; we must be doing something right.

2) Unlike you anti-porn fundamentalists, we believe in free expression, and have not acted to block you. We know that pro-porn people are not afforded this right by Stop Porn Culture or Gail Dines. We claim the moral high ground.

3) Although you claim to be on the side of “exploited” women in porn, we know that in reality, you attack them and refuse them a voice. We, on the other hand, represent the women and men who choose to fuck for a living. You will be hearing from them on March 15 in London.

As well as Dines, the conference will feature well known British anti-sex voices, including the journalist Julie Bindel and speakers from Object, which campaigns against everything from strip clubs to lads’ mags.

The purpose of the conference is to attack sexual expression in all of its forms, and to advance the censorship agenda. And the conference will deny the basic rights of women who choose to be pornstars, strippers and sex workers, which is why they will be protesting outside.

The ‘Feminists’ That Cried Wolf

Stripper Edie Lamort writes about snobbish and prudish attacks on strip clubs made in the name of feminism.

This Friday 28th February, Labour MP Diana Johnson, will be reading her proposals for a new bill on Sex Entertainment Venues (SEVs) for the second time in the House of Commons. She is the MP for Kingston-Upon-Hull and the striptease venues near her are Honey Trap and Purple Door. Her bill aims to increase regulations of Sexual Encounter Venues (SEVs) despite these being very heavily regulated anyway. Currently a council can consult with the public on SEVs and ask if it wishes to see a nil policy introduced. Effectively banning striptease in that particular borough. However this is not mandatory and this new legislation seeks to make it mandatory for all councils to go through this procedure, whether they believe it relevant or not.

Along with being an admirer of extremist lobby group Object she states: “As well as the specific concerns about the links between the sex entertainment industry and coercion and human trafficking, there is a widespread view that lap-dancing clubs can contribute in a negative way to the general character of an area and detract from the residents’ quality of life, especially if the clubs are located in residential areas or near schools.”

This is the usual line given and is not supported by any evidence. In terms of human trafficking; the very idea of allowing legal licensed venues is to prevent such things. You have to show your passport to the club to prove that you can legitimately work in the UK therefore making it impossible for undocumented or trafficked persons to get a job. Copies of passports must be held by the club as they can be checked by the local council at any time.

Tied up in the ‘concerns’ about coercion is the patronising attitude that good girls couldn’t possibly choose such a job and those who do must be damaged, drug addicts and therefore coerced.

In terms of them contributing negatively to the character of the area one thing I hear frequently, when attending debates on the subject, is the phrase ‘I had no idea these places existed in my borough, but they must be banned.’ So if they had no idea they existed then they weren’t causing that much trouble in the first place. There have also been very strict regulations on the kind of signage and advertising clubs can do for many years now. No club is allowed to display obscene or overt advertising or flyer passers by.

Finally clubs are not usually open during school hours and children do not attend school in the nighttime. But hey, why let the facts get in the way of a good moral panic?

She also uses quotes from three concerned local residents who do not like striptease venues. They say they fear the customers of such clubs and feel vulnerable. As much as their fears are real to them we must ask if they are founded. Is this fear real or imagined?

The three residents quoted by Diana Johnson may not like the dancers and dislike the customers. They may find us all slutty and trashy for dancing naked but I find their snobbery distasteful. They are welcome to their opinion but I and many others are also entitled to our freedom. The argument of finding customers of strip pubs rowdy and unpleasant could also be used against football supporters, clubbers or rock fans going to a gig.

A few weeks ago, in the club I work in, we had a group of girls in celebrating a birthday. They were great fun, respectful to all and are most welcome to come again. These women were not afraid of dancers or customers. Not all women are quaking with fear because of striptease.

The Stripping the Illusion blog recently put in a freedom of information request to the Kingston-Upon-Hull City Council to see if they too were of the same mind as the three upset residents.

“Freedom of Information Act 2000 – Information Request – 000304/14

With regard to your Freedom of Information request received on 7 February 2014, please find our response below.

‘I am making an enquiry under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act, and I would grateful if you would provide me the following information:-

• Details of premises within the city currently licenced for striptease (either under the Police and Crime Act 2009, or the Licensing Act 2003);

• Details of any premises which were licenced for striptease (under the Licensing Act 2003) over the last ten years, i.e. from February 2004;

• Records of any official complaints made against the above premises, either to Kingston-upon-Hull City Council or Humberside Police.’

