Strip Clubs, Trafficking, Soap and National Conventions

What is it about a big political convention or a Superbowl that turns guys on?  These seem to be especially testosterone-boosting events.  I’ve been fascinated by news stories about the excited preparations of strip club owners in Tampa as they await the arrival of 50,000 or so Republicans, as well as news about police raids on strip clubs to keep the business “clean.”   Most surprising, though, has been a story of citizens in Tampa fighting the exploitation that accompanies commercial sex with bars of soap.

The 40 strip clubs in the Tampa Bay area are a well-known tourist attraction.  You can go on-line and find reviews of the various clubs – where you can find the best topless lap-dancers, or all-nude places, etc.   They are all hoping to cash in big on the Republican National Convention.

2001 Odyssey has a webcam where prospective customers can view the dancers at work and chat with them.  This way they can get all set up ahead of time for the big event.  It also has installed a special rear entrance where customers can arrive at the club out of the public view. Thee Dollhouse (sic) has undergone a $1 million renovation and hired a Sarah Palin impersonator to delight convention goers.

I did find a review online comparing those two places by a guy signing himself Buster Hymen.  He said of 2001 Odyssey, “The spaceship was ok but unlike all the other strip clubs and message parlors nobody offered me a “happy ending” or even shitty one at the least…. Maybe they did me a favor since all of the dancers looked like coked up versions of The Brady Bunch children.”  Hmmmm.

Meanwhile police have been active in anticipation of the convention.  Florida is a hot spot for human trafficking, the third most popular destination in the U.S.  People are lured into this country with promises of good jobs that turn into a modern version of slavery when they get here.  In a recent sweep in Tampa, police raided 12 strip clubs, checking for trafficking of minors and evidence of prostitution. Apparently they did not find any traffickers, but they did arrest 16 women as “prostitutes.”

As usual, it’s the women who are going to jail, and they are listed by name and age on Tampa Bay Online (TBO.com).  Any or all of these women could be victims of trafficking in the sense of being coerced into the work at some point in their lives, either through lies, physical threats or emotional manipulation, but instead they are treated as criminal.            Some Tampa Bay residents are making an effort to help trafficking victims, however.  Legacy Church pastor Marilyn Garcia has been leading an effort to train volunteers to look for signs of trafficking and to place thousands of bars of soap in motels and hotels.  The soap wrappers are printed with the number of a hotline for trafficking victims where they can get information about how to get help.  There is a nice story about Marilyn Garcia’s effort at Tampa Bay Online.

Her initiative relies in part on the S.O.A.P. (Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution) Project.  She aims for 300 volunteers distributing 50,000 bars of soap.  To learn more about S.O.A.P., go to www.traffickfree.com.  To learn more about the scourge of human trafficking in general, go to the Network for Peace through Dialogue website – www.networkforpeace.com.

— Peggy Ray

This entry was posted in Community/Environment, Human Trafficking, Sex Industry, Women's Rights/Human Rights and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Strip Clubs, Trafficking, Soap and National Conventions

  1. Sr. M. Lynne Jacoby, RSHM says:

    Thanks for this informative article. I have no provable facts to back me up but I have such an uncanny sense of “the more things change, the more they stay the same” I do think that the general ordinary citizens are becoming more aware, though, through work like yours. Thank you. Lynne Jacoby, RSHM

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