Do you know what can FUCK TOTALLY OFF? This news story about the rise in strip club takings. Specifically, the very first four words of it:
Amid all the controversy yesterday of date-rape-drug detecting nail polish and a judge who reckons women need to stop getting drunk, there was one piece of fucked-up bullshit that seemed to slip through the net. When I read it my immediate thought was: hey! Look! A primer for all those people who try to tell me that equality has come on in recent years and there’s no such thing as male privilege any more. Can’t be arsed to read the article? Here’s a summary:
Smarmy club owning tossbag Peter Stringfellow has announced that takings at his strip clubs are going up, as a direct result of financial industry clientele flocking back. Apparently the recession hit these poor lambs hard, and they couldn’t throw down top dollar like they used to. The fact that Stringfellow’s takings are on the rise apparently indicates that the bankers are back in force, braying into their champagne and celebrating big-win deals by paying for people to take their clothes off.
So why am I angry? I mean, the recession’s bad, right? We see all those graphics on TV of wobbly graphs going down and scary sting music announcing that we’re all screwed. Surely a cast-iron economy-boost sign such as this should be cause for celebration?
Maybe. If you want to celebrate the end of the recession I’m not going to snatch the bubbly out of your hand, but fucking HELL. Fuck. Ing. Hell. If we live in a world in which an increase in strip club takings can be a sign of an improvement in any non-stripping-related industry, then I think it’s time the human race was sent to sit in a corner for a while and think about what we’ve done.
Do I hate strip clubs?
No. I haven’t written much about sex work here before, so I should probably clarify before I launch into this rant. I’ve been to strip clubs. I don’t have a problem with stripping or any kind of sex work. I do have a problem with exploitation. These things cross over sometimes, but I don’t think they’re necessarily dependent. You might disagree with me on this point, and I’m sure we could have an interesting and feisty debate about it, but please understand that when I have this rant, it’s not based on a fundamental problem with stripping.
What I have a massive and aching problem with is the fact that these outings are work related. They are so part-and-parcel of the job in a particular kind of industry that it is considered completely normal and not a little bit weird that the owner of a strip club is citing ‘increase in takings’ as an indication of that industry’s revival.
Naked people as job perks
Want to see tits? Fine. Tits are, I understand, quite popular with some people. Want to see cunt? Again, fine. Expect to be shown either or both of these things as a reward for doing your job? Then you’re a bellend.
I am a sex-positive motherfucker. I am so sex-positive that sometimes my enthusiasm for the sticky activities of consenting adults makes my clit ache. HOWEVER, no sexual activity happens in a vacuum. Much as I’d like to be the one dancing naked in front of you and scattering tit-shaped petals at your feet, I’m afraid if you go to strip clubs on work-related jaunts, I’m going to have to piss on your bonfire.
Giving hand-jobs to consenting strangers is totally cool. Doing it in the middle of your open plan office is not. Engaging in consensual BDSM is cool. Spanking your secretary at the AGM is not. Going to strip clubs – also cool. Incorporating strip clubs into your working culture? Utterly reprehensible.
Putting any kind of sexual pressure on anyone is unacceptable, and in a work situation it is very difficult to say ‘actually I’d rather not get a boner in front of my boss, thanks,’ especially when your boss is the one buying dances. On top of this there’s the obvious objection, which I’m sure you’ve thought of yourself: what about your straight female or gay male colleagues? For these people, watching naked strippers may not actually be a ‘treat’ but instead an awkward outing that they have to grin and bear in order to win the approval of a boss and/or client.
Moreover, given that a disinclination to watch female strippers is not always dependent on sexuality, what about your straight male colleagues who don’t enjoy strip clubs? Unless you’re the kind of person whose misogyny is generally seasoned with a large and complimentary dollop of misandry, and you therefore presume all men are slobbering fuckdogs, you’ll agree that there are straight men who don’t enjoy strip clubs.
