Friday, January 20, 2012

How Low CAN You Go? Baring Witness to Boston’s Blue Laws

By Dixie Douya, Rogue Burlesque

Boston has a well-earned reputation for being a bit…well…stodgy. Long-time burlesquers will tell you about having to do “the Boston version” of their routine (a.k.a the “clean” or “covered up” version) when traveling to our fair city. Think of it as the radio edit of your favorite explicit song. What many performers don’t realize is that the notion of “banned in Boston” is very much alive and well, and the legal remnants of the New England Watch and Ward Society are still with us today.

It’s now 134 years since the Watch and Ward Society was founded.  But even today, in 2012, stripteasers in Boston must cover up -- their asses, that is.

That’s right. No ass crack. No g-strings. No thongs. No see-through panties.

The City of Boston Rules and Regulations of the Mayor's Licensing Division may in fact be some of the strictest in the country.  To quote:
6a. It is forbidden to employ or permit any person in or on the licensed premises while such person is unclothed or in such attire as to expose to view any portion of the areola of the female breast or any portion of the pubic hair, cleft of the buttocks, or genitals, except with specific approval of the Division upon a petition seeking nude entertainment.

Ms.Sassypants show us how to
"cover up our butts!"
This is generally interpreted as, you must have at least an inch of material on either side of the cleft of the buttocks – no thongs or g-strings. You must also wear pasties (not glitter glue) and must immediately cover up if you lose a pastie (women only). 

The regulations also include these gems:

6c. It is forbidden to encourage or permit any person in or on the licensed premises to touch, caress, or fondle breasts, buttocks, or genitals of any other persons.

6d. It is forbidden to employ or permit any person to wear or use any device of covering exposed to view which simulates the breasts, pubic hair, or genitals or any portion thereof.

6e. It is forbidden to employ or permit any person in or on the licensed premises to perform any act or acts, or to simulate an act or acts of:
(i)  sexual intercourse, masturbation, sodomy, flagellation or any sexual acts prohibited by law
(ii) touching, caressing, or fondling of the breasts, buttocks, or genitals of another

The above gets into lewdness. This means no lap dances (which is not typically an element of burlesque anyway) as well as being very careful about physical interaction with audience members (and even oneself).

Yeah, but can you really get busted?
Well, technically, you could be arrested or charged with lewd and lascivious behavior. But the real risk is to the venue, as these regulations are part of their liquor license. If you break the law, the VENUE could lose its liquor license. And saying “I didn’t know” doesn’t work as a defense because, legally, it is the PERFORMER’s responsibility to know the laws of the city in which they are performing.

Cops typically have better things to do than to bust performers/venues for acts of supposed lewdness.  And many venues are not even aware of the law until they run into a problem.  If a venue has had prior incidents, or has an ongoing bad relationship with their local police, the cops may fall back on the Blue Laws to send a message.  Adhering to the law allows us to protect ourselves, our venues, and our relationships with the folks who booked us in the first place.

So to all you stripteasers out there…when you’re in Boston, COVER UP THOSE BUTTS!*

* The laws cited above apply only to the City of Boston and its 20+ neighborhoods, including Allston/Brighton, Back Bay, Chinatown, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury, and more.  Other cities have their own laws. For example, just across the river, liberal Cambridge allows full nudity on stage -- as long as you do not engage in "lewd and lascivious" acts, such as seductive striptease (!), in order to get naked.  So when in Cambridge, break out those thongs and g-strings!

1 comment:

  1. The Babes in Boinkland used to go-go dance fairly regularly at a club in Allston. Our first night there we had fully intended to collect tips, but the manager told us we couldn't because that was tantamount to prostitution. We weren't even stripping!