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The legal status of striptease varies considerably among different countries and the various jurisdictions of the United States. Striptease is considered a form of public nudity and subject to changing legal and cultural attitudes on moral and decency grounds. Some countries do not have any restrictions on performances of striptease. In some countries, public nudity is outlawed directly, while in other countries it may be suppressed or regulated indirectly through devices such as restrictions on venues through planning laws, or licensing regulations, or liquor licensing and other restrictions.

United States

Many U.S. jurisdictions have various laws related to striptease, public nudity and related issues. For example, the “six foot rule” requires strippers to maintain a six-foot distance from customers while performing topless or nude. This rule does not apply when in a bikini or other work outfit, but is indicative of the level of scrutiny prevailing in some jurisdictions on dancer-customer interaction. Other rules forbid “full nudity”. In some parts of the United States, laws forbid exposure of female nipples, but does not apply if a stripper wears pasties.

Social attitudes

A relatively liberal social climate keeps many jurisdictions in the United States from passing stricter legislation against strip clubs, or from enforcing it fully. However, in recent years, many cities, such as New York City and San Francisco, have enacted ordinances prohibiting “adult entertainment” businesses from within a certain distance of houses, schools and churches, and perhaps each other. Often, a distance of nearly half-a-mile is stipulated, which ensure that new strip clubs can not open in many major cities. Courts have generally upheld these zoning laws.

Decency regulations

Many United States jurisdictions have laws pertaining to striptease or public nudity. In some parts of the United States, laws forbid exposure of female nipples, but does not apply if a stripper wears pasties. In early 2010, the city of Detroit banned fully exposed breasts in its strip clubs, following the example of Houston which began enforcing a similar ordinance of 2008. The city council has since softened the rules eliminating the requirement for pasties but kept other restrictions.

Topless and fully nude clubs

In several parts of the United States, local laws classify strip clubs as either topless or all/fully nude. Dancers in topless clubs can expose their breasts, but not their genitals. Topless dancers typically perform in a G-string and, depending on local laws, may be required to wear pasties covering their nipples. Fully nude clubs may be subject to additional requirements such as restrictions on alcohol sales or no-touch rules between customers and dancers.

To get around these rules two “separate” bars—one topless and one fully nude—may open adjacent to one another. In a small number of states and jurisdictions, where it is legal for alcohol to be consumed but not for alcohol to be sold, some clubs allow customers to bring their own beverages. These are known as BYOB clubs.

Independent contractors

In the U.S., striptease dancers are generally classified as independent contractors. While a few smaller strip clubs may pay a weekly wage, for the most part all of a dancer’s income is derived from tips and other fees they collect from customers. In most clubs, dancers have to pay a “stage fee” or “house fee” to work a given shift. In addition, most clubs take a percentage of each private dance. It is customary—and often required in the United States—for dancers to also pay a “tip out”, which is money (either a set fee or a percentage of money earned) paid to staff members of clubs, such as DJs, house moms, make-up artists, servers, bartenders, and bouncers, at the end of their shift.

Touching of strippers

Touching of strippers is illegal in many states. However, some dancers and some clubs condone touching of dancers during private dances. This touching often includes the fondling of breasts, buttocks, and in rare cases vulvae. In some locales, dancers may give a customer a “lap dance“, whereby the dancer grinds against the customer’s crotch while he is fully clothed in an attempt to arouse him or bring him to climax.

One of the more notorious local ordinances is San Diego Municipal Code 33.3610, specific and strict in response to allegations of corruption among local officials which included contacts in the nude entertainment industry. Among its provisions is the “six foot rule”, copied by other municipalities in requiring that dancers maintain a six-foot distance while performing topless or nude. While in their bikini or other work outfit this rule is not in effect, but is indicative of the level of scrutiny prevailing in some regions on dancer-customer interaction.

Status of underage dancers

In July 2009, it was discovered that, in addition to not having a prostitution law (prostitution in Rhode Island was outlawed in 2009), Rhode Island also does not have a law to stop underage girls from being exotic dancers. The Mayor of Providence, David Cicilline signed an executive order, effective July 31, prohibiting the city Board of Licenses from issuing adult entertainment licenses to establishments that employ minors. The club owners also made a pledge to not employ underage girls.

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