Monday, November 13, 2006

Consultation Response – Draft Mandatory Regulations on Adult Entertainment in Scotland

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

C. S. Lewis


In the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, women in Britain who wanted to pussue an acting career were labelled as prostitutes. In Scotland in the twenty-first century it is depressing and opressive to see the same myth being used to disproportionately limit the freedoms of dancers who choose to perform erotic entertainment for consenting adults in safe venues. Whilst I do not think that the Executive’s position is total abolition of AE, certain Local Authorities are ideologically opposed to it and will interpret and use these regulations to try to strangle the industry to death. People have fought long and hard to be able to read and watch what they choose in our democracy. Government should not be interfering with those freedoms without a very good reason. Ideology and disapproval are not good enough reasons. The proposed interference also engages and very probably breaches our Human Rights under Articles 2, 8, 10 & 14 of ECHR. Parliament should be very sure that these regulations are made in a way that meets its obligations to safeguard our fundamental rights.

It is also very ironic that Scottish Executive ministers and senior opposition politicians were lining up during October 2006 to defend womens’ rights to choose to dress and act as they wanted to mark their faith. It seems that the message in Scotland that a woman has the right to choose how she dresses and behaves, but only as long as government at all levels approves of their choices. How patronising, with the emphasis on "patron".

The AEWG research process and report did not find, far less prove, anything like a good reason for this censorship and disproportionate interference with dancers’ rights. The only evidence found was an academically and ethically discredited report commissioned and paid for by an ideologically opposed council and information from a U.S. based evangelical christian website. It is the worst and least reliable form of grey literature & is no basis for making regulations. All of the other research, including all of the research commissioned by the AEWG, was at worst inconclusive and at best actively supportive of Adult Entertainment.

The reason given for making these regulations is to prevent prostitution. It is worth re-stating that there is no prostitution or trafficking in the Scottish Adult entertainment industry as it is. No dancer has ever been prosecuted, far less convicted, for any offence. The Executive is regulating a non-existent risk. Adult entertainment performers in Scotlland are entertainers and performance artists, they are not prostitutes and they do not sell sex. A fully nude private lapdance is not a sexual service. The fact that the entertainment they provide is erotic and sensual is irrelevant. There are far more explicit forms of entertainment available at less cost on our television screens, in our cinemas, and on the internet.

Effect of the Draft Regulations

Taken together, regulations 11, 12(4) and 14(3) will effectively ban the private lapdance in Scotland. The regulations are also silent on the question of whether or not full nudity is to be permitted. I assume this silence means that local authorities will have the discretion to decide as per the AEWG report. Since some are already being petty enough to try to enforce partial nudity, the regulations will also mean that nude dancing in of any discipline, including lapdancing, full striptease and nude poledancing will be effectively banned by stealth.

I have warned in previous consultations and in my response to the AEWG report what the negative effects and unintended consequences of these specific provisions will be. Some of it is already happening in anticipation of these regulations becoming law. There are now web-based agencies operating in Scotland offering "home delivery" lapdancers.

For the record they are:
  • There is a global demand for private, fully nude lapdances, and dancers who make a good living or second income supplying that demand. The Executive cannot uninvent the lapdance. If fully nude, private lapdancing is banned from our clubs, it will just move to unlicensed venues like hotel rooms, private homes and parties. Dancers will be killed or seriously sexually assaulted when this happens as a direct result of these provisions. It’s inevitable, it’s just a question of where and when. I hope Tom McCabe feels up to defending these regulations in court when the victim or, god forbid, her relatives sue Scottish Ministers and local authorities for damages.
    Dancers incomes will be drastically cut by these provisions. The fully nude private lapdance is the central product in any proftable strip club. A dancer makes most of her money from private dances. The danger this introduces is that some full time dancers will be forced into escorting and prostitution, or into pornography to make up for the loss of earnings. These provisions are a perverse incentive for escort agencies and will create the harm that they pretend to prevent.
  • Adult Entertainment will become a de-skilled, low-waged, robotic and unattractive way of earning money. The experienced, skilled dancers will diversify or leave Scotland altogether. This is not only a waste of intelligent, talented people but it will also create an opportunity for the gangmasters to supply trafficked dancers who are willing to work for little or no money and who will be tempted to provide sex outside the clubs to make up the difference. The demand will not vanish because it is regulated, it will just change into a sleazy paradise for organised criminals.
  • Scotland’s AE sector will deteriorate markedly in its contribution and significance to inward investment. The AEWG commissioned an Economic Impact survey that expressly said that successful international cities needed a functioning AE sector. Shame that the Local Authorities who have driven this policy from the start, and the developers who negotiate with them, do not recognise this reality and help the sector grow properly and safely rather than seeking to kill it. The economic cost of these regulations will be bigger than you think or have the tools to measure.

Consultation Question at Regulation 14(4)

(4) [Consultation question: We would particularly welcome views from performers, club operators, Licensing Boards and others, on whether there is a need for these Regulations to specify the types of activity that may/ may not be performed as part of adult entertainment. Recommendation 3 of the Adult Entertainment Working Group Report refers.]

If this additional provision is introduced it will further exacerbate the harms described above, and further aggravate any breach of Articles 8 & 10. It is unnecessary and disproportionate. It will also be impossible to frame a meaningful or enforceable provision of this nature. The range of what human beings of both genders find erotic is massive. This provision would need to be the length of an encyclopaedia to be comprehensive.

As one small example – many men find women’s feet and painted toenails more erotic than any other part of her body. Is it intended that dancers should be prohibited from wearing nail polish on their toes or prohibited form wearing open toed shoes? I could name a hundred others, but one is enough to make the point. The idea that you can make a meaningful provision is deeply silly, and panders to those whose opposition is ideological, not evidence based.


Most of the draft regulations are reasonable, some of them will actually improve dancers’ working conditions and for that we thank you. Please reconsider and remove regulations 11, 12(4) and 14(3). If you do not, you are likely to breach our human rights and may even have the sexualised murder of one of us on your collective conscience. Use your powers wisely – help the adult entertainment industry to grow safely and continue its contribution to Scotland’s growth. Do not unnecessarily censor what adults in Scotland are allowed to see or what performers are allowed to do. We are all consenting adults, we need your understanding, tolerance and assistance – not labelling, misplaced sympathy or judgement. Don’t confuse your disapproval of what we choose to do with the common good. You are not infallible.