Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Right to Pole Dance

It is fairly safe to say that at this very moment somewhere in Houston consenting adults are engaging in activities that others find objectionable. Those activities might include gambling, consuming alcohol, or pole dancing.

Some people find these activities so objectionable that they seek to prevent others from engaging in them. For example, most forms of gambling are illegal (unless sanctioned by the government). And in Adams Township, PA government officials have banned a studio that wants to teach pole dancing. The township alleges that the studio is a sexually oriented business.

The owner of the studio-- Stephanie Babines-- has filed a federal lawsuit against the township. She argues that her First Amendment rights have been violated.

I am not a lawyer, but I find that argument dubious and not very compelling. It is certainly not addressing the fundamental issue—the township’s attempt to impose its values upon her.

What goes on behind closed doors is nobody’s business except for those who are voluntarily involved. Whether it is gambling or pole dancing, so long as those engaging in such activities are consenting adults, the government has no business being involved.

Bans and regulations on sexually oriented businesses are typically justified as protecting the “community’s morals”. But those who advocate such bans never define those morals. They are in fact, undefinable.

The community consists of many people, with many different moral codes. Some—such as Ms. Babines and her customers—clearly do not find pole dancing objectionable. Others—such as township officials—clearly do find it objectionable. In the end, the values of township officials will be imposed upon the entire community. This is the meaning of “community morals”—some individuals may impose their values upon other individuals.

That the law sanctions such impositions does not make it right or proper. Each individual has a moral right to pursue the actions necessary to sustain and enjoy his life, so long as he respects the mutual rights of others. Imposing one’s values upon others, no matter how many endorse such actions, violates this right.

Those who find pole dancing objectionable have every right to express their objections. They do not have a right to prohibit others from engaging in that activity.

Those who advocate bans on pole dancing or any other voluntary activity believe that the welfare of the community supersedes the welfare of any individual. They believe that they can compel the individual to abide by their standards. And that is truly objectionable.

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