There are two things Milly, a former lap
dancer from London, wants to warn anyone who
might underestimate the corrosive myth that
lap dancing “is just a little fun”.
“First, is this idea that it is no more than
dancing. That is a myth; what it really
should be called is ‘an elaborate w*nk’.
Second, it always crosses the line.
So-called boundaries are ludicrous. No one
sticks to that. And if you do, you quickly
It didn’t take many shifts, bumping and
grinding in two leading lap-dancing clubs in
London, for her to realise that crossing
boundaries was where the money was made.
That was why the other girls were getting
five dances, and she was getting nothing.
Milly is a well-spoken girl from London.
She sounds solidly, stereotype-defyingly
middle class. Having been sacked from her
office job at the age of 24, she entered
what she thought was the fringe of the sex
industry for the same reason many women do:
to support a drug and alcohol habit.
“Like most, I went into it thinking I’d
get good money, quickly. Wrong. I was in
debt to the club before starting my first
shift. My own clothes were deemed unsuitable
so I had to ‘borrow’ a dress at £70, and
shoes at £60. Some evenings, once I’d paid
for a taxi home, I’d actually lost money. If
I made £60, I’d done all right.
“On only two occasions did I ever make
more than £100 a night. Although I never
slept with anyone, I regularly went beyond
limits I’d set myself.”
She does not recall any of the girls
being coerced into the job. Cocaine,
occasionally crack, was prevalent throughout
the shifts. The competition between the
girls made her feel like a failure.
“Of course you have to smile, pretend
you’re enjoying it. That’s the act you have
to put on. The impact of that is a gradual
erosion of yourself.
“The worst thing was what I learned about
men: that the way to make money from them is
to be submissive and pretend to be stupid.
What these men wanted was to exert power in
a way they felt they could not in normal
“Instead of going to a pub, where they
are intimidated by approaching equal women,
they came to lap-dancing bars, where women
approached them. I often wondered who were
they? What did their wives and partners
think they were doing? Watching Moulin
“Whether individual women feel degraded
by them or not, lap dancing degrades all of
us because it’s providing a socially
acceptable place for women to be treated as
“I saw too many newly married men,
fathers of newborns, saying, ‘I can’t have a
dance with you’ then two minutes later,
their faces are buried in another’s
Unsurprisingly, drugs became essential to
doing her job. She admits her life was
spiralling out of control. The more she
danced, the more she needed another drink,
another line of coke. Often she would wake
up, after a shift, to find she’d passed out,
outside her house, unable to get herself
“When I started, I was aware it was
shady, but I had no idea how extreme the
sexual contact would be. I honestly would
not have done it, had I known. No girl goes
into it expecting to rub her face against a
man’s groin. Once you’ve let a man touch you
for money for a certain amount of time, it
becomes a degrading process.”
It was not until a friend intervened that
Milly tried to take back control of her
life. Now 28, she is no longer dependent on
drugs, and has a job she enjoys, working in
the arts. “It took me a long time to like
men, I’ve not had a relationship since. It’s
hard to respect people who so clearly don’t
respect you. At 24, I was old when I started
but there are girls going into it 18, 19,
So, what should regulators do? She
answers as if she knows attitudes will never
“The only way to really change things, if
there is such a thing as an equal society,
is if men learn to understand that paying
for sexual stimulation is degrading and does
have a negative impact. It’s not just a bit
of fun. But, as long as men are men, there
will always be a market.
“They think it’s not really sex, so it’s
harmless. They are wrong.”