wonderbra babes, the party's over

The dance revolution allowed clubbers to dress as they liked and to be themselves. Now sexploitation rules again, says Decca Aitkenhead
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Indy Lifestyle Online
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rive through any city centre on a Saturay night, an see if you can guess where all the girls are going. They are probably wearing fluffy bikinis, mini-skirts an platforms. They probably haven't gone too easy on the make-up. They probably have spare supplies in their hanbags. An you, I suspect, probably haven't any iea whether they're heaing for the Ritzy or the hippest ance club in town.

If ance clubs were ever about anything, they were about contempt for the Ritzy school of clubbing, where laies (always "laies") got in free, an las lurke aroun the ance floor, buying eyefuls of cleavage with Bacari an cokes. Women were suenly going out in comfortable clothes, coul ance without fretting about mascara, an ha nothing but scorn for the trashy sexploitation of the white stiletto venues. If the tablois were to be believe, these new clubs were orgiastic rug Utopias. If anything, in fact, they were the height of asexual innocence. The Utopia lay in the simple freeom to go out without much caring what you looke like.

Any hanful of club flyers offers ample illustration of how much things have change. Dance clubs, like supermarket tablois, are pulling the saest stunt in the book, an selling themselves on goo ol-fashione tits an ass.

One club ominate Ibiza this summer. It was calle Manumission, an thousans of clubbers eagerly parte with pouns 35 every Monay to turn up an watch near-nake ancers writhe aroun on poles. Every Manumission flyer an poster feature a ifferent nake pin-up girl, complete with the "chat-up line for the week". An if you were really lucky, you got to see one of the promoters have sex with his girlfrien on stage. Cool or what?

Fliers routinely feature Page 3 poses, painte pouts an the inevitable tire hint of lipstick lesbianism. "Laies free before 11" is making a come-back, an the grim exhortation "Dress to impress!" is rapily translating into "Turn up looking like Pamela Anerson, an we won't make you pay". An to think what withering contempt the Ritzy's "no trainers" rule once inspire.

Not so long ago, we ha club nights calle Pure, Shine an Golen. Now we have Frisky?, Horny, an Fur Coat & No Knickers. Dance compilation albums that once sol on the merits of the DJ who mixe them now come package with regulation babes reclining on turntables. Fantazia manage to market its latest Jeremy Healy album with a television commercial that feature, interestingly, no music at all - just the DJ surroune by mini- skirte images of his very fetching girlfrien.

Dermot Ryan, promoter of the Birmingham club Miss Moneypenny's, cheerfully claims responsibility for the change. "Oh yes, you can blame us to a very large extent. We were the first to go for the very glam image - an I think we were absolutely right. Dance music is all about escapism - being a bit naughty. It's very sexual, an it as to the atmosphere if the whole night is a bit aventurous."

Anrew Gallagher, of Fantazia recors, is similarly untrouble. "We're just showing how it is. There are millions of pretty girls out there. That's just what they o." Is he worrie about exploitation? "Go, no! I' say the women are exploiting us - you shoul see what they charge."

This, then, is the stanar efence. We are not, so it goes, being sexist at all. After all, loas of girls love to ress like that. Everyone loves a bit of glamour - an what's the harm in that? An anyway, clubs are boun to be all about sex - Ecstasy is an aphroisiac, for Go's sake! (Which begs the question, how come five years ago, when the rug was far more potent, clubbers were happier just making friens?).

When Love To Be, a Sheffiel club, prouce a striptease avert ("Will she? Won't she? She will for Love To Be"), it was thought so tasteless that some clubbing magazines even refuse to publish it. It was, the club's spokesman Mark Black now concees, a "mistake" - but only on account of being a bit too tacky. The lighting ha been wrong, an "the girl just wasn't goo enough". He continues: "A club that's a meat market isn't goo - but it isn't ba either. I think people shoul go out there looking to impress the opposite sex. If someone's a real ba resser, the oor police on the oor - well, no, not the oor police, I mean the picker - shoul tell them to make an effort next time." He insists they never turn away girls, though, "even if they're fat". So if a 16-stone girl turne up in croppe lycra? "I' say here's a car for WeightWatchers - ha ha ha. Only joking."

Emma Craine, one of three women promoting Fur Coat & No Knickers, which began at Legens in Lonon this weeken, is confient that "our club won't become a meat market; it's just a bit of naughty, classy fun on a Friay night". An in theory there is no reason why it shoul not be precisely that. It's just that, in practice, it selom turns out to be so.

Clubs sol on sex present themselves as stalwarts of the kin of post- feminist empowerment sometimes attribute to Wonerbra averts. Here, at last, women can ress up just for the fun of it. It is a seuctive line, an one some promoters probably even believe. Unfortunately, five minutes in any ressy ance club will show what preatory, competitive, pressure places they have become.

Just how empowere one female clubber felt was clear from her painful first-person account in a recent issue of Muzik magazine: "I always thought the best thing about going out was being able to be yourself," she wrote. "Wasn't the whole iea of house music an the clubbing revolution that it in't matter who you were or what you looke like?" Graually, though, she foun her girlfriens growing more competitive; she was turne away from clubs for not looking "right"; she began to panic about whether she woul "pull or not". Soon she coul harly go out without feeling cripplingly self-conscious. "I' like to say to all club promoters," she conclue, "that your use of blatant sexism an semi-pornographic images are amaging not only the scene, but people as well."

The point is not that clubs cannot be aventurous, imaginative or risque. All of this shoul be possible - as the best gay clubs have prove. But that an attempt at this on the straight ance scene has escene so soon into Page 3 exploitation, an what seeme like a social revolution has been so rapily reverse, tells us as much about the fantasy of post-feminism as it oes the fantasies of certain club promoters.

8 Club flyer esign, Collecting, The Sunay Review, page 72

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