With the Australian federal election only weeks away, yet another political candidate has quit in disgrace.
Steve Dickson, a senate candidate for One Nation, handed in his resignation to Pauline Hanson after footage emerged of him visiting a US strip club. The footage was originally shot by Al Jazeera but leaked by persons unknown to A Current Affair and shows Dickson slipping money into a dancer's lingerie and standing at the tip rail of the stage in front of a woman dancing on the pole.
It's pretty stock-standard behaviour for strip club clientele, but it's Dickson's comments towards — and about — the dancers that sealed his political fate.
"I think white women f*** a lot better. They know what they're doing, Asian chicks don't," he remarks.
"I've done more Asian than I know what to do with."
He also calls one dancer a "b*tch" and says that another has "little t*ts" and "nothing there". Finally, he invites another dancer to, "slide your hand on my ****", a request that she declines.
While One Nation founder Pauline Hanson accepted that strip clubs were legal businesses that many men choose to visit, she said in a press conference that Dickson's "language and behaviour was unacceptable, and does not meet my expectations, nor the greater public's expectations, of a person who is standing for public office".
Dickson himself later released a statement requesting privacy for himself and his family, with an unfortunate typo saying that he was no longer of "pubic" interest. Indeed.
As Scarlet Alliance President Gala Vanting said to the ABC earlier this week, "the political world's contact with the sex industry is nothing to write home about".
Politicians visit strip clubs, massage parlours, and brothels all the time. Spend a long enough working in the sex industry and you too will probably meet the politician who never tips, the politician who tips generously, and the politician who has an unusual fetish. There's nothing wrong with visiting a strip club, or indeed any adult venue, and politicians are welcome clients as much as any other paying adult.
What is wrong about Dickson's visit is his language and behaviour. His disgusting comments to and about the women working in the club reveal an attitude that is sadly still seen among some sex industry patrons and clientele: that the women who work in adult venues can be touched, grabbed, and spoken to in any way the client desires, and putting up with that kind of behaviour is just another part of our job.
Given that even Pauline Hanson herself called out this behaviour for being unacceptable, it comes as a surprise to me that A Current Affair chose to promote the footage of Dickson's strip club visit as being so scandalous simply because he was married.
Of everything that's so wrong with this story — Dickson's comments and behaviour towards the workers in the club, the suspicious leaking of the footage to A Current Affair, and Al Jazeera filming the dancers possibly without their consent — the politician in question being married is the least remarkable.
The fact that there was so much scandal and outrage around a married politician visiting a strip club, rather than a politician visiting a strip club and behaving appallingly to the workers there, says to me that as much as we are slowly becoming more accepting of the sex industry, we still have a long way to go before we can rid ourselves of the idea that it's the shadowy underbelly of society where 'anything goes'.
Steve Dickson's behaviour at the strip club he visited is unacceptable. A politician, married or not, going to a strip club is totally acceptable: in fact, I personally think that visiting a strip club every now and again might make some of our politicians better leaders.
Just imagine it: along with visiting factories and farms on the campaign trail, they could also pop in to the local strip club or brothel for a quick media opportunity. While they're touring the facilities they could finally get answers to all of those mysterious little questions the public has about the adult industry, like, "Who washes all the towels in a brothel?" and "What's so bad about using baby oil on the pole at a strip club?".
They could have a meet and greet with the workers and try on a pair of eight-inch Pleaser heels to see if they could — literally — walk a mile in our shoes.
I joke, but personally, I wouldn't mind if I found out that my local member visited a strip club. In fact, I'd probably like them more for it.
After all, what's wrong with a pollie getting to know the small businesses in the area and investing some spending money back in to the electorate?
It's about time that those bigwigs in Canberra spent more money supporting female workers, and the adult industry is a great place to start.
But to any politicians planning a visit: Do us all a favour and leave the Steve Dickson etiquette tips — and the camera crew — at home.
— Kate Iselin is a writer and sex worker.