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Monday, 27 April 2015

One Win for Decency: What Saskatchewan Knows

A furor is being made of the recent legislation in Saskatchewan re-banning stripping in licensed establishments; stripping, in Saskatchewan, in case you have not heard will only be legal for charity purposes and under a temporary and highly restrictive licence. People across the internet are expressing outrage at the supposedly puritanical policy flip-flop by Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall. The update of Saskatchewan's liquor law is a renewed version of a previous law in effect until January 2014.Before 2014 Saskatchewan law stated that liquor could not be served in any establishment that had titillating entertainment and without the liquor as a means to finance such an establishment, and the generous tips, the strip clubs were not a viable business enterprise, and who is surprised by that? I know I would not want to indulge in a glass of milk or perhaps a root beer poured by a half-naked stranger.

 However, this brings up a larger question and that is why Brad Wall's government turned its back on the introduction to stripping in bars. If there is no limit to the viability of the activities of consenting adults that why has the law returned to the books? Why is it that the furious public, many of them from outside of the province, cannot seem to understand the nature of the 'illiberal law' against stripping?
 Most of those who are protesting the re-criminalization of stripping in bars are surprisingly not progressives, but rather libertarian free market fundamentalists who see no barrier between economic and social transactions.

The argument primarily, focuses on the usual notion of consenting adults and the only barometric to what constitutes appropriate conduct in a free society. The apologists in this case believe that the all moral conduct is relative and that all exchanges between individuals occur in private or, are a private matter, but by becoming, complicit in the exchange of sexual services whatever the form we degrade society. The premier and his government understand this. They know that that stripping is no different that pornography, less explicit is the act perhaps, but still a form of pornography. The equivalency is evident in the way in which women and men are exposed in order to generate a primitive dopamine response in the viewer who then provides monetary reciprocation. Pornography is prostitution through third party; sex is exchanged for money via third party, who views such material. Likewise, the sexual exchange occurs in the strip club between consumer and performer. The performer however is damaged through the exposure. Stripping undoubtedly opens doors to video pornography by deconstructing the barrier of shame that exists to prevent the individual from indulging, or performing in such activities.
 In addition, similarly to the pornographic material viewed by so many men stripping is exploitative to the consumer who finds themselves both degraded in a spiritual sense and fiduciary sense. Unremarked is the fact that many patrons of the stripping establishment are the caretaker of the family finances. The coolridge effect acts on these individuals, bypasses their reasoned faculties, and induces them to invest beyond what the rational mind would in order to satiate the brains demand for sexual variety. 
 However, it is not just the consumer who finds himself or herself damaged by consumption of these services. The performer is also damaged through the performance of dehumanizing and objectifying activities. Although the dancer may attest to the empowerment, that she feels during working hours this is often a shallow temporary validation or not representative of other women in her profession. The quote worthy sex workers who professor their love of the job are a tiny minority: the squeaky wheel gets the grease however.
 What they understand in Saskatchewan is that some exchanges are just not necessary. The business of trading in human bodies is one of them. Though individuals may find themselves, empowered, the costs to society for portraying individuals in an animalistic manner are high. The prohibition of strip bars is to be lauded in that it is a symbolic stand against the further sexualisation of our society that has cost us so highly in human misery.
Some critics hate the prohibition of such establishments because they few it as an infringement on the charter rights of performers. They insist that the law curtails the dancers' right to self-expression, but this is not the case. The charter protects freedom of expression, but why should we classify the strip tease as art? I am not aesthetic philosopher, but it seems to me that these performers are not on stage dancing simply for the sake of it. The strippers are performing because they need to make money and owners need to profit. Often writers, photographers, singers, and painters do so simply because they can. However, how often do you hear of someone who gathers a basement audience and puts on a pro-bono pole dancing party? They do not. An audience does not validate true artists, though they may prefer one, they practice a craft because of greater spiritual rewards exotic dancers do not.
 Again, would the dancers do it on their own? For no money? If not then what are they expressing aside from avarice?
Stripping has been properly relegated to the sphere of charitable causes and away from the public sphere in Saskatchewan. This is because Saskatchewan, despite being a province, still has a semblance, like New Brunswick, of a small town nature. A culture respectful of small-localized communities; in Saskatchewan small town mentality dominates. Respectability remains important in Saskatchewan, not everyone may know your name, but even in Regina and Saskatoon, someone might. Saskatchewan does well to adhere to its rural vision, even its CCF Christian heritage, a dose of moralism is a great thing for a country, and this is a victory for Saskatchewan.

Lastly, Brad Wall is to be commended. He is doing the right thing, and unlike most politicians has the courage to say that he was wrong once before. 

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons: