Saturday, 10 March 2012

Poker's Problems: Strip clubs and Prostitutes.

Poker is, by nature, a selfish game. You accumulate as much as possible by taking from other people; you benefit from their loss. And whilst I don't think poker players live their lives actively wishing harm or misfortune on other people, they can often take that extreme and blind self-interest with them away from the tables, and it is that I wish to address.

I think the proportion of poker players I've met who have been to a strip club is probably close to 100%. Many have hired prostitutes, although certainly not as many. These days strip clubs (and by extension prostitution) are, it seems, becoming more socially acceptable. They might still be slightly fringe, but a lot of people wouldn't consider getting a dance to be a big deal - and in the poker world of course, a strip club is a staple during a big night out. And hey, if literally every single person you know or 'work' with goes and they don't think twice about it, why should you?

Many, many reasons. So many in fact I'm not sure where to start. Lets first look at some myths.

Strip clubs have mostly shed their seedy image, now being seen as sophisticated gentleman's clubs or fashionable bars. The common perception is that women who work there are confident, 'sexually liberated', enjoy the challenge or the glamour or feel empowered by the work. Even if this isn't the case, at worst they put up with something they don't particularly enjoy for the money. 'Stripping your way through college' is a phrase often used. Means to an end, just another job.

In reality it is rarely, if ever, this benign. Women working in prostitution or strip clubs may well seem comfortable or even happy with their work; this is because they must. They are paying large premiums for the 'privilege' of working and to reveal what they are going through is to discourage the tips (ie wages) they need. Low pay is often a factor in the transition to prostitution, which is commonly encouraged by management. Others are coerced into sexual acts in order to get or retain a job, or for drugs. Studies routinely show that almost all women working in strip clubs have been both physically and sexually assaulted. One disturbingly common theme is early abuse - in one study of women who work in strip clubs, nearly half had been molested or raped in childhood or adolescence. These are figures which do not support the idea of a sexually liberated, empowered woman. The extensive physical and psychological damage they receive does not equal 'just another job' or a harmless way to fund a degree.

Amongst women working in prostitution the rates of childhood abuse is even higher, with studies finding over 80% being victims. One government survey found 70% of prostituted women had been in care at some point in their lives.

Unsurprisingly, surveys consistently find that 90%+ of prostituted women want to exit prostitution, but it isn't possible for them to due to a lack of basic resources. Poverty is very common, as is the use of alcohol and drugs as coping mechanisms. One study of 62 women found 8 of them went into prostitution solely because of alcohol or drug dependency, but once entering prostitution all but 3 had developed a serious addiction. Without exception across all studies I looked at, all prostituted women had been physically and sexually assaulted in some way. Rape and heavy violence is very common.

In one study of prostituted women, two-thirds suffered from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), which is comparable to the rates in rape victims and survivors of state-sponsored torture. Again: Prostitution can lead to rates of PTSD similar to rape and torture victims.

I'll reiterate: this isn't some glamourous vocation, or even an uncomfortable means to an end, but a devastating hell they must endure because of addiction, coercion, violence or poverty. You may not be spitting at these women, raping them, beating them or feeding them drugs personally, but by being involved you are supporting establishments and the cultural acceptance of situations where this is happening.

Slavery is another important issue. Whilst accurate trafficking statistics are hard to come by, it is a very real problem, with western Europe and the US high on the list of major trafficking destinations. Many of the women in massage parlours, strip clubs or escort agencies have been trafficked, and are held and forced to work against their will. As such, paying for sex with these women is legally defined as rape, whether you know of their situation or not.

Another aspect I want to mention is objectification. The commodification of sexuality and women's bodies leads to expectations; about how women should look, how they should act, how their sexuality should be focused on satisfying men. The sense of entitlement this creates in men is part of the foundation that leads to verbal, physical or sexual assault towards women; that leads to 5% of women in the UK being raped in their lifetime and nearly one in four experiencing sexual assault. Sexual transaction, such as that in strip clubs or within prostitution, perpetuates these ideas. One obvious manifestation of this is the increase in crime - particularly sexual abuse - in the surrounding areas when strip clubs are opened.

To sum up, a paragraph from writer Kat Banyard: 'Arguments that prostitution, pornography, and stripping are harmless - or even empowering - simply because a woman engaging in these acts usually does so without a gun being held to her head spectacularly fail to take into account the context within which that 'choice' was made, the motivations driving it, the consequences of it, and the role of others involved.'

So. The next time you're on a night out, don't just follow everyone else; think for yourself. Think about the women working in these places, what they're going through - what YOU are putting them through. Sure, leaving early or trying to promote a different destination might seem 'boring' and you'll get the occasional odd look or stupid remark made to you (as I do) but, if you care about the well-being of other people, you'll feel better for it.


Dahl said...

well put. The question I always ask men is " would you want that for your daughter?" So far, not one has said yes!

Kralj Crni said...

Yes I have to agree, I tend to take that selfishness away from the tables and project it in other situations.