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Won’t Someone Please Think of the Strippers?

In 2008, we saw many New York-based businesses close their doors forever, from Lehman Brothers to Radar magazine. However, while the troubles plaguing industries from finance to media to publishing to manufacturing have been widely reported, there’s been one major … Read More

By / December 31, 2008

In 2008, we saw many New York-based businesses close their doors forever, from Lehman Brothers to Radar magazine. However, while the troubles plaguing industries from finance to media to publishing to manufacturing have been widely reported, there’s been one major New York business -nay, institution – whose demise is ultimately telling and possibly prophetic: Scores. Yes, that’s right: the strip club. Yes, it’s the one Howard Stern talks about all the time on his show and where celebrities get busted cheating on their wives. And in 2009, it will be no more.

Why does it matter that a strip club is closing? For one thing, Scores is like the Rolls Royce of strip clubs. It’s not a Girls! Girls! Girls! or TomKittens off a rural highway in a state that allows either nudity or alcohol but not both. The women who work at Scores spend significant amounts of money every month in personal upkeep in order to project the image of being ‘perfect’ and sell more lap dances and trips to the champagne room than their coworkers. They must pay out-of-pocket for everything from plastic surgery to hair coloring to gym memberships to body waxes. If you’ve ever been to a high-end spa, you know that those services certainly aren’t cheap. In some ways, they are comparable to waiters at exclusive five-star restaurants, who have to project a certain style or image as well as be able to kiss up to rich patrons, name several wines that would go well with every entree on the menu, and remember the names and preferences of regular customers.The reason Scores is closing, but TomKittens remains open, is because the clients they cater to are the ones now digging through the rubble of Lehman Brothers and AIG. Normally, in times of economic decline, the sex industry (like the alcohol and tobacco industries) continues to thrive as unhappy and unemployed workers seek a little hollow joy. That’s why the failure of Scores is so shocking – it’s at the very top of its industry, and if they can’t keep the lights on, what hope is there for everyone else? And what hope is there for the secondary businesses (spas, boutiques, etc) who count Scores’ strippers as their clients and customers?

It would be easy to talk about the demise of Scores by celebrating its closure as a victory for feminism. But that would be unfair to the women who work there. While I’m a feminist, I’m not terribly interested in judging other women for how they choose to earn a living. I think that the United States could benefit from regulation of the sex industry, as it would not only bring in much-needed government revenue but standardize and clean up the industry and protect many of the women who willingly or unwillingly work in it. Unlike many of the white-collar employees who are now getting unemployment, severance, or some other kind of financial assistance as they cope with the loss of their jobs, the women of Scores are essentially out on the street. There are no pension plans for exotic dancers. Rather than criticize these women for the line of work they’ve entered, we should think more about what the closing of Scores means for New York.  Our economy depends on all of us. As silly as it seemed for President Bush to go on television after 9/11 and encourage everyone to go to the mall, consumer confidence is a big part of keeping our economy going. You may not care about Scores and whether it continues to exist, but there’s something wrong with a country that hands golden parachutes to CEOs whose actions resulted in thousands of employees losing their livelihoods and yet won’t help the everyday workers – from strippers in New York to millworkers in Pennsylvania to automobile factory workers in Detroit – who might not have enough money to make it to next month.

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