When I graduated high school I knew I had to work my summer away to save up some tuition for my university career that was to begin in the fall. I worked as a server in a golf and country club and then made my way over to Montana’s Cookhouse. It was hard work but I didn’t make enough so I worked all year round. In the end, graduating without debt made it all worth it. I read an article today about a different kind of part-time job that young girls can pursue in order to make tuition. It pays well and offers flexible hours. Sounds great! It’s just too bad I didn’t see a flyer encouraging me to become an exotic dancer when I was in high school, isn’t it?
I’m reading Benjamin Perrin’s, Invisible Chains and am starting to understand the environment in which human trafficking flourishes and young girls become entrapped in the sex trade industry in Canada. How timely for me to see a headline that reads, “Strip clubs set to recruit high school students”. At first glance, I’m enraged, feel physically ill and am too emotional to read the article in its entirety. My mind was racing with questions like, how could this be allowed in Toronto? What are they thinking? What if they’re successful? I had to walk away and take a breath. I did. Then I came back and read the article.
The reason for a recruitment strategy that includes going to high schools (colleges and universities) stems from the government’s decision to stop issuing visas or extensions for international strippers. This means the labour shortage has to be filled by Canadians. Well in that case, the outreach is justified. Right? Wrong. Although they will try and convince these young girls that no sex with customers is permitted, there is a lot of research that would beg to differ. You don’t dance in isolation. A strip club doesn’t exist in a bubble. Becoming a part of this industry comes with an incredible amount of risks that may not be fully understood by a young adult just looking to pay for school. Could this actually be considered a viable option for earning tuition? Sounds easy enough. Go to work at night and go to school during the day. We’ve heard this story before. And how does it end? Not well. It isn’t a secret that women who work in the sex trade industry are more vulnerable to experiencing all types of violence, abuse and harassment. While organizations like Sextrade 101 work to get women out of this industry, they (Strip club owners) want to encourage women to get in it. This cannot be.
Referring to being a dancer at a club as the “good life” is incredibly problematic. Are Nicola and Caroline really upset because they won’t be able to dance anymore? Or might it have something to do with the family they are trying to support in Hungary? It’s worth investigating what keeps them dancing because I highly doubt these sisters are just having so much fun at these clubs that they never want to stop.
“If you are visually appealing and comfortable with your naked body and are comfortable about taking all your clothes off,” the flyer states. “You can be working right now as an exotic dancer and earn your tuition fees for university or college.” It goes on to warn the potential recruits that they may have to, “provide private dances, or table dances, in dark lounge areas”. You’re kidding, right? I am not denying that there has never been any girl that has been a stripper and successfully completed a university degree. However, I refuse to see this as an appropriate part-time job that we should be encouraging young girls to get in order to pay for tuition. There are many women’s/girls issues to tackle in Canada: domestic violence, self-esteem, trafficking, sexual violence, poverty, the list goes on. Encouraging young girls to become strippers would be adding to this list, not taking away from it. In the name of a good part-time job and acquiring an education this recruitment strategy is in sheer opposition of what women’s rights groups are advocating for on the ground.
In a society where: 6 year old girls are aspiring to be “sexy”, they have a 50% chance of being physically or sexually abused, rates of trafficking are increasing and so on. Is this really the right move? With every bone in my body, I don’t believe it is.
But what do you think?