Monday, October 31, 2005

Strippers, Choice, and Freedom

These guys have been hanging out around campus lately to get people to sign their petition to overturn the City Council's ban on lap dances. The mayor signed the new rules into effect last week that require a 4 foot spacing between the dancers and customers, waist high railings around the stages, and lights that would be more at home in a Wal-Mart than in a seedy night spot.

Anyone who's ever had to plan a bachelor party in Seattle should be outraged. And frankly, anyone who believes in freedom, women's rights, or property rights should be too.

It's interesting that a council that no doubt would react with abject horror and a lecture about "respecting the rights of women" to a proposed ban on abortion don't see the hypocrisy in a de facto ban on women choosing to dance in a strip club. Why is one more worthy of protection than the other? If pro-choice activists see abortion regulation as an effort by the Religious Right to criminalize the sexuality of women, then where are those same activists now? Either women are adults who can and should be trusted to make their own choices, or they're not. One thing is for sure - if the Mayor was an avowed Christian who stated publicly that he thought stripping was an abomination to God, you can bet that we'd see major protests and all kinds of references to the council as no better than an American Taliban.

I'm not saying that strip clubs can't or shouldn't be regulated, even if those regulations are abjectly stupid. But it's worth noting that these particular rules will almost without question force the clubs to close (there are other options not too far out of town) and put dozens of people out of their jobs, and that it's done for no other reason except either (a) prudishness or (b) a blind adherence to some particular sect of feminism that says women should be free to choose and follow their own path - unless the feminists don't approve of the path, of course.

If the petitioners are unsuccessful and the gentlemen's clubs are forced out of business by the rules, I hope the owners sue the city for compensation for the taking of their livlihoods. It's a shame that our local government is so disinterested in personal property rights.


Cato said...

I don't know if I would go so far as to equate abortion rights and dancing rights, but I agree with your central point--The Seattle political elite seems to have a nanny-streak that is narrowly tailored to avoid any political issues that could get them in trouble. The new strip-club regulations fall right in line with the Teen Dance Ordinance and I-901: Private businesses can and should be further vessels for government control of individual decision-making.

They finally realized that it's way easier to prosecute businesses for what goes on in or near them than to prosecute individuals for engaging in disapproved behavior.

Orrin Johnson said...

Abortion and dancing aren't the same, but the underlying philosophy to regulate both activities is. If women are free to exercise their sexuality and freedom without governmental interference of any kind, then neither should be regulated.

I happen to think both can and should be regulated. I don't think very many people would argue that there's a Constitutional right to strip unfettered by any regulation, and most would agree that it's within the purvue of the local community government to regulate that kind of thing. I don't even think that City Councils should be prohibited from making inconsistent policies. But to argue that there's a constitutional right to an abortion, but that strippers can be regulated into oblivion - well that's simply intellectually bankrupt.

Cato said...

Two crucial differences between abortion and nude dancing:
1. Opponents of abortion claim a very strong state interest, i.e. protecting the lives of unborn children. (whether one is pro-life or no, we all agree that that interest, if it exists, would be of the utmost importance.) Opponents of topless dancing claim a (in my opinion) weak state interest, that of protecting the morality of strippers or their patrons.
2. The consequences of not being able to strip, for a woman, include having to get a different job. The consequences of not being able to get an abortion include having to carry a child to term (sometimes risky and always psychologically important) and the choice between giving the child up for adoption (traumatic) or supporting the child for 18 years or so, which may be economically impossible and which is likely to impact the quality of life of the child.

So we see that the interests on both sides of the abortion debate are impressive and urgent, whereas the interests on both sides of the dancing debate are comparatively paltry. This allows the dancing debate to be principle based, since most people don't have a lot personally at stake. The principle at stake is individual freedom vs. societal morality, without any of the life or death consequences that muddy the abortion debate.

Orrin Johnson said...

The pro-choice lobby rests their arguments on the fact that women's sexuality (and its consequences) is out of the reach of government, and argue that there is no interest prior to birth because there's no individual, viable life. That's the core of their premise. That's it. The "shame" and psychological trauma arguments of adoption are equally applicable to strippers, who as a group have a lot of issues (which is in part why they're strippers).

That's why it seems silly to me that they aren't outraged with the stripper ban. Remember, too, that these are the same people who DON'T believe that laborers can "just go get another job."

I happen to believe that there IS an interest in local communities regulating strip clubs. I disagree with the Seattle rules, but don't think they're an improper governmental exercise.

I just think it's interesting that "pro-choice" is only for abortion and not for anything else the left disagrees with. I understand the outrage from those who think abortions is baby murder. I don't understand the outrage from those who are so disinterested in so many other, more fundamental personal freedoms (housing, guns, health choices like smoking, etc.)