It doesn't matter if Stormy Daniels' arrest was a setup – that such a misogynistic law exists is a disgrace

It’s legal for someone to touch a stripper without her consent but illegal for her to permit such contact? Punishing the victim invalidates any argument the law is designed to protect them

Harriet Marsden
Friday 13 July 2018 13:20
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Stormy Daniels arrested by undercover police officers in Ohio strip club

So football didn’t come home last night, as you’ve heard. But what you might have missed is that neither did Stormy Daniels.

The adult film star, best known for claiming to have had an affair with US President Donald Trump in 2006 – and allegedly spanking him with a magazine emblazoned with his own face – was arrested in an Ohio strip club in the early hours of Thursday morning.

After appearing on stage at the Sirens Gentlemen’s Club in Columbus, Ohio, the performer – real name Stephanie Clifford – was reportedly approached by undercover police officers and told she was being arrested.

Her crime? Allowing a customer to touch her while on stage – “in a non sexual manner”.

You might be surprised to hear that Ohio state law prohibits anyone from touching a nude or semi nude dancer in a strip club – unless they are a family member, bizarrely. Ms Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti echoed what we all should be thinking when he tweeted: “Are you kidding me?”

Ms Daniels has reportedly posted bail and released and she will be arraigned tomorrow morning at the Franklin County Municipal Court.

Avenatti labelled the arrest a sting operation, claiming it was “a set up and politically motivated”. “It reeks of desperation.” he says. “We will fight all bogus charges.”

There could be something to that. As the lawyer points out, his client has performed her “Make America Horny Again” show across the nation, at “nearly a hundred strip clubs”. There is no evidence of this law having been enforced before, as a spokesman for the Franklin County Sheriff’s office told the Columbus Dispatch.

West Hollywood Mayor John Duran: Stormy Daniels standing up to 'direct threat' of Donald Trump to vulnerable communities

Remember, the performer was also paid $130,000 by Michael Cohen, Mr Trump’s personal lawyer – she claims this was hush money to cover up her alleged affair with the head of state and is embroiled in civil litigation against the president. The Columbus Ohio Police Department is expressively pro-Trump. And the timing of this arrest seems just a little off, doesn’t it?

But forget bogus charges for a minute. What about the bogus law?

Before we all become embroiled in another nauseating Trump sex scandal conspiracy, let’s not lose sight of the real scandal: that this sort of legislation exists at all.

The Ohio law, known as the Community Defence Act, forbids employees who work “nude or semi nude on the premises of a sexually oriented business” from touching patrons, while nude or semi nude – except, as noted, family members.

Violations are considered an offence. But Daniels is charged with a misdemeanour – a crime punishable by up to a year in prison – for “allowing herself” to be touched, not for touching anyone. How can the charge be on the object of the misdemeanour, rather than the perpetrator? It’s legal for someone to touch a stripper without her consent, but illegal for her to permit herself to be touched? Punishing the victim of the crime completely invalidates any argument the law is designed to protect them.

I’m reminded of the exposés and lawsuits a few months ago that unearthed a darker side to NFL cheerleading in America. Cheerleaders have spoken of onerous rules and duties – and the disproportionate responsibility on them to keep football players in line.

Bailey Davis, in her lawsuit, claims she was fired from her role as a cheerleader for the New Orleans Saints after being accused of attending an event where a team player was present, something which is strictly forbidden. Logically we can infer the player was guilty of the same “crime”, and yet is held to no such rules. Cheerleaders cannot, for example, interact with players on social media. The players can though.

As Avenatti tweeted, “They are devoting law enforcement resources to sting operations for this? There have to be higher priorities!”

I couldn’t agree more. We’re talking about one touch – consensual, I might add – while victims of sexual assault and rape continue to struggle against limited police resources and insufficient protection. I also can’t imagine there was nothing happening in that strip club more worthy of arrest than this.

And lest we forget, in the same state the late doctor Richard Strauss has been accused by multiple former student athletes of sexual assault and abuse. Former Ohio State University student wrestler Mike DiSabato claims US Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio knew about the abuse and did nothing.

The policing of a woman’s body, however, is a pretty high priority for this administration, as demonstrated by the fact it has declared war on women’s reproductive rights.

If Avenatti is right, Daniels has been arrested for allowing a man to touch her, and all because a man who touches women without their consent wants to silence her.

And even if he isn’t, Trump was caught on tape bragging about grabbing women “by the pussy”, without their permission. He’s the president and he’s on his way to London, while Daniels is on her way home from the police station.

Once again, it’s one rule for men and quite another for women.

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