For your viewing pleasure, B. D. Todisco has helped us envision what this law might end up looking like (in another Caveat Lector original):
(If you haven’t read the original post on the Texas stripper license debate, check it out. You might like it. Go on, everyone else is doing it…)
It turns out that the city of Houston has had a law similar to the one State Representative Bill Zedler (R-Puritanopolis) plans to apply to the whole state in place since 1997. So how has it been going there? Not very well, if you ask those who are actually required to toil under the puritanical regulations – the strippers. “Strippers say the special licenses haven’t helped protect dancers at all. In fact, they say they’re now at greater risk,” says The Daily Beast’s Rachel Krantz, in an article on the subject.
“I think the law is ridiculous,” Michelle, a 24-year-old dancer who preferred not to use her full name, told The Daily Beast. “It’s violating my rights. When you go to a bar and there’s a waitress, they don’t have a special ID with their first and last name on it. A lot of the guys who come to these clubs could be rapists and sex offenders.”
And what about the actual cost?
“To try to convince a girl to pay $325 of her hard-earned money for the license—most of these dancers are in school or looking for other jobs—is not easy,” says Dan Keyser, the general manager of Sunset Strip.
To some, the overarching purpose of both Zedler’s proposed law and the one currently in Houston is not unlike that suffered by Hester Prynne in a certain work by Nathaniel Hawthorn more than 160 years ago. Literary allusions notwithstanding, the current terminology given to this practice is, apparently, “slut-shaming,” which despite its current pedigree, does seem to have a distinctly puritanical flair, like something that would happen in a gloomy, muddy town square, accompanied by people wearing dark, heavy clothes and throwing rocks and mud.
“Sounds like paternalistic government to me,” Jane [eight-year veteran of the Houston dancing industry] says. “I think they’re trying to discourage women from entering this line of work. To me, it feels like slut-shaming. Law enforcement thinks these girls are sluts, and they’re trying to embarrass them by trying to get them to register as official sluts.”
Admittedly, Zedler’s intention was…something like that. He has never denied that he means to shutter the industry. From the original article:
The conservative lawmaker said he hopes the measure, if it passes, might encourage women to find another line of work.
“They won’t want to get a license as a stripper from the state of Texas,” Zedler said of his legislation. “I think it would keep a lot of girls from getting involved in that lifestyle and basically wrecking their lives.”
What a guy. He sounds almost…what’s the word?…”paternalistic.”
Matthew Yglesias at Slate commends him for his candor:
I’m normally a critic of overly aggressive occupational licensing schemes, but I have to give Texas Representative Bill Zedler some credit for his bill to require strippers to get licenses. Zedler is straightforward about the fact that he’s not trying to do anything other than make it harder to strip for a living, because he doesn’t think people should do it.
That’s a good debate to have in the particular case of stripping, and it’s great to recognize that in practice this is the typical use of occupational licensing. Normally the specific issue is that incumbents want to make it more difficult for new people to enter the profession rather than legislators not approving of the profession’s existence, but either way the basic shape is clear—licensing is a barrier to entry and that’s what Zedler likes about it.
At the end of the day, the prize for reporting on this issue has to go to Rachel Krantz, for finding out what everyone most wanted to know:
And for the record: Zedler said that while he did indeed visit a strip club in college, it was nothing like these days. “It was strictly a deal where they would get up and dance. There was no touching or nothing like that. There was no complete nudity.” And he didn’t inhale.