City Council Disregards Stripper Safety with “No-Touch” Rule

By: Lee Friday

Politicians in London, Ontario have revised their business licensing regulations. Public consultation was part of the process, and sex workers asked City Council to delete a clause in the by-law that bans touching between customers and employees of London’s strip clubs. However, Council unanimously denied their request, as they claim to be a better judge of what is in the best interest of these workers.

City Council says one of the purposes of the by-law is the “health and safety of service providers.” But the sex workers say the no-touch rule makes them less safe! Who is right? More importantly, who has the right to decide?

Politicians force Women into Dangerous Situations

Naïve politicians seem to think that when they forbid sexual touching in strip clubs, sexual touching will stop. It won’t. It continues, as it has in the past, either in the strip clubs as the workers risk fines, or in other locations as they risk their own safety in their attempt to earn a living. As AnnaLise Trudell, education manager with Anova, the former Women’s Community House, said “That’s what actually earns a living wage, touch-based activities.” And Julie Baumann, a co-founder and co-ordinator of SafeSpace, a local collective for sex workers and supporters, pointed out that “women have said . . . that it is safer to do the work inside an establishment with safety buttons, backup security, than it is within a private residence.”

The risk for sex workers is increased by the actions of these arrogant politicians, who refuse to acknowledge that the sex workers themselves are uniquely qualified to determine the circumstances which offer them the highest degree of safety. Dr. Jodi Hall is a nursing professor who conducts research on women who are criminalized. As per the London Free Press:

Hall’s been interviewing sex workers in London for the last five years. None have linked the touching ban with feelings of safety, she said.

“It moves them into spaces where there are less people, it’s less public, and there are less opportunities to get help if they needed it,” she said.

London Councillor Maureen Cassidy is not convinced the no-touch rule should be scrapped:

“I’m a woman. I don’t like being condescended to and somebody thinking they know what’s better for me. I hear those arguments,” she said.

“But I know there are women in this trade who are coerced into doing things they don’t want to do. I have to look at both types of women in this industry.”

This is illogical and insensitive. Cassidy adopts a condescending attitude toward sex workers, while at the same time acknowledging their resentment of condescension. She expresses concern for women who are victims of coercion, then claims the right to impose her own brand of coercion on “both types of women.”

Regarding women who are victims of coercion, Cassidy seems to forget that it is the responsibility of the police and courts to arrest and prosecute anyone who has caused harm to “women in this trade.” This is completely unrelated to the no-touch rule, which forbids actions which are NOT coercive. As they continue to criminalize these uncoercive acts, Cassidy and her fellow Councillors have guaranteed that these women will continue to be subjected to a higher level of coercion as they attempt to earn a living in less-safe locations. 

Public Consultation is a Sham

As per the London Free Press:

Local sex workers urged politicians to remove the rule during consultation at city hall earlier this fall – a difficult task for many workers, who fear stigma and stereotypes – but it didn’t do much good.

[Dr.] Jodi Hall . . .  said that’s a slap in the face for women who had the courage to speak out publicly.

“It reinforces the exclusion of their voices. If you’re going to go through public consultation . . . then at the end of the day, you expect the bylaw enforcement to reflect their participation,” she said.

Public consultation. Public participation. Public input. These are nothing more than convenient catchphrases which politicians frequently use to create the illusion that our opinions are important to them. This is standard operating procedure at all levels of government. As professors Martin Gilens (Princeton University) and Benjamin Page (Northwestern University) revealed in a study they published:

Not only do ordinary citizens not have uniquely substantial power over policy decisions; they have little or no independent influence on policy at all.

London City Council is often dismissive of the input it receives from the public. For example, if citizens’ views were really important, Council would not force sidewalks on neighbourhoods that don’t want them, and they would not allow a livestock operation to violate its neighbours’ property rights by inundating them with revolting odours and a massive infestation of flies.


Megan Walker, executive director of the London Abused Women’s Centre, “told politicians that permitting sexual touching in strip clubs would run afoul of federal laws that prohibit the purchase of sex.” This is debatable, but more importantly, it is noteworthy that politicians, bureaucrats, and activists continue to believe they can eliminate the world’s oldest profession – an impossible task. They claim to occupy the moral high ground, as they insist on restricting the freedom of women to engage in prostitution in order to protect those who they say are being harmed. As former U.S. prosecutor Wendy Murphy said, “I would compromise your freedom to protect the majority of women” (see this video at the 5:50 mark). Murphy, Cassidy, and all the other moralizing busybodies are telling us that we do NOT own our own bodies.

A moral law does not restrict the freedom of any person to enter into a mutually consensual agreement with another person. When we deviate from this concept of morality, we find ourselves on a very slippery slope, where numerous individuals and groups use the legislative power of government to impose various rules of behaviour on other people. Politicians are more than happy to facilitate this process because the result is more power and revenue (taxes) for the government.

Thus – notwithstanding the propaganda — political decisions at every level of government do not arise out of any genuine concern for the safety of women, but are simply a response to the demands of special interest groups who want to impose their morals on everyone else.

Since the government is, by definition, a coercive institution, it is not surprising that its self-interested actions do not reflect its professed concern for the safety of women. To prove the point, let us define the solving of a crime as the capture and conviction of the perpetrator, regardless of sentence imposed. Across Canada, in 2008/09, 91% of sexual assaults were NOT solved. This goes a long way toward explaining why only 5% of sexual assaults were even reported to the police (p 101) — women know their wellbeing is of no concern to the government.

The government occasionally dispatches its undercover agents to strip clubs to levy charges and collect payoffs, sorry, fines, as a deterrent to consensual touching. Government resources allocated to the punishment of these, as well as many other types of victimless crimes would benefit society greatly if they were reallocated to solving crimes where actual victims exist. The fact that this does not happen reveals the hypocrisy of politicians and bureaucrats.

The government aggressively restricts the freedom of women to make their own choices, supposedly to protect them from potential crimes, while it devotes very few resources to solving actual crimes against women.

The hypocrisy of London City Hall is further revealed through its propensity to disobey licensing regulations which it expects the rest of us to obey.

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