Section 173 “Indecent Acts”
This section makes it illegal to willfully do an indecent act in a public place if there is one or more person there, or in any place if your intent is to insult or offend another person. This is a summary offence.
The courts have ruled that masturbating in a public place and sexual touching (mutual masturbation) between a dancer and client are indecent acts. In contrast, swingers clubs were determined not to be indecent as they took place in private venues and involved consenting adults. As well, lap dances are allowed in most areas as long as it does not involve sexual touching. Most cities, as well as most clubs have their own rules or by-laws.
In Vancouver, all clubs with exotic dance performances must be licensed under the Liquor Control and Licensing Act. This act defines three types of performers that it regulates: strippers*, which are defined as entertainers who take their clothes off during a performance; exotic dancers*, entertainers who do not necessarily take their clothes off during a performance, and adult-oriented performers*, defined as entertainers who perform adult dramatic, artistic or other types of adult-oriented activities.
In Vancover, bars with such performances can’t be open between 2am and 8am. These regulations say that there cannot be any live, realistic or simulated sex acts or any acts that involve simulated or real coercion or violence. Performances cannot involve inserting an object or removing an object from a performers vagina or anus and there cannot be urinating or defecating as part of an act. Performers are not allowed to use animals in their acts. No one under 19 years of age can perform in a strip club, nor can anyone under 19 watch a stripping performance. Performers are not allowed to deliberately involve patrons in adult-oriented performances or activities.
Performers are not allowed to touch or share food or beverages with other performers or with the audience during their act. In fact, it is prohibited for performers to drink any alcohol before, during or in between acts, though having a drink after is allowed. Entertainers must stay on stage or in an area separate from the general seating area during their performances and cannot dance on table tops.
Finally, it is prohibited for objects to be passed between performers and the audience. The exception to this rule is that exotic dancers may accept tips and pass out promotional materials as long as there is no physical (skin-to-skin) contact between the dancer and other performers or audience members.
Private dances are legal in Canada, although if they involve sexual acts (in public or in private rooms) or sexual touching, you or your employer can be subject to the Criminal Code provisions around prostitution. Many clubs have their own rules around whether contact is allowed or not and in what areas private dances may occur.
Section 167 “Immoral theatrical performance”
This section prohibits anyone from organizing or managing a theatre that allows an “immoral, indecent or obscene performance, entertainment or representation” as well as making it illegal to act, perform or assist in such a performance. Nudity alone does not make a performance immoral. Performers are most often charged under this section or S. 173 prohibiting indecent acts in public, though caution should be used in private rooms as the ‘bawdy-house provisions’ still apply. Strip clubs are considered public places as anyone can enter them, vs. private clubs, which are only open to members or parties where guests are invited, such as a stag.