Saturday, October 24, 2009

Justice for Strippers!

Recently, performers at the Golden Banana gentlemen's club in Peabody, Massachusetts have filed a class-action lawsuit against the club's owners, over wages and benefits.

Now, before you snicker and make snide remarks, let me set the record on how these ladies are treated -- not just at this establishment, but across the country.

If you're an exotic dancer, the club doesn't consider you an employee. You're categorized as an "independent contractor", which means the club doesn't need to pay payroll taxes, Social Security contributions, healthcare or other benefits.

Now this makes sense if you're a comedy club hiring new talent every night, with the comics touring from one club to another. But the Golden Banana and many other clubs make the performers sign a contract enjoining them from performing at any other establishment. Not to mention dictating what music they can dance to, what wardrobe they can wear ... some independence!

And that's just for starters. Performers are required to pay a fee to get on stage. Their pay is in customer tips -- no salary, no commission for getting customers to buy overpriced drinks -- and they are required to share their tips with salaried employees. If you're sick, or have a kid or elderly parent to take care of, that's one more day you don't make any money.

I've also heard from women who work in these clubs that the owners encourage a "pecking order" among performers, with favorites getting choice money-making slots above others. That means that, while a few will make good money, many just make a living, sometimes just breaking even or losing money on bad nights.

It's about time the so-called "gentlemen" who own these clubs treat their ladies with the respect and dignity they deserve. They are the reason people come in and spend money. They deserve fair payment for their work.

If they're going to be "independent contractors" then let them be independent. Let them perform at any club, not just yours. Drop the performance fees, and take a twenty percent commission of their tips. Let them choose their music and wardrobe, and encourage creativity in their performances. Perhaps the club owners and the performers could get together to set up plans for group health insurance, disability insurance, and 401K's. And if a club wants to retain a performer exclusively, then sit down and negotiate a fair contract for their talent.

Compensation is just one part of the equation. There is also the fundamental issue of respect. Exotic dancers work for their money, and deserve to be treated with the same dignity as any other working artist. And not just from the club's owners, but their clients as well. If they're willing to take it all off for us, then it's high time we take a stand for them.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Whatever Happened to Oberlin's BDSM Club?

There were no Safer Sex parties when I was a student at Oberlin College. Nor did the student-run Sexual Information Center have any reading material on BDSM or kink.

Fast forward to the late 1990's and early 2000's. Students try to set up a BDSM educational group on campus. Folks on the supposedly liberal campus are up in arms. The group's charter application goes to the General Faculty, which debates it to death and blocks approval. Yet, apparently, the group somehow continues to survive - at least for a while.

There's scant information on this, but what I read bothers me. Set aside the questions of free speech and tolerance. The major reason we kinksters organize groups like this is to be safe - to share much-needed information, to look out for one another, and to educate outsiders about who we really are and what we're relly about. Just like every other community out there.

So strange, then, that a respected educational institution like Oberlin College does not get that. Even stranger, considering that, in 2006, they sanctioned a gun club for students. College students can learn gun safety, but they can't learn safe bondage? Does not compute.

But, as I said before, there's little online info out there. So, if you are a fellow alum, or otherwise connected to this, please let me know.

And if you're a student at Oberlin, looking to resurrect the group, let me know if I can help!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Yes, I'm Still Here...

The reason I haven't been posting recently is, among other things, serious computer problems. (Not to be confused with silly computer problems!)

I hope to be up at full capacity again next week. Stay tuned...