Is there a day that goes by without at least one portion of the mainstream media shoving their narrow minded sex-negative agenda in our faces? If you search for news articles about sex, you will get a lot of very disturbing headlines, including many with 'stuff in quotes' which we think is some kind of crappy shorthand for 'don't shoot the messenger'.
What did I find when I searched for news articles on sex recenlty? Lap dancing 'contributes to sex crimes' police claim! Oh, really? Quite an eye catching headline you have there BBC News. If the reader continues, they will soon discover that "lap dancing clubs may have contributed to sex crimes in a Cornish town, according to a senior police officer." OK, that's my emphasis, but it's an important word to highlight.
"Insp Ian Drummond-Smith, from Devon and Cornwall Police, made his claims in a letter objecting to an application to open a new club in Newquay. He said he was not linking the 14 rapes and 30 sexual assaults directly to the clubs, but their presence could have been a contributing factor." Could have been? Like alcohol could have been? Shall we shut down all the pubs in the area too then? Ya know, just in case.
In her book, The Sex Myth, Dr Brooke Magnanti investigates the suggestion that the occurrence of rape and sexual assault goes up when adult businesses move into a city. She points out that the media latches onto badly researched reports - such as the often quoted Lap dancing and striptease in the Borough of Camden by Lilith R&D - and explains why it is necessary to question statistics.
With regard to the Lilith Report's claim that a 50% rise in rapes was connected to the existence of lap dancing venues, Dr Magnanti says: "Rather than making conclusions from raw numbers, we need to calculate rates using the changes in population to make valid comparisons [...] It's also important to find out whether the rate was a one-off, or whether the rise that was implied in the Lilith report was sustained."
Taking publicly available data covering a period of ten years, comparing Camden with London boroughs that have fewer or no lap dancing clubs, and chucking in data for the whole of England and Wales too, Dr Magnanti concluded that the existence of lap dancing does not make an area less safe. Notice how she only tells us what the data can prove, and doesn't jump to conclusions?
Funny how the media so often does though, when there's an attention grabbing headline in it. So, I guess the title of this article should have been that strip clubs probably don't cause rape and sexual violence because we can't say for certain that's the case. This isn't a hard-hitting news site though, and this is an opinion piece, so I think I'm allowed to make sweeping generalisations on the understanding that you'll take them with a pinch of salt. Just like you will do with any statistics you spot in a newspaper, right?
Lori Smith is the BitchBuzz Sex & Relationships columnist, a sex-positive LGBT feminist, and and also a frequent blogger. She is a finalist in the writer category of the 2012 Erotic Awards.