The Vagenda

An Equal Opportunities Sex Industry

Lady journalist and Vagenda-friend Rosamund Urwin recently appeared on This Morning talking about strip clubs, and inevitably attracted unwanted attention from some likely lad on Twitter asking, snidely, if she felt that there was a correlation between being ugly and hating strip clubs. 
After the initial patriarchal eyeroll, I attempted to engage with said individual – red flags waved when the response was ‘you’re all a bit touchy about this sort of thing’. Eventually the talk was directed to a more neutral ground that indicated that an unattractive stripper was bad for business, regardless of sex. It’s even talked about in Game of Thrones; it must be true. 

For there are male strippers, and their rights are just as important as those of the female strippers. True, my only experience of male strippers is Danny Devito’s cameo in Friends and the seedy bachelorette party in the first season of The OC, whereas the female stripper culture is thrust (gyrating) in my face every time I walk up Tottenham Court Road, and even on Oxford Street, where I was a little surprised to see two live women modelling ‘clubwear’ in the window of Jane Norman. The human body as spectator sport is, thankfully, not reserved for either sex. We ogle David Beckham in his pants and Rosie Huntingdon-Whitely in her Burberry Mac. 

But the big difference is the prevalence of the spectator sporting opportunities. Sex, and more specifically the sex industry, is very much a womens’ game. Sex shops aimed at women, with women in the windows, line Oxford Street and are advertised on primetime tv. But you need to venture into SoHo to find the male equivalent and even then there are no dodgy mannequins. You find naked and semi-naked images of women on giant billboards on the London Underground – is particularly hounded for their advertising, and I can’t move for Figleaves posters. That ‘Hello, Boys’ campaign from back in the day has a lot to answer for. The female body can sell anything incredibly well. But that doesn’t mean that the female body should be for sale. While the male form still holds a sort of Adonis-like sanctity, the female form is just sex. No adoration needed. 

While the sex industry is intrinsically wrong for both sexes, it’s the prevalence and almost acceptance of the female version that makes it the first port of call for discussion and address. While there are male strippers, male prostitutes and male strip bars, you don’t see adverts for them (showing them naked) plastering phone booths (often in full view of parties of school children), or nestled in between a souvenir shop and a Subway on one of London’s busiest streets. And you rarely hear of men protesting the existence of male strip bars, or being called ‘ugly’ and ‘just upset they can’t get any’ by the women who speak in protest against their closure. Once we’ve driven the female sex industry not off the map, but as deep underground as the male equivalent, then we’ll be getting somewhere.

6 thoughts on “An Equal Opportunities Sex Industry

  1. It is widely accepted that the brain is the sexiest organ in the human body. This is probably why men are rarely regarded as sex objects. [Myself excluded, obviously - I put the "him" into chimerical. (Lame, I know, but it's the best I could think of. It's been a long day, alright?)]

  2. Why is the sex industry intrinsically wrong for both sexes?

    (not saying it to troll, honest, but in a world where every possible thing is commercialised to the hilt why not sex too?)

  3. You’re argument appears to be that, since everything else is fucked-up, why not this. I’d suggest that wasn’t a good enough position to take, but there are other reasons why the sex industry is wrong: prostitution reduces people to the level of mere objects, exploited in effective servitude; it demeans, degrades and dehumanises its victims and even its patrons but, for the strippers or prostitutes, it undermines their own sense of self-worth incrementally.

    Porn, meanwhile, is damaging to people’s perceptions of sex and relationships, which means that it’s even harmful to its viewers. This is one of the reasons why I never watch it for more than ninety seconds at a time.

  4. Not that everything else is fucked up, but that everything else can be sold. If I can sell my ear as a counsellor, my hands as a massage therapist, my body as an actor or dancer, and be seen as little more than those body parts by those patrons, why is it intrinsically different if genitals are involved?

    There is a variety of jobs that are considered demeaning, and a huge number of ways that any workplace can contrive to make you feel terrible about yourself. There are always stories about forced overtime, doing tasks outside your role, being hated by the people you serve (like traffic wardens) and suffering abuse (who hasn’t seen signs on public transport about not abusing the staff).

    Also, I’d argue that *bad* porn is damaging to people’s perceptions of sex. Sure, as a woman, I feel the pressure of the beauty standard, but once you scratch beneath the surface there is a wide variety of people doing a lot of different things to each other in a lot of different ways.

  5. “Once we’ve driven the female sex industry not off the map, but as deep underground as the male equivalent, then we’ll be getting somewhere.”
    WOOAAAAHH. NO. JUST NO. A risky, exploitative industry is less safe if it is hidden underground away from public scrutiny. A proper licensed strip club on the high street is less able to exploit people in the worst ways than a hidden dive run by gangsters down a back alley. Sexuality should not be run like a coke deal, no matter how bad it may be for women to strip. Making them ashamed of it, and driving them into hiding, is not helping the actual women.

  6. Hi there, Julian,
    I’m a sex worker. I just wanted to clear a few things up.
    My work isn’t demeaning, degrading or dehumanising. I usually work in a brothel which is much safer than working the street or putting adverts in newspapers like my male counterparts have to. I am no ones servant, unless I want to be. I am in control of my work and I choose to be there. I don’t know if you have ever worked, or even personally know anyone who has worked, but for me, I am more at ease, in control and take more enjoyment out of sex work than i have with any other profession. I’ve worked in retail, child care and as a cleaner, just to name a few. As a sex worker, i can actually brings joy to some peoples lives. When someone is elderly or loses his wife or is overweight and self conscious or young and nervous or disabled my colleagues and I are there to help them. Very few clients are the objectifying deviants that you assume them to be. Of course they are out there, but every profession that deals with people will always have clients that want it to work perfectly, just for them and not for the worker.The customer is not always right in every situation.
    Porn, however is entirely different. That IS damaging to people because mostly those people can’t differentiate between what is real and what is fantasy. My work is real, pornography is fantasy. Fantasy is fine as long as it is clearly labeled as fantasy, which pornography isn’t.
    Thanks for your time.