Lap dancing clubs, tiger mothers and Lord John Shayler

Pole dancing classes, Fifty shades of grey – it seems stitched-up middle-class middle-England, might be, at last, coming undone. Not so, if the furore over a lap dancing club set to open in ‘posh’ ‘leafy Georgian town, Ampthill, is anything to go by.

As a resident of said town (actually it’s ‘chav’ neighbour, Flitwick), I have been following the story with a mild sense of amusement and a large dose of feminist angst. However, after being accosted in Waitrose car park to sign a petition against its opening, I began to realise the real victim in this is not the self styled Walt Disney,  Lord John Shayler (the proprietor of the council approved lap dancing club), nor the tiger mothers of the ‘innocent’  Ampthill children.

“We’ll gather outside the strip club as a community with our children to switch on the Christmas lights; to sing carols; to sit outside eating our snacks waiting for the next ballet class down the road.”  An Ampthill resident.

No. The real victim of this grudge fueled proposal, is the misrepresentation of sex.

Beautiful, glorious, life affirming SEX!

Sex is an innate drive, like thirst and hunger. Who you have sex with and at what age, has largely been determined by cultural norms and values, a bit like why we eat cereal for breakfast rather than roast beef. But sex in itself is not a bad or dirty thing.

However, exploitation of women is. While every woman knows she uses sex as a bargaining tool in her relationship armourey, even if this is subconscious, there is difference between that and others making profit from the exchange. Many women working in the sexual entertainment industry will argue they choose to work in clubs such as this, but what do we mean by choice, or in other words; what is free-will?

As women, we a brought up to use our femininity as a commodity. Sex sells everything from alcohol to zucchinis, but I wonder how many Ampthill parents would applaud their A-level student daughter, getting a Saturday job at the local lap dancing club, to save up for university.

I am not against a lap dancing club in Ampthill, I am against all forms of entertainment that exploit (for profit) the private sexual rituals between men and women. So, I do understand the objections raised by some Ampthill residents. This blog in particular, attempts to be measured and not fall into the trap of small minded bigotry, unlike some of the comments on this thread. But, this is a wider issue than a club opening in Ampthill. This is a deeper and broader issue that begins from when our daughters are born. It is about the messages they receive concerning who they are and what we value about them.

That’s what the Ampthillians need to be fighting against, the debasement of women, the world over. Sex is not the enemy here, sexist attitudes are. But just as Lord John Shayler is clearly not a feminist, then neither are the tiger mothers, leaping into action in Waitrose car park, who like the three wise monkeys, believe sex should be neither seen, heard, or spoken of.

Trying to shield our children from sex, is like trying to shutdown the internet. They are surrounded by sexual imagery, online; on TV; in music; magazines; newspapers.  A lap dancing club in the centre of town is unlikely to have a catastrophic impact on their sexual identity, already, shaped and moulded by their multi-media existence. Lap dancing clubs are not, as far as I am aware, the gates of hell, from which you will never escape. They are bars where men can watch a woman dance and take her clothes of, or for an extra price, have her do the dance, dangling over his lap. Not something I would pay for, but hardly, Beelzebub running amok in the local primary school.

Instead of shielding our children from sex, we should be talking to them (age appropriate of course) about the rights to their own body. How they don’t have to touch, kiss or be cuddled by anyone they don’t want to be. How sexual feelings are normal and masturbation won’t make them blind. How having sex is a big step and one that most of us wish we had done differently. How sex is a wonderful and beautiful thing, when we do it with someone we really want to, and have feelings for.

Having a lap dancing club on the doorstep could prove advantageous. A daytime visit as part of the PSHE sex education programme would provoke discussion about the uneasy role women and their bodies occupy in this product driven age. Young people want to talk about sex, relationships, and how they will negotiate their sexual identities. The recent sex education show at Redborne, was proof if any is needed that our teenagers are not ‘innocent’, if anything they are confused, unable to separate fact from myth. They need adult guidance.

