the ch!cktionary

I'm Lena Chen, a writer, activist, and media producer who's been called a "skank" (by Bill O'Reilly) and "a small Asian woman" (by The New York Times). My favorite part of my workday is the hate mail.

For the unlikely story that is my life, read on.

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Ask Lena: Reader Questions Answered
Anatomy of an Outfit
Bad Feminist Confessions
Freelance Friday: Career Advice for Young Writers
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I’ll be chatting about this topic on HuffPost Live at 1:30pm EST. UPDATE: the recorded segment is now available below and on the show website.


Here’s the gist of what we discussed:

Illinois has a new law that taxes strip clubs. The money will fund rape crisis centers. Does it unfairly link strip clubs to rape? Or is it a good way to raise money?

My fear is that this new law will primarily hurt workers in the adult entertainment industry. This neither changes societal attitudes about rape, nor does it target those actually responsible for the existence of sexual violence.

What’s your opinion? Watch the segment and join the conversation to give us your take.

A few takeaway points I wanted to emphasize now that the segment has aired (forgive the sarcastic bits):

  • There is no established causal link between the existence of strip clubs and sexual assault, though there are some studies that have suggested a correlation between sexual violence and alcohol consumption and exposure to sexually explicit materials. As someone who has been dating an academic for the past four years, I could empathize deeply with the professor’s plight in trying to keep with his very technical definition of “correlation”.
  • The funding cuts affecting rape crisis centers in Illinois have nothing to do with strip clubs. Strip clubs are already often subject to much stricter zoning and health regulations than other businesses, and assault rarely occurs on strip club premises, given the presence of security. Statistically speaking, is more likely to happen at a sporting event or a college party than at a strip club, though we don’t see anyone taxing your spring break and blaming that for rape. Ultimately, though, I am less concerned about the “fairness” of the tax than I am about the lack of solutions offered.
  • Because the state has realized that they don’t have the budget to support survivors of sexual assault, they’ve passed on the cost to the private sector without ever actually addressing the causes of rape. In doing so, they have perpetuated inaccurate information about how and why rape occurs while potentially setting an irresponsible precedent in which rape becomes not the responsibility of everyday citizens but the responsibility of those who take their tops off and the people who pay them to do so
  • This entire discussion ignores the existence of both strippers and rape survivors who are not female-identified or heterosexual.
  • By taxing strip clubs, we are potentially contributing toward the notion that the adult entertainment industry is responsible for social ills related to sex, thus further marginalizing sex workers while ignoring the culpability of everyday people for what is a collective social problem.
  • In conclusion, we live in a nation that deprioritizes crucial social services and then passes on the cost to an industry whose workers have already historically been demonized and stigmatized. Meanwhile, the cause for the central problem (rape) has not been addressed, and instead, we are sidetracked into discussing a new problem (how to fund programs that address the consequences of rape). This shouldn’t be surprising as this is often how other social issues, such as homelessness and hunger, are framed in the public discourse or whatever you call the thing I just engaged in above.