Why are Bristol Women’s Commission and Bristol Women’s Voice opposed to Sexual Entertainment Venues (SEVs)?
SEVs (more commonly known as strip clubs) help make it ‘normal’ to see women as sex objects. That creates a dangerous power dynamic and is known to encourage violence against women. It prevents genuine equality with men. As a local-authority sanctioned part of our mainstream night time economy it sends a message that it’s OK for men to objectify women and that women’s bodies can be bought. The introduction of a nil-cap is part of a bigger drive to change the behaviours of men and boys in order to make our city a safer, more equal place to live for all women and girls. For more, see Bristol Women’s Commission’s earlier statement and Bristol Women’s Voice’s position on preventing male violence against women and girls and Sexual Entertainment Venues.
Will this drive strip clubs underground? Isn’t it better to have regulated clubs?
There is no evidence for this at all – licensing officers at Bristol contacted other core cities and questioned the national policy forum. What there is evidence for is that the presence of regulated clubs, normalises sexual objectification and increases demand. Men who are sex buyers have worse attitudes about women and gender equality and are more likely to be violent to the women in their lives.
What about the employment opportunities they offer women?
We are absolutely committed to making Bristol a city that offers women quality employment, with decent pay, flexible working, affordable childcare and good conditions of service e.g. maternity leave and sick pay. Suggesting these are best found in a strip club is a disingenuous diversion. Dancers have to pay the owners of the clubs to perform, are not seen as employees and have no access to sick pay or maternity pay. Studies have also shown that stripping is a gateway to prostitution.
What about the choices of those working in the sex trade?
Pitting the choices of one group of women who would choose sex work, against the choices of other women who would choose a city free of SEVs is a circular and futile argument. While some sex workers say they find the work empowering, evidence shows there is a much more negative long term impact. The council has a duty to make the city more equal and safe for all women; it cannot prioritise the ‘choice’ of a small number of women who are paid to be objectified by men over the vast majority of women who do not choose this.
Won’t this have a negative impact on the centre of Bristol?
After more than a year of a global pandemic and with covid-19 remaining a significant risk today, it’s questionable whether any premises which promote such close proximity between people should be allowed on public health grounds. Bristol can – and does – have a rich and varied nightlife, without the need for SEVs where men can pay women to strip for them. Many men and the majority of women see SEVs as sexist places they would never visit and believe their absence would improve the city.
Results from the Citizens Panel survey in 2020 showed that in answer to the question “Do you agree or disagree that sexual entertainment venues complement Bristol’s entertainment offer?” Most who voiced an opinion did not agree; 41% – strongly disagreed or disagreed, 31% neither agreed nor disagreed and just 28% agreed or strongly agreed. Unsurprisingly, the percentage of females who disagreed was almost double the percentage of males who disagreed.
Are you saying that shutting down strip clubs will solve the problem?
No, but it’s one tangible action the council can take to address the widespread sexual objectification of women by sending a clear message that it has no place in our city centres. It’s part of a much bigger commitment along with education. It makes little sense to invest time and resource into educating boys and young men about harmful attitudes towards girls and women when the fact that they can go pay for a woman to strip in a council-licenced SEV when they’re 18 sends an altogether different message.