Strippers’ union hits back at Spearmint Rhino critics

A strippers’ union has hit out at critics of lapdancing clubs, claiming women will be pushed into poverty if legal clubs are closed down.

Wednesday, 1st May 2019, 10:30 am

United Voices of the World, the trade union representing strippers working in clubs across the UK, says it is appalled by “duplicitous sting operations” at Sheffield’s Spearmint Rhino.

Two former male police officers visited Spearmint Rhino on two different occasions in February and allegedly identified numerous breaches of the licensing conditions and possible unlawful activity.

The Women's Equality Party – WEP – attended a recent council meeting where they gave a graphic description of some of the sex acts alleged to have taken place at the club.

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The WEP says it did not commission or conduct the undercover operations but referenced the findings at a council meeting.

But Shiri Shalmy of United Voices of the World said: “In a misguided, self-appointed mission to ‘save’ dancers, the WEP continues to put women’s livelihoods at risk, while ignoring the explicit wishes of the women involved.

“As a feminist trade union, we are extremely alarmed by this practice will continue to support our members and offer solidarity to all dancers affected by this harmful behaviour.”

Dr Rachela Colosi, Programme Leader for Sociology, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lincoln added: “Where the licenses of sexual entertainment venues are denied or revoked, as well as exposing women to poverty through unemployment, the women may have no alternative but to seek work in unregulated spaces of erotic dance, increasing their risk of experiencing further exploitation.

“There is evidence to suggest that those working in unregulated spaces of erotic dance are exposed to more risks, including non-payment of labour, and increased incidents of sexual and physical violence.”

One Spearmint Rhino dancer, known only as H.W, said: “Dancers have made it clear that they don’t need rescuing, they need a workplace where they can earn a living to support themselves and their families.

“Women choose to work in strip clubs for the same reasons people choose a wide variety of jobs: funding university studies, family needs, a disability and a scarcity of other work options.

“All of them are working because they need to make a living under increasingly difficult conditions - extortionate housing costs, inaccessible and inadequate benefits, lack of childcare and falling wages in other industries.

“I’m appalled that these groups are saying they are trying to help us when all they are doing is publicly shaming and humiliating us, which is detrimental to our mental health. I love my job, and it’s helped to fund me through university and get onto the property ladder at a young age.”

The WEP said: "United Voices of the World has alleged that the Women’s Equality Party conducted an undercover investigation into sexual entertainment venues. This is simply not true: we have at no point commissioned or conducted any such investigation.

"We first learned about the investigation when an organisation called Not Buying It released a summary of the findings, and our local activists have since referred to this evidence in their representations to local authorities, always making clear this was not our investigation."

Spearmint Rhino said it imposes strict rules at all of its establishments.