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Naked Politics: Erie, PA v the Kandyland Club

From: NWSA Journal
Volume 14, Number 2, Summer 2002
pp. 1-17 | 10.1353/nwsa.2002.0033


The recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of Erie, Pennsylvania against the Kandyland Club, which upheld a city ordinance prohibiting the club's dancers from performing in the nude, exemplifies what Kathy Davis has defined as "society's impulse to keep women's bodies under 'constant surveillance'" (1997, 11). The case illustrates complex, often contradictory, assessments of the empirical and metaphoric significance of the female body, specifically as it is presented on stage, and also raises issues of sexual control, of the distinctions between speech and conduct, and of a seemingly deliberate judicial misreading of the expressive elements of exotic dancing. Naked Politics argues that the Kandyland case is a particularly blatant incident in a long history of patriarchal efforts to regulate the theatrical display of women's bodies, and that the Court's ruling reveals its allegiance to a presumptive "moral" code more sacred (to itself) than the Constitutional protections it is sworn to uphold.