There are lots of things not to like about so-called Sexually Oriented Businesses (SOBs) in Houston. They are seedy. They are promoting an atmosphere that is certainly not conducive to quality treatment of women. Then there's the general "ew" factor that accompanies anything of that nature. But they are legal and regulated. Up until recently, those regulations extended to the amount of clothing that could be worn by dancers and the infamous "three-foot rule" that required ladies to remain a safe distance away from their audience (I decline to use the term "gentlemen" in this instance to make a point).
At the end of last month, Mayor Annise Parker agreed to a deal that would cease decades-old lawsuits brought by SOB owners against the city for the current ordinance in exchange for financial and practical support in the city's efforts to stop human trafficking. At the time, the Mayor and police claimed it was the best way to both end the lawsuits facing the city and help deal with a fairly serious issue in Houston.
As you might imagine, this did not sit well with some people. In particular, the Houston Area Pastor Council is not pleased, calling on citizens to "Call your city council member today and demand they oppose this 'deal with the Devil'!"
The colorfully worded release details the outrage of the religious organization over activities they believe to be pervasive at SOBs, which include, among other things, "selling deviant sexual gratification." Well, sure.
Honestly, I understand their concerns, but forgive me if I chuckle when I read a press release from a group of pastors that contains what they consider "irreconcilable flaws" in the deal with SOBs including:
Modifying the existing ordinance restrictions to allow "lap dances or table dances" and that "entertainers" may "entertain while topless and wearing (only) what is commonly referred to as a G-string" without a vote of city council and in clear opposition to community standards.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
I don't remember discussing G-strings in catechism class. But while they say they are fundamentally against the activities at SOBs -- not a shocker -- they also claim this is a violation of business ethics, citing as another flaw:
Unilaterally imposing a new tax on a segment of businesses -even those as questionable as SOBs - without being properly vetted and adopted by process of city council as required in Article III, Section 1 of the City Charter.
Questionable is an interesting word here. On one hand, they find these businesses reprehensible. On the other, they feel like the SOBs are being taxed unfairly. They do mention exploitation of women in their release...twice...but it doesn't play a pivotal role in their consternation. Rather, they are clearly offended by the fact that SOBs exist in the first place and, just as important, they are being forced to "pay to play."
They contend this settlement will open the door for even more SOBs, which will have a negative impact on families and a degrading effect on women. They also mention the Devil like four times. Setting Mephistopheles aside for the moment, it is likely that the settlement will open up opportunities for more SOBs and it is yet to be seen that there will be any positive impact on human trafficking whatsoever. But much of this was to put to rest what has been a costly lawsuit for the city. As it turns out, the Devil is more in the details than in the G-string.