Rudd strip club story a promotion of women as sex objects


Rudd strip club story a promotion of women as sex objectsEarlier this week, many Australians had smiles on their faces at Kevin Rudd's expense. This followed the reporting in the Murdoch Sunday papers of Rudd's visit to a Manhattan strip club four years ago.

To some extent, it was refreshing that most were able to brush it aside as an amusing but pointless smear that might do Federal Labor's election chances slightly more good than harm.

Vox pops broadcast on ABC Radio on Monday reflected the most common reaction: "He's human ... Most red blooded Australians would do something like that ... I reckon good on him ... I don't have a problem with it at all ... Fantastic ... I really don't mind ... Good form."

For most Australians, endearing naughtiness was the beginning and end of it. For his part, Kevin Rudd presented himself as properly contrite, doing the Christian thing that others such as Bob Hawke would not have been concerned about.

What was overlooked was the de facto promotion of the sex industry, and implicit tolerance of the damage it does to human dignity and the long struggle to ensure that women are not looked upon as sex objects.

Is taking part in the exploitation of women really something most red blooded Australians would want to do? Surely not if they were aware of the degradation caused to the lives of many women through being lured to work in the sex industry.

Rudd strip club story a promotion of women as sex objectsMany people are only aware of what is presented to them by the media or friends, family and work colleagues. For all the time given to superficial analysis of the Rudd Manhattan strip club story, media outlets have barely alluded to the consequences for the dignity of women. Coverage has amounted to fulsome promotion of the sex industry.

Sadly it is unlikely that many Australians will see the new local film The Jammed, which is reviewed in this issue of Eureka Street. It is not primarily about strip clubs, but it does offer a disturbing insight into the closely related sex trade, and the trafficking of women for prostitution. The film's researcher says 1,000 women are annually trafficked into Australia, in a growing industry estimated to be worth up to $150 million.

Reviewer Tim Kroenert suggests that human trafficking is integral to the whole sex industry. He describes the film as a "reminder that this issue is not just on Australia’s doorstep — tragically, it’s part of the furniture".

Lest all in the sex industry be tarred with the same brush, it has to be said that its activities can be a source of great — albeit temporary — solace, and therefore a contributor to human dignity.

But by and large, we have to be disturbed by the frightening, if exaggerated, vox pop observation that "most red blooded Australians would do something like" go to a strip club.



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Existing comments

Agreed-both that the reaction was something of a relief and that it was also a revelation.But what concerns me most is that we seem unable to avoid demonisation.We either condemn men as exploitative of weak and vulnerable women) or (as still happens with frightening intensity on the Christian Right in their comments on the sex industry) women as evil temptresses of innocent and susceptible men.What is the way forward?
Perhaps to admit that we are all vulnerable...?All tempted to exploit weakness in others?Sounds a bit radical doesn't it?Almost...Christian.

margaret | 23 August 2007  

I have been waiting and waiting to read an article like this. Thank God someone has at last pointed out in print that there really is something ethically questionable about visiting a strip club, and that being a "red-blooded Australian" might not have to entail this kind of recreational pursuit. What an insult it is to men to regard the exploitation of women as no more than normal manly behaviour.

Cassandra | 24 August 2007  

Also of concern - that it should be acceptable for an aspiring politician to get so drunk he cannot remember what he may have done.
We need different standards for what it is to be a red-blooded man.

val | 24 August 2007  

Thanks, Michael - I agree entirely. It is disturbing to me that it has become increasingly difficult (even for feminists) to mount a strong argument about the objectification and exploitation of women in the sex industry. To me this is evidence of the powerful economic interests at work in the sex industry - captalism co-opting feminism.

Joanna | 24 August 2007  

The problem is cultural rather than ehtical.For example Asian cultures have a passion for cleanliness so functional body exposure in the home or bath house is accepted. A child brought up seeing his/her parents naked is not going to get a thrill by seeing naked bodies on stage.

john ozanne | 26 August 2007  

Thank you Michael Mullins. My comment is a bit late but I'm grateful that finally a male has come out acknowledging that objectifying women and reducing them to sex objects is NOT part of being a man.

A Barton | 04 February 2008  

Absolute rubbish some women are fine working in the sex industry.

jim | 29 November 2008  

Working in the strip club industry does not damage the dignity of the women that work there. Having worked in those clubs myself for many years, I know that most of the women working there love the attention, love the money, love the freedom, love to dance and love to put on a good show for people willing to pay to watch. There is no human trafficking or prostitution in the places I've worked. The girls I know work their way through college, or work it as a second job because they are single moms wanting to put their kids through the best schools. They do it because they have and love to show off better bodies than most of the people calling for their places of work to be banned.

"...degradation caused to the lives of many women through being lured to work in the sex industry". Interesting, but show proof. Where are your references to this lure's existance? If you are speaking of money, then you are mistaken. Even the best dancer, if that's all she does, only makes average middle class wages.

Your opinions reflect a common argument that comes from the minds of the religious fundamentalists who deem themselves the moral authority on all things. You have every right to voice your opinion, no matter how stained by your righteous indignation. I'm just glad that we, those people supposedly loosing our dignity by working in the "sex industry", have every right to laugh at you for that opinion.

Sweetie | 23 July 2009  

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