Not Under My Nose

Two English feminist groups (The Fawcett Society and OBJECT) were celebrating this week, when their lobbying against lap-dancing clubs led to new legislation. Lap-dancing clubs in England must now apply to councils for a licence which has to be renewed annually. The venues are now classed as ‘sex establishments’ rather than as pubs or cafes, making it easier for people to say they are ‘inappropriate’. Licenses range in cost from £4,000 to £30,000 depending on the council. Councils will only be able to reject the application for a licence on the grounds of crime, nuisance or public safety – but not for ‘moral’ reasons. The new rules will be applied to Wales and the North of Ireland at a later date.

This ruling may satisfy the feminist groups in question, but I believe it further encourages the ‘not in my back yard’ attitude to the sex industry in general. I am sure it will do nothing for the working conditions and safety of the women who work in lap-dancing clubs.

Richard Kemp, deputy chairman of the Local Government Association, which worked with the Fawcett Society to draw up the regulations said: ‘We’re most concerned about places where they’ve grown up in suburban areas – where kids are going to school…..where they’re near churches and there are quite lurid displays.’ (

The most vocal and politically active local communities tend to be middle class and suburban. If community groups in these areas achieve the removal of the ‘lurid displays’ of lapdancers from near their churches and schools, where will they go? I suspect that clubs that either can’t afford licences or have their license applications refused, will head to inner city areas, including run-down industrial and residential districts. Women who work in the clubs, not just dancers but cleaners, bar staff and receptionists, will be forced to walk home at night through badly lit streets with no ‘community’ centres or ports of call if they need assistance. Rather than pay licence fees and be scrutinised by local authorities, club owners may choose to operate without a license, further denying their workers’ chances of regulated working conditions.

I used to work on the same street as a Spearmint Rhino, ‘gentleman’s club’,  in a busy cultural quarter near a major city centre. I remember being shocked by how young the girls looked, going into the club with their trolley cases ready for work. But I was glad they were visible, on a well-lit street with offices, bars and a cinema. If the people who campaigned against the Spearmint rhino gaining its license then had succeeded, the club would probably have opened in a less ‘desirable’ part of town, putting those young women at further risk from harassment and street crime.

The new ruling states that licenses can’t be opposed on ‘moral’ grounds, but all opposition to sex workers and their workplaces tends to be riddled with moralising and judgement. As a feminist who supports sex workers I oppose this legislation. I wish feminist groups such as The Fawcett Society and OBJECT would come out from behind their suburban curtains and actually find out what sex workers themselves are saying about their working conditions, their needs, and in some cases their version of feminist theory and action. They might learn something.

Originally published in GO Forth magazine, Ireland



The Fawcett Society

Third Wave Foundation

Melissa Gira Grant

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20 Responses to Not Under My Nose

  1. enddemand says:

    Hi there, I’m interested in what the aim of this site is and the specifics of the issues you have with Object. Thanks.

  2. Hi.
    My first issue is that every time I have tried to open a conversation with OBJECT nobody has responded. I see you are from ‘end demand’ is that demand change? I would like to talk openly with the people who run OBJECT as they are a charitable, funded organisation and should be accountable to the public.

    I think if you read the posts here it will become clear what my criticisms are of OBJECT and their stance on sex work and their methods of campaigning.

    If you or anyone you know works for the organisation I’d love to have a conversation.


  3. enddemand says:

    As a charitable organisation I’m sure Object! are monitored by, and accountable to, the relevant regulatory bodies. What is it that you think Object! is doing that is counter to the public interest?

  4. I think they are producing misleading propaganda.

    They are also not fully accountable because charities should be accessible to the public.

    Also demand for change should make their relationship with OBJECT and their funders clear on the leaflets they give out. Funders normally want logos on materials.

    I would really like to hear from someone at OBJECT i will try contacting them again directly.

  5. enddemand says:

    In what way is the information produced by Object misleading? What kind of public access is it you are looking for/expect and in what way are Object being remiss? Logo’s on leaflets? Hmm, I think that you should be more open about why you are targeting Object! specifically, what your agenda is, what your position is on the issues they campaign about and why it’s important for you to target and undermine their work.

