It has come to our attention that Merriwa Tavern The Sixty 30 has made an application to vary existing trading conditions to allow topless waitresses or ‘skimpies’.
As an organisation that fights against commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls, Collective Shout strongly opposes this application on the grounds that:
- The use of women’s bodies in sexual entertainment and services is a form of prostitution
- Sexual trade in women’s bodies both causes and contributes to gender inequality by reducing women to mere objects for men’s use and enjoyment, with adverse impacts on women who are directly involved as well as women as a whole
- A significant body of research links sexual objectification of women with violence against women
- Sexploitation venues pose a threat to women, with women reporting increased incidents of sexual harassment, abuse and violence in areas in close proximity to strip clubs
The treatment of women as sexual entertainment is strongly linked to violence against women and undermines government initiatives to reduce violence against women.
Strip clubs and bars or restaurants promoting so-called ‘skimpies’ or topless waitresses serve to normalize the sexual exploitation and degradation of women, as well as fuelling demand for women and girls in the sex industry. The Sixty 30 tavern has indicated its intentions to hire young women from ‘Perth’s Best Girls’, a directory of strippers whose listed sex acts include live sex shows featuring penetration by vibrators, fruit, vegetables and strings of pearls as well as ‘girl on girl’ sex shows.
Sexploitation venues perpetuate the notion that women are commodities to be bought and sold, that they exist for the entertainment and sexual gratification of men and that men are entitled to the bodies of women and girls. Such venues also undermine the Australian Government’s National Plan of Action to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children. The National Plan states that, “While living safe and free from violence is everyone’s right, reducing violence is everyone’s responsibility.”
Former Victoria Police Commissioner Ken Lay spoke of how ingrained casual sexism and attitudes of disrespect for women underpin violence against women:
“The casual groping, the sick sense of entitlement, the disrespect -- all of it slowly erodes our attitudes towards women. Bit by bit our standards are lowered until this kind of behaviour becomes a form of endorsement of violence towards women.”
We note that the venue’s previous application was denied and argue that there are no significant changes to warrant a different outcome. However, there is a growing groundswell within the community working to address the epidemic of domestic violence in Australia and its root causes.
Female employees in sexual entertainment and service roles report frequent sexual harassment, assaults and abusive treatment from male patrons.
Collective Shout believes that grant of this application would cause undue harm or ill health to the female staff working as ‘skimpies’ due to sexual harassment, sexual assaults and other demeaning treatment from male patrons of the venue.
The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia (CATWA) documented the abusive treatment of women in strip clubs and other sexual entertainment venues in their 2010 report.
“Women in strip clubs frequently reported being ‘spat on’ and ‘sprayed with beer’, they report having cigarettes flicked at them as well as trash, condoms, golf balls and even dead animals (Holsopple, 1998). Men reportedly ‘pull...women’s hair’, ‘yank...them by the arms and ankles, rip... their costumes and attempt...to pull their clothes off’. Women are ‘bitten, licked, slapped, punched, and pinched’ whilst male buyers attempt to penetrate them vaginally and anally with ‘fingers, dollar bills, and bottles’, according to the testimony of Kelly Holsopple who worked in a strip club for a number of years, and then went back to research the venues (Holsopple, 1998). In her research she found that 100 per cent of strippers she interviewed reported being abused within the clubs.
“These dangers of the strip industry have been acknowledged by the Victorian State Government’s Prostitution Control Act Advisory Committee, which in 1997 found that ‘incidents of physical and sexual violence, sexual harassment and stalking were common’ in strip clubs (Sullivan, 2008, p. 200).” (p. 7)
Other female staff may also be at increased risk of sexual harassment from male customers as a culture of sexism is normalized and even encouraged at the venue.
Collective Shout supports CATWA in the stance that commercial sex venues, including those featuring semi-naked female staff, should be regulated the same way as brothels, being subject to planning restrictions, requiring licensing, criminal record checks for owners and being barred from obtaining a liquor license.
Sexploitation venues create an environment that is unsafe for women, placing them at increased risk of sexual harassment, abuse and violence.
Sexploitation venues pose a threat to women, with women reporting increased incidents of sexual harassment, abuse and violence in areas in close proximity to strip clubs. Research found an increased violence in strip club zones and found that threatening treatment was not merely limited to employees, but extended to female members of the community who described sexual harassment and feeling unsafe:
“A Geelong woman testified at the tribunal hearing that she was ‘afraid to walk home at night alone after a number of incidents involving the Alleycat strip club’ in Geelong. She testified that she had come to expect a certain amount of drunken behaviour after living in the CBD for five years but the number of incidents had sharply increased since the opening of the club (Craven, 2006)
“The connection between the strip industry and violence is one that has long been acknowledged. The King St 1994: Enough is Enough report drew a link between sexually explicit entertainment, alcohol and violence.
“The Victorian Prostitution Control Act Advisory Committee report of 1997 also noted that the environment created by strip clubs is conducive to the harassment of women (PCAAC, 1997). Strip club zones effectively create no-go areas for women because they create an environment that is ‘unsafe for women and may be conducive to danger’ (PCAAC, 1997, p. 11). Pauline Burgess, who was on the committee, noted evidence of club patrons abusing and harassing women outside clubs, with comments such as ‘show us your tits’ (quoted in Sullivan, 2007, p. 188).” (p. 11) [Read more]
View the application here.
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