London boasts many exclusive self-braded ‘VIP’ Clubs, where the rich and famous go to party. They are notoriously difficult to get into and are often very expensive. Cirque Le Soir and Aura in Mayfair, Dolce in Kensington and 55 club in Soho are a few to note. They have attracted big names like Leonardo Di Caprio, Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. However amazing these clubs may seem, once inside something becomes obvious and that is the blatant sexism.
For my 22nd birthday I decided to do a little research of my own and spent a month attempting to get on the guest list of one of these clubs. Once on the list we were told the entry prices and I was shocked to see that entry for men was £20, whilst for women it was only £10. Despite being promised a bottle upon entry in the club, once there we were told there must be a minimum of 5 women in our group present to receive this. However, they offered every woman in the club free drinks all night, whilst my male friends had to pay extortionate prices for theirs.
The Equality Act 2010 states that gender is a protected characteristic and therefore one would assume that a club cannot discriminate based on this. However, the law in England and Wales surrounding refusing service is somewhat complicated. Leading case Lee v Ashers Baking Company explains that businesses may refuse services if they do not agree with the message. However, when it comes to basing the entry into clubs on gender alone, the line becomes a little blurry. Under common law, a club or pub may refuse entry to whoever they like as long as they don’t discriminate against the protected characteristics. This can allow for clubs to make alternative excuses when scrutinised, like in the Australian case where a man sued for not being let into a club. Here, he mentioned how security were often trained to give excuses as to why they could not be let in, rather than simply mention gender alone. In the UK, there has been little publication of action against these “exclusive” clubs. By contrast, in the US many men have sued institutions for their sexist practices, with a man in Manhattan suing for $50,000. The discrimination in these clubs doesn’t stop there. Claims have also been made that VIP clubs in Mayfair are denying entry based on factors such as race and body image.
It is clear that VIP nightclubs discriminate against men; however, the sexism continues. From my own personal experience, it meant complete and utter objectification. Although the cheaper entry fees and free drinks were nice, there was something unsettling about the way we were viewed by the men in the club. The way we were interacted with was forceful and disrespectful, in a way that immensely differed from being in a “normal” club. It felt very clear at that point that the reason why it is cheaper for women, is because we are the selling point of the club. I presume that the men in the club felt entitled to us women, as they had paid to be there, whereas we hadn’t. I am not the only person to have this view, with an article written by a club promoter on ‘The Tab’ having the same thought process. Here, Joshua Zitser mentions how these views are old fashioned and problematic for women, as a direct response of sexism primarily imposed on men.
Whilst anti-feminists may use this argument to evidence that sexism can be beneficial to women, requiring women to fit the entry criteria of sex-icon attractiveness, preferably wearing killer high-heels and a bodycon dress, is far from beneficial. This behaviour not only fuels the notion that women exit for male pleasure but provides a breeding ground for sexual violence and blatant misogyny.
Therefore, not only are these exclusive clubs sexist towards men, but they are entirely degrading towards women.
I graduated with a Law degree from Keele University this summer. I have just started my LPC alongside an Msc in Law, Business, and Management. I am keen to enter the corporate field and currently volunteer with Citizens Advice.