Sassy by name, Sassy by nature, I write to explode the myths which surround the lapdancing profession - standing up for the clubs, the girls and the customers. Its not always drinking champagne and playing with my tits - it can be hassle, hustling and hangovers. At heart I'm just a regular twenty-something posh cockney living in London who likes taking her clothes off...
Just as I’m blogging about a moral panic against sex industries of all kinds spreading through British media and Parliament, the police raid Soho, the traditional home of London’s sex culture. Codenamed Demontere (The terrain of demons?), over 200 police officers raided 40 addresses, including 2 or 3 stripclubs and 22 ‘brothels’, making 22 arrests and taking several women into care, questioning, or whatever they are calling it nowadays – but not before inviting the media to cover this important police operation.
The media coverage of the affair smacked of Puritan naming and shaming. Eager editors licking their lips at such a juicy news story – a combination of sexy yet ‘vulnerable’ women in short skirts being tormented and shamed by policemen laughing outside neon SEX signs – yes please! The more the merrier! Evening Standard, the newspaper for London, used 6 pictures – 5 of them scared women in short skirts hiding their faces, whilst a similar article on the police raid that afternoon on a student protest only had 3. The Nigella drugs scandal had a single picture of the TV chef, another vulnerable and wronged woman, but as she is the nation’s sweetheart (and mine), they made her look strong and defiant.
The Daily Mail predictably went the whole hog (well, it is almost Xmas), and used a WHOPPING 24 PICTURES, including an interactive map of Soho crime hotspots. Most of the dancers have been given a chance to grab a coat but not change their clothes, so slump in seats covering their faces, whilst the bright glare of the photographers lens shows every inch of goosefleshed leg under their tiny spandex dresses. I’ve never heard of strippers being photographed so blatantly – lapdancers are generally pretty anonymous, they are self employed contractors that pay a nightly house fee, hustle then leave. Photography is banned for customers and dancers alike. Try taking a selfie in the changing rooms and you’ll have both the house mum and a dozen dancers telling you off for invading their privacy.
— Nigel Howard (@nigelhowardpics) December 5, 2013
I don’t think these women knew their faces would be pixellated, do you? Or else they’d be covering those cold limbs rather than draping hair extensions, books and scarves – anything they can grab – to hide their identity.
One article describes the rooms as squalid, but the flat shown in the picture looks like a typical tiny London flat which Foxton’s would charge a grand a week for to me. Now these women face eviction onto the streets to get trade. The Prostitutes Collective, who campaign for SW rights, say in a statement that local residents accept the local working girls and oppose evictions and closure. Were the Soho raids really just a land grab to make way for high-end apartments?
The raids on stripclubs – licensed venues for drinking, dancing and entertainment – for alleged crime connections, are concerning. Raids on Soho vice scene have been going on for decades, but usually they’d target sex shops and massage parlours. I feel for the women involved – nobody wants to go to work fearing that they’ll end up arrested. I’m sure that it wasn’t the women photographed who were doing the drug deals, or inciting violence in the streets of ‘edgy’ Soho. But it seems that its them, not the network of criminal males ruining it for the rest of us, who’ve made the headlines.