At what point does someone transition into an adult, with all the rights and responsibilities?
It’s not an unreasonable question. It’s also not easy to answer. There are plenty of laws regarding age limits and how people under a certain age are judged. I’m not a lawyer, but I do understand the intent. There are some things that children and people below a certain age just shouldn’t be able to do in a civil society.
At the same time, I don’t deny that not every adult is capable and not every child is ignorant. I’ve known people over 40 who have the maturity level of a 15-year-old. I’ve also known kids who are more mature than people twice their age. Everybody is different in terms of how and to what extent they mature. Some can handle adult situations better than others.
That brings me to strippers. I’m sure I have your attention now.
I bring it up because, this past year, a few strip club owners have been making waves in the news. Specifically, they’ve been protesting a law in Jacksonville from February 2020 that changes the minimum permissible age for a stripper from 18 to 21. That contrasts from many other jurisdictions, in which the minimum age is 18.
However, as what happened with the legal drinking age, this has become somewhat of a legal trend. Other jurisdictions have been seeking to raise the age limit, as well. They’re often met with protests, but so far the limits have been upheld. That may change with this case, as reported by AP News.
A lawyer representing 13 clubs and four dancers in Jacksonville argued before a federal judge that dancing is a form of expression protected under the First Amendment.
“This is just a ban on speech,” attorney Gary Edinger said.
The city law currently bans dancers under the age of 21 and was passed in an effort to reduce sex trafficking. The measure also requires dancer to have ID city-issued cards.
City attorneys said younger people are more susceptible to the coercion that’s often part of trafficking and argued that 21 is a safer age.
Now, set aside your feelings towards strip clubs for a moment. As someone who has been to more than a few and had a genuinely good time, I’ll make that effort too. I understand that, being a man, my perspective is going to be skewed. I still think it’s a relevant issue. Beyond the titillating undertones, there’s a bigger picture here worth considering.
It goes back to the questions I raised earlier about when someone becomes a legal adult. For much of the United States, reaching age 18 is often seen as a major milestone. It’s the age when you can become legally emancipated, which permits you to do all sorts of things like buy a car, buy a place of your own, and sign a contract.
What is it about that age that is so special? Legally speaking, it’s fairly arbitrary. We, as a society, just agreed that most people when they reach this age are mature enough to handle adult responsibilities. Sure, some take longer than others. Some reach that point before that age. It’s an imperfect judgement for an imperfect society.
However, we do make some exceptions, as we did with alcohol. Now, I don’t know if that exception is warranted. When I was in high school, I knew plenty of people under the age of 21 who drank regularly. Most were fairly responsible. A few couldn’t handle it. They’re just lucky Instagram wasn’t around back then.
If that exception is so flimsy, then what makes 21 better than 18 when it comes to strippers? We’re not talking about ingesting a substance that can kill you if taken in large quantities. We’re talking about people being allowed to show off their sexy bodies for willing customers. What’s the justification for raising the age requirements just three years?
The lawyers say that it’s a means of combating human trafficking. That’s a perfectly respectable effort, but one that is often misused and abused to attack the sex industry, as a whole. It can also be very counterproductive, as I’ve noted before. I can’t find any evidence at how raising the minimum affects human trafficking, but I doubt the lawyers involved in this case need it to win the argument.
You’ll never lose political points for saying you’re against human trafficking. The problem is when your efforts are largely symbolic or arbitrary, the results will lack substance.
Beyond this shallow justification, it’s also inconsistent. How can we explain to a legal adult that 18 is not old enough to allow them to strip for money? At 18, you can legally skydive, give blood, and join the military. All three of those activities come with dangers, but we let 18-year-olds consent to doing them. So, why do we make an exception for stripping?
Again, I’m not a lawyer, but I have a hard time justifying that exception. I’ve heard coherent arguments about the drinking age being 21. I’ve yet to hear a coherent argument about making the minimum stripper age 21.
Just saying it’ll help combat human trafficking isn’t enough. I’d like to see some evidence of that. I’d also like to understand why it’s still legal for an 18-year-old to have consensual sex, but they need to wait another three years before they can get naked for money. That just too arbitrary and inconsistent.
I understand age limits will always be arbitrary to some extent. I also understand that people get very uncomfortable when it comes to sex, nudity, and the people who do it for a living. We can never stop people from being horny or doing sexy things for money. We should have some reasonable regulations in place to govern that sort of thing. My question here is simple. Is raising the age requirements for strippers to 21 reasonable? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.