Last week the Detroit city council proposed an amendment to more heavily regulate the “adult entertainment” business. Here are the major highlights: it would ban lap dances, require exotic dancers to stand significantly further away from patrons, and require other workers at clubs to be certified in their positions. This proposed amendment just goes to show you that people can sometimes propose laws that trample on people’s personal freedoms without offering concrete solutions to address the root of the problem.
Don’t get me wrong; I am not giving strip clubs a get-out-of-jail-free card. Strip clubs have their issues and can be sites of exploitation especially during economic times like these. And then there’s the sexism inherent in this discussion. I almost couldn’t finish my breakfast when I endured an hour drive of Coco, Foolish and Mr. Chase in the morning on 97.9′s hip hop radio station. They showcased disgruntled male after disgruntled male complaining about why they should be entitled to offer payment in exchange for groping women. It’s problematic for many of these men to view women as if they are sexual beings and nothing else. And that’s just one of the issues that is getting short shrift in this debate.
The inherent truth is that many of the women in sexually oriented businesses in Detroit are entering these industries because of economic constraints. This is different from folks who enter into sexually oriented professions having chosen exotic dancing from a variety of economic alternatives. But banning lap dances is an incredibly paternalistic way to show respect for women. If lawmakers are really concerned about women in these industries and increasing agency of these women, they should earmark some of the $18 billion in stimulus funds to create initiatives to provide women with real choices for employment.