Instead the naysayers condemn, sex, wonderful, incredible sex, with prudish indignation (confusing consensual acts such as swinging and bondage, with exploitative practices). Of course, the louder they protest, the closer Lord John Shayler gets towards making his rather childish insult a reality.

Maybe if there was more sex, not less – sex given freely, without profit, because its fun and perfectly natural– then clubs like this wouldn’t have customers in the first place.

Sex is not the enemy here, we would all do well to remember that.


8 thoughts on “Lap dancing clubs, tiger mothers and Lord John Shayler”

  1. Oh look, just when I have a pile of essays to mark, along comes another thought-provoking post from Juliet…

    I have loads to say about various aspects of this post, but I am going to discipline myself and come back later when I’ve got time to noodle!

    1. Quick thoughts:

      1) I find the social class discourse around the Ampthill lap-dancing club debate interesting, particularly in the light of other Ampthill sex-controversies. Remember the fusses over alleged dogging, and over the goth/fetishwear shop? For me there’s a sense here that such displays of sexuality are for the ‘lower orders’ rather than the good burghers of Ampthill- they’re not an acceptable part of middle class habitus. (Relatedly, did you see the wonderful recent series of Grayson Perry documentaries on class and taste? I think you’d love them, and there was a lot of stuff in there about the importance of discreet display in middle class cultural mores, vs the ‘bling’ of some working class aesthetics. I think the same thing applies here.)

      2) I find the quote from ‘outraged of Ampthill’ amusing, because to me it says something very powerful about the way that sex is a part of life, right in the middle of the high street, just as much as ballet lessons and Christmas carols, and yet there’s this sense that it shouldn’t be there, or that it should be invisible to children. Which isn’t to say that I’d want my daughter to grow up seeing the sexual objectification of women normalised by having a lap-dancing club on my street. But then again, as you note, I haven’t got a lot of choice about the other ways in which she sees women sexually objectified every single day, and so, like you, I see the lapdancing club as a symptom of a wider problem with our attitudes to sex and gender, rather than a cause of some new ill.

      And oh, I would LOVE to see Ampthill rise up as one against the patriarchy ;). But if/when they do, I think that the women’s magazines in Waitrose, and the harassment faced by women on the High Street and in the bars and clubs, should be on their agenda every bit as much as the proposed lapdancing club.

      Hmm, I have so not finished writing and thinking about this, but the nursery run calls…. 🙂

  2. Thank you Helen, I knew you would deepen some of the ideas I had touched upon, both consciously and subconsciously (the quote).

    Ampthill at the centre of gender politics is is quite a leap, I agree. 🙂

  3. Thank you for commenting Alan. I hope my blog post makes it clear, I have no issue with consensual acts between adults, however, I am concerned with exploitation of women in the sex industry. For every woman who chooses this as a ‘career’ option, how many do so out of necessity (economic or otherwise). And ‘choose’ of course is a loaded term. In a world where sex is a commodity, and women are brought up to think that to be valued they must look a certain way, then it is no surprise some seek self-worth through this means.

    1. But prostitution existed long before “capitalist commdoification”.
      This isn’t part of some new phenomenon.
      Selling sexual images and sex is as old as the hills.
      You talk about sex, wonderful, incredible sex as if it is in conflict with what these clubs offer.
      I think that these clubs are pretty wonderful and I don’t see why my sexuality should be considered as lower than other people’s.

  4. I don’t consider your sexuality lower than other peoples. As long as your tastes are not exploitative on non-consensual, then you are free to do as you desire. As this club is not open yet, I can’t comment on whether the women and men who work there are doing so because this a positive choice for them. What I hope is that the workers are not predominantly from poor European countries, which would suggest their choice is not so much choice, but necessity. There are also a number of swinging clubs you could try, where no one is being paid to take their clothes off, and therefore you can be sure they are doing it because they want to, rather than to get a pay cheque to support their family. Not sure on what the policy is for single men attending swinging clubs, you may have to hook up with a like minded, female friend, but once you are there, you would be free to indulge your passions. Thanks for adding your thoughts. Maybe once the club is open you could come back to let us know what it is really like.

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