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A bar girl in Las Vegas

A bargirl is a woman who is paid to entertain patrons in a bar or nightclub. Variants on the term include "B-girl" and "juicy girl". Many bargirls work as a bar hostess, engaging individual customers in conversation. They may also provide them with sexual entertainment such as a lap dance, or offer to sell them sexual services. Some bargirls work as a bar dancer[1] providing more public entertainment, often in the form of an erotic dance, go-go dance or striptease. The exact nature of the entertainment varies widely from place to place, depending on the venue.

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 bar fine is a payment made by a customer to the operators of a bar or nightclub in East and South East Asia that allows a bar girl to leave work early, usually in order to accompany a customer outside for sexual services.[2]

A bargirl should not be confused with a bartender, a conventional type of hostess who serves drinks in a bar but is not expected to entertain customers individually or to dance for them.

Methods of payment[edit]

Bargirls often receive a commission on drinks bought by their customers, either a percentage[3] or a fixed amount added to the drink's price. This is frequently a bargirl's main source of income,[4] but other sources of income can include a salary, tips (often the main source of earnings), and a percentage of any bar fine. They may also be given a periodic quota of drinks.[5] Salaries may be increased for bargirls who have more sexual encounters, as they are thought to attract more customers to the bar. Deductions are sometimes made from earnings if the bar provides food and accommodation for the bargirl.[6]

Bargirl prostitution in Africa[edit]

In Ethiopia in the 1970s, bargirls were common in drinking establishments. Those working in the larger bars were provided with board and lodging and a small salary, in return for their work attracting, serving and entertaining customers. Typically they also provided sexual services to their customers, the terms for which were negotiated separately with the customers. Some bargirls had many sexual encounters, while other restricted their sexual services for specific men.[6]

John M. Chernoff's 2003 book "Hustling Is Not Stealing: Stories of an African Bar Girl" recorded the experiences of a bar girl in West Africa in the 1970s. It was awarded the 2004 Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing.[7]

Screening carried out in the 1990s in Malawi indicated that about 80 per cent of bargirls carried the HIV virus. Research carried out at the time indicated that economic necessity was a major consideration in engaging and persisting in sex work.[8]

Bargirl prostitution in Asia[edit]

A United States Forces Korea poster, warning soldiers not to engage in prostitution or purchase a "bar fine", here referred to as a "night off"

In the popular cultures of East Asia in the twentieth century, the bar girl and teahouse girl became archetypical characters associated with prostitution, replacing the traditional courtesan in that role.[9] Working conditions for prostitutes vