Look at the laws.

Hello my beautiful flowers.

Today I have something really important to say.

It’s simple. But it’s not easy.

*clasps hands*

*deep breath*

Ahem.

Look at the laws.

My strong, resilient, hardworking friend Leslee shared a post with me called Stop Stealing From Strippers. It’s a good piece, worth reading, which makes a really important point. Strippers are treated poorly by clubs.

“Relegated to the fringes of the workplace, in part because of stigmas surrounding sex work, we are invisible. Clubs force us to work as ‘independent contractors.’ We have no health insurance, workers’ compensation or other benefits. We have zero security. Strippers, or dancers, as some of us prefer, are women on our way to somewhere better or different, twerking topless in a club that will never have our backs — a club that will demand arbitrary fees from us and skim a share of our hard-earned tips all night, caring little if we are here again next week or if we vanish.”

Yep, that’s a problem. But what’s the cause? And what’s the solution?

I’ve never danced professionally. I’m taking my first pole dancing class tonight but my expectations are low. I took dance classes, ballet, tap, jazz, etc. from elementary school until I quit freshman year of high school when I noticed my ballet instructors weren’t correcting my form not because it was perfect, but because they’d given up on me. I don’t blame them. It was time for me to find a hobby I didn’t suck horribly at. I joined the literary magazine.

So far be it from me to argue with dancer and a writing instructor at Antioch University in Los Angeles Antonia Crane, author of “Spent: A Memoir.”

However, I’ve read Reason long enough to know that strip clubs are one of the most arbitrarily and onerously regulated types of establishments in existence.

Regulations do two things. They limit competition and artificially increase operating costs. I’m not saying that strip club owners are too poor to treat dancers well. But I’m definitely saying that a lack of options has never been good for workers.  You’ll notice that most geographical areas have one or two clubs. This in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing and may in fact meet all the area’s demand for real-life T and A. But when regulations erect barriers to entry you end up with almost no churn.

Owning and operating a strip club (absent onerous regulation) cannot be rocket science. If workers are really this oppressed by club owners (in other words, if the potential for earnings is so high relative to the realization of earnings) why don’t they start their own club? It’s likely because regulations make it so expensive to start and unlikely to survive that they can’t get the capital they need for startup costs.

It’s like Violet Blue’s important and brave reporting on PayPal, Square and big banking’s war on the sex industry. I’m sure big banks are fucking sex workers because they’re prudes. But is their sex-negativity really so strong that they’re willing to give up on profits just to stick it to whores and camgirls? That I find harder to believe.

What I believe is that big banks are stuck between a rock (customers who will complain or leave because they can’t bear to share a bank with sex workers) and a hard place (the DOJ has promised to investigate banks who serve people in fully legal but disfavored industries). It’s called Operation Choke Point.

Or look at the last time the New York Times went to bat for lower-class women oppressed by their employers. I’m talking about the nail salon expose. Are some nail salon owners real bastards? No doubt. But there’s no fucking way they could get away with treating employees poorly on a mass scale if those employees weren’t illegal immigrants with limited employment options and limited access to legal help.

Listen, we can look at and blame greedy strip club owners and banksters and nail salon owners. I’m sure 99% of them are real pieces of shit. But until we change the laws that enable and even codify their shittiness, all that’s going to get us is a smug feeling of superiority. Which, I love, believe me. For evidence just read my blog. But as a remedy for oppression smugness has its limits.

I’m not talking about adding new laws. Worker protection legislation is an easy solution, except it doesn’t work. New York has very strict worker protection laws. OSHA doesn’t do a fucking thing for illegal immigrants who barely speak English. Legislation won’t contract workers who don’t have another strip club to work at for 100 miles.

Unionization isn’t going to work. “And we won,”  Crane wrote. “We became one of the first unions in this country to cover workers in the sex trade. Lusty Lady was a success story in part because we were employees who punched a time clock and paid taxes.”

The last Lusty Lady closed its doors in 2013 because they couldn’t turn a profit.

Look at the laws because blaming “bad guys” is a waste of time. There are no good guys and bad guys. There are systems set up to produce competition, innovation, and prosperity and there are systems set up to make people feel good about themselves and to protect incumbent businesses from competition. You can look around all day and find lots and lots and lots of bad guys but you’re not going to shame them into treating their workers better. You’re not going to legislate them into treating their workers better. You’re not going to force them to accept sex workers as customers.

If you want to help workers, stop looking at the bosses. Look at the laws.