Sexual harassment and assault are never acceptable, and everyone should be able to make a living without fear of being subjected to abusive behavior. Regardless of the industry you work in, it is explicitly against the law for anyone to sexually harass or assault you. If you are being sexually harassed at work, you do not need to tolerate it, despite anything that your manager, supervisor, coworkers, or customers might say.
Stripping: A Double-Edged Sword
Working at a strip club can be empowering and liberating, offering independence, a creative outlet, and camaraderie. However, it can also be rife with sexual harassment and assault—not only for the dancers but also for the bar, food-service, and door staff. According to a 2019 New York Times Article, a survey conducted in Portland found that 84% of participants had “experienced unwanted groping, rape, forced or coerced sexual acts on the job.” In addition, only 6% had received any assistance from their employers to help them handle the trauma, such as therapy.
Harassment can come from both management and customers
A lawsuit filed in May 2022 on behalf of a former stripper working for The Holiday Gentlemen’s Club, located in Santa Fe Springs, CA, alleges pervasive and ongoing sexual harassment. According to the complaint, after she was hired, she was repeatedly asked by two of her managers to “follow them to the back office so that [the plaintiff] could show them a good time”, which she refused to do. She became pregnant in June of 2021, and after she started to “show,” one of her managers summoned her to his office, where he demanded that she “sit on his lap”, telling her that he “had a thing for pregnant women.” Because she had endured previous harassment by this manager, she felt coerced to sit on his lap. At this point he began making lewd comments and touching her inappropriately, to which she stood up and told him that she did “not feel comfortable with [him] touching her”. When she walked out of the office, the manager yelled after her that she was fired because of her pregnancy.
In another instance of sexual violence at a strip club, the New York Times reported that a dancer was allegedly raped by a customer while working at Skin Gentlemen’s Club in 2018. After not receiving a proper response from the club, and after being told by the police that the prosecutor’s office would not take her case, the dancer instead painted a billboard that was hung above Robertson Blvd. In Los Angeles with the words: “I’m Stephanie. I was raped by a guy like this in a place like that. I told the club and the police, but no one did anything. So I painted this billboard.”
Just because you may work in an industry that deals in sexual fantasy does not mean that you owe your manager, or your customers, anything that you are not comfortable with. If you feel as if you are being harassed, we are here to help.
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Strippers Fight Back
The New York Times article goes on to describe the many ways in which strippers have organized to prevent violence in strip clubs and to fight against the harmful stereotypes that can turn what has the potential to be a liberating profession into a nightmare. A coalition of Seattle based dancers, “Strippers Are Workers.” went so far as to travel all the way to Olympia, WA to speak with state legislators about the working conditions at strip clubs in the state. As one member of the coalition states: “They thought our main problems were us tripping over our shoes.”
Their efforts were not in vain, as Washington state eventually passed a bill that instructed clubs to install panic buttons in any private rooms where dancers would be alone with customers, and to create and maintain blacklists of customers who had exhibited violent behavior.