Ontario strip-club owners are seizing on the debate over prostitution laws by pushing forward with a proposal to allow clubs to also operate as brothels – despite the group's own study finding that the majority of dancers are against it.
Following the Supreme Court of Canada's ruling last year striking down key elements of the country's prostitution laws – and the federal government's response of introducing even tougher legislation – the Adult Entertainment Association of Canada commissioned a study on whether strip clubs could serve as "safe brothel locations" if the government ever legalizes or decriminalizes prostitution.
The resulting study, which the AEAC intends to present to all levels of government across Ontario, argues that allowing clubs to offer "enhanced services" would provide a "ready-made answer" for regulating prostitution.
By putting the business "in the hands of known entities," the study says, cities can avoid creating a "wild west" of sex work.
Despite this, the same study also reveals that 60 per cent of 159 dancers surveyed are against the idea.
"It's the perfect environment to take advantage of dancers," said Valentina, a dancer of five years who asked for her real name to be withheld.
She pointed to the rise in body-rub parlours, as well as the Internet sex trade, as reasons why clubs are struggling financially – and why the AEAC is pursuing its proposal.
She said that despite the claim that the brothels would be kept separate from the strip clubs – with different entrances and work forces – dancers would still feel pressured to engage in sex acts. "It's obviously much more lucrative to hire someone to do these sexual services than just hire someone who's only willing to dance," she said.
The report says 78 per cent of dancers surveyed felt that clubs do an "adequate" job of making them feel safe, which the AEAC says means that clubs could also make sex work safe.
But Elizabeth Thwaites, who quit last year after dancing for 12 years, said this is not the case. "Nowadays, you have no respect by the club owners because there's another girl waiting to take your place and won't complain," she said.
Still, AEAC director Tim Lambrinos said Thursday that the purpose is not to turn dancers into prostitutes. "The objective is to save their jobs," he said. "If we take on the role of enhanced services, we can control that type of party atmosphere."