Spearmint Rhino Bad News For Bristol

Cat Evans tells The Tab why the lap-dancing chain shouldn’t be made welcome in Bristol

cat evans spearmint rhino strippers the tab bristol university of bristol

The lap-dancing industry is notoriously secretive, which makes any discussion of it problematic. Dancers, club owners and punters collude to present these establishments as classy arenas for harmless fun, where the women come out on top – with perfect nails and a wad of cash.

I’ve heard some ‘feminist’ arguments in favour of strip clubs. Why shouldn’t we monetise our very femininity? It’s empowering, right?

However, strip clubs are based on a fundamental inequality. Men wear the trousers, women wear thongs. Trust me, trousers are definitely comfier.

I decided I would try to write this article without mentioning the objectification of women, so let’s just accept that that’s a given in our culture. Let’s focus on the money instead.

The business model on which strip clubs are run is one which is exclusively designed to boost club profits whilst disenfranchising the dancers.

Hard to see much female empowerment present here…
Photo: Eric Molina

Dancers are ‘independent contractors’ who must pay club fees, outfit fees and a percentage of their earnings from private dances, simply to be allowed the arena of the club in which to flaunt their wares.

It is highly unusual to have any form of job security, and consequently dancers are under immense pressure to attract as many punters as possible each night.

In order to just break even, dancers must maximise the number of private dances they give per night. As it is in the club manager’s interest to have a surplus of ‘girls’ on tap to entice customers through the doors competition inevitably rises.

This creates a ‘race to the bottom’ (no pun intended), where the girls who price themselves lowest, who go the furthest, who provide the best ‘service’, are the ones that attract custom.

Several studies have shown the prevalence of sex acts taking place in strip clubs, despite their purported ‘no touching’ policies. For the dancers, it comes to make financial sense, why would anyone bother going to you if your colleague is offering so much more for the same price?

A recent study showed that more than half of dancers reported abusive language and unwanted touching occurring within clubs. This is considered simply ‘part of the job’, an acceptable, if unfortunate, consequence of being a woman in one of these establishments.

Probably at this point some of you will be thinking, ‘ah, but isn’t this supposed to be to do with the opening of Spearmint Rhino? Isn’t that a high class, nice strip club?’ I confess that, like most of you, I have no way of knowing how Spearmint Rhino operates, largely because it is shrouded in a web of mystery posing as glamour.

However, the very act of making these establishments ‘respectable’ allows them to cause the most damage. It becomes normal, in fact celebrated, to go and while away a couple of hours watching a young woman writhe up and down a pole whilst she tries to calculate how many more customers she has to ‘seduce’ for the pleasure of paying to see her labia.

By positioning themselves as ‘luxury entertainment’ venues, strip-clubs send the message that here the men who enjoy the finer things in life – expensive watches, fast cars and good wine – can find the female form at its pinnacle. Which is cool I suppose, if you think its fine to lump women and cars in the same category.

At the end of a ten week internship a friend of mine was taken to a strip club and bought two lap dances by his supervisor. I don’t really want to live and work in the kind of world where that is acceptable.

Strip clubs are a place where humanity is seen at its worse; the combination of rampant capitalism and blatant sexism being pretty powerful.  There are enough tacky joints in Bristol claiming to give a ‘VIP experience’ (Pam Pam’s anyone?) without Spearmint Rhinos setting up shop too.