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Strip clubs for sales targets

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:

The City is back.”

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?’

Get ready

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.


  • As someone who did a bit of stripping/pole dancing in Edinburgh’s pubs during my student days, I can relate to this.

    On the whole, the audience were good natured and respectful (yes, I did actually said respectful, despite the fact they were paying to see girls get naked), but there were some who were misogynistic cunts, who thought that because they shoved fivers in our garters, they owned us and could expect anything from us.

    Fortunately, the pub where I mostly performed, took a dim view on those patrons who thought that our nudity meant we were obviously gagging for a seeing too, and looked out for us. Sadly, I suspect not all establishments are quite so protective of their girls.

    On the whole, I actually quite enjoyed it, but sadly there will always be cunts who spoil it for the ordinary, decent paying viewers.

    Good article.

    Katie xx

  • Marc says:

    In fairness having a few friends who work in this sector, it’s not as simple as a load of bankers or brokers on a night out going to strip clubs. There’s a huge part of the job that involves them entertaining their clients, and if a client who’s account is worth x amount of pounds to you, you’ve got no choice but to do what they say, be it providing fancy dinners, strippers, prostitutes, drugs etc?..

    I get the point you’re trying to make, but think you’ve maybe missed the angle here – strip clubs are a business at the end of the day, as much as banks and brokering firms are, to think these places are full of businessmen solely on a ‘jolly boys outing’ affair is wrong. A lot of these clients will fly in from countries, and expect to basically be given a freebie, and plenty of perks. I’d imagine it goes on in a lot of industries, anywhere where there is money, power and men involved – strippers and prostitutes won’t be far away. Not saying it’s right but it goes back thousands of years, I’m not sure the two will never been intertwined personally.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Way to spectacularly miss the point!

      1. For the record, I *did* mention entertaining clients. I am aware that this happens, and it is part and parcel of why this whole thing fucks me off.
      2. You say “where there is money, power and men involved” these things will be inevitable. The final section of the blog post argues that it is not inevitable. What has happened for ‘thousands of years’ does not have to happen tomorrow because things change. They are changing already. They will change more. Feel free to tell me why you think they won’t, but just saying ‘they always have been’ doesn’t really address what I’ve said.
      3. Those ‘clients’ who expect freebies? Prepare for me to *utterly blow your mind here*, but in the future they will not all be men.

      • Mike says:

        All the way with you on this Girl. Anyone who justifies this in terms of what the client expects or that this is the way to get business and keep it, or our competitors do it so we must is a knob.

    • Azkyroth says:

      London/the area had cholera outbreaks for thousands of years, too.

      • Alys says:

        Excellent point, except for the tiny quibble that cholera is a fairly recent arrival. However, child labour, starvation wages, marital rape, thyphoid, smallpox, etc all went on for hundreds, if not thousands, of years until us lefty, bleeding hearted types started meddling with tradition and the natural order of things. General intention noted, however.

  • jak says:

    PC lefties can enforce anything in the Public sector but the private sector is just quieter about this sort of thing.

    I have mates who are quite jealous that my public sector boss does not insist on everyone going on a teambuilding exercise once a month at a wank bar. They would prefer to come home and do some real shagging.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Agree that enforcement for not being a douchebag is easier in the public sector, but I think even without specific rules around it, this kind of behaviour will die out – not least because, as you point out, plenty of people would rather not go on this kind of obligatory sexual team-building exercise.

  • Mike says:

    Girl, I loved this post. Brilliant polemic and just right. Sexual exploitation is never OK. Grrrrrrrrr!

  • Not sure I ever experienced any of the “corporate” crowd. Certainly, being next door to Edinburgh’s financial district I saw plenty of bankers and insurance brokers, but in the main it was stag parties and middle aged men. Although, surprisingly, quite a few women would come along too.

    Maybe I was just lucky. The pole/table/stage dancing didn’t really bother me, but the private dance cubicles were much more unnerving. That, however was where the money was and for an impoverished student, making upwards of £100 a night kept me fed and clothed. Sure there were other “respectable” jobs (i also worked as a leisure assistant), but £100 for a few dances or minimum wage for 8 hours a day, well, you do the sums…

    Katie xx

  • I love this post so much I would quite happily marry it if it’d let me.

