204034 Sketchy in the city: Strip club street-blocks and women's well-being in Portland, Oregon

Monday, November 9, 2009

Moriah McSharry McGrath, MPH, MSUP , School of Urban Studies and Planning, Portland State University, Portland, OR
Background/significance: Female exotic dancers are subjected to a variety of physical and mental health hazards on the job, but little attention has been paid to how the location of their their workplaces within the city affects their health. Portland, Oregon presents a rich environment for exploring these issues because of its lack of land use controls on the location of adult entertainment establishments.

Objective/purpose: To identify environmental features that may affect sense of safety on street blocks that house strip clubs.

Methods: Environmental audits were conducted at a convenience sample of strip clubs in the Portland metropolitan area (n=7). Audits assessed the character of the street-block through mapping, photography, and tally of features associated with sense of safety in the environmental psychology literature: e.g., physical incivilities and the evidence of territorial functioning.

Results: Features of strip club design like labyrinthine entryways and lack of windows discourage interaction between club users and the general public. Neighboring businesses and residences are often oriented away from clubs, minimizing the potential for “eyes on the street” to provide informal social control of the area. Physical incivilities like graffiti and poor maintenance are very common on the street-blocks.

Discussion/conclusions: The exterior features of strip club design that limit surveillance of the spaces and heighten patron anonymity may also discourage public intervention against antisocial behavior. Consequently, female workers – as frequent and vulnerable users of these spaces – may experience a high-risk environment traveling to and from work.

Learning Objectives:
Describe environmental features that may affect sense of safety on street blocks that house strip clubs Discuss how urban planning and urban design may affect the health of exotic dancers working in strip clubs

Keywords: Sex Workers, Urban Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Master's degrees in Urban Planning and Public Health, ongoing doctoral training in urban health issues
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.