  6. I think the articles on this blog and my interaction with the action for men campaign make it clear what my ‘objections’ are to OBJECT’s work. I will produce some more info here.. feel free to watch OBJECT watch!

  7. enddemand says:

    Your anti-object stance is clear but the specifics of your objections are not. I’d appreciate it if you could answer the questions posed above and be specific about what it is that you find so problematic.

  8. I have been specific, down to the exact wording of the action for men leaflet by demand for change, and OBJect’s stance on sex work. I am waiting to see if an article has been published in Liberal Conspiracy on the issues raised in this post. I will post the link here if it is published.

  9. enddemand says:

    I clicked on the link you posted for the leaflet and note that Object! made a detailed response to your queries. What else is it you’d like to know?

    Apart from disagreeing with their stance it is completely unclear as to why you would wish to dedicate a blog to monitoring the work of the organisation or why you wish to insinuate that they are somehow operating on dodgy ground as a charity. An open answer as to your motivations would be useful.

    I have some of my own responses to your questions about the leaflet:

    1)The leaflets were inaccurate. It is NOT illegal to pay for sex. It is illegal to pay for sex with coerced/trafficked sex workers
    Already answered by Object! Nothing more I can add.

    2) It assumed men would be likely to be clients of sex workers (in fact it is only a small minority of the population who are)
    What do you mean by this? If you are taking issue about the information being left in men’s toilets and this somehow being an accusation that all men use women involved in prostitution then this is really just folly. No-one can be sure of the exact percentage of men involved but there are significant numbers and there are also significant numbers of men who know other men that do pay for sex and who can pass on the info or challenge those men that they know. Using mens toilets is just a way of reaching hard to reach men. Nothing more.

    3) it assumed that men would always be clients when some men are sex workers themselves
    Yes there are men involved in prostitution. The numbers of women involved are of course significantly more, as you no doubt are well aware, and it’s (at best) disingenous to say otherwise. The demand for sex with men is also created by other men. There are excellent organisations who work with men involved in prostitution, such as: Object is a campaigning organisation for women.

    4) It ignored the rights and voices of women sex workers
    Nonsense. The movement to end prostitution and challenging demand for prostitution and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation has always had women involved in the sex industry involved as key activists, writers and educators. Working to end the abuse and exploitation of women and to promote the rights of women as human beings rather than fuck objects is also – as you know – the core aim of Object! and organisations sharing their ethos.

    5) it highlighted the element of shame in paying for sex: e.g. your friends and family could find out
    There should be shame felt by men who buy sex and if you look at the research with johns this is one area that they explicitly said would act as a deterrent. Why should men NOT feel ashamed about sexually exploiting another human being? I’m assuming that you are of the opinion that prostitution should be viewed as somehow ‘sex positive’ despite the fact that the vast majority of women – if they had any real choice – would rather not have sex with the men who come to them. What’s sex positive about fucking someone who views you with contempt, thinks they have an entitlement to do what they want because they throw money at you and for whom you most often view with contempt yourself?

    6) It made no reference to information/support/sexual health for people in the industry as clients or workers
    The leaflet was part of a campaign to challenge men’s demand for sex and inform them of the legal risks now in doing so, should the woman have been coerced, threatened, forced or deceived. It wasn’t a sexual health information leaflet, there are plenty of those around that can do the job better as that is what they have been specifically created for.

    7) It was sensationalist and scaremongering
    Absolutely untrue. It gave a factual presentation of both statistics about prostitution and the risks for men in buying sex now that the law has changed.

  10. thanks for your detailed response. I will reflect on the points you make. I am sticking to my watch though, as these discussions need to happen. I do not think prostitution is sex-positive. I think it is a sector of the economy.

  11. enddemand says:

    A sector of the economy? Could you expand on that? I’m still unclear as to why you feel it necessary to monitor the work of Object! and would like a response on that. It is of course your right to have a blog but I would hope that any critique of Object! would be honest, accurate and fair, and, that you would make your own agenda and background explicit.

