Viscount Bridgeman

17 Aug 2009 12:32:59

Tory frontbench peer suggests that describing lap-dancers as "sex encounter workers" is "prejudicial, dangerous and stigmatising"

Picture 1 My attention is drawn by this piece in today's Daily Telegraph to a debate during the committee stage of the Policing and Crime Bill in the House of Lords shortly before the summer recess.

Viscount Bridgeman, the Conservative home affairs spokesman, proposed that lap dancers not be branded "sex encounter workers" dancing in "sex encounter venues", saying that he would rather see such establishments described in law as "adult entertainment venues", on the grounds that otherwise it would stigmatise those dancers and their future career propsects.

He explained to the Lords:

"My concerns about “sex encounter venue” are precisely those that the Minister claimed were behind Clause 15 —the stigma that a name can give. The Minister has, quite rightly, argued that the phrase “common prostitute” bears with it a stigma that is often inaccurate and unfair. It will almost always lead to prejudice in future life; for example, in job interviews. That is, of course, true, so it is astonishing to see that the Government are happy to label a large number of dancers who have never participated in prostitution as “sex encounter workers”. How does the Minister expect a lap dancer ever to break into a more socially respectable line of dancing with that on her CV?

"Not only is the Government’s choice of title prejudicial to the women involved, it could be downright dangerous. The Government appear to be instilling an expectation among the customers that they are, in fact, entering a lap-dancing club to engage in a sex encounter. Since many of those clubs have a strict no-touching rule, the Government appear to be raising the most perverse expectations among lap-dancing clientele, which could result in considerable disaffection.

"I am sure that the Minister would not deliberately suggest that lap dancers should be stigmatised as sex workers or, even worse, should be expected to participate in sex acts or encounters."

The debate over the description of the clubs may be the subject of a vote later in the Bill's progress through the Upper House, with the wider issue being that of whether local residents should have more power to object to the licensing of venues in their neighbourhoods for the purpose of lap-dancing.

Should we be interfering at all when adults wearing few or no clothes wish to accept money in return for dancing for other adults behind closed doors?

Or is it right that local people should have more discretion over which businesses operate in their locality?

Jonathan Isaby