The Commons culture committee yesterday heard claims that lapdancing is "not sexually stimulating" during a hearing into the Licensing Act which is pondering reclassifying lapdancing clubs as "sex encounter establishments" - something which would make it easier for local councils to refuse them licences.
According to the Guardian, the statement by chairman of the Lap Dancing Association, Simon Warr, was "greeted with scepticism" by MPs. Warr insisted the clubs were providing hospitality, rather than sex, and "astonished" the committee by explaining: "One of the biggest problems we face is that not enough people understand the business blueprint of our clubs. Actually, our premises are not sexually stimulating. It would be contrary to our business plan if they were."
A suitably astonished Philip Davies, the Tory MP for Shipley, interjected: "You are saying that the purpose of a lap dancing club is not to be sexually stimulating? Most people would find that a rather incredible claim."
Warr defended: "Then you need to go to a club, because the purpose of a club is to provide entertainment. It's to provide alcohol, it's a place of leisure. All right, the entertainment may be in the form of nude or semi-nude performers, but it's not sexually stimulating."
Davies, by now pretty well incredulous, the Guardian notes, persisted: "So if I did a straw poll of all the customers who came out a lap dancing club and said 'Did you find that in any way sexually stimulating?' I would find a big resounding fat zero? On that basis you would have a lot of dissatisfied customers."
Warr offered: "How do you measure sexual stimulation. What is the definition of sexual stimulation?"
Veteran club entrepreneur Peter Stringfellow then weighed into the fray, explaining, that: "Of course it's sexually stimulating. So is a disco. So is a young girl flashing away with her knickers showing. Of course it's sexually stimulating. So is David Beckham laid out in his Calvin Klein [underwear]. So are the Chippendales. Of course it does have some form of sex.
"But what my colleague was trying to explain was that it's not sex, 100 per cent. It's not 'I'm going to go and get divorced.' It does not go on like that. Our environment lasts three minutes. Their clothes are on and off before you can blink. It's a lot more to do with personality. It's a lot more to do with the ambience of the club."
Stringfellow further argued that a change of the law was not required because council could stipulate a "no nudity" requirement on licences and use this to close down "badly-run" establishments.
Kate Nicholls, the secretary of the Lap Dancing Association, agreed that councils "already had enough power to stop clubs opening under the existing legislation", which "allows them to consider issues such as public safety, public order, public nuisance and the protection of children".
Those of you who'd like to know who's to blame for this debate on a matter of national importance can finger backbench Labour MP Roberta Blackman-Woods, who apparently proposed the reclassification. Earlier this month, her action prompted Spearmint Rhino to dispatch a couple of lapdancers to Downing Street to impress on the PM that the offending clubs were not dens of iniquity.
Spokeswoman Elaine Reed said: “The workers within our industry are absolutely horrified that the Government are trying to rebrand us as part of the sex industry. It’s quite clear we are not part of the sex industry, we never have been and we don’t intend to be. Our clubs are controlled, there’s no sexual activity going on.”
Davies, however, yesterday pressed the Lap Dancing Association to answer allegations "that at some clubs dancers do offer sexual services, contrary to the rules".
The association's vice chairman, Chris Knight, responded: "We are not saying there are not bad clubs. There are bad drivers. But you do not change the way that you licence drivers." ®