Q&A: Rudi Czekalla Martínez on sexing up strip clubs
Adult entertainment expert Rudi Czekalla Martínez and the powerful employers he represents plan to integrate brothels into Toronto strip clubs. Here, the skinny on bawdy politics
After the Supreme Court decriminalized brothels last year, the Adult Entertainment Association of Canada hired you to tour strip clubs around southern Ontario and study the feasibility of adding prostitution to the existing services. How, exactly, does one measure feasibility here?
Well, the study isn’t as racy as it sounds. It entails interviewing strippers and talking to bureaucrats and politicians.
What do strippers think of the proposal?
So far, about 60 per cent are opposed. They’re nervous and wondering, “If all I want to do is dance, will clients pass me over in favour of a colleague who, you know, does a lot more?” That said, some strippers think it’s an opportunity to make more money.
Presumably sex already happens in strip clubs from time to time.
The propositioning probably does, sure. A stripper and a client might agree to meet off-premises at a hotel or in his car.
How would an embedded brothel work?
There could be separate entrances—one for the strip club, one for the brothel. The staff could be the same, or entirely different, or a mix.
So a customer gets a private dance and then, if both parties agree, they head next door for a little something extra.
Theoretically, yes. One of the things I’m looking at is what makes sense operationally. The devil is in the details.
Some might say Satan is all over this idea. Do the owners you represent have qualms about becoming pimps?
They’re divided. But they all agree the business is struggling. In the ’80s, Toronto had 63 strip clubs; now there are 16. The decline is largely due to the rise of Internet porn. These owners want to protect themselves as the industry changes yet again, in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling.
You were a manager of policy and planning services at the City of Toronto before becoming a municipal policy consultant in 2012. Did you have any hesitation about taking on a gig some might consider lowbrow?
No, I jumped at it. It’s a controversial, important issue that challenges social taboos. It also invokes philosophical questions, including, “Is prostitution wrong?”
Well, is it?
I’m personally not a fan of brothels or strip clubs. But I feel the public should be able to run, work in and visit strip clubs and brothels, as long as basic human rights aren’t infringed upon.
Doesn’t the sex trade prey on those who have no other option? That sounds exploitative to me.
The research doesn’t support that notion. The majority of sex workers are normal, well-adjusted people. A top-notch escort could make $100,000 a year and travel with top-level people to the Caribbean, Paris and New York, and eat at the fanciest restaurants.
Had you ever been to a strip club before taking on this job?
Twice: once when I was 18, out by Pearson, with some friends, and again a few years ago—my girlfriend and I were walking past For Your Eyes Only and she said, “Let’s go in.” We had a couple of drinks and left.
Do you feel pressure to return a positive result for your employers? Forgive the stereotyping, but I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of 37 strip club owners.
If I come back with a positive recommendation, it’s because their proposal is sound. Strip clubs make perfect sense as trial venues for brothels: they’re already appropriately zoned, there are adequate facilities and security, and the owners are known to the community and police.
Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti said he likes the notion of strip clubs becoming “sex partners” with the city. Besides that being the least arousing sentence ever, how far would regulation go? Receipts? STD checks? Compensation for workplace injuries?
I’m not sure you’d want to over-regulate it. Look at the Toronto à la Cart street food fiasco. It died precisely because of over-regulation.
When do you expect the feds to make up their minds about how to proceed with the brothel issue?
Any day now. It’ll probably go one of two ways: they might decriminalize brothels and then leave the issue alone, like abortion, in which case it’ll sort of be like the Wild West. Or they’ll legalize and regulate it. Obviously, I’m hoping for the latter.