Strip clubs allow 'sexual objectification of women', say supporters of ban

If approved, the nil-cap policy could see Central Chambers (left) and Urban Tiger (right) closed down.

A public consultation is underway in Bristol which could see it become the biggest UK city to ban strip clubs, otherwise known as sexual entertainment venues (SEVs).

It has fiercely divided opinion in Bristol and all over the world.

On one side of the debate are those fighting for female empowerment, while on the opposing side are those battling for gender equality.

The latter, campaigners say, will never happen if SEVs are allowed to open.

One group which has been outspoken in favour of the proposals to ban the city’s two strip clubs, is Bristol Women’s Commission.

“SEVs promote and profit from harmful sexist attitudes that we know can, and sadly do, lead to violence against women,” a spokesperson told ITV West Country.

“In licensing these venues in our city centre, the council is sanctioning the sexual objectification of women and making it easier for more men to pay for access to women's bodies, fuelling a sense of entitlement and feeling of dominance over women.”

Central to the group’s argument in support of a nil-cap policy on SEVs is that the venues contribute towards violence against women.

“Schools in the city are told to spend time and money on educating boys in schools about healthy relationships and respecting women, but if they can head to a strip club (legitimised by the council) on a night out as soon as they turn 18 then it sends an altogether different message,” the group explained.

“Strip clubs open a door to face-to-face sex buying for men who, were the venues not part of the mainstream night-time culture, would otherwise not consider it.”

Central Chambers is one of the clubs that some say would be forced to close if the ban was introduced.

Bristol’s SEV dancers refute claims the clubs are dangerous places to work.

Amelie, who works at Urban Tiger, said: “I probably have been touched inappropriately maybe two or three times, but that has been dealt with very swiftly.

“That’s probably happened to me dozens of times on a normal night out, where security just tell me that’s the way it is.

“If the main argument you’re going to push for to close strip clubs down is that it’s for women’s safety, then there are clubs you should look at first before you come to us.

“The blame should always be on the perpetrators, not on us, not on women or sex workers. We don’t create the violence. They do.”

There is disagreement over what happens inside Bristol’s strip clubs, but the city’s Women’s Commission believes what happens inside significantly impacts what goes on outside.

“This issue is much bigger than crimes committed inside SEVs where security is very tight,” they explained.

“It's about the way the existence of SEVs fuels harmful gender norms which lead to wider violence against women and girls - not only in night-time establishments, but on the streets, in our schools and homes; where women and girls don't have the added security of paid door supervisors and CCTV cameras.”

Bristol would not be the first city to ban the clubs (Exeter, Warwick and Swansea and Blackpool have introduced similar measures), but it would become the biggest in the UK.

This, BWC says, could “inspire others to follow suit”.

“Bristol is usually a progressive city, we're the only one with a dedicated Women's Commission - but on this we are way behind.”

“Women experience the sex industry in different ways. While some women who work in these clubs report positive experiences, mostly centred around money, the outlook changes when you speak to former strippers as well as current strippers who are conflicted.

“And that's before we even get to the women forced to work in the wider sex industry, trafficked or exploited due to their economic instability.

“Young women need to know that their value does not lie in their bodies or the way they look and perform for men. Strip clubs demonstrate the opposite.”

The industry as a whole, BWC argues, causes "widespread harm to women and girls" and prevents "true gender equality" from ever being achieved.

"This is about all women and girls, not just the small number who currently perform in Bristol's two clubs," the commission added.