Strip Clubs See Declining Standards, U.K. Study Says

The recession has been a boom time for prostitution and sex toy makers. But in one corner of the sex industry, standards have apparently slipped, according to two researchers from the University of Leeds, and reported by the British newspaper, The Times. With profits dwindling, U.K. strip club owners began hiring women for their seduction skills over their dance abilities.

As the economy soured, dollars were no longer thrown around U.K. strip clubs so freely; they had to be pried out. So club owners began hiring women who were more like saleswomen than dancer-athletes, according to a study by Teela Sanders and Kate Hardy, presented at the British Sociological Association's annual conference.

Owners want women who can seduce men to pay for private dances, the researchers claim, which is the true moneymaker in the world of erotic performance. The dancers are independent contractors, who pay the club to let them perform, and also give the club a cut of their earnings.

More students and migrant workers have also entered the business in the past few years, and training hasn't kept up.

In the largest study of its kind in the United Kingdom, Sanders and Hardy surveyed 197 dancers, interviewed 35 of them, and visited 20 strip clubs, and found that some older dancers were upset by the shift.

"You'd see some girl who wasn't very pretty, couldn't dance, had a crap outfit, making a lot more money than you because she was there to make money," said one woman, "not to enjoy herself and be creative, so she would be pushier."

In tight times, owners are hedging their bets, and filling their lineups with more ladies. In the U.K., strippers pay between 30 pounds and 80 pounds ($40 and $127) to perform each night. And with more women dancing, wages have fallen, from an average night haul of 280 pounds to 250 pounds.

Sanders and Hardy have been surveying erotic dancers for a number of years, supported by the Economic and Social Research Council. They published their preliminary findings two years ago, and caused a stir with some of their more surprising results. They found that a quarter of strippers had an undergraduate degree, a fifth were stripping to pay for an undergraduate or graduate degree, and 84 percent were satisfied with their jobs.

Dancers said that they enjoyed the money most of all, as well as the flexible schedule and social environment. But many also complained about rude and sometimes abusive customers, financial insecurity, the lack of career prospects, the pressure to have their bodies look a certain way, and the need to keep the job a secret.

Now there seems to be a new criticism, at least from some in the business: Stripping has become less of an art, and more of a hustle.

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