  12. I am taking on all your points and will write a considered response when I have time. Id like to hear from OBJECT themselves so I will also email them directly when I write a response to our discussion. Thanks for talking to me.

  13. sianushka says:

    Why should men NOT feel ashamed about sexually exploiting another human being?

    I completely agree.

    prostitution isn’t really part of the economy surely? it’s illegal so it isn’t contributing…

    As i understood it, Object do engage with sex workers to make sure their voices are heard and that the dominant cultural narrative isn’t the minority belle de jour statements that sex work is a ‘job like any other’ and ’empowering’ (not to diminish her experience but it isn’t the majority experience)
    I am sick of opening the papers and magazines and being fed the empowered-made-lots-of-money argument that completely silences the voices of women who had other experiences.

    i am pleased with this legislation and i welcome it and i am protesting against the appeal to open a strip club on a road in bristol and this isn’t nimby-ism, i don’t live near the proposed site. i object because in my view, lap dancing clubs make their money by treating women as objects and by seeing them as bodies that men can buy. this attitude then spills out into the streets, into media representation and into the way we see women in society. it isn’t a moral objection or an ‘outraged at nudity’ objection, but a protest against being treated as a body that can be used for someone elses sexual pleasure.

    i know that some sex workers don’t feel exploited and i know that some sex workers do see it as a job like any other but a lot don’t and if object give them a voice then that’s fine by me.

    if we didn’t have patriarchy, would we still have prostitution?

  14. Thanks sianushka I am going to collate all these comments and write up the discussion.

  15. Katy says:


    I’m interested, do you recognise that there may be different public and staff safety issues between a cafe and a lapdancing club? Do you not think that the entertainment licence should reflect that?

    How do you feel about local residents who support more appropriate legislation – the people who actually live with lapdancing clubs on their door steps? Are they also hiding behind suburban curtains like feminists?


  16. Good questions. I think the license is not to separate them from cafes but to specifically identify them as ‘sex establishments’ which I am questioning the reasoning behind.

    I am wary of people complaining about having anything ‘on their doorstep’ to be honest. The sex industry has to be on somebody’s doorstep it cannot exist outside of society.

    I have an article about this going up on the Liberal Conspiracy blog today hopefully where we could have this debate if we want to. I will post the link here when it appears.

    Thanks for your comment

  17. Katy says:

    Yes, that is the purpose of having a different entertainment licensing category; to recognise the different public and employee safety and rights between a cafe and a lapdancing club. What’s the problem?

    The experiences of local residents are valid and important. Any complaints they make about any planning and licensing – particularly if they could have an impact on public safety – is legitimate. I note your wish that society be tolerant of the sex industry, but would suggest that to assert this on local residents is a kind of reverse NIMBYism.

  18. Thanks for your comment. I will link to my article.

    I don’t really know what ‘reverse NIMBYism’ is but it sounds intriguing!

  19. Katy says:

    For a resident to complain about building, sexwork, traveller site etc. is sometimes described as NIMBYism. When I used the term reverse NIMBYism, I meant a complaint the other way around – against the residents.

    I hope your new article goes well, but don’t see much point in my engaging with yet another discussion thread. Maybe you’ll get round to addressing some of the points above another time.

    You may find a call out website like this which opposes such respected groups as Fawcett and Object will provoke lots of questions and requests for explanations. I don’t get the impression that you are up to providing the answers.

  20. I think you have illustrated exactly why this OBjectwatch is useful: OBJECT and the Fawcett society are respected groups who influence the law. Therefore they should be up for a bit of scrutiny and questioning. I believe the onus should lie with those established groups to continue to justify their position and to be accountable.

    I have written quite a lot here already that makes my position clear. It is an ongoing process to encourage debate amongst feminists. The Libcon article is part of that debate.

    Thanks for your contribution. I still have not heard from anyone who admits to being a member of object which is interesting. I will email them the libcon article.

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