  • Aj says:

    I had understood that this was more of a US cultural thing. I’m Australian, but worked a bit in the UK for a Swiss company. While I was there, the management instituted a new policy that staff could not entertain clients or suppliers at strip clubs. I remember being surprised that anyone ever thought that was a good idea to do in the first place. My local colleagues seemed surprised as well. Those who had been to the US offices weren’t, and said it seemed a fairly common US business practice. So, I’m somewhat surprised to hear it’s common in the UK as well.

  • Jill says:

    I love everything about this. I think you’re right about society making slow but steady progress. I work in a male-dominated field in the US and my coworkers are awesome about creating a respectful and inclusive environment. Things have changed dramatically in just the ten years I’ve worked in this industry and it is wonderful.

  • EraseThisTweet says:

    If you ever get the chance, please watch “The Inside Job” documentary, which is an award-winning movie about the financial sector. There’s a big section on the work culture being wrapped up with the sex industry. There are theories advanced as to why men in banking behave like this (one theory I enjoyed was the fact that they don’t produce anything, so the mens’ lives are ultimately hollow, empty and involve dehumanising everyone else).

    And every other industry that “lefties” might have an issue with (such as oil, defence, tobacco, even advertising) are NOT wrapped up with “perks” like this.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Ooh, thank you for the tip – I’ll check it out. I am, of course, a big fan of things that make me really angry, and this sounds like it would piss me off so hard I’ll be angry for a whole month.

  • Mr Omneo says:

    OK, disclosure. I works at the [name of famous revue bar] 1991-1993. My first week or so I thought I was in heaven. I was getting paid to watch beautiful women remove their clothes. What’s not to like??

    A few weeks into the job and I wanted to leave only I had a landlord who wanted cash instead of promises of cash in exchange for living in his shitty room in a flat above a chip shop on Grays Inn Road.

    All of the girls at the [bar] were after their Equity Card, because the [bar] was a revue and not an out n out sex club it was ‘respectable’ but that didn’t apply to the punters, one of whom was…[name of famous man], who would regularly visit , often with his then, usually 16/17 year old ‘girlfriend’.

    I shouldn’t complain too much because [famous man] was fairly lucrative for me. He was would come in, watch half the show and at the interval give me £50 and ask that i pass on his business card to whatever girl took his fancy that night. the first few nights I did until every girl told me to dump his card in the bin because of his reputation of trying to fuck them/pimp them out to his mates in return for ‘fame & fortune’. Obviously I kept the fifty but he never got lucky on my watch.

    My first experience of strip joints as a punter was in 1997 when I went to Australia. I was working for a major mobile telephone company and on my first Friday i was told that we were going to a local strip club to celebrate my first week in the job. I later discovered that this was a weekly routine that happened whenever there was a Y in the day.

    A roomful of, mostly, overweight, drunk men, stuffing dollar bills into the garters of young Asian women who looked like prepubescent girls was the Friday norm and it was all charged to expenses. there was no trying to hide it. Receipts were submitted from strip clubs and paid out at the end of the month like clockwork. After 3 weeks I was labelled a homosexual because I didn’t join them.

    I returned to london and started work for [famous company]. guess what? Going to strip clubs was deemed de rigeur for both male and female staff. If the client was male, you took him to a strip club regardless of what your personal feelings were, it kept them ‘sweet’ if you were the one providing the money for private dances and ‘extras’ and thus ensured their business on the dealing floor. No surprise I quit before the year was out.

    Having seen both sides to strip clubs I genuinely feel sorry for those who frequent them. They are not houses of erotica, the girls will more than likely despise you and along with the other hangers on only be interested in your money.

    So sure, business is booming because the city boys are back feeling flush but don’t get me started on what happened while I was working in the City. Misogynist is too good a label for most of them.

