Nine strip club performers in the United Kingdom are fighting to stop the publication of an undercover video shot by Not Buying It, a self-described “feminist” anti-sex work organization. The performers argue that the footage, shot by hired private detectives with the aim of capturing business-ending violations at Spearmint Rhino clubs in London, “could infringe their human right to respect for private life,” reports the Guardian. Already, this seems to be proving true: Just this week, the dancers lost an appeal for anonymity. A judge ruled that, against the performers’ wishes, their names will be revealed in court records.
These women were not only non-consensually filmed while doing their jobs, in footage that may soon circulate widely, but will also be outed as sex workers on judicial record. All this because a feminist organization is ostensibly concerned, as the Guardian puts it, “about the exploitation of women.” Guess it’s OK when self-described feminists are the ones doing the exploiting—and for political ends.
Not Buying It, which claims to “raise awareness of the harm of the porn and sex trade and campaigns for change,” hired private investigators to film the undercover videos earlier this year. As the Guardian previously reported, “The footage led to a council investigation which found that some dancers had been sexually touching customers, themselves and each other, resulting in 74 breaches of licensing conditions and 145 breaches of the club’s code of conduct.” The aim here, of course, is to shutter strip clubs. While the organization’s website rails against an “increasingly abusive ‘porn culture,’” the group has essentially created non-consensual, politically-motivated porn.
The Guardian quotes performer Heather Watson, who said that dancers across the country have this year been “subject to objectification, dismissal, revenge porn tactics” and “ignored by feminists claiming to rescue us.” As the article reported, “The dancers said being secretly filmed had affected their mental health, and could not be described as a feminist act.” Watson was one of those dancers. “We are not sex objects as we have been described,” she told the Guardian. “We are as complex and multifaceted as anyone else and actually, customers treat us as people, more than the supposed feminist objectors.”
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Recently, the Spearmint Rhino in Sheffield had its license renewed despite being featured in the undercover footage and, as a result, performers from the club celebrated. Still, “a coalition of feminist groups... said they would continue to fight for the venue’s license to be withdrawn.” Sasha Rakoff, CEO of Not Buying It, seemed to wave off workers’ expressed wishes—to simply continue to be able to do their jobs—as false consciousness or puppeteering, arguing that “the overwhelmingly positive accounts given by those working at the club demonstrated the ‘stranglehold’ the company had on its dancers,” as the Guardian paraphrased.
The group’s questionably punctuated (and argued) tagline is: “Selling Women’s Bodies ..We’re Not Buying It.” It’s clear that while these activists worry over the buying and selling of women’s bodies, they fail to actually listen to them.