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A bargirl is a woman who is paid to entertain patrons in a bar, either individually or, in some cases, as a performer. The exact nature of the entertainment varies widely from place to place; depending on the venue this can be individual entertainment ranging from light conversation to sexual services, or more public entertainment in the form of go-go dancing or striptease. Variants on the term include "B-girl", "hostess", "juicy 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.
A bargirl should not be confused with a barmaid, who serves drinks in a bar but is not expected to entertain customers individually or to dance.
Forms of entertainment provided
In addition to entertaining customers individually, bargirls also dance on stage in some venues such as strip clubs in the United States and go-go bars in Asia. Bargirls often wear bikinis or other revealing costumes for dancing, or they may dance partially or fully nude.
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.
Bargirl prostitution in Asia
It is a common practice in Asia for bargirls to also act as prostitutes, either on-site (with the bar effectively acting as a brothel) or by being hired upon payment of a bar fine. In South Korea, "juicy bars" near the gates of United States military bases provide prostitutes for soldiers.
In Japan an "entertainers visa" was introduced in 1981 allowing migrant Filipina women to work in Japanese nightclubs. The work included dancing in strip shows, socialising with male guests, and in some cases prostitution.
Where bargirls act as prostitutes, patterns vary widely. Some seek to have as many customers as possible in a given day; 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.
A "bar fine" is a 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. The bar fine is usually kept by the bar in lieu of lost income, but in some larger bar chains the bargirl may receive a portion of the bar fine, with much of the reminder being used to pay for STD and HIV testing for the bargirls. Although it is not universal, this practice is frequently associated with venues offering prostitution to foreigners—especially in Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and the Philippines.
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 in Pattaya. Some bars employ relatively well-paid women who live outside the bar, while others employ lower-paid women who live at the bar.
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.
"B-girl activity" in the US
In the U.S., the term B-girl (an abbreviation of bar girl) is commonly understood to mean a woman who is paid to converse 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. B-girls were employed by bars in the US during the 1940s and 1950s. In her memoirs Maya Angelou describes working as a B-girl in a San Francisco strip club in the 1950s.
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. and is restricted to licensed brothels in those parts of Nevada where it is legal, B-girls who act as prostitutes are breaking the law. 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."
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. 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 2014, city officials in Kenner, Louisiana (a suburb of New Orleans), where the practice is illegal, replaced the word "B-girl" with "B-drinker" in their liquor laws to avoid gender discrimination.
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, Chérie, consumes four tea-and-sodas before her companion catches on.
- Lighter, J.E., ed. (1994). Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang. p. 139. ISBN 978-0394544274.
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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