    For whatever reason I don’t find strip clubs an enjoyable experience and i struggle to understand anyone who does. but that’s just me.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Heya, thank you so much for your comment – really interesting to get an insight from someone who was there, and has seen things from a number of different perspectives. Sounds awful.

      I’ve had to edit out a couple of the identifiable names in your comments (my edits in square brackets) – really sorry. I’d rather not, but I could potentially be held liable and I don’t want to get sued. Hopefully it hasn’t lost any of the meaning, as I’m really grateful to you for sharing your story. X

      • Mr Omneo says:

        Ahhhh…that’s for the editing, should have thought about the naming but I’m crap at self-editing ;-)

        So many stories from my time at the bar, most of them positive which was the opposite of the bank.

        • Sarah says:

          Fascinating story and not surprising in the least. Just a thought. Any chance you’ve reported the redacted celebrity if you ever saw him with underage girls? I know that there are several people they are investigating but have limited witnesses for, and historic cases like this need a lot of witnesses if they stand a chance of conviction. Obviously if you never saw him with anyone underage it’s irrelevant but thought I’d mention it.

          My husband and I used to work in magazines and some of the PR trips and events he’d tell me about would really boil my piss. Armies of scantily clad girls hired to massage nerd writers. Front cover deals agreed in exchange for multiple lap dances / prostitutes / fancy holidays with all-inclusive prostitutes. Most of the writers in this industry were male and many had never seen a naked girl, so it doesn’t surprise me that they would use this angle, but it still makes me sick. My husband hates strip clubs (he says it’s basically softcore porn, except it’s judging you) and I suspect those experiences really turned him off them. I had friends at uni who danced – I probably would have considered it had I realised at the time that I had a decent body rather than believing I was a heffer. My friends experiences have taught me that it’s perfectly possible to be a stripper for a while and come out of it unscathed (which is much less the case for cam work and porn – whether you just become cold and man-hating or genuinely fucked up depends on what you’re doing, I guess).

          GOTN – that article you linked to about the nail polish really got on my tits. It’s the second thing I’ve seen taking that angle and it really winds me up. There’s no way to detect a rapist, by their very nature they are usually undetectable otherwise they’d be in prison. Education and upbringing and society can go so far, but there is no better way to protect women from being drugged than being able to detect those drugs yourself. Yes, it would be lovely if we could create a world where no-one ever spiked a drink, raped a woman or committed a crime, but that’s not going to happen, ever. It’s like saying “stop testing for cancer – we need to stop cancer from being able to develop, not catch it when it does”. It’s ridiculous.

          I personally believe that anyone who looks at the nail polish (or the much more effective cups and straws coming out on to the market) as victim blaming is the one with the problem. Obviously if I hear people saying “well it’s your own fault, why didn’t you wear the nail polish?” then that’s a different matter. Personally, I’m going to carry a rape alarm if I’m walking alone because I understand that the world is not a perfect place and there are people that will want to hurt you given half the chance. I do what I can to reduce that chance. That’s not victim blaming, it’s the same as locking your house, getting vaccinations or having a smear test. Why do we teach women self defence – surely that’s more victim blaming? The whole thing is ridiculous.

          As for the judge talking about women being drunk, people need to listen to comments on this topic and actually hear what’s being said without having a knee-jerk reaction and assuming they’re victim blaming or supporting rapists. This is clearly the opinion of a judge who sees rapists getting away with it because the victim’s testimony cannot be relied upon because they’re so drunk. If a victim cannot be sure of what happened, the jury cannot rely on their testimony and there will be reasonable doubt. (Of course, I believed that a seriously drunk person cannot consent, but I guess there are issues with juries and reasonable doubt when a witness is unable to recall the events clearly.)

          She isn’t saying that women who get drunk deserve to be raped, in fact she explicitly said that this wasn’t her point. The point is that high levels of alcohol consumption in victims is partly responsible for the low conviction rate, so victims drinking less would increase the conviction rate. Why is that such a controversial thing to say when it is undeniably true? It must be very frustrating for that judge to be unable to convict someone that they are pretty sure did something terrible because the only witness is unreliable.

