If you’ve read any of my other posts, you will know I am 100% sex work positive. But every sector has shortfalls, and this industry is no exception.
For all of its wonderfulness, sex work can really be a pain in the ass. Literally and figuratively.
Unfortunately, when it comes to working girls, society tells us we’re damaged and vulnerable and victimised.
Fortunately, our time has come to shout louder and to tell everyone we’re proud of what we do and are empowered by it every evening.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about its problems – so that we can work together to cultivate practical solutions.
Here is the ‘Modern Sex Work Dilemma’
(A summary of what needs fixing…)
The majority of UK strip clubs will not employ dancers to work at their clubs. Instead, the dancer signs a contract with the club that deems her self-employed and almost “renting” the position to work for the evening.
Self-employment has many perks, the financial reward being the biggest, of course. However, the contract often ensures that the club can dismiss a dancer unfairly and make unjust work rules without the need to maintain a good standard of working conditions.
To really understand this, here are some real-life worst-case scenarios from exotic dancers:
“My manager once fired me by telling another dancer to pass on the message that I was no longer welcome. It was 2 hours before my shift began.”She deserved adequate notice and fair dismissal. But there was nothing she could do.
“I worked in a club where they locked the dancer toilets on busy nights so that the dancers could not take breaks and were forced to keep working.”She should have had access to a private and safe area during her shift and self-employment dictates she chooses her own breaks. But there was nothing she could do.
“I worked a warm summer evening at a club where management refused to use the air conditioning in the VIP dance rooms, despite the fact the dancers were dripping with sweat, on the grounds that the customer may want us to be sweaty so they could be reminded of sex.”Her health, safety and comfort should have come first. But there was nothing she could do.
There is no HR department, no boss’ boss, no governing body and no one to go to if things do go wrong. This treatment is completely unacceptable and as the oldest sector, we really should catch up!
The next problem with lap dancing bars also concerns the actions of management and staff members: when an altercation, disagreement or misunderstanding occurs in a public place, the first thing we ask ourselves is most likely if there was CCTV.
Ah! A modern solution to an old-age problem! But what if the CCTV glitched? Or what if the manager deletes it and claims it glitched?
“I once lost a dance chip for a 1-hour dance, which the footage of should have been recorded and retained for 6 months. The manager deleted the footage, denied the dance ever happened and kept 100% of the customer’s payment for the service I provided.”This is theft. But there was nothing she could do.
I’m not kidding. This happens.
Whatever happened becomes just accusations and it’s simply someone’s word against someone else’s.
And now, whatever conclusions that you – or anyone else – has drawn, carry no weight; and if you speak out about it? That’s easy: unfair dismissal. Problem solved – for your manager.
But now you’ve got nowhere to work and top-notch morals don’t pay the bills.
Oh, and remember that pesky ‘rent’ I mentioned earlier? Payable by the dancer, to the club, is a house fee which entitles the dancer to work at the establishment under their rules. It guarantees safety, allowing the dancer to work without threat or fear (with the presence of on-site security staff) and covers practical elements such as means to pay – like a card machine.
In the UK, house fees range from £20 to £150 per night, depending on location, occasion and commission rates.
Commission rates can be, legally, up to 49% in the UK.
To put this into perspective, if a dancer performs a one-hour VIP private dance for £400, the club then could, in theory, take £196 in commission fees and £150 house fee, giving them a grand total of £346.
This would leave the dancer with £54 profit for an hour of naked dancing.
Don’t get me wrong, £54 per hour is nothing to complain about and this is a ‘worst-case-scenario’, but it’s difficult to comprehend that this is totally legal and possible.
It is also worth noting if your lap dancing club experiences have been stateside, where tipping is far more popular, that UK strip clubs don’t really see many happy tippers as a result of the fact that the English note with the lowest value is £5.
Let’s talk safety! You knew I would…
With a shortage of products that are targeted at escorts and dedicated to their wellbeing, we must find our own solutions, preferably whilst linking arms with one another for balance.
The sisterhood keeps us safe inside our minds and inside our WhatsApp group chats, but what about whilst at work?
Do I not have the right to feel safe while working just because I work in a controversial industry?
I understand that some people are just bad: for whatever reason, they do bad things – and a blog post isn’t going to change that. But like every other business, we want our target clientele to be morally good and hold the same values as we do. But this can be difficult in our industry because of the increased level of discretion our customers require when seeking our services.
And what if a client refuses to pay for a service they have accepted? Well, in any other profession, I would be entitled to union support whilst opening a legal case to claim the funds owed.
In the sex industry? There’s nothing you can do.
And you may ask: “why would anyone provide a service before payment? Business always comes before pleasure!”
But with many scammers posing as sex workers online and convincing clients to pre-pay then not attending bookings, there is a deep sense of distrust between the client and sex worker communities. This has led to clients refusing deposits and pre-payments for services, meaning that to have a chance of earning, an escort must first provide a ‘free taster’. But it is exactly that: a chance. The client may not show up or refuse to pay on arrival or try to convince you to provide the service for free.
Time wasters are your biggest problem online.
If a client can talk to you for free, they will.
This means that maintaining boundaries for things like content, bookings and small talk is crucial for a sex worker to be successful. Otherwise, our whole day would be discussing the intimate details of bookings that don’t get booked, because you’ve already given them their dose of the fantasy that involves you, so while you put your day on hold to see if Ron wants a cam show, he ignores your messages because there’s no penalty for wasting a sex worker’s time.
Your other issues online include spam, catfish and dishonestly-promised-money schemes – I’m sure you wouldn’t, but please never give out your bank details.
Your best bet with payments is to download a secure money transfer app like Monzo.
If only there was one.
This is going to take a higher change. We need a drastic implementation of new legislation and a sweep of acceptable standards for clubs and clients to adhere to.
And for now – all we can do is stand strongly together, fight each battle as it comes and wait for change to come. By talking about its flaws, we celebrate its successes and provide an opportunity to better our beloved sector.
Sex work is not the problem, the stigmatism is. So, let’s decriminalize sex work, introduce some penalties, legitimise crimes against sex workers and stop being so damn judgy.
Sex workers deserve the same working standards as any other professional. Agreed?