Last week, the Texas Supreme Court unanimously upheld a $5 tax on patrons of strip clubs as constitutional. The tax goes to sexual assault agencies and health programs for the poor.
My inner feminist opines: why is the all-Republican, conservative Texas Supreme Court on the same page as feminist sexual assault advocates on this issue? It seems counterintuitive, but I couldn’t place my finger on it.
This tax and fund for sexual assault organizations is not based in feminism. Simply put, it’s not supportive of women. It’s supportive of puritanical views on sex, sexuality, sex work and feminism. It fails to recognize that sex and sex work have a place within the feminist movement and a place within the rape and sexual assault prevention movement. (Ed. note: Jezebel also noted over the weekend that the tax may simply trickle down to the most vulnerable workers, leaving owners’ pockets bulging.)
It’s clear that these sexual assault agencies don’t understand this simple feminist premise: sexual freedom is essential to women’s freedom. Sex is a huge part of women’s existence and experience within society. This includes the freedom and right to say no, as well as yes.
These groups in favor of this tax fail to recognize that. They fail to comprehend that men and women may frequent strip clubs, and that strip clubs may have a perfectly reasonable place in a normal person’s sex life—it is not deviant or criminalized behavior. Sure, not all strip clubs are run by feminists who are looking to empower women, but… surely there are a few out there, right?
Supporters of the tax fail to realize that sex workers can be feminists. Sex workers continue to challenge patriarchal norms including sex/gender roles, even if they don’t necessarily self-identify as feminists. There are sex workers who choose sex work for a variety of reasons, and are not stereotypically exploited and objectified as some feminists believe. It’s easier for sexual assault organizations to believe that women, feminists and sex workers don’t overlap in ideas, beliefs and ideals.
I also realized this tax perpetuates myths about sexual assault and rape. The true irony is that “feminist” organizations who seek to dismantle these myths are simply perpetuating them by promoting these types of correlations and accepting this type of funding from the State.
There are many myths about sexual assault and rape. Most people view these myths as true, and they use these myths to rationalize why women and men are sexual assaulted and raped. The myths support rape and sexual assault as having a valid place in our culture and society.
Myth: Sexual Assault and Rape is a crime of passion and lust.
The information provided by sexual assault advocates claim there is a there is a link between live, nude entertainment, consumption of alcohol and sexual violence. The premise of this tax supports the myth that men go to strip clubs, get all worked up, drink alcohol, lower their inhibitions, heighten their sexual tension, and then must rape or sexually assault someone to release. Additionally, this tax puts the blames directly on the shoulders of sex workers for getting men all riled up with no where to go. Truly the court, the legislature and sexual assault advocates are perpetuating the myth that it’s the strip clubs and sex workers fault that men rape. And if men did not get all worked up because of the sex workers, there would be less rapes and sexual assaults out there, because men would not be controlled by their outrageous passion and lust.
Myth: Persons who dress or act in a “sexy” way are asking to be assaulted.
The truth of the matter is rape and sexual assaults are planned attacks. They are crimes of opportunity. What someone is wearing or acting does not give anyone permission to assault them. What someone is wearing may play a part in why they were attacked. Yes, it’s much more difficult to run away from an assailant if you are wearing high heels as opposed to sneakers. And if you are wearing high heels you may be targeted as an easier victim to attack. It’s easier for a rapist to pull you by your ponytail instead of pulling your hair. But, just because I wear high heels and a ponytail, doesn’t mean that I give permission for someone to assault me. The tax relies on the myth that seeing sexual images causes rape, not that rapists plan their attacks. And there isn’t a correlation (that I am aware of) that shows that rapists include “heading to the strip club” as part of their plan of attack.
Several other myths are supported by this legislation, the ruling of the Texas Supreme Court and the fact that sexual assault agencies are willing to take this funding. Also several assumptions about sex, gender and feminism are also perpetuated; including most importantly that sex and sex work has no place in feminism. It’s wholly disappointing that feminist agencies dedicated to ending sexual assault and rape are continuing to publicly perpetuate these myths. It’s only to gain some funding, which likely will be used to try to educate the public about myths surrounding rape and sexual assault. If these sexual assault advocates can’t educate the legislators, courts, and people fighting for funding on their behalf, what’s the hope for the rest of Texas?