Since the mid-2000s, there has been substantial growth in the number of strip or ‘gentleman’ clubs in the UK. Due to legislation passed in 2003, such institutions were allowed to open anywhere unless they posed led to an increase in crime or endangerment in the surrounding area. Thus, between 2004 and 2008, the number of such clubs has doubled. It is not uncommon now to see a Fantasy or Pussy Galore club on your high street next to Tesco. But this trend may now be in reverse. New legislation now allows local authorities to restrict thenumber of strip clubs in their local areas.
Why are local authorities turning against these clubs? One explanation is that local officials are bowing down to pressure from their local communities. For instance, an independent councillor from the Tower Hamlets in London, Rania Kahn, has been vocal on this issue, calling for these clubs to be banned because they are ‘unsuitable’.
But are these strip clubs unsuitable? Do they oppress and exploit women? There have been many arguments on either side of the debate supporting or opposing the presence of strip clubs, of which it is not required to repeat them here. But what if we consider the issue from a private property perspective? If we consider one’s body as their own private property, then surely one has the right to do with their body as they so wish? If a women, or man for that matter, voluntarily chooses to strip in exchange for money, as one would do when exchanging the use of their private property for cash, then it is of no consequence of what others think of it.
Viewing your body as your own private property is not a new idea. Indeed, the economist and political theorist Murray Rothbard saw the right to private property as central to every individual:
The central core of the Libertarian creed…is to establish the absolute right to right to private property of every man: first, in his own body, and second, in the previously unused natural resources which he transforms by his labour.
We are not concerned with private property gained from one’s labour. We are concerned with the defining the individual as private property. In regards to the issue of strip clubs, if we define one’s body as their own private property, then they should be free to do what they wish with it. Along, of course, that it does not interfere with the freedom or private property of another. Therefore, what right does anyone, such as a local authority, have in restricting such a voluntary contract? On what grounds can anyone arbitrarily restrict an industry on the grounds of suitability? Of course, if a woman was forced against her will to become a stripper, then this would be a violation of her private property, and such a contract would be wrong. But if she voluntarily consents, then no one has a right to void such a contract.
The purpose of this article is to defend the strip clubs as a respectable industry participated solely by private market actors who were satisfying demand. This article argues that strip clubs are legitimate because of their voluntary nature regarding one’s private property. That is, their own body. If one voluntarily consents to exposing their private property (body) in exchange for money, then what role does the government, or anyone, have in intervening in this contract?
However, by defining one’s own body as their own private property, other moral issues are also resolved. Critics may argue that a woman stripping may turn to prostitution. Possibly, but if so, if they voluntarily consent to doing so, why does it matter? If one consents to selling their body for sex in exchange for money, how is this criminal activity? If one consents to lending their other private property with consent to another, such as car, laptop etc., to another in exchange for another commodity or cash, this is not seen as a crime. But is it not clear that both examples are an exchange of property for money? Of course, if one was coerced against her will to have sex, this would be a violation of her private property, of which legal practices should be pursued. But if one consents to such an exchange, no crime would have been committed. Other issues this can be applied to include drugs, suicide or voluntary euthanasia. If one wishes to voluntarily modify their property (body) with drugs, as one would do with painting their house, then that is their business and not of any other actor. This is also true with suicide or voluntary euthanasia. If one wishes to die then they should be allowed to do so. For, as with any other form of private property, one is allowed to destroy their property as they so wish. One has the right to end their own life as much as they do when throwing away an old household appliance. Though one’s body and their household appliances are different, they share the characteristic of being one’s own property.
The idea of defining one’s body as private property is not a new concept, but it is one that is not largely accepted. Whilst many believe that one should have the right do as they wish, many only agree with this to an extent. One may believe that the individual can consume alcohol, but not drugs. One may believe in personal freedom, but not in the freedom of ending one’s own life. But, as this article has argued, if we see as one’s body as their own private property, then one should have the absolute freedom to do what they will with their private property. Meaning that no one has the right to intervene on what another does with their property, be it their body or home. The example of the growing numbers of strip clubs in Britain is evidence of private actors forming voluntary contracts of exchanging the use of private property for money. It may be difficult for some to accept one’s body as their own property, but when recognises such a fact, they will begin to see that any intrusion by another in human action, unless it harms or infringes the freedom of another, is foolish, unjustified, and obtrusive.