COLUMN: Nixon is giving strip clubs the bad touch

Tuesday, July 6, 2010 | 11:43 a.m. CDT; updated 4:35 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, August 10, 2010

As the stripper shoved her face into my crotch, I realized I wasn't embarrassed that a stripper was in my ultimate personal space but rather that everyone in Club Vogue was staring at me.

Until last week, I was indifferent to strip clubs. I had never been to one, and I never planned to visit. My opinion was that female strip clubs are degrading to women, but I also know that there are probably some women who work in strip clubs because they enjoy it or, if nothing else, because they make good money. We’re not exactly swimming in a surplus of jobs right now, and I don’t like the government telling me what I can do with my body, or in the case of the spectator, telling me what I can do for entertainment.

On  June 25, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed a bill that would go into effect Aug. 28 that requires strip clubs in Missouri to close before midnight, to make employees wear more clothing, and to eliminate both the serving of alcohol and touching between workers and patrons.

According to an Associated Press article posted by the Missourian, supporters of the regulation, which is sponsored by Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee's Summit, argue that these businesses "contribute to seedy behavior, demean women, drive down property value and even cause divorces."

My general reaction to this is that those who enjoy strip clubs will keep coming back, whether it's at 9 p.m. or midnight. It’s not about the alcohol. It’s not about the nudity. It’s not about having a late-night hobby to keep you entertained. It’s about the attention customers are given by these workers. The new restrictions aren't going to do anything to remedy this allegedly seedy behavior, disrespect to women, low property values or a high divorce rate — it's only going to happen earlier in the evening, with more clothes (but probably not much more) and less alcohol. Moreover, it's going to make it harder for those who work in these places to earn money, which is unfair.

But to know for sure, I had to do some research.

By research, I of course mean going to Club Vogue, which bills itself as Missouri's Finest Gentlemen's Club. And so, I found myself at the club on your run-of-the-mill Thursday night around midnight, which will be illegal under the new law, right after I left my copy desk shift at the Missourian. Because nothing really tingles your senses after eight hours of copy editing — which is as exciting as it sounds for those who have never had the experience — like watching women dance to Ke$ha in 5-inch platform high heels and only 5-inch platform high heels.

I live near Club Vogue, and the club also advertises with Vox Magazine,  so I’ve driven past it quite a few times, but this was my first strip club experience. My only other experience with the venue is that at Vox, we always have a small Club Vogue ad that runs in the issue, and it’s usually the rule that you poke fun of the department whose page it lands on. It doesn’t bother me that I live close by (I also live near Passions and Venus Adult Megastore). It’s inconspicuous enough. There are no flashing neon signs of profiles of naked women. The name isn’t GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! XXX! If you had never heard about it, you’d probably never know it was a strip club unless you went inside.

But I did. I paid my $5 cover, got a diet soda (They don’t serve alcohol at Club Vogue. Believe me. I tried to get some.), found the people I was meeting and parked it at the stage.

In case you’ve never been inside Club Vogue, allow me: It’s pretty large with two stages, three poles and a bar. There’s a stairwell leading to something called the “Safari Room,” which I didn’t check out because I’m frugal but later found out is a private lap-dance room. Seedy? I'd say not. I've seen worse on Bravo.

Based on what I saw that night, the Club Vogue regulars are of three kinds: The middle-aged man, the college man and the young woman who you suspect might work at Club Vogue and is just visiting on her night off (I say this because at one point, the women who were in plainclothes were topless. The dancers came up to them and asked to pull their shirts up. Hey, they asked.)

There was one older man who I couldn’t help but stare at because his jaw was dropped the entire time. There was a younger man who I was impressed with because he was shelling out dollar bills for almost every dancer. Unfortunately, I had to ration out my Washingtons. But both of these men were more generous with their money when the women singled them out, touched them and danced right in front of them. It didn't matter if the women were fully nude or partially clothed.

If you’re waiting for some crazy story about how I witnessed many sexually crude acts, you’ll surely be disappointed. Although some of the women were totally naked, and one of them stuck her head in my crotch, (She was also very polite and asked beforehand.) Club Vogue is, dare I say, tame. I know that as a straight woman, some of the effect of a place such as this is lost on me. However, the most exciting thing that happened was when one of the dancers climbed all the way to the top of the pole, maybe 20 feet tall, and slid down. The dancers aren’t a rowdy bunch and neither are the customers.

So after my first strip club experience, I can safely say these new regulations are going to do nothing to correct those people lawmakers have already judged as having bad morals. It's only going to make it more difficult for workers to make money. Places like Club Vogue are about the one-on-one connection a stripper has with a patron. Banning alcohol doesn’t do anything to that connection. Closing early doesn't either. Requiring strippers to wear more clothing isn’t going to deter the urge to visit a club. Customers are just going to visit earlier. Despite what Sen. Bartle thinks, it's not going to stop people from coming.

Amanda Woytus is the managing and calendar editor for Vox Magazine and a copy editor for the Missourian.

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John Schultz July 6, 2010 | 1:44 p.m.

Great article, exposing in a roundabout matter how Republicans in Missouri can talk about private property rights, local control, and non-regulation, yet support bills (with Governor Nixon's help, no less) affecting other peoples' property. If you don't like strip club or adult stores, don't patronize them.

(Report Comment)
Eric Cox July 7, 2010 | 11:30 a.m.

Government enforced morality, and behavior modification at the point of a gun, thanks Nixon.

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