Not Buying It, a group led by well-known activist Sasha Rakoff has been terrorizing gentlemen’s clubs across England in recent months, by sending in undercover former police detectives to covertly film inside, and to document any instances of deliberate touching of the clients by the performers, which is banned under UK licensing regulations. The resultant tapes have been submitted to local councils in a bid to get the establishments shut down, with public petitions and newspaper coverage to accompany the drive.
Now, nine dancers at the Spearmint Rhino in London, one of the best-known clubs in the UK and part of an international chain, have sued Not Buying It for breach of privacy, demanding that all existing tapes be destroyed. An earlier High Court ruling had already banned Rakoff from further sharing the tapes, so the strippers’ chances of getting their way in the high-profile case, the costs of which are likely to bankrupt the losing side, are more than fair.
Others might have been able to predict that illegally obtaining footage of people legally and voluntarily involved in a lucrative but potentially compromising activity might have engendered some pushback from the people in question but, to Rakoff, such objections from the women themselves are immaterial. They may claim that they are dancing of their own volition, but she knows better than them that they are victims of sex abuse.
And, while research by Not Buying It purports to draw attention to some perfectly valid specific concerns – about whether women are exploited, trafficked or emotionally abused as part of their jobs – none of that is important either. Because Rakoff has no interest in any genuine investigation into the industry, with or without hidden cameras, she just wants every single gentlemen’s club in the UK to be stripped of its license, as she has demanded since at least 2003.
“The industry cannot be controlled and needs to end,” reads the petition to the government posted by the group.
In fact, looking at its recent social media output, here is an incomplete list of things Not Buying It wants banned: prostitution, pornography, depictions of pole dancing in films, sex ads, non-sex ads featuring exposed women’s bodies, shop displays in high-street erotic shop Ann Summers, ‘sugar daddies’ and women having anal sex.
How many of those are actually bad for women? And would all women wish to delegate to Rakoff to decide for them?
One would hazard to guess that not everyone shares Rakoff’s simultaneous obsession with and repulsion towards sex, a stance reminiscent of nothing so much as obsolescent Christian pressure groups. That not all women are keen on that level of intrusion into every aspect of private life, bar presumably a sanctioned “loving relationship”? And that not every individual who will fall outside these limits fancies being treated as empty-headed traitors at best, and possibly even as criminals, if Rakoff’s legislative initiatives get the support of the government.
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So why does it take a man on a Russian website to criticize her? Why, after sixteen years of Rakoff’s high-profile campaigning, first through the group Object, and now through Not Buying It, has there not been a single article in a national newspaper – out of the scores that have featured her – that has criticized her intentions. Or just questioned her dubious claims, such as that 90 percent of all pornography features violence, or that 80 percent of men use prostitutes. Why did no one step up to defend the Spearmint Rhino employees until they went to court?
Feminism is a broad church, but should any church be so broad that it includes one’s enemies?
By Igor Ogorodnev
Igor Ogorodnev is a Russian-British journalist, who has worked at RT since 2007 as a correspondent, editor and writer.