Larger ladies stir up storm at strip club
October 3, 2006
Much of what makes San Francisco's Lusty Lady legendary is
under attack. The unionized peep show, which is owned and
operated by its workers, is often held up as a successful
paradigm for empowered sex work: Dancers perform behind glass to
prevent unwanted advances from customers; the standard of beauty
is more girl next door than blow-up doll; and, most important of
all, the workers call the shots. But a recent flap over an
evening of entertainment from "Big Beautiful Women"
("BBW") has threatened much of what makes the strip
club so unique.
The Lusty Lady has a rep for displaying a diverse range of
body types onstage. But on the "BBW" night a few
customers walked out at the sight of a stage commanded by
full-figured ladies, according to the San
Francisco Chronicle. Davide Cerri, a male cashier at the
club, sent an e-mail to the Lusty Lady's board of directors
complaining that they were employing "unwatchable
girls." "People comes [sic] asking for refunds,
because they do not want to see girls that they would not want
to have sex with even if they were completely drunk," he
wrote, according to the
San Francisco Bay Guardian. "This is reality, not
question of options. We sell fantasies, not nightmares."
Miffed performer and board member Emma Peep then posted the
e-mail in the dancers' dressing room, where everyone, including
the "unwatchable girls," could see it. Peep was fired
"for creating a disruptive, hostile work environment."
Peep contends that the offending e-mail was the real hostile
disruption, because it encouraged other workers to call for
"the termination of women based on their size." When
the local union threatened a lawsuit over Peep's firing, the
board agreed to mediation.
Certain male Lusty Lady workers had already been agitating to
deunionize the club, and the Bay Guardian reports that the
recent controversy has only fanned the anti-union flames. (Some
claim the club doesn't even have a current union contract on
file.) Staffer Brian Falls argues that the union, which formed
several years before the Lusty Lady became a co-op, no longer
has a valid reason for being. "Before the formation of the
co-op there was a common enemy, the management, who treated the
dancers and the support staff badly. But once we became a co-op,
there was no reason for the union to be there," Falls told
the Guardian. It's a reasonable argument. Unfortunately, it
seems the conflict is now being set up as male staffers versus
The Lusty Lady is a bravely defiant operation in an industry
especially prone to exploitation; it's "sex-positive"
feminists' dream come true. Still, this sandstorm raises
questions about just how far empowerment can be pushed in the
sex industry. Battling appearance-based discrimination in a
business driven by looks seems a Sisyphean task. As an anonymous
board member told the Guardian, "It's great what we at the
Lusty think the standards of beauty are, but the reality is that
we're in the adult entertainment business."
Original link: http://www.salon.com/mwt/broadsheet/2006/10/03/lusty_lady/index.html