The Strip Club Co-op

Source: Once & Future Kids

In Keeping Women Down and Out, Sheila Jeffreys argues that the strip club boom does not reflect equality between men and women; it does not signal female empowerment. Instead, it is a manifestation of gender inequality and its operations reinforce male dominance. Jeffreys points to the ownership of strip clubs as a significant source of gender inequality, arguing that when the most profitable sectors of the industry are owned and ran by national and international crime gangs, it lends itself to exploitation of women or worse still, human trafficking.

A friend of mine recently produced a promotional video for a strip club in San Francisco, whose business model varies in significant ways from the rest of the industry. The Lusty Lady, is a completely unionized worker-owned peep show co-op. It is the only one of its kind in the world and those interviewed say that its model empowers “feminism” and it makes both patrons and workers feel safe to enjoy themselves.

However, they admit that there is a tradeoff between profitability and management. What job security and safety they gain by being a coop (instead of being ran by oppressive managers) comes in tandem with lower profits and more disorganization. Things are “frayed at the edges” and they have received offered to be bought out. The ladies declined the offer but it remains to see if co-ops can be a profitable business model in the strip club industry, and it raises interesting question on whether the issue of the industry lies as much with management as it does with the issue of profitability. However, regardless, The Lusty Lady brings hope – and questions – to whether the business of stripping can ever one day, be female-friendly, or even empowering.

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