1st Edition

Flexible Workers Labour, Regulation and the Political Economy of the Stripping Industry

By Teela Sanders, Kate Hardy Copyright 2014
    236 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    216 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    Striptease and other types of erotic dance increasingly make up a large, lucrative and visible part of the sex industries in the United Kingdom and 'lap dancing' has become the focus of many important contemporary debates about gender, work and sexuality. This new book from Teela Sanders and Kate Hardy moves away from the more traditional focus on the relations between dancers and customers, to a focus on regulation and the working conditions experienced by those working in stripping work. Drawing on interviews, survey data and participant observation with dancers, managers, regulators and other staff, Sanders and Hardy present the first ever nationwide study of the stripping industry and the working lives of those within it.

    The book explores the reasons for the expansion of the industry in the United Kingdom and the experiences, opinions and perspectives of those that produce and shape it. Placing dancers' voices centre stage, it examines the wider political economy which shapes dancers' engagement in employment in the stripping industry, pointing towards the wider conditions of the labour market and growing privatisation of Higher Education as explanatory factors for its labour supply. In suggesting a new feminist politics of stripping, dancers voice their own political awareness of erotic dance and an intersectional analysis of solidarity with workers in the stripping industry is foregrounded.

    Presenting a 360 degree view of the industry, this ground-breaking study presents systematic evidence for the first time on this area of social life which has become central as a strategy of survival, class mobility and urban accumulation. It will appeal to undergraduate and postgraduate students across the fields of criminology, sociology, geography, labour studies and gender studies, as well as regulators, activists and even dancers themselves.

    Introduction: Beyond the Stripping Wars  Chapter 1. Locating the Strip-Based Entertainment Industry  Chapter 2. From Pathology to Labour: The Discursive Landscape of Strip Clubs, Workers and Regulation  Chapter 3. Empty shell licensing: law, reform and Sexual Entertainment Venues  Chapter 4. The race to the bottom: working conditions and value production in the strip club  Chapter 5. Professionals, pragmatists and strategists: Understanding labour supply in the UK strip industry  Chapter 6. "No dancer ever earns money out of the pole": Attentive economies of stripping work Chapter 7. Falling through the regulatory gap: managing and licensing stripping  Chapter 8. Speaking back: the feminist and class politics of stripping  Conclusions. Proliferation, stagnation or decline? The UK strip industry now and beyond  Dancers Interviewed.


    Teela Sanders is Reader in sociology at the University of Leeds with qualifications in both sociology and social work. Working at the intersections of sociology, criminology and social policy, she has published extensively in areas germane to sexuality/gender and regulation. Monographs to date include: Sex Work. A Risky Business (Cullompton: Willan 2005), Paying for Pleasure: Men who Buy Sex, (Cullompton: Willan, 2008). Co-authored texts include Prostitution: Sex Work, Policy and Practice (Sage, 2009). She has co-edited, New Sociologies of Sex Work (Ashgate, 2010), Body/Sex/Work – intimate, embodied and sexualised labour (Palgrave, 2013) and Social Policies and Social Control: New Perspectives on the Not-so-Big Society (Policy Press, 2014).

    Kate Hardy is a Lecturer in Work and Employment Relations at the Leeds University Business School. Her research explores a feminist political economy of labour, with a particular focus on non-standard forms of work and the intersections between paid and non-paid forms of labour, work, employment and the body. Her research and scholarship is informed by a commitment to social change and a desire to bridge academia and activism through involvement in the feminist movement and other spaces of political activity. She has co-edited Body/Sex/Work – intimate, embodied and sexualised labour (Palgrave, 2013) and New Sociologies of Sex Work (Ashgate, 2010) and has articles in a number of journals, including the British Journal of Sociology, Work, Employment and Society and Emotion, Space and Society.

    ‘If you want to be illuminated about what happens in the confines of the erotic dancing club, this is certainly the book to read. It is outstanding at challenging the myths circulated in popular culture. Its uniqueness is based on bringing a global perspective on a relational labour economy to a local form of consumption by interweaving the voices of the dancers, managers and owners through a nuanced analysis of why, what and how.’ - Beverley Skeggs, Professor of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK

    ‘Flexible Workers lives up to its promise to consider the voices of exotic dancers in dialogue with wider political, economic, and legal shifts in the UK. Moving beyond micro-sociological analyses of the strip club, Sanders and Hardy present a holistic exploration of the landscape of exotic dance, focusing on the social and economic conditions that produce and enable its consumption. The impact of widespread social changes, exploitative labor markets, and ill-founded regulation is deftly illustrated through interviews with dancers, whose bodies are too often disciplined and controlled in the name of "protection".’Katherine Frank, Scholar-in-Residence, American University, USA