Alright, Rhode Islanders
Let’s hear the rationalizations why this ought to remain the case:
Rhode Island teens under 18 can’t work with power saws or bang nails up on roofs.
But dance at strip clubs? Sure. Just as long as the teens submit work permits, and are off the stripper’s pole by 11:30 on school nights.
It’s enough to surprise even those in America’s mecca of striptease and sin — Las Vegas.
Pictures on your hard drive? Jail. Fingers on a dollar bill with the girl there in the flesh? Hey, a kid’s gotta have pocket money.
State law says that anyone who employs a person under 18 for prostitution or for “any other lewd or indecent act” faces up to 20 years in prison and up to $20,000 in fines. But that isn’t enough to prevent underage girls from working in strip clubs, said senior assistant city solicitor Kevin McHugh, who researched the issue a dozen years ago when a teenage dancer was found at a raided strip club.
The term “lewd or indecent” is subjective, McHugh said, and is applied to behavior that’s protected by the First Amendment. “Since we have strip clubs in Providence,” McHugh said, “citizens don’t consider [stripping] lewd.”
And there you go. If it’s legal for adults, it’s not “lewd or indecent,” which makes it kind of pointless, I would think, to have that language in the law at all.
It’s fortunate that the relevant statute specifically names prostitution, so the fact that Rhode Island allows prostitution doesn’t give that activity a pass. On the other hand, Rhode Island law also makes it a crime to “knowingly permit any person to remain in the premises for” the purpose of prostitution, and yet it appears to be sufficient to claim that the “purpose” of spa-brothels is a massage, and as far as I can see, minors are permitted to do that.