Stripper warning is a tempest in a D cup

Prof. Pettigrew on why we really shouldn’t worry


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Ever since the Canadian government decided it was going to put the kibosh on foreign workers coming to this country to fulfill their dreams of taking off their clothes for money, the Canadian press has been abuzz with dark fears that strip club owners will turn their prurient gazes at Canada’s innocent home-grown youth.

Things really took off this week when the BC government issued a memo warning universities that adult entertainment recruiters might be preying on young west coast women. Breathless headlines followed, like this gem from The Globe and Mail about recruiters on the “prowl.”

The whole thing, is of course, a tempest in D cup, but these days our national pastime seems to be tut-tutting at the perceived imperfections of others. Our Victorian founders would have been proud.

Why shouldn’t we be worried? For one thing, the moral panic over young strippers is insulting to Canadian women because it presupposes that these students are so naive as to have no idea what they might be getting themselves into. As if poor Megan and Jennifer (now renamed Roxy and Sindy) are turning up on their first night and saying, “Wait, we have to do WHAT?!”

But worse still is the barely concealed prudery that still links sexual excitement itself with immorality. Campus opponents of the industry can’t come right out and say it, and so they hide their puritanism beneath vague platitudes. Thus one administrator suggests the industry would not be “a good fit.”

Others say their concern is over “safety” of the job, though I have never heard such objections raised when it comes to the police recruiting on campus, never mind the military. Then there’s my personal favourite, it’s not necessary. God save us from a world where we can only do what’s necessary!

Of course, the adult entertainment industry, like all industry, should follow all applicable laws, and no one should be bullied into a job they don’t want. But that applies to all lines of work. Let’s make sure that everyone in every job is making a free choice, and leave the prim moralizing out of it.

Todd Pettigrew is an associate professor of English at Cape Breton University.


Stripper warning is a tempest in a D cup

  1. The theatre students from Douglas College in New Westminster used to put on the best cabarets I’d ever seen. Sadly, this kind of showmanship is now extinct due to others dictating their morals to us. It’s now okay to pole dance only if you are a bored housewife looking to spice up your exercise routine.

  2. Uni administrators exist to produce limp platitudes, so it’s no surprise they don’t have anything significant to say about peeler bars at job fairs. Of course they’d turn them down. And of course they allow police and military to recruit, police and military recruiters have big recruiting budgets with which to pay for booths at job fairs. Letting one come in will get your school in the paper and the other one will get you a bonus. End of story. Expecting administrators to have consistent reasons for doing anything ignores the state of academic governance.

    And yes, there’s some tacky prurience here. But it’s not entirely on the part of commentators, most of whom are old media trying to sell ad space with splashy headlines. The prurience is also what prevents people from expecting those strip club owners from treating dancers like human beings. They get away with (broadly speaking, I’m sure there are exceptions) incredibly exploitative working conditions because sex workers (which strippers are) are marginalized by their profession. It is not at just that young women “don’t know what they’re getting in to” (although I’m sure some do, some don’t), it’s that many don’t know how to pay the bills otherwise, and don’t know how to escape their shitty lives, afraid to seek help partly because they’re constantly being blamed for their problems by economically secure, middle-class white men.

  3. As someone who both works as a topless dancer at one of these establishments and attends University in Canada on scholarship with a 4.0, I bristled when I read these ridiculous articles about adult industry people “prowling” University campuses for “victims.” It is so incredibly patronizing to assume that the vast majority of women who work in this industry are victimized or don’t do so of their volition. The vast majority of people who think that way, I often find, have never been to a decent strip club.

    I have a number of friends who work in this industry. All of them are normal, well-adjusted girls, who love their families, have hobbies, go to school and/or work other jobs and are doing it because they need the money OR because they choose to. You do see the odd couple people who are in it for the wrong reasons, but by and large everyone is fully aware of what they are doing and are okay with it. Most even enjoy it. I do. I have had a wide variety of jobs and worked all the way through school, and this has been my most enjoyable job thus far. I’ve met some of the most interesting people I’ve ever encountered and grown much more comfortable with my sexuality.

    I understand that what we do is hard for people to understand if they have never been around it. But please understand that the majority of us are not victims, we do not feel degraded or exploited by what we do and (shock of shocks) we actually enjoy our work. Please don’t underestimate our intelligence nor presume to tell us what part-time jobs are a “good fit” for sexually positive, open-minded and educated young women. I’ll decide that for myself thanks.

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