By Melissa Holland
This month, Reno City Council voted 5-2 to accept a proposal to relocate adult businesses out of the downtown area. Prior to this vote, and in anticipation of litigation, the Reno City Attorney hired a private investigator to research the local strip clubs. During the investigation, they found horrible conditions including “floors caked with urine, old alcohol and other unknown fluids causing our investigators shoes to stick.” The report also states that “drug use is rampant.” The investigators saw signs of meth, heroin, and cocaine and found that the staff members were “unobservant and displayed a need to serve alcohol to all sitting patrons immediately.”
Furthermore, the report stated that “several dancers appeared to be under the influence of drugs and alcohol, as they were constantly nodding in and out of consciousness while seated at the bar.” However, the sex acts, which are prohibited by law, are most concerning. According to the report, “Some patrons were fully nude… and all male patrons were able to touch all exotic dancers in any area they saw fit.”
In response to the investigator’s report, the Reno Gazette-Journal ran a story quoting Mark Thierman, a lawyer who represents the owners of three strip clubs. According to Thierman, “A couple of the girls obviously have issues, but they aren’t our employees. They’re private contractors and we don’t control them.”
Did you catch it? Any problem or issue within the clubs isn’t the owners’ fault. It isn’t the managers’ fault. According to the men profiting off these women, any problems are the women’s fault.
The report paints a clear picture of club staff who promote the continual intoxication of both patrons and dancers to the point that the women are in and out of consciousness from drugs and alcohol, yet the staff allow any patron to grab, touch, or lick the women wherever and whenever they like. Performing sexual acts on a woman who is intoxicated, drugged, and in and out of consciousness is sexual assault. Intoxication in and of itself is legal reason to count a person incapable of consent. Since these women are incapable of consent, any sexual activity with them is rape.
Why is it that, in any location outside of a strip club, this behavior would be condemned by everyone? What makes actions within the walls of a strip club any different? What makes sexual assault and rape ok, so long as the man tosses the woman a $20 bill?
At this point, your brain is either connecting the dots or still fighting it. To help you along, if you are having any of following thoughts then you too are guilty of victim blaming: It’s a strip club, what do you expect? He paid her so he can do whatever he wants with her body. She asked for it. Boys will be boys. She wanted it. She deserves it. She was topless, what did she expect? She’s a stripper, of course men are going to grab her. And my all-time least favorite but most commonly used: she likes it.
Ladies, let me ask how many of you enjoy being in dimly lit establishments, floors caked with urine and other unknown fluids while strangers have their way with you while you are in and out of consciousness? Guys, this may come as a surprise, but women know how to fake it. We do not like this. Women do not like being assaulted. We do not like being groped. We do not like being drugged so you can act out your sexual aggression on us.
Managers who dismiss this and say “well they aren’t our staff” are both insulting and in my opinion, should not be allowed to hold a business license. These establishments are primarily female staffed, yet run by men with no consideration for women, our bodies, or our voices. They are telling women we have no value in their eyes other than what they can do with our bodies. These establishments and the management in them are creating a rape prone environment. They believe once money is thrown at our exploitation, it’s not their problem. It’s still her fault.
Melissa Holland is the founder and executive director of Awaken, a northern Nevada nonprofit that conducts outreach and provides direct services to women and girls to help them transition out of commercial sexual exploitation.