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Stripping Tampa’s image bare

I’m a resident of Tampa, and I know adult entertainers. Because so many of the girls are college-age, I would venture to say the majority of students at USF know or have met dancers, as well. It is a part of our culture in this city, as we are internationally recognized for our strip and non-nude dance clubs. Whether you look at this as a positive or negative, it’s a part of the fabric of our city.

When men from other cities ask you where you’re from and you respond with Tampa, inevitably the question arises about strippers. “Are the girls really all nude?” Well, yes, in many places like Mons Venus the girls really are all nude. “Have you ever been there?” Yes, I have, but remember I used to work as a limo driver, and believe it or not it, it was part of my job.

I would sit in the corner with my Coke and attempt to avoid eye contact with the girls so they wouldn’t attempt to dance me out of the tips I was hoping to make that evening.

Try explaining to a girlfriend on a cell phone while the music is blaring in the background that you’re really not there for the girls but just doing your job. A request for different employment usually ensued at some point.

I’m not saying I didn’t look (hey, I’m still a guy), but I struggle with this one as much as any issue about this area. I understand that these women are just out to make a living. Many of them, like some of my friends, are looking for the fastest way to make some cash for college. And isn’t that the ultimate in female empowerment? I also understand that exploiting your sexuality for financial gain can also be extremely offensive to women as a gender on the whole.

I know that our reputation does increase the tourism and convention business to this area, and these clubs are a large part of our economy. But it also scars our reputation as a destination for families, and all the negative connotations associated with nude dancing might make people perceive that Tampa isn’t the best place to bring the wife and kids. During the Super Bowl last year, tourists were warned that clubs could be raided and customers and dancers arrested. The publicity associated with this certainly wasn’t positive for the city. I’ve brought older people down to see Tampa’s outstanding sports facilities of Legends Field and Raymond James Stadium on South Dale Mabry, and then felt uncomfortable having to drive by 2001 Odyssey and other establishments.

I don’t think it’s fair the way the City of Tampa has attempted to regulate these places out of business. Like it or not, these establishments are tax-paying businesses in our area, and to single them out after decades of operations is just not fair. If local government wants to make changes, they should work with businesses to relocate or make changes instead of raiding patrons and dancers at the whim of the police chief.

And I struggle with telling a girl that the way she chooses to pay for her education, support her children or just make a living is wrong. She might be getting exploited, but it is her choice. What may not be a choice is the reputation of our town as long as adult entertainment is as prevalent as it is here in Tampa.

Collin Sherwin is a senior majoring in political