Former stripper: Drugs, sex common in clubs

A former stripper testified Monday she had seen freewheeling drug use and sexual activity when she performed at clubs in seven states.

Julie Shematz testified in support of a new state law that bans contact between exotic dancers and their customers. Her testimony came during the second day of a hearing in which Ohio's adult entertainment industry is asking a federal judge to block enforcement of the new law.

Shematz, 42, said she performed in 14 clubs over a seven-year period in Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, Rhode Island and South Carolina while financing her college education.

The dancers frequently used drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, crystal meth and even a date-rape drug to "work up what we call 'the game' - get the game on," she said, referring to their performance.

She testified that sexual contact between dancers and between dancers and their customers was common, along with evidence of prostitution.

"Prostitution was normal," she said. "There wasn't a night that I worked that I wasn't propositioned."

Asked to elaborate, she responded, "It's an environment where you are sexually stimulating males."

Shematz said clubs have gotten tougher since she left the business in 2002. While the clubs where she worked had some rules, she testified, "It's no longer the art of physical entertainment. It's all contact."

When the attorney challenging the law said Shematz wasn't qualified from personal experience to comment on the prostitution issue, she responded, "That is personal knowledge" from her familiarity with clubs where she had performed more than 500 times.

Ohio's adult entertainment industry argues that there is no connection between strip clubs and any increase in crime.

U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. set aside two days for testimony on the challenge that claims the new law is vague and an unconstitutional violation of free speech and expression.

Next week the state will present its expert witnesses. The judge's ruling is expected after final written briefs are submitted.

Shematz, who now runs the Fort Myers, Fla.-based Beauty from Ashes nonprofit ministry that she founded to help women break away from the adult entertainment industry, said sexual contact in clubs was common, including licking and biting.

Shematz said she crossed the line to sexual contact with customers in her final year as a dancer.

"I was desperate," testified Shematz, who said she never intended to make a career of stripping.

Under questioning by the attorney for the adult entertainment industry, Shematz said her objections to nude dancing reflected her Christian faith.

J. Michael Murray, the attorney for the adult entertainment industry, questioned why it took Shematz seven years to complete the final three years of her college education after dropping out of Purdue University. She said she was busy taking courses, transferring credits and dancing.

Was she angry about the adult entertainment industry, asked Murray.

"Absolutely not," she responded.

Murray asked if she was determined to shut down the nude-dancing industry.

"No," she testified.

Pressed by Murray, Shematz said all the dancers she knew used illegal drugs. Fewer than half were involved in prostitution, she testified.