Stormy Daniels Baton Rouge protest

Stormy Daniels, on the mic, at a Dec. 9 rally and protest in Baton Rouge against the state's law banning women between ages 18 and 20 from stripping.

Stormy Daniels joined strippers and club workers in a call to repeal a Louisiana law that prevents women between 18 and 20 years old from dancing in clubs, a measure they argue endangers and discriminates against women while failing to combat “trafficking” that its proponents have propped up as a defense for the law.

“Not only is the law unconstitutional,” Daniels said, “it’s fucking sexist.”

Daniels joined strippers, club workers and bartenders (and a man dressed as Santa Claus, handing out mint Lifesavers) at a rally and protest overlooking an empty and frigid Baton Rouge from the steps of the Capitol building Dec. 9, the day before the law goes into effect.

Dancers — mostly women from New Orleans — shared their stories working in clubs and the opportunities and livelihoods those jobs have offered. Speakers argued that the creation of another barrier — following club raids that led to forced closures and significant restrictions on dancers — merely limits legal work opportunities for many women and potentially could force others into more dangerous sex work. New Orleans club workers estimate the rule will impact dozens of dancers in their clubs.

“How a law like this can get passed in this day and age is absolutely mind-boggling and insulting to every female working out there whether you work in the adult business or not,” said Daniels, a Baton Rouge native. “This law was presented in a way to decrease human trafficking. Common sense will tell you it will have the opposite effect. Many women who work this legal occupation will be forced out of their jobs, unable to support their children, unable to afford their student loan payments. … They have their careers and futures planned, and if they’re unable to make their payments because they have to leave their lucrative jobs and work minimum wage jobs, some will be forced into other ways of making money.”

In 2016, the state legislature voted to increase the minimum age for stripping from 18 to 21. After several legal challenges, a three-judge panel at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals last month reversed its own decision and decided the state can enforce the law, which is supported by Attorney General Jeff Landry and Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commissioner Juana Marine-Lombard.

The law also follows the passage of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act/Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (aka FOSTA/SESTA), an anti-trafficking measure that sex workers argue has only made it easier for traffickers to operate and prevents sex workers from being able to effectively screen clients, endangering them into exploitative situations.

“This isn’t about 18 or 21,” said Bourbon Street dancer Lyn Archer, who started dancing at 19. “It’s the fact we’re all adults and we all know enough to decide for ourselves.”

Sable Mongold, who paid her way through college with the money she made from dancing starting at 19 years old, said lawmakers, media and the general public “tend to infantilize dancers and sex workers.”

“They may not approve of our lifestyle and career choices, so they therefore think they know what’s good and best for us, and they tend to make laws without our knowledge and consent,” she said. “We’re not going to stand for that anymore.”

Dancers described clubs as havens for domestic violence survivors and survivors of abuse, safe working environments that offer comfort to clients and a kind of therapy, and can support a living wage or potentially lucrative incomes. For young people who no longer can rely on that space to make a living, “I can’t imagine what it would be like to have that taken away,” said Bourbon Street dancer Bex Cro.

“We need to stand up for the rights of women in Louisiana and across this great country,” Daniels said. “This is a huge step backwards for equal rights for women and it needs to be changed.”