If you want to treat your colleagues or clients, get them a nice meal. Take them go-karting. Buy them tickets to sodding Disneyland for all I care. But if you work in an industry that has nothing to do with sex, and you make something sexual a standard part of your operating procedure, then you don’t deserve a job.
Women in finance
All of the above goes only some way towards explaining why the article I mentioned so many swearwords ago boiled my blood. What pushed me from silent fuming to a terribly un-British mutter of ‘fuck’s sake’ as I perused the paper on the train was the fact that strip club receipts were so unquestioningly accepted as a sign that the financial industry was ‘back on track.’
This tells us that the financial sector remains not only dominated by men, but dominated by the unconscionably banal and pathetic attitude that masculinity rules the world. The kind of macho ‘dicks-out, tally ho, woof woof, nice tits, I just made a million dollars’ culture that should have died well before Wolf of Wall Street was released.
I’ll get men commenting on this saying ‘we don’t all go to strip clubs, you know,’ and it will make me want to weep tears of actual blood, then smash through my computer screen with my weeping, bloodied face. Because this is not me saying ‘all men are dicks.’ This is a much wider problem – a culture that unthinkingly accepts that all men want X, where ‘X’ includes sexual service, a pile of money, and a BMW they can use to cut up cyclists in the city centre. There will always be some pin-striped arseholes who want to see tits on the company dime. As long as there are quarterly sales meetings there’ll be some twat called Henry who suggests they all trip down to Stringfellow’s as a reward for hitting their targets. Henry is a lubed-up prick, for sure, but shouldn’t shoulder all the responsibility. I hate him for acting like a swaggering piss-bucket, but I’m far more angry at the culture that lets him.
This pathetic world, which unthinkingly correlates strip club takings with a financial sector ‘bounceback’ and doesn’t go ‘wait a minute! Isn’t this fucked up on such a large scale we can see it from the top of the Chrysler Building?’
I have a message for you, Henry, and for all your mates in the city. All the managers and bosses who turn a blind eye to this bullshit. To the people who’ll nod and smile and say ‘boys will be boys’ or talk about the ‘culture’ of finance and why it just HAS to be like this. My message is this:
We’re coming to get you.
We liberal lefty do-gooding bastards with our ideals and our rage and our charity-shop jumpers. We’re coming to get you.
Fifty years ago Mad-Men-style ad execs would think nothing of slapping a secretary’s arse. Twenty years ago you could bribe clients with strip club trips and claim it back from work. These days, things are different. Arseholes have to suppress their natural instincts – avoid sexual harassment, overtly offensive comments, and sticking their boners on expenses. It still happens, of course, but it’s rarer. It’s rarer because we’ve made it so: we do-gooding bastards are actually winning.
We’re winning for a number of reasons. Perhaps it’s because we’ve got better messages – ‘equality’ sounds better than ‘jobs for the boys’, doesn’t it? Or maybe it’s because time and again we’re proven right – women enter a particular industry (be it factory work, finance, or tech) and manage to equal and often outperform their male colleagues. My favourite theory, though, is it’s because we’re just fucking right.
Call me a starry-eyed optimist but I believe the UK, despite making spectacular and regular fuck ups, is tending towards greater equality, and a much lower tolerance for sexist shit. Don’t cry ‘oh political correctness oh woe oh the horror’ – it’s not a scary thing – it’s a good thing.
Henry, we’re coming to get you, and when we do I hope you’ll welcome us with relief and open arms. I hope you’ll cry ‘thank Christ for that, I don’t have to live up to this weird cut-out stereotype of masculinity any more.’ I hope you’ll realise that bringing women into an industry and kicking obligatory sex shows out of it is a net win for all of us. And I hope that in fifty years time you look back not on the ‘good old days’ of Pete from Head Office treating you to a lapdance, but the even better days of not feeling forced into some weird misogynist ritual just to prove your worth in the workplace.
We’re coming to get you. Roll out the red carpet, or get run into the ground.