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A bargirl is a woman who is paid to entertain individual patrons in a bar. The exact nature of the entertainment varies widely from place to place, ranging from light conversation to sexual services. Variants on the term include B-girl, hostess, juicy girl, unhappy girl, and guest relations officer.
Bargirls work in various types of bars throughout the world, including strip clubs and regular bars in the U.S., hostess bars in East Asia, go-go bars and "beer bars" in Southeast Asia, dance bars in India, and boliches in Argentina.
Note that a bargirl should not be confused with a barmaid, who serves drinks in a bar but is not expected to entertain customers individually.
Forms of entertainment provided
In the U.S., "B-girl" (an abbreviation of "bar girl") is commonly understood to mean a woman who is paid to chat with male patrons and encourage them to buy her drinks. The B-girl is usually served watered-down or non-alcoholic drinks to minimize both the effects of the alcohol and the cost to the bar.
In addition to entertaining customers individually, bargirls who work in go-go bars are expected to dance on stage, often in skimpy costumes such as bikinis, semi-nude, or nude.
Where bargirls act as prostitutes, patterns vary widely. Some seek to have as many customers as possible in a given day, like many prostitutes in the west; these women generally take only "short-time" clients. Others are more selective and accept only one customer per day, taking "long-time" customers overnight or even for a few days following.
Methods of payment
Bargirls often receive a commission on drinks bought by their customers. Where applicable, they may receive a percentage of the escort fee or "bar fine" paid by any customer who wishes to take them out of the bar. In other cases, they may have a periodic quota of drinks or bar fines, or both.
A bar fine is the payment made by a customer to the operators of a bar that allows a dancer, hostess, or some other employee of that bar to leave work early, usually in order to accompany the customer outside the bar. (This practice is especially common in hostess bars and go-go bars.) A bar fine may also be required in order to take the employee to a more secluded part of the same establishment, such as a short-time room.
Although it is not universal, this practice is frequently associated with prostitution—especially in Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and the Philippines. The bar fine amount, and whether sexual services are included in the bar fine or have to be negotiated separately, are both subject to local custom.
In Thailand, a bar fine is seen as a form of security for both the customer and bar personnel. If the girl changes her mind during the night, the bar fine is returned to the customer. The girl is under no obligation after a bar fine to engage in sexual intercourse.
Bar fines also make an appearance in Latin American countries in the form of a Salida (Spanish: "exit fee"); in some other venues, such as Argentina's boliches, there can be a similar requirement to buy the lady a number of drinks before she leaves.
In some cases, the cost of a bar fine is fixed; in others, a "long-time" bar fine costs more than a "short-time" one.
A payment over and above the bar fine may or may not be expected; this varies nationally (payment for sexual services is almost always separate from the bar fine in Thailand), and by the length of time the bargirl spends (it is generally customary for "long time" but not for "short time" in the Philippines). When it is paid separately from the bar fine, this additional payment is usually referred to as a "tip" or "gift."
Working conditions vary both between and within countries; even within individual countries, conditions can vary widely between venues. For example, there is significant variation among establishments in Thailand's red-light district near Pattaya Beach; some bars employ relatively well-paid women who live independently from the bar, while others employ lower-paid women who live at the bar in poor conditions.
In some countries prostitution is treated as a serious crime; in the Philippines it is covered by the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003. In Thailand, and in many other countries where bar fine prostitution is common, it is technically illegal but widely tolerated.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibits American soldiers from purchasing bar fines, which is an offense considered equal to buying the services of a prostitute.
B-girl activity has declined in the U.S. (so much so that female breakdancers now refer to themselves as B-girls), but it still occurs. Because prostitution is illegal in most parts of the U.S., most B-girls who act as prostitutes are obviously breaking the law. B-girls who are not prostitutes, on the other hand, have historically been seen as perpetrating a kind of fraud: holding out the unspoken promise of sexual favors in return for drinks, and then reneging. For this reason, even the practice of accepting drinks for pay is specifically outlawed in many localities.
Bars have been raided and closed down for "B-girl activity." In one 1962 case, nightclub owners suspected of having ties to a Chicago crime syndicate were brought before the Senate Rackets Committee. The Boston Globe reported that "one of [the syndicate's] rackets, according to testimony, is the operation of cheap nightclubs which use B-girls to solicit watered-down drinks at high prices from customers, or even engage in prostitution with them."
Soliciting drinks can involve an element of trickery that goes beyond mere flirtation. It was once common for modestly dressed B-girls to pose as secretaries who had stopped at the bar for a drink on their way home from work. Like a good salesperson, an experienced B-girl knew how to direct the conversation and keep the drinks coming. The male customer, under the impression that he had found a "date" for the evening, would buy her one expensive drink after another, only to be jilted afterwards.
In popular culture
Marilyn Monroe was nominated for a Golden Globe award for her role as a B-girl in Bus Stop (1956). In the film, Monroe's character, Sherri, consumes four tea-and-sodas before her companion catches on.
- "B-girl". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
- Sismondo, Christine (2011). America Walks into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops. Oxford University Press. p. 244. ISBN 9780199752935.
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B-girl: a woman employed by a bar, nightclub or the like, to act as a companion to male customers and to induce them to buy drinks, and usually paid a percentage of what the customers spend.
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