A while ago, we wrote about how the short-sightedness and small time greed of the UK sex industry was allowing the moralisers and prohibitionists to win, as adult broadcasters, sex shops and others fought among themselves for momentary advantage rather than banding together to combat the greater threat to their businesses. Nothing sums that up more than today’s reports that London strip club Platinum Lace is accusing rival Soho establishment SophistiCats of running a dirty tricks campaign to force it out of business.
Simon Ware of Platinum Lace has claimed, in a dossier presented to Westminster City Council, that SophistiCats deliberately planted dancers in his club in order to flout the ‘no touching’ rule – and be photographed doing so. He claims a dancer called Mindy was planted at the club in 2015 and allowed herself to be fondled by a customer, which is in strict violation of the Sexual Entertainment Licence rules imposed by Westminster and most other local councils. There incident later ended up in the tabloids, which does indeed sound suspicious – how someone was (a) allowed to take a photo and then (b) sold it to the press is questionable unless all involved were deliberately in on the plan. Ware further claims that two other dancers deliberately distracted security while the fondling and photography took place. He also says that further “grossly exaggerated” complaints were made about Platinum Lace during the 2016 licence renewal application.
Ware also claims that SophistiCats operated a similar smear campaign against The Windmill in Soho, which lost its licence last year after similar violations of the ‘no touching’ rule. The revoking of the Windmill’s licence is still under appeal. Ware is urging the council not to renew SophistiCats licence, and the decision has now been postponed to April, to allow the club a chance to respond to the allegations.
We have no idea what the truth is in this grubby little story. One way or another though, it appears that one West End strip club is trying to get another shut down, which seems appallingly short-sighted and greedy – sure, you might knock a rival venue off the radar, but you drag the reputation of the lap dancing club further down in the process and give ammunition to those who claim that the venues are all essentially criminal enterprises that exploit women.
We can’t help thinking that, instead of infighting, the clubs would be better off banding together and perhaps challenging the rule that says a venue must have a Sex Entertainment licence and then imposes draconian and prudish rules against anything remotely resembling sexual entertainment. Why touching is considered off-limits is something that no one has adequately explained – the idea that any level of physical contact in a dark booth is somehow going to make the venue a threat to the safety of others seems fairly ludicrous, and we can only assume that the rules are in place simply because councils have limited reasons to refuse licences entirely, and so impose restrictions that both make the clubs as antiseptic and unerotic as possible (many venues impose specific distances that have to be maintained between dancer and customer, while others insist on no genital nudity) and give excuses to shut down clubs when these onerous rules are broken, even if by dancers who are flouting the venue’s own instructions.
Whoever wins in this current battle of the strip clubs, the real loser will probably be the cause of sexual freedom, and the only winners those who want to see every strip club shut down. Well played, everyone.