Sexual Entertainment Venues, strip clubs or gentlemen’s clubs as they are sometimes referred to, unashamedly promote the
sexual objectification of women. It is the very essence of their business and at the core of their promotional publicity. The
imagery and publicity, particularly online, promotes misogyny and sexism, and ‘celebrates’ dysfunctional attitudes to women. They create an environment which states that it is permissible for men to buy women for sexual entertainment.
The Sheffield branch’s relationship with the Sexual Entertainment Industry began on International Women’s Day 2016 and I, along with other local members, have now attended 4 separate license hearings for clubs in Sheffield.
Much is said by the clubs and their very expensive legal representative about how the women working there find it empowering, how they make a good living from it, carefully skimming over the fact that they usually have no employment rights, how great their clubs are for the local economy, how they promote safer streets at night because their door staff are outside, and more often than not how this is a legitimate and legal business, and therefore they should be allowed to get on with it.
But the very existence of strip clubs will always be a signal to a significant amount of society that this is what women are for, that women’s existence is only in relation to their significance to men, that we are here for men’s sexual pleasure, that this is how we are valued.
SEVs create unequal power between men and women which perpetuates unequal power in every area of our society, including all of our seven objective areas.
The men who frequent strip clubs are not living in a vacuum, they are men we are in relationships with, men in our families,
men in our communities, they are our colleagues sitting next to us at work, they are running and working in our businesses, our
hospitals, our local services, our educational institutions, our judicial system, and they are making decisions in our local and
When we have problems within our society such as sexual harassment and abuse, when we do not have an equal number
of men and women at the top of our businesses, in local government or in Parliament, when 1 in 4 women in our society
will experience domestic abuse, where 2 women are killed every week by a partner or ex-partner, where almost half a
century after the Equal Pay Act we still have a gender pay gap, and in some industries an astronomical one, where our media
still reports on the aesthetics of the legs of our Prime Minister and First Minister as front page news, and where our children
are still presented with genderised job roles within our education system, why would we choose to add to propping up
the continuation of all of that, by licensing somewhere where women are presented for the sexual pleasure of men, for a
We’re told - It’s just “banter with boobs”, a bit of fun - how many times have we heard the ways in which inequality manifests
itself be dismissed as “a bit of fun”? And how many more times will we have to listen to this excuse before something changes.
We’re told that if we don’t license them they’ll go underground. Firstly there is no evidence to suggest this, and I would ask you
to think of any other area where this argument is made. We better license this medicine even though we know it’s really
dangerous otherwise it’ll go underground. This car hasn’t passed its MOT but if we don’t give it a certificate it’ll be driven anyway so we might as well. Giving something a license indicates to everyone that -we think this is ok - it’s safe - it’s a good idea.
We’re also told that instead of not granting licenses we should put license conditions and restrictions in place. But we know the misogyny, sexism and struggles that women face, as a party we know that better than any other, and we also know that no amount of license conditions or restrictions will ever combat all of that.
Sexual Entertainment Venues are a part of the sex industry, it would seem inconsistent of us to support the Nordic Model as
the most effective way of ending prostitution whilst not having a policy to tackle the demand in this related part of the sector. I
would also question what message it sends to other political parties and to this friendlier faced part of the sex industry for us
not to have a policy.
If we pass this motion it will give branches across the country the courage and policy backing to not only challenge at the application point of the process and at hearings, but also challenge the way in which the licenses are granted when legislation and process have not been followed correctly.
Not having strip clubs will not suddenly transport us to the utopia of equality, but one thing is certain, we will never get
there whilst our local authorities continue to license them.
Speech to Conference November 2018 by Charlotte Mead, Sheffield Branch Leader
When my husband and I got married, I'm pretty sure that we, and everyone else there that day, saw it as a joining of equals. We walked down the aisle together - no "giving away". We wrote and spoke our own vows, talking of shared interests and understanding, caring and a mutual respect.
We were then staggered by the impact that having our children had on this balance. First there was the expectation that everything to do with the children had to be my business: people would walk past my husband to ask me what the children would like to do, or what they want to eat, or if they are tired. Almost as if he didn't exist.
Then there was the idea that, the children were now the only thing that I was about. Meeting friends and family, they would ask my husband about himself, his work, the latest sporting events, what's going on in the world. Me, they asked "how are the kids doing?" Almost as if I didn't exist.
Added to that comes the assumption that my husband didn't know how to look after the children - that it would be me taking a day off work when they are unwell; that Dad-taking-the-kids-camping-for-the-weekend would surely end in disaster.
As if wasn’t bad enough, there were massive gender differences experienced by our children. Pink and blue clothes were just the start of it. What toys they are expected to play with and the things they might be interested in are all determined by their gender. People talk to them differently - they comment on her appearance “you look pretty” and ask him what his favourite football team is. They are even allocated different standards of behaviour – what is deemed as naughty in a girl is explained away by “boys will be boys” in her brother.
Don't get me wrong, I know they are different. But surely that difference comes as much from their individual preferences and choices, as it does from the number of X chromosomes they have.
Then one day, when my daughter was 5, we watched Mary Poppins. In the film the children's mother is a Suffragette, and they sing a very rousing song about it. My daughter asked me to explain what a Suffragette was, so I told her how it didn't used to be fair for women because they couldn't vote. She didn't understand. So then I said it was like if in school they were choosing what games to play, but only the boys got to have a say. She understood.
Then she looked me with her big, innocent eyes and said "but it's fair for girls now Mummy, isn't it?" And with profound sadness I realised that the answer to that was a resounding "No". And that, nearly 100 years after women got the vote, there is still a lot to be done to make things fair for our children.
Because otherwise how will we answer these tough questions that they ask, like:
- Does it come in a colour that isn't pink?
- Where are the good girl role models in books and films?
- Why did we spend ages in school learning about Brazil when the football world cup was on, but no one even mentioned the women's world cup?
- Why can't he wear his hair in a bobble?
- Why do they laugh at him for liking girl music? (Katy Perry, but don't judge him, he's 5)
And then later, the questions will get harder.
- Why isn't it safe for her to walk home late at night?
- Why did that guy on the bus grope her leg?
- And why is he earning more than her?
So the way I see it, we have a choice. We can try and find acceptable answers to these questions - try and explain away the unfairness - or we can do something about changing it. I choose the latter.
Because equality is better for everyone. Especially our children.
Because if not you, who? If not now, when?
Carol Keen, Sheffield Branch Data Manager
Charlotte Mead - Branch Leader
Ann Butler - Treasurer
Ann is self-employed, a mother and grandmother, and a lifelong political cynic, delighted to have finally found her political home with WEP, a refreshingly collaborative and forward-thinking party, and exactly what our society needs now
Isobel Thomas - Communications Lead
Isobel had never been involved in politics before WEP, but got to the point where she realised that she needed to DO something if she wanted to see change. She fits my volunteering for WEP in around my family and job at a national charity. It's busy and exciting and she loves the sense of purpose that comes from taking action on things she cares about.
Carol Keen - Data Manager
Always a feminist, but never an active campaigner until joining WEP, Carol got involved because she could see the how gender shaped the lives of her son and daughter from a very young age, and wanted them to have more choice in their lives. She juggles volunteering for WEP with family life and her work as a physiotherapist.
Philippa Willitts - Comms Team
An intersectional feminist, Pippa is disabled and LGBT. In her day job, she is a freelance writer and proofreader and, by night, she manages Sheffield WEP's Facebook page, along with other campaigning and rights work.