Thursday, July 30, 2009

...But Is It "Art"?

Camden Council has decided that burlesque shows where there is stripping and nudity should require adult entertainment licenses, like strip shows and lap-dancing venues do. And I know I sound like the oldest prude in the book but they're right.

And I do feel mean about this because I have a number of good friends who perform burlesque, and for the most part what they do is genuinely alternative and intended at least in a positive way. The thing is that already I've seen amateur burlesque nights springing up around London and they are really using that term to mean "stripping but we can't be bothered to get a license". I fail to see how the line can be drawn. The council will still have authority to grant licenses if they want to.

On top of that I am still not totally comfortable with burlesque as an art form. A number of comedy clubs have sprung up recently offering a "cabaret" of comedy and burlesque. I am not, and am never going to be, comfortable going on stage when the last performer has just stripped off. And it is tangibly restricting my career, just as it used to when I worked in finance and wouldn't socialise in strip clubs.

To give a concrete example of why I feel that way: I was asked a couple of years ago to do warm-up at a highly prestigious burlesque show happening in Edinburgh at the festival. I said I thought I'd feel uncomfortable surrounded by glamourous dancers, to which I was told "no-one will be looking at your face". Confused I asked what they'd expect me to wear and was told "Don't worry, we'll lend you a basque". To be honest that's what I was most worried about so I declined the job and it was given to a male act who performed in jeans and no doubt got his own BBC series on the back of it or some such.

Some venues will still apply for and be granted licenses and for the rest of the burlesque world I can only suggest doing something wildly alternative and positive - keeping your kit on! No-one is suggesting demanding licenses for venues where nudity doesn't happen.



It is a deliberate attempt by the sex industry to circumvent proposed legislation requiring venues to apply for a licence if they have any entertainment wherein the female 'entertainers' are performing totally or partially naked, for male entertainement and titilation.

That old misogynistic excuse 'but you're a prude' is always used to silence feminists who criticise the now normalisation and expectation that women entertainers are simply men's sexualised commodities. I wonder why it is that male entertainers are not expected to perform in skimpy g-strings or totally naked since it would just be the male equivalent of 'burlesque.'

Burlesque is no longer burlesque but has been co-opted by the sex industry. There is nothing rebellious in women performing naked for men's entertainment, instead it reinforces dominant notions that women are not human but men's dehumanised sexualised commodities.

Given the assumption women performers are expected to 'sexually titilate' men, it is not surprising so many women concede to these male demands.

Who is demanding women perform totally naked? Is it women or are the majority of customers/johns visiting such establishments men? No guesses for the answer.

As Kate shows, the common acceptance that women are men's sexualised commodities does impact on all women.

Cruella said...

Yes they were campaigning with the slogan "TEASE NOT SLEAZE" but that's not the point. It's women sexually "teasing" men. It's women titillating men. The only time I've seen male burlesque artists they've been performing for the gay market...