          I am a victim of sexual assault myself and I would never blame the victim. Men need to learn that a lack of a yes means no, and women need to learn that they should avoid situations which put them in unnecessary risk. Remember that video of the girl in the door way in a town centre, raped by three men, one of which was interrupted by police and then left to get on with it? It was absolutely not that girls fault, but had she not been so drunk that she could not speak or stand up, she may have been able to get away or get help from the police or at least defend herself. It is NOT her fault that it happened, but her situation was made worse by the large quantities of alcohol she had consumed.

          I’m sure there will be women who will call me a traitor to women for saying this, because again I don’t think that people really listen to points being made, they just pick out words “victim…. Drunk… Fault… victim blaming!”. I just believe that women have a duty of care to themselves and should take their personal safety more seriously, rather than getting themselves so drunk that they can’t speak, walk or defend themselves should they be the victim of a (totally undeserved) attack. That is very different from victim blaming, but people react so violently to any suggestion that women should think about their safety and take some steps to protect themselves.

          • Mr Omneo says:

            You know, I hadn’t actually thought about contacting the police. I’m 99.9% certain the girlfriends he had were 16+, he’s that kind of sleazo who wouldn’t go out in public with anyone younger but it wouldn’t surprise me if behind closed doors he did.

            My memories are fairly hazy of my encounters with him but I’m going to make enquiries tomorrow to see if what i recall is worth anything to the authorities.

  • jdgalt says:

    This whole effort is unjustified cultural warfare against men. Sexual entertainments are as much a matter of taste as any other sort, and should not be off limits as long as everyone feels free to say ‘no, thanks.’

    ‘Til now I never had you figured as one of those ‘professional victims’ who want to purge the fun out of life.

    • Girl on the net says:

      “Unjustified cultural warfare against men”, eh? Because I don’t think people should take their work colleagues to strip clubs? Fuck me, mate, I have no words – I’d advise you to have a lie down and pop back for a re-read of the article when you’re slightly less hysterical.

    • Azkyroth says:

      Yeah, speaking as a man, fuck YOU, mate.

      …oh, hell, now I’m doing it. ;)

    • Sarah says:

      Wow, someone’s a big fan of the “men’s rights” subreddit, huh? Quite the overreaction of a soundbyte you have there. Been paying for some PUA courses lately?

      This article makes the, extremely valid point, that sexual entertainment and activity have no place in a work environment. Also, the fact is that, in this environment, people do not feel free to say “no thanks”.

      Besides, it’s 2014, any organisation that keeps clients and staff sweet by paying to have tits and cunts shoved in their faces needs a serious rethink. Warfare against men? Try being a woman working in that environment. No wonder the (male) management would rather hire men when that’s the way they socialise and bond. Vile.

  • onmy9thlife says:

    I’m not a big commenter, more of a lurker, but in my experience you couldn’t be more right!

    I have an economics and finance degree from one of the top universities. My classmates, mostly male, are now spread across the world’s finance centres, making a very decent living on the brokering/ hedge funds side of the industry.

    My own experience with this industry was somewhat short lived as I found the sexist attitude pervasive. My biggest bugbear was the way PA’s were treated as window dressing and job ‘perks’ for the senior managers – the slimmer and younger the better, oh and encouraged to wear sky high stilettos.

    I now work for the public sector. And enjoy the happiest, most diverse, and genuinely pleasant working environment of anyone I know!

  • hazelthecrow says:

    Damn, you’re a force when you’re angry and sweary :-) Just made a tired do-gooders day. Yes, we are going for them all, and we’d get there a whole lot faster if we’d just take some GOTN medicine and stop being so fisting nice…

  • Blue Romantic says:

    I’m in the Armed Forces. We’d never dream of taking people to strip clubs in a professional capacity, and we’re a notoriously testerone-fuelled bunch, and we also understand that people would be uncomfortable with it, regardless of their gender or whatever works for them. I’ve been in strip clubs all over the world (I recommend Chile’s), but I couldn’t envisage taking my team into one. Just… no.

    Top work GOTN xxx

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