If it doesn’t hurt anyone, why does it matter? Good Lord, if most of us had a few dollars for every time we’ve heard this banal and absurd response to social conservatives who object to pornography, prostitution and the like. There was a case in the United Kingdom last month where the courts had to rule on the subject of lap-dancing. The police wanted the power and ability to charge people involved, with a view to trying to ban such activities when at all possible. It was interesting to read the reaction of many libertarians, who argued that individuals have the right to do what they want with their own bodies and that the free market is sacred and lap-dancing is merely another financial transaction. They also stated that the court had no right to enforce a particular morality when morals are not universal.
The pro-life response is surely that lap-dancing involves several people. The man paying the money, the woman dancing, the club owner and the rest of us who make up general society. The man with the cash may have his freedom restricted, but not so the dancer. There are very few women who willingly prostitute themselves, but many who do so out of economic desperation.
A single mother in near poverty is not acting from her own free will. Nor is she free to choose where she dances. Any club owner knows that if a neighbouring venue offers lap-dancing, he will have to follow suit to maintain his clientele. Men will not patronize a non-touching club if there is a full contact one down the road.
Thus, a dancer no longer has any choice. She was uneasy with stripping, but at least she was not mauled. Before lap-dancing became common, she could retain a modicum of dignity by merely dancing or stripping on stage.
As for the wider community, I have yet to hear any convincing argument that our physical, spiritual, ethical or educational well-being is in any way improved by allowing lap-dancing. I have, however, heard many arguments that permitting such an indulgence eats away at the very core of our society. There is such a thing as collective responsibility.
Then come the arguments concerning the free market. For a market to be genuinely free, the participants must enjoy something like equal rights and privileges. A union stranglehold or a business monopoly, we are told, prevents true economic liberty. So what of the pimps, pushers, bouncers and brutal club owners? Indeed, a former lap-dancer said during the court decision that the clubs will now be free of “the pigs and the prostitutes.” To assume that a dancer is able to choose her place of work and her working conditions and is able to keep an equitable share of the evening’s proceeds is laughable.
Those who are so concerned with the free market would do well to read the arguments of those men in the last century who employed 10-year-old chimney-sweeps. They said the boys were not being forced into the work and that the lads were paid and cared for. Because the society of the time had less refined and sensitive views toward child labour, it accepted such a defence. Yet, when reformers educated that society, the arguments of the child exploiters suddenly blew away like dirty ashes.
The same will happen if, and when, we educate our society about the reality of lap-dancing, sexual commercialism and its ethical consequences. The state has a right to limit and control the outer limits of the market so such a market can be, in the most authentic sense, truly free.
Last comes the issue of morality. We impose something like a universal morality a great deal of the time, precisely because it is considered universal. Those who argue that the state has no right to decide what is right and wrong put themselves in a contradictory position. They come to their conclusions in the first place solely because they themselves have their own theories of right and wrong and, consequently, impose them on the state and its decisions.
If there is no such entity as universal morality, there can be no such thing as an organized society. We cannot organize what is not at least largely static in its fundamental ethical framework. What is extraordinary about the world is not how many moral codes have existed down the ages, but how few there have been. Agreement on the essentials is almost unanimous.
The British court will not rule for a long time because of appeals and further case evidence. I’d appeal, and present evidence, to every person who cares about life, morality and our future to know what we believe and why we believe it.
Michael Coren can be booked for speaking events at www.michaelcoren.com