Naked but Unseen: Sex and Labor Conflict in San Francisco’s Adult Entertainment Theaters

Kerwin Kaye, “Naked but Unseen: Sex and Labor Conflict in San Francisco’s Adult Entertainment Theaters” Sexuality and Culture Vol 3 (1999) p.39


San Francisco has been the site of an ongoing labor struggle in the city’s strip clubs. During the past few years, management at several clubs has dramatically altered the terms under which dancers work, imposing strict daily quotas and appropriating greater quantities of cash from the dancers for the “privilege” of working. Several clubs have simultaneously built secluded back rooms, introducing a place in the theaters where prostitution can occur. At the same time, police in San Francisco has stepped up its harassment of prostitutes working in other venues or on the streets, pushing many women directly into the clubs. Facing increasingly sexual competition, many dancers now feel compelled to either “put out” or quit the only well-paying job accessible to them. While some dancers have resisted the situation, many newly-hired workers have chosen to embrace the possibilities for larger sums of money available through prostitution. The intent of this essay is to document the nature and causes of these recent changes occurring within the industry. Conflicts between women working in the clubs is also examined to allow a more detailed characterization of the shifting working conditions.

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