In the Star Editorial on April 12 you asked whether Sheffield should clear out the sex industry with specific regard to strip joints.
You noted the situation on the streets in the red light district and questioned whether this should be where the focus on making the change should be. You asked if we were targeting the real problem and where the line should be drawn.
The common link here is that women are viewed by the pimp or strip club as commodities, objects to be bought, which is a fundamental effect and cause of gender inequality.
Despite your editorial references to male strippers in the Full Monty, the significance of male and female nudity is not the same: the power inequalities are different for men in the context of a society which is biased in favour of men. And, as one of the objectors commented at the recent Sheffield Council Licensing Hearing which renewed the strip club Spearmint Rhino’s sexual entertainment venue licence for another year: “The Full Monty is funny because it is men being humiliated – this is not funny.”
Licensing a strip club effectively endorses the right of men to buy access to women’s bodies. It makes it more normal and acceptable to view women as sex objects and thus reduces the status of women to less than human.
This view of women is linked to violence against women which is so very common: if women are viewed as less than human it is easier to treat them with less respect and to be violent to them.
Research has shown that the more a man who has been violent to a woman holds these views which regard women more as objects than fully human, the greater their violent behaviour.
We understand that some women who work in strip clubs say they enjoy their work. However, our views are very much informed by our engagement with women who have left the sex industry and who found it harmful and financially exploitative.
We believe that the presence of strip clubs does not foster good relations between the sexes: not only do strip clubs pit women against each other to compete to be chosen for a private dance, which is how they earn money there but, as was recently shared with us by a lap dancer from a local club, she said it was horrible and she could not wait to leave and other ex-dancers have said it really damaged their views of men.
It is now becoming increasingly clear that strip clubs have no place anywhere, and certainly not in a city which claims that ‘everyone matters’.