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.
“Everybody buzzes about ‘Nevada and Sin City, tsk, tsk,’ ” said Edie Cartwright, spokeswoman for the Nevada attorney general’s office. “But we regulate it.”
Providence police recently discovered that teen job opportunities extend into the local adult entertainment world while they were investigating a 16-year-old runaway from Boston. The girl told detectives that she worked at Cheaters strip club this spring, and the police got tips about other underage girls working at another club on Allens Avenue.
That’s when the police found that neither state law, nor city ordinance bars minors from working at strip clubs. Those under 18 can’t buy pornography, and no one may take pictures or film minors in sexually suggestive ways. But the law doesn’t stop underage teens from stripping for money. Even if the police saw underage boys or girls on stage at a strip club, they wouldn’t be able to charge them or the club owners with a crime.
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” said youth services Sgt. Carl Weston, “and I can’t find anything that says it’s illegal for a 16-year-old or a 17-year-old to take her top off and dance.”
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.