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More strip tease for Zimbabwe

August 05, 2016
topic:Women's rights
tags:#adult entertainment industry, #Zimbabwe, #Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA)
by:Rosemary Musvipwa
In the mind’s eye, there are different emotions and reactions to the sight of a naked body in the public sphere. To some it is a normal artistic expression of the human form; to others, it evokes feelings of shock and disgust; while to others it is becoming one of the most sought after types of entertainment. And in Zimbabwe?

In Zimbabwe, there has been a recent re-focus on the ever-controversial (but forever popular) ‘adult entertainment industry’. Rather than complete and utter expressions of outrage, there have been quite a number of open arms embracing the rise of a contemporary strip tease culture, especially by urbanites in the country’s capital cities.

On an official note, there is only a single club, the Private Lounge, which has a license from the Zimbabwe Board of Censors to offer striptease services. The club caused quite a stir in Bulawayo, the second-largest city, where it opened the doors of its second branch on the 3rd of June 2016.

According to the Censorship and Entertainments Control Act, “striptease should not go beyond underclothing (stars and a G-string); strippers should not have physical contact with the audiences and those under the age of 19 should not be allowed to view any striptease acts”. However, some strippers have gone nude and have been filmed having sexual intercourse live on stage with patrons in some clubs.

Although they are unregistered, plenty of night clubs all over the country have illegally taken up strip tease shows as a means of retaining their patrons, especially as they now face intense competition from the registered Private Lounge.

The non-strip dance groups usually found in clubs which have licenses to entertain people without taking off their clothes in the form of shorts, skirts or trousers are now turning to performing illegal strip tease shows. This is now the norm as they struggle to remain relevant within the current ‘go nude or go home’ business situation.

There are various realities faced by the naked (or near-naked) dancers which have led them to parade their bodies on a stage without shame. For some strippers, it has been a decision based on the desire to explore an unconventional job option, while for others it has been out of sheer desperation that they have chosen to de-clothe for a living.

One stripper who identified herself as Spicy Bae* said: “Since I started stripping people who know about what I do for a living have shown me mixed attitudes, some of my close relatives have criticised me and called me a prostitute to my face. Others who know me have come to terms with my choice to stick with this particular profession although it carries negative connotations. For me it’s like any other job in the world, it has its own perks and downsides, but the bottom line is that I get the money I need to support myself well”. 

Social suitability of strip clubs

As the strip tease culture grows globally, there is a mounting debate over the social suitability of strip clubs in the Zimbabwean context. There are some who raise a toast in celebration, declaring that it is high time Zimbabwe goes a notch higher in the provision of world-class quality adult entertainment. This is evidenced by the apparent endorsement of the Private Lounge by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) at the recently held Sanganai/Hlanganani Tourism Expo. The ZTA presented the club with an award which recognises those that provide high quality entertainment based on the presentation of their services at their Expo stand. This recognition has opened the door to strip clubs as potentially valuable contributors of entertainment in the tourism and hospitality industry.

For some, there is a complete rejection of the concept of this new culture on account of going against cultural and religious beliefs. Although people are beginning to accept the offshoots of being part of a global village, there is still a dominance of restrictions on female sexuality wherein overt expressions of sexuality are still highly frowned upon.

“For me, this whole strip tease thing just shows a loss of our African values,” said Thembeka Nyoni, a high school teacher who is an advocate of women empowerment.

“There is no way we can accord any respect to those taking part in the provision of this service as well as those who consume this entertainment option. The more this industry grows, the more it makes the fight for gender equality retrogressive. Face it, one way or the other the strippers, are women who are being exploited as they are just sexual objects who parade in next to nothing for the sexual satisfaction of male customers’ fantasies,” further bemoaned Nyoni.  

On moral grounds some have condemned this stripping and have concluded that it perpetuates prostitution and promiscuity. Apart from getting their dose of beer on a night out, the patrons of strip clubs are tantalised by the erotic dances of the seductive temptresses to become involved in ‘illicit affairs’.

Spencer Matambo, an accounts executive with a local insurance company had similar sentiments to Nyoni and said: “It may surprise you that I am a hot blooded, heterosexual and fully functional male but I stand in opposition of this strip tease culture nonsense”.

“These clubs, legal or not, are just a breeding ground for sexual immorality. I don’t care what you call it, but it reduces women who work there as strippers to cheap or expensive prostitutes,” continued Matambo.

From the more liberal at heart, counter arguments have arisen to condone the fast arising strip tease culture, which push forward the concept of complex power dynamics that are made available in strip clubs. For some there is a lucrative potential in this night time economy as it gives the women who work in it a chance to be self sufficient as they make a quick and hefty buck. For others there is an appreciation of the strip tease culture as a form of democratic sexual empowerment because some of the women involved in the enterprise find pleasure and even fun in their work.

“If they are doing it on their own accord and not being forced into it then there is no problem with it. We just have to open up to the different changes that are happening across the world. These women are independent minded and are in charge of their bodies, which are at the end of the day no one else’s but their own. They should not have to be judged for their choices because this is a free country,” said Tafadzwa Mheta, an advocacy officer at a Victoria Falls based NGO.

“It’s voluntary. It’s a job. They are not forced and we can’t say it’s because of the economy as it is rife in the world’s biggest economies. I guess we can say it’s both a blessing and a curse,” said Darlington Hove, a lecturer at a Bulawayo technical college.

Now more than ever as the economy gets tougher, there is a question mark over the economic bearing on women’s increased involvement in the strip tease culture. The country is faced with the continued sexualisation of society and there are lingering concerns about the issue of underage strippers who are often driven into the business by the financial stresses that they face.  

Article written by:
Rosemary Musvipwa
The country is faced with the continued sexualisation of society and there are lingering concerns about the issue of underage strippers who are often driven into the business by the financial stresses that they face.
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