Q: Is Iceland’s ban on stripper bars still in place? Has there been any recent controversy about it, or is everyone (including some of the strippers who had to find other work) pretty much OK with the ban?
Ron, MD, U.S.
A: In an article summarizing her government’s achievements at the end of the term in 2013, former Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir mentioned the ban on stripping from 2010 in the context of efforts towards gender equality and ending violence towards women.
Many people, particularly women, agree with her, and consider stripping to be derogatory towards women and that there’s a risk of prostitution or even human trafficking being practiced at strip bars. This has been objected by those who run strip bars, among others, and the ban remains controversial.
I don’t remember any interviews with strippers complaining about having lost their jobs. Many of them, probably the majority, were foreign nationals. Perhaps they haven’t even lost their jobs because erotic dancing is still allowed, just without the stripping.
There has been much controversy surrounding so-called champagne clubs (erotic clubs where staff members supposedly remain dressed in part, at least) with eight people being arrested at Strawberries in Reykjavík in October 2013 on suspicion of purchasing sexual services and procurement of prostitution.
As for a more recent incident, last Sunday, visir.is reported that councilpersons on Kópavogur Town Council, a neighboring town of Reykjavík, are protesting a planned ‘ladies’ night’ organized by Icelandic model Ásdís Rán at the club Spot next month. Bulgarian male dancers are planning to entertain female guests with erotic dancing and shed most of their clothes.
Margrét Júlía Rafnsdóttir, the Left-Green Movement’s deputy representative on the council, reasoned that the show was in violation of the ban on stripping and that it shouldn’t matter whether the strippers were male or female.
Ásdís Rán stated that this was not a case of stripping since the dancers wouldn’t take off their underwear, adding that since erotic dancing by women (who also keep their underwear on) is allowed at the club Goldfinger in Kópavogur, this was a matter of equality.
In 2007, before the striptease ban took effect, Sara Blask, who was a staff writer at Iceland Review at the time, interviewed a stripper working at Goldfinger, resulting in a long feature, which can be read online here.