Proposed Texas Bill Would Require Strippers to Obtain Licenses
5:30 pm, January 9th | by Colette McIntyre
While most know strippers for their G-strings and sky-high lucite heels, Texas dancers may soon have to sport a new accessory: official state licenses.
Texas State Representative Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, rose to notoriety through his “Decency for Arlington” group, a grassroots organization that attempted to prevent the opening of a Hooters restaurant near the Texan’s neighborhood. Elected to the legislature in 2003, Zedler has continued campaigning against “immoral” businesses. A recently filed bill, HB 277, would require employees of any “sexually oriented business” to obtain a license and display it while working (basically making it impossible to work anonymously as a stripper). Zedler openly admits that his legislation’s targets are Texan women making their way as exotic dancers. “I think [the bill] would keep a lot of girls from getting involved in that lifestyle and basically wrecking their lives,” the Representative said. “This will force everyone to clean up their act. Overall, it will be a benefit to everyone concerned.”
According to the bill, in order to receive their mandatory licenses, adult entertainers, club owners, DJs, and other workers linked to “sexually oriented businesses” would have to prove they are at least eighteen, pay an unspecified fee, and complete a course on human trafficking. Further license requirements are left up to the Texas Department of State Health Services’ discretion but HB 377 clearly stipulates that license-holders must “conspicuously display the person’s license on his or her person when conducting business at the sexually oriented business.”
Zedler is not the first state congressman to propose state licenses within the sex industry: New York considered a similar measure in 2007 and many cities, like Denver, currently issue business licenses for exotic dancers. Zedler’s bill goes a bit further though, mandating that dancers display their license at all times. Problematically for the dancers, the document would include their names, and revealing a dancer’s offstage identity puts her at risk of harassment, invasion of privacy, and social stigma.
Zedler argues that HB 377 is designed to “reduce risks to the public…and to prevent sex trafficking”, which I cannot deny are worthy causes, but it seems to me that the licenses just increase risks to the dancers and criminalizes what they do with their bodies. Many exotic dancers resort to their trade due to poor socioeconomic conditions; by placing the undetermined cost of the license squarely on the dancers’s shoulders, I imagine that many women will be unable to afford the fee and will go further underground, working in dingier and more dangerous clubs. If Zedler and other Texas lawmakers are so concerned for dancers’ well-being, perhaps they should look into legislation that would monitor strip clubs, making sure the clubs heed current labor laws and wage standards. HB 377 may have good intentions but its tone is paternalistic and it is placing the target on the wrong back. Strip clubs should be regulated — not women.
Also, there is the problem of where the dancers would display their licenses: an ID on a lanyard swinging between strippers’ impressive bosoms or a badge hanging from a nipple tassel? “They could wear it around the neck…or on their shoes…or attached to a head band,” Zedler said. A head band. Sounds sexy to us.