In the eyes of Beatrix Campbell, "lap dancing is to the sex trade what a casino is to a bookie." Campbell, writing in the Guardian, claims that the recent rise of lap dancing clubs across the United Kingdom, and the subsequent notion that lap dancing is an "innocent pleasure, progress for women, a way a woman can make 'loadsamoney' for little effort or skill" is "a rebuke to feminism's impact on popular culture, an impact that is routinely traduced as anti-pleasure puritanism." Campbell argues that the women who take up employment in lap dancing clubs are basically prostitutes, filled with shame and falling victim to misogyny. "Lap dancing exists for men to buy, in one way or another, women," Campbell states, "They are not places of pleasure for women."
Campbell rages against so-called "Gentlemen's clubs," noting that their original purpose was "to be places where men put their feet up, read the papers and relished school dinners" before, I suppose, this wacky sex thing got a hold of them. Campbell insists upon painting every woman who works as a lap dancer as a shame-filled victim, noting that the dancers are "women who sometimes travel thousands of miles, induced into employment by the promise of big money and a better life." She also argues that lap dancing clubs are covers for the sex trade, where in "special packages" are given to those who ask.
In defending her stance, Campbell reminds her readers that recent licensing laws that will require lap dancing clubs to register as Sexual Encounter Establishments which she considers to be "an ingenious attempt to bring the licensing of lap dancing clubs within local control. Since 2005 all that lap dancing needs is a license to sell alcohol. But there is risk inherent in regulating the sex trade: licensing sexual encounter establishments legitimates sexism encounter establishments rather than removing the sex trade's conditions of existence."
And while it is hard to deny that there are, certainly, clubs out there that take advantage of women, Campbell never speaks to any women who actually work in the clubs, and never asks them, personally, if they feel the "shame" that she claims they feel. She refers only to fellow Guardian columnist Rowenna Davis, who herself felt shame while visiting a lap dancing club. It's a bit disingenuous for Ms. Campbell to rage against the clubs and make broad statements regarding their workers without even bothering to speak with any. Ms. Davis' experience alone, as a paying customer, does not a valid argument make.
Davis' piece, however, is interesting overall: she attempts to balance her obvious distaste for the dancing with her belief that people should have the right to work as they please. She is not convinced, however, that any woman truly "chooses" to work in a lap dancing club, as she writes, "Choice is an ambiguous issue. Do you choose to lap dance if you have a drug habit to feed? Are you working of your own free will if you don't have the qualifications to get another job, or lack the self-esteem to try? These are the questions the liberal proponents of lapdancers' "right to choose" have yet to answer."
The struggle between protection and expression, between promoting freedom of sexuality and protesting the objectification of women, leaves Davis at a bit of a moral standstill. In the end, she leans, in perhaps a more open-minded view than Campbell (though both women seem convinced that no woman, ever, anywhere, would ever choose to dance for non-shady reasons), toward the protection of women: "Clamping down on licensing laws is not enough to protect the women in these clubs or the communities outside," Davis says, "Without genuine and accessible alternatives to careers in the sex industry, women like the one I paid will go on dancing, whether they want to or not."