Strippers: 'We demand laws and policies that protect our freedoms and rights as workers'
- Gareth K Vile
- 17 August 2018
This article is from 2018
Three women from shows exploring the subject of striptease-based entertainment at this year's Fringe speak out about societal stigma, censorship and fighting to be seen and heard
Joana Nastari, writer and performer of F**k You, Pay Me
This is a show for the community by the community. It's a fictional story but taken from lived experience. My intention is to transcend the tired public narrative that sex workers always get pigeonholed into either 'happy hooker' or 'tragedy porn'.
The public view of what working in strip clubs is like is skewed: I want to create a show that honours the things that are beautiful and damns the things that are unacceptable. Part of this is how the public unconsciously play a role in those things. I hope that destigmatising the industry will also help destigmatise the 'creepy' fictional consumer.
The most damaging thing to sex workers is societal stigma which allows people to not listen to their needs, exclude them from society, and permits people to treat them with disrespect. I see all strippers as highly powerful women: society tells women to be small, and quiet and easy – in a strip club a woman can wear their sexuality freely, take up space, demand pay for emotional labour. If strip clubs weren't run exploitatively, and there was no stigma, they could be a place where the rules could be reversed, where women rule the roost.
F**k You, Pay Me, Assembly Rooms, until 26 Aug (not 21), 3.25pm, £10--£11 (£8--£10).
Gypsy Charms, creator and performer of The Illicit Thrill
The Illicit Thrill always includes cast members who have worked strip clubs: each edition of the show seeks to 'peek under the g-string' and strip bare aspects of strip club culture with full-frontal honesty. This year's edition Breakin' The Rules analyses socio-political and morality-based discourses that influence legislation and censorship of striptease-based entertainment. Freedom of expression and restrictions placed on commodified striptease are central.
Would we watch the same performance in a theatrical /cabaret venue and a strip club in a different way? Does the dramaturgy influence the manner in which we consume striptease-based entertainment? Does the gender (or perceived gender) of the performer affect the way in which we consume? What role does 'agency' play [the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices]? Can striptease-based entertainment be viewed outwith the patriarchal paradigm? Can a show about strip-club culture be viewed as a site for gendered resistance? The Illicit Thrill doesn't set out to answer these questions, but does address them.
We are also exploring the concept of de-robing and re-robing women's bodies and the repression of sexualised female bodies. The concept of agency is paramount to this year's edition.
Stacey Claire, performer of The Illicit Thrill and author of The Ethical Stripper
The male gaze is not as harmful as male entitlement and patriarchal conventions that silence, exploit, and fail to uphold our rights as workers and women. What lies at the core of patriarchy is women being silenced, misrepresented and spoken for. We are fighting to be seen and heard, we reject shame, and we demand laws and policies that protect our freedoms and rights as workers. Laws which criminalise sex work put us in danger, you don't have to look far to find a sex worker activist organisation with the research to back this up.
The aims of the Policing and Crime Act 2009 were to help women by cleaning up the industry. Licensing was tightened up, but nothing was done to protect workers' rights. It led to an increase in exploitative practises: we need policies designed around the needs of those affected.
In a strip club, whilst we may be performing a sexually objectified gender stereotype in return for money, we also have agency. The more our autonomy can be upheld, the greater the chance we have to challenge the patriarchal conventions on which the industry is built. If we shut down clubs, we will lose that opportunity.
Illicit Thrill - Breakin' the Rules, The Voodoo Rooms, until 26 Aug (not 13–15, 20–22), 11.55pm, £10.