The only two premises that have been licensed for striptease are Fantasy Bar (now the Honey Trap) and Purple Door. There have been no official complaints made against either of these premises.

We hope that you will be satisfied with our response and should you require any further information then please do not hesitate to contact us.”

It is very easy to criticise and condemn something you don’t understand but the main question here is do we want to live in the prison of other people’s fears? Fears that are not your own but simply those of a tiny yet vocal minority. Whilst their fear is of significance to them we cannot let them dictate to the more courageous majority and have the richness of our lives censored or limited.

This does not only affect dancing venues. If we continue to put the opinions of the local busybody, someone with a grudge or perhaps the interests of a property developer over and above the enjoyment of the rest of society we will all be poorer. This nimbyism doesn’t stop at strip clubs. More and more the objections of a tiny minority of residents are causing venues and arts projects to close.

The Wapping Project in East London is closing due to the complaints of three awkward residents. It will now be turned into ‘luxury’ flats. The George Tavern music venue in Stepney is threatened due to a development of ‘luxury’ flats. The Coliseum is closing, all the clubs by London Bridge have been closed and the Raymond Revue Bar was closed in the disgraceful Soho land grab just before Christmas.

This all amounts to nothing more than a conservative attack on communities and the arts. Hundreds of pubs and venues are closing up and down the country every week. Mostly to make way for ‘luxury’ flats that are bought off plan by foreign investors. Whole areas are being cleansed and sold, not just Soho, but also the Elephant and Castle redevelopment.

Do we wish to live in society full of unaffordable ‘luxury’ flats, in a cultural wasteland, or do we want to keep music, dance (including pole dance) and the arts as part of our lives? A friend of mine who has been a successful club promoter for over two decades now, gave a wry smile recently and said, ‘I don’t know why they are planning a 24 tube service in 2015. At this rate there will be no more clubs in central London to go to.’

Not only is this bill part of ‘the feminism that cried wolf’ syndrome, taking offence to everything, but it’s also the feminism that is the handmaid of property developers.

Another question this raises for me is why are ‘feminists’ such cowards and why do they seek to blame others all the time for their issues? I know the world is not perfect but my formative years were during the 90s where everyone went a bit hippy. People went travelling and ‘found themselves’, people did Yoga, meditation and therapies of all kinds. Essentially people took responsibility for themselves. They therapied themselves silly, sometimes with charlatan gurus admittedly, but the over all philosophy of the time was, ‘if you have personal issues you can deal with them, gain power over them and be happier.’ A flotation tank and some crystals do not solve all problems but this was an overall healthier mentality than today’s finger pointing.

Now people do not look to themselves to see why they are afraid or if their fears have any foundation, they instead they accuse the other. They point the finger and say ‘it must be banned’. Whether the narrative is ‘porn makes me feel bad’, ‘men who’ve looked at other women may gaze lustfully at me’ or even ‘she’s prettier than me, I feel bad, it’s her fault’. They need to ask themselves questions first before blaming the other. It’s not always someone else’s fault and it’s very important we get the balance right.

Everyday Sexism founder Laura Bates recently attacked Helen Grant MP when she dared to suggest girls who don’t like traditional sports should try other types. A reasonable suggestion in my opinion and as someone who enjoys ‘feminine’ dance as well as ‘masculine’ British Military Fitness I appreciate the differences and the benefits of varied forms of exercise. Apparently teenagers can be awkward and say they don’t want to mess their hair. Err ….. well of course and hasn’t this always been the case? I don’t think difficult teenagers are a modern phenomena. This is just another way that people abdicate personal responsibility by pointing the finger at external factors.

Are today’s young women really so feeble minded? I know my nieces aren’t. I’m sure our athletes or cheerleaders aren’t, I know my pole dancing friends aren’t. This modern strand of feminism really is in danger of being the feminism that cried wolf and simply makes a mockery out of a once honorable movement. Laura Bates and Everyday Sexism being a good example of this. Some of the stories published on the website are of actual sexism and some even of criminal acts, these are valid complaints. However there are a great deal that are simply small-minded whining and these will only serve to damage the movement.

Whether it be your local pole dance venue, your local music venue or arts project; these should be saved and not closed down on the whims and complaints of a tiny handful of residents. This bill should set a threshold, a minimum number of complaints, before a successful business can be closed. These complaints should also be backed up by police evidence. Thus preventing the local busybody from ruining everyone else’s fun.

Diane Johnson MP is using hashtag #peoplepoweronstripclubs‬‬‬ if you wish to join the debate.

Letter to MPs on Criminalising “Rape Porn”

This week, the following letter was sent to a number of MPs and Lords, to raise concerns over the planned “rape porn” legislation. This was sent on behalf of Sex & Censorship and an alliance of other sexual freedom campaigns: Backlash, Consenting Adult Action Network, Campaign Against Censorship and the Sexual Freedom Coalition.

We write to express grave concern regarding S16 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill which will extend the existing ban on extreme pornography (S63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act). This section is poorly defined. It will have the unintended consequence of criminalising the possession of material that depicts consensual sex, bondage and power-play fantasies common to millions.

Pornography of all kinds has become much more accessible since the Internet has become available to the general public. In that time, the prevalence of sexual abuse has not increased in the United Kingdom and may have decreased. It is simplistic & mistaken to suggest that pornography is a cause of violence against women. Correlation is not causation. Serious academic studies of pornography and sexual violence (1) show that increased availability of pornography is, in fact, associated with less violence and abuse.

Fictional and consensual portrayals of submission and domination are a common and popular sexual fantasy, as recently illustrated by the Fifty Shades of Grey novels. Indeed one of the largest surveys ever undertaken in Britain (2) indicated that nearly a third of us have fantasies about elements of forced sex, with approximately 2.2 million men and women having violent sexual fantasies. With around 90% of men and 60% of women viewing pornography, and with so many enjoying fantasies of this nature, the danger is that this poorly defined legislation will have a huge impact.

The Bill’s Impact Assessment suggests that the number of cases cannot be predicted. When extreme material was criminalised (by S63(7) CJIA 2008) government ministers predicted there would only be 30 cases a year, but the reality was very different. In the last year for which the MoJ has provided data (2012/13), there were 1,348 prosecutions. Given that the number of people who enjoy material that features sexual bondage and power-play is so high, we fear government will create thousands of new sex offenders, most of whom will be entirely harmless law-abiding citizens.

There is also a problem with government guidance for the public and prosecutors. Just prior to the enactment of S63(7) CJIA 2008, in response to reservations, the House of Lords was promised that meaningful guidance would be issued to explain those categories that were difficult to define. This never happened. In fact prosecutors were so unsure of the meaning of the law that there have been some trials of material which we are confident Parliament never intended. For example, the prosecution of barrister Simon Walsh, a former aide to Boris Johnson, whose legal practice had included investigating corruption within British police forces. His career in public life was ruined by a prosecution. It was rejected by a jury after 90 minutes deliberation. Prosecutors failed to prove that images depicting consensual sex acts between him and two other gay men were ‘extreme’.

The prosecution also threatened the reputation of the Crown Prosecution Service as an impartial public servant by showing that gay men risked having their lives destroyed in court over intimate acts which were consensual, safe and commonly practiced within the LGBT community. Bad laws do not harm only the individuals prosecuted; they also harm the institutions tasked with enforcing them, and increase even further the costs of the justice system to the taxpayer. This proposed law will also traumatise large numbers of women and men by having their private sexual fantasies examined and shamed in public.

It is therefore vital that S16 of this Bill be refined to limit the scope of the ban to images that are produced through real harm or lack of consent. Fantasy portrayals of forced/power-play sex are too commonly enjoyed to be reasonably subject to prohibition.

We appeal to you to refine this legislation. We also ask to be permitted to put detailed evidence to Parliament at the committee stages. Finally, we ask if you would be willing to host an event in Parliament, at which representatives could speak, so that members of both Houses can better understand what is at stake.

References.

1. Pornography, Public Acceptance and Sex Related Crime: A Review: 2009: Milton Diamond
2. British Sexual Fantasy Research Project: 2007. ISBN 978-0-713-99940-2