Fla. Gov. DeSantis Signs Bill Raising Stripper Age to 21

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday officially signed House Bill (HB) 7063, which requires any performers at adult establishments in the state to be at least 21 years of age. DeSantis announced the approval of the bill today in an official transmittal letter from his office. During a press conference in Coral Gables, DeSantis adopted the bill that dramatically changes adult entertainment in Florida.

AVN previously reported on HB 7063 during the legislative process earlier in the year. It enters force on July 1, 2024.

HB 7063 broadly applies to businesses that fall under the state's definition of adult entertainment, including strip clubs, burlesque shows, adult bookstores and adult theaters. Sponsors of the bill, predominately conservative Republicans aligned with DeSantis ideologically, presented the measure as a means to prevent human trafficking.

"This legislation will help better protect the most vulnerable in our communities, it will ensure that if businesses are not complying with these very modest, reasonable requirements, whether knowingly or unknowingly, they will be held accountable," DeSantis said during the Coral Gables press conference. "And of course, anybody actively involved in human trafficking will have the book thrown at them in the state of Florida."

Obscenity statutes in Florida permit people 18 years of age and above to perform and be employed at these types of businesses. The bill now drastically changes this. Adult venue staffers aged 18 to 20 would not face penalties or sanctions from the state. But, HB 7063 would make it a second-degree felony to employ or permit someone under 21 to work at these businesses.

Penalties include up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $10,000 for "an owner, a manager, an employee, or a contractor of an adult entertainment establishment" who allows a prohibited individual to reveal breasts, buttocks or genitals. If the prohibited person is clothed, the club owner could be charged with a misdemeanor, face up to a year in jail, and could potentially pay a fine of up to $1,000.

Fake identification cards also don't shield owners from potential criminal liability. The bill states, "[A] person's ignorance of another person's age or a person's misrepresentation of his or her age may no be raised as a defense in a prosecution for a violation of this section."

Advocacy organizations working for labor rights for adult entertainers and dancers regulated by the new Florida law are concerned HB 7063 will cause more harm than good.

"It is our understanding that banning 18 to 20-year-old people from dancing is most likely to simply push vulnerable young folks into more dangerous parts of the sex work industry that lack the protection and community that comes with working in a club," a spokesperson for mutual aid group Strippers United told AVN. "Therefore, it appears to us that this new legislation is less about protecting 18 to 20-year-olds and more about controlling them and their choices in a way that reinforces a culture of antagonism against an honest community of workers whose only 'crime' is the disrespect shown to their labor."
HB 7063 comes at a time when the rights of erotic dancers and strippers are a noteworthy microcosm of the fight for labor rights in the entertainment and hospitality spaces. For example, Washington state adopted the so-called "Strippers’ Bill of Rights," granting a wider breadth of labor rights and protections to adult entertainers at various types of venues. Organizing remains a central tenant to groups like Strippers United and the Washington-based Strippers Are Workers.
Providing insight as to how Washington versus Florida regulates strippers and adult clubs, Madison Zack-Wu of Strippers Are Workers characterized the latter's approach as "clearly anti-sex work."
"We have agreed as a society that 18 is the age of adulthood and the age for consent (at most)," Zack-Wu wrote in an email to AVN. "Banning a specific kind of work only creates barrier issues for those dancers who may have very necessary and legitimate reasons for choosing stripping as work—leading to financial insecurity and vulnerability."
Elizabeth Nolan Brown, a senior editor at the libertarian-leaning Reason.com, characterized HB 7063 as the latest development in a trend of "infantilizing young adults."