Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Up in arms

Planet Rusty: The whole stripper law thing:
So by now everyone in Missouri knows what the deal is with the tougher laws that they wanna put on strip bars in this state. Gotta be 21 to enter, dancers no longer naked and 10 feet away from patrons, and no more lapdances. The Missouri senator Matt Bartle who wants to pass this says he wants to stop the stigma that Missouri is "Porn Central".
As Rusty rightly notes, Missouri cannot claim the title of porn central. It is the demographic center of the country (right around Cuba, Mo, you'd have as many Americans in every direction you turned). Porn is certainly popular, and I don't know that it has a geographical bias. I suppose that argues that Missouri may well be the place where the density of porn in all directions is equal, but that's really not what we're talking about.

I remember Times Square before Disney and Giuliani got done with it. The single most dangerous block in the city (most violent crimes, most muggings, possibly most rapes or murders, too) was right there, between the bus station and the strip clubs on 8th and the bright lights on Broadway. There were movie theaters there, throwbacks to the days before VHS. There were hookers, pimps, and junkies. There was Show World, PeepWorld, Peepland and the Playpen (among other names which Google kindly supplied).

It's hard to be nostalgic for the grime, crime, and distastefulness of that area 15 years ago, so I won't dwell on. I just want to note that "Porn Central" better look a lot like the neon lights and marquees on 8th and the side streets off Broadway than like Columbia, Mo. I think we can all agree on that.

The most memorable thing about those streets were the marquees. Classic film names (no, I never went inside and saw them) like "Bodacious TaTas." Hilarious. A friend of mine insists that it's a great title to use in Charades, for what it's worth.

Anyway, nothing Missouri could possibly do will make it porn central. Take that as you will.

In Penn & Teller's How to Play in Traffic, there's a chapter on strippers. What they claim, and I'll take their words for it, is that strip clubs are a great way to get a sense of the local color. I'm not even talking about "getting a feel" for "local color," I'm saying that the patchwork of bizarre laws around the country and the world means that every strip club will be different.

Apparently, there are municipalities which forbid a woman from dancing if she isn't wearing panties. Since the law doesn't say where the panties must be worn, the women tie them around their arm. Check the book, would Penn & Teller lie to you?

I don't know what my point is, except that strip clubs, porn stores, and the now extinct porn theater don't hurt anyone. I'm not gonna get into the debate about whether or not porn objectifies women and therefore harms them. Maybe so, maybe no, I can't get myself worked up about it, and the mainstream success of women like Jenna Jameson suggests that the age of industry abuses is on its way out.

People who get all up in arms over porn also have to remember that it's pretty hard to disentangle oneself from it. Even Sam Brownback can't escape its grasp. And if archaeologists are to be believed, it's been around forever. Live and let live.