Strip clubs in Texas may soon be required to check for more ID’s than from just those at the door, if a state lawmaker has his way.
Rep. Bill Zedler (R-TX) has proposed a bill that would require all strippers at “sexually-oriented” businesses in the state to be licensed in order to work in the industry. Under the bill, HB 337, the licensing process would verify a dancer has not been arrested for drugs or prostitution, and must be 18-years-old. Zedler said he also wants to include STD testing in the licensing process, which has yet to be determined. An unnamed licensing fee is also involved, and applicants would have to complete a course on human trafficking.
While more than 25 Texas-based exotic-themed night club owners declined to be interviewed on the proposed agenda, some exotic dancers in the Lone Star State are speaking out against it. Despite criticisms, Rep. Zedler continues to defend the plan, likening it to requirements for other professional trades.
“It doesn’t prevent anyone from dancing,” Zedler said of the bill. “If you are dancing, there are guidelines you have to follow. We don’t prevent people from being bartenders, but you need a license to do it. If they have AIDs, or something, that might be a problem.”
A former exotic dancer named Marilyn * who worked in the industry for more than a decade said the bill, if passed, will simply trap women in the industry.
“If you do this thing, where you license the girls, it makes them feel more trapped inside of the industry,” Marilyn, 39, said. “These businesses have a psychological hold on them.”
Zedler said he decided to propose the bill after a family friend’s daughter starting waiting tables at a strip club as a teenager.
“She was beautiful, and attracted to the amount of money strippers could make,” he said. “So, she started stripping, then got into drugs, and then it became prostitution. And this is a very usual pathway.”
Zedler said Texas police have told him that 25% of prostitutes are between 12 and 16-years-old, and as a result of human trafficking, they are being brought in to clubs and pushed into prostitution. While his bill has yet to be heard before a Congressional committee, he says he has heard from other state representatives who have shown him “bipartisan support.”
Meanwhile, Marilyn said a stripper being licensed just means she has a permanent mark on her record.
“When girls try to get a job for the first time, that [license] will come up in a background check,” she said. “Even if a [former dancer] is successful and gets away, you think she will get a promotion with that on her record?”
The bill calling for STD testing in order to be licensed will also just put a “bull’s eye” on these girls, and is unnecessary, Marilyn said.
“You will take these beautiful girls, I call them ‘child girls,’ because they don’t know how bad things can get,” she said. “They are between 20 and 30, and are beautiful, sexy and feel good about themselves. You are going to announce to the world that this girl is STD-free? That puts a bull’s eye on their back. We should all remember these girls are not rich, they are born cute, and all these people out there are not caring about her health.”
*Source requested to only be identified by stage name.