A stripper, performance artist, activist and writer has spoken of the ‘stigma’ faced by sex workers and said a ban on Bristol’s clubs would ‘erase many years of activism’. Stacey Clare, who has long fought for the rights of sex workers as her main mission, spoke to Bristol Live ahead of a ruling on the city’s Sex Entertainment Venues (SEVs).
From becoming a prominent voice for sex workers in the media to her grassroots activism as a founding member of the East London Strippers Collective, Stacey has sought to shine a light on a community she feels has long been ignored. Recently she appeared at the Bristol Bookhaushosted by the Bristol Sex Workers Collectivefor an event to promote his latest book The Ethical Stripper.
The book details Stacey’s decades of experiences and stories that she hopes can provide a nuanced insight into the sex industry, while ultimately discarding notions of shame and stigma. The Ethical Stripper also discusses the exploitation of sex workers by analyzing regulation and licensing both domestically and around the world, in hopes of debunking myths and misconceptions about sex workers and sex work. of sex.
READ MORE: Decision expected in July on fate of Bristol SEVs
In Bristol, the proposal to withdraw licenses from sexual entertainment venues (SEVs) sparked an ongoing debate among supporters and dissenters alike, with each calling for a decision deemed best suited to bolster the livelihoods and safety of those working in the industry. For Stacey, who spoke to the Bristol Sex Workers Collective during her appearance at Bookhaus on June 1, the real power lies with those who can make those political decisions.
As she continues to network with strippers across the country, she hopes the demands of sex workers can be heard and needed dialogue initiated by officials to drive progress. She said: ‘If there was one message it would be ‘what do you think will happen when you close the strip clubs? ”
“Do you think male violence will be reversed? Do you think this will have an impact? »
“I think Bristol Sex Workers Collective have done a brilliant job of establishing that there are nightclubs in the area with far worse records with the police, in terms of violent incidents. During COVID, when all the strip clubs were closed and had no impact, we know that gender-based violence increased because people were trapped inside.
“It’s a conversation that needs to happen, but it also needs to happen with the people who are part of the conversation. It’s great for me and the Bristol Sex Workers Collective to be together in a local bookstore.
“But I would like the local authorities to know that by closing our strip clubs they are erasing many years of activism for us. For us to establish workers’ rights and stand up to workplace abuse and shy customers, we need to have legal workplaces, for example [like] in New Zealand when they decriminalized sex work in 2004.”
Bristol City Council’s long-awaited vote on a proposed ban on SEVs is set to take place on July 28 following a public consultation. A draft new policy drawn up by council officers more than 15 months ago suggested introducing a ‘no cap’ on lap-dancing venues across the city for the first time.
“The stigma is really entrenched”
Stacey believes that by offering her own personal knowledge of the industry while addressing the system in place for sex workers, the conversation around sex work can finally be both empathetic and rational. She said: “We are so at risk of being identified as sex workers and some people have more to lose, especially people with children and families, or those with a traditional presence.
“Stigma is still very much ingrained in society and there is an element of protection – just wanting to maintain our privacy. I could have written this book as an autobiography and I actually wrote a list of autobiographies of other strippers as an example of her own popular genre like a kind of kiss and tell, expose and the classic Belle de Jour.
“But I said precisely then that there was something very important at stake here. The life of sex workers is not a form of entertainment and we are human beings with a lot to do. The systemic structures around the continued portrayal of sex workers and strippers mean that our lived experiences are only based on what people want to hear, when it’s salacious and titillating.
“So I haven’t done that, but there are stories from my professional life that I tell that are kind of salacious, but I always try to put that into context and explain that that moment or that story The particular one happened in an economic and political context around the strip club. Stacey further explained that her background in the industry hopes to shed more light on why the terms were set this way.
She believes that laws such as the 2009 ban on touching customers in clubs started as an “attempt to clean up the industry”, but ultimately gave unprecedented power to managers and club owners, which which has led to a lack of recognition of workers’ rights. Stacey added: ‘There’s a whole set of reasons why people are hustled and coerced the way they are because of the economy, it’s all about the money.
“The fact that lap dancing has become this dirty act that has been licensed and defined by law is just ridiculous. I mean, if I sit on a guy’s lap, I’m a grown woman. I should be allowed to decide which lap I sit on and whether or not I charge for it.
“But if you can imagine tons of workers working in competition with each other in an economically toxic environment where they are farmed for their income and financially exploited, guess what? Their workers’ rights are not recognized and if they don’t like that, they know where the door is, as far as managers are concerned.
Since the release of The Ethical Stripper on March 3, public discourse surrounding the book has varied from criticism that dismisses all forms of sex work as “sanitized and repackaged as empowerment and choice” to critics who see The Ethical Stripper as “an extraordinary blend of memoir, polemic and reportage”.
However, Stacey believes that regardless of personal opinions, moving forward, the stories and experiences of sex workers can be humanized for a chance to challenge the status quo and bring about real change. She said: “Over the past five years or more, especially on social media, there has been an explosion of voices from sex workers who have found their community.
“The more sex workers who are inspired to write books, make movies or produce podcasts, the better. I write in the book that the definition of oppression is controlling and taking us our stories.
“An example of this is Hustlers [2019 American film starring Jennifer Lopez] and the irony of it all is that the law doesn’t allow you to profit from a story if you’re a criminal. But the journalist who wrote the story became a viral sensation that was made into a movie using someone else’s story.”
Stacey encouraged sex workers to use their own voice to speak out, adding, “Sex workers deserve empowerment first and foremost and empowerment comes in many forms, but it really depends on the individual. and what gives it power. I would implore and invite sex workers to tell their own stories and use their own voice.
“I would love to see a Netflix series like Pose that is centered around the real life lived experience of sex workers that is smart and integral to the production. So it’s happening gradually and we’ll be seeing more soon.
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