February 10, 1996

Dale Brazao
Staff Reporter

Lap dancing ban hailed
as 'victory for women'

An Ontario Appeal Court decision declaring that lap dancing is indecent "is a great victory for women," says a former stripper who has crusaded for more than a year.

"The nightmare is over. The courts really did their job this time," Katharine Goldberg said yesterday after the ruling was released.

"I think this is a day when all women are going to feel safe, going to feel strong again.

"They saved a lot of girls a lot of pain and suffering."

The court ruled that lap dancing degrades and dehumanizes women, portraying them as sexual objects without dignity.

The five-judge panel found Cheaters Tavern owner Patrick Mara and entertainment manager Allan East guilty of allowing an indecent theatrical performance.

The decision sounds the death knell for dirty dancing.

And it overturns a 1994 ruling by Mr. Justice Gordon Hachborn that opened the doors to the controversial entertainment. Metro bars were quick to jump on the bandwagon, with one even advertising a special Hachborn Room.

In its unanimous decision, the Appeal Court found that:

  • Lap dancing risks spreading infectious diseases by oral and genital contact.
  • Performers are at risk of sexual assault.
  • The conduct of lap dancers actually constitutes a form of prostitution.
  • The consent of participants in lap dancing cannot make indecent conduct decent.

Chief Justice Charles Dubin, who wrote the decision, said Hachborn erred in finding the conduct of dancers in the Cheaters case "innocuous" when judged against two earlier superior court decisions dealing with sexual activities that didn't involve contact between the participants. One involved pornographic rental films, another voyeuristic sex.

"There is also a substantial difference between sexual acts presented electronically on a television set, to be viewed in someone's living room, and live sexual acts being engaged in at a public tavern," Dubin wrote.

While Mara and East claimed they weren't aware of what police found their dancers doing in the tavern at Yonge St. and Manor Rd., Dubin wasted little time in shooting down that argument.

"Having regard to the wide spread nature of the activities in this case, if the respondents were unaware of what was going on, they must have 'shut their eyes' and been willfully blind," he said.

Crown Attorney David Butt said Dubin's decision could result in police charging not only club owners but dancers and patrons as well.

Mara and East, who now face possible fines or imprisonment, have 30 days to file an appeal.

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Created: March 6, 1996
Last modified: February 8, 1997

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