This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.
New Orleans is notorious for embracing sin. From Mardi Gras, a holiday exclusively celebrating debauchery, to the “gentlemen’s clubs” that line the streets of the French Quarter, there is no shortage of excess. Understandably, there is an innate controversy in such freedoms, especially regarding strip clubs. Such freedom from regulation, however, has disproportionately hurt the women staffing these clubs. In the adult entertainment industry, women’s bodies become commodities, as they are overly sexualized and used for profit. But change is coming to the city.
On Jan. 7 the New Orleans City Council passed a one-year moratorium on new strip clubs in the French Quarter. The moratorium means that for the next year, no new strip clubs are permitted to open. The existing ones will remain, but if they close, they cannot be replaced. In a business that tends to receive a slap on the wrist more than anything else, this is a great start to regulating a dangerous industry. But it is just a start.
This motion passed in City Council was a weak version of the original proposition, which would have changed the age requirement for dancers from 18 to 21.
The movement to regulate strip clubs is motivated by activists to stop human trafficking. They argue that strip clubs are an easy space for pimps to identify victims and force or coerce them into trafficking.
Strip clubs, however, bring young adults, especially women, access to high wages. This revenue turns into support for the economy, driving the tourism industry and helping low-income areas in the city. Finding the ethical balance between financial benefit and degradation is difficult, but crucial. The moratorium will help prevent an expansion of the industry while more measures to help reform the industry hopefully follow suit. This action seems to be setting a precedent for regulating the adult entertainment industry.
The action taken by the council is important, but reliant on public hearings to go into effect. Support for this marginalized group of workers is necessary. Hopefully, the City Council will continue on this trajectory and uplift women involved in the adult entertainment industry to a place where they are more respected and more in control of their own bodies. Other cities will ideally follow suit, supporting and protecting these workers, rather than further marginalizing them.
Sarah is a freshman in Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected]