Sex industry demeans women's status, it is generally said. Now a feminist organization in the UK is charging that lap dancing clubs and pornography could be undermining women's equality at work.
Corporate Sexism: the sex industry's infiltration of the modern workplace, a report by the Fawcett Society, was launched Thursday.
It found that companies are turning a blind eye to the use of sex clubs by workers.
Some firms knowingly authorise the use of staff expenses for entertaining clients in lap dancing and strip clubs, the group said.
Fawcett researchers identified more than 300 active lap dancing clubs in the UK, studying their websites and contacting them directly to ask about their work with corporate clients.
Some 41 per cent of UK lap dancing clubs directly target employers through marketing on their websites, the researchers found.
And 86 per cent of London lap dancing clubs in London provide 'discreet receipts' for expenses claims, allowing fees to be reclaimed without reveal what sort of establishment the money was spent in.
Recommendations in the report include:
• Implementing independent regulation of sexually explicit print media
• Covering up lads' mags and putting them on the top shelf when displayed in shops
• Implementing robust workplace policies and procedures to prevent pornography and lap dancing clubs being used in a work context
Kat Banyard, Campaigns Officer at the Fawcett Society and co-author of the report, said:
"Despite relative silence on the issue within employer circles, our research shows that the sex industry is a major threat to women's equality at work. For too long, employers have engaged with the sex industry without due regard for the impact on female employees, and have failed to prevent the illicit use of the sex industry by employees in a work context. But this is an issue that employer's cannot afford to ignore.
"The sex industry is increasingly targeting the corporate market, with lap dancing clubs marketing themselves as ideal venues to host meetings and client entertaining. Yet lap dancing clubs are a form of commercial sexual exploitation and fuel sexist attitudes towards women. Their use in a work context discriminates against female employees and undermines women's status at work.
"While the days when it was deemed acceptable to hang 'girly calendars' on office walls may be long gone, the presence of degrading imagery of women in UK workplaces has never been more endemic. Pornographic lads' mags are openly displayed in over 50,000 retail shops - each one of them somebody's workplace. But displaying these magazines in this way is in violation of the Sex Discrimination Act, so it is crucial that retail employers cover up pornographic newspapers and lads' mags and place them on the top shelf."
Catherine*, a woman who shared her experiences with the Fawcett Society, commented:
"I am a contractor and when I visit site the ground engineers frequently use lads' mags and pornography, and as it isn't my usual place of work I am made to feel that I can't make a complaint (otherwise they simply won't use my services again)."