By now, many A-level students who are intending to go into further education will have received their offers. The lucky ones may have several. It is a time that is ripe with possibilities. Some may already have a career path in mind; some may still be exploring options. Few, one imagines, will be preparing to embark on a BA or a BSc in the hope that it will open doors to a successful career in stripping.
And yet it seems that UK universities are now churning out a good line in table dancers alongside the more traditional teachers, doctors and lawyers. A study of the country’s strip clubs has revealed that as many as a third of dancers are students, many of them working by night to pay for their course and a path to a brighter future where they can get by without having to take their clothes off for the entertainment of others.
According to the study, “Students selling sex: marketisation, higher education and consumption”, conducted by sociologists at Leeds University, increasing numbers of university students are turning to stripping. They have become a “core supply group” for the industry. Where freshers were once flyered at fairs by the Christian Union or the Real Ale Society, they are now handed leaflets which suggest a demeaning way to earn a bit of cash-in-hand after lectures. One club manager talks of promoting auditions specifically during Freshers’ Week, even setting up a stall near to campus to attract new recruits. Other strip clubs hold “two-lapdances-for-one” university nights to normalise the venues in the eyes of students and perhaps lure some in as potential employees.
It is a strategy that appears to be working. According to the study, which is based on the experiences of 200 strip club dancers: “There still appears to be an endless supply of students willing to work for what can often be very little money across a shift of 10 hours.” The core reasons they give are the cost of higher education, the scarcity of loans and the flexible working hours which fit in a treat around morning lectures. This is, then, a very real and worrying consequence of the £9,000 tuition fees which were introduced in 2012. The minimum wage no longer cuts it and there are only so many bar jobs and waitressing gigs to go round.
It is also a consequence of the pornification of society, where twizzling around a greased pole is no longer just a desperate way of scraping a living but also a leisure activity for hen parties. Several of the young women interviewed in the study appear entirely unfazed by having taken their first tottering steps into the sex industry. For them, dancing naked for cash is “sociable and fun”, “like going on a night out” or “just like a party night”. The study also highlights a growing number of middle-class students from well-off families, who begin stripping for the “excitement of engaging in a transgressive world”, with the added bonus that they can keep their tips.
This is profoundly dispiriting, although not all that surprising. The less exciting reality, of course, is that their chosen part-time job also offers exploitation, financial and bodily, with the potential for promotion into far murkier worlds. For those young people who start stripping whether for fun, or because they believe that they have no other option, further education, of the kind that starts long before they leave home and school, is what is most needed now.
A showbiz, jazz-hand farewell to ‘Ward’
Who knew? The theatre-going public was just not ready for a musical about a society osteopath. The news that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest show, Stephen Ward, is to close after less than four months is a blow for the company, and for the West End as a whole. It joins other recent high-profile, expensive flops Viva Forever and Tim Rice’s From Here to Eternity, which will close, with a grim wave of a jazz hand, on the same day as Stephen Ward.
The failure of Stephen Ward is not too surprising. No one is really gripped by the Profumo affair any more. Political sex scandals are 10 a penny, and thanks to Berlusconi, Hollande and Putin, the modern ones go right to the top of the tree. Then again, few would have put money on a show based on T S Eliot’s poetry, featuring humans dressed as singing cats, becoming a long-running global sensation, either. But it is the beautiful magic of show business that someone did.
Teens are having a lousy time
They can do serious damage to one’s image if one is, say, a world leader at a state funeral, and now it seems that selfies are also bad for one’s health. A head-louse expert from California (bear with me) claims that the craze for close-up self-portraits has led to a spike in nit infestations among teens.
While they are putting their heads together in a public show of friendship, larkiness and cheekbones, lice are apparently merrily leaping from scalp to scalp. If it is true then it is an absurd sign of the times. But the real worry is the effect that growing up in an era of constant online self-display is having on teenage minds, not on their hair.
Bend it like Barack and jog along with Joe
In the short film, to promote Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” child obesity campaign, the President and his Veep jog around the corridors of power in the White House while wearing white shirts, blue ties and loafers. They look about as relaxed as Alan Partridge shooting an outside broadcast on a dry ski slope. Even more enjoyable is to watch it while imagining what was going through the two men’s heads as they shot it.
For Obama, how to run in a way that denotes power but not arrogance? For Biden, and this is the really thorny question, if you go for a run with your boss, the Potus, do you have to let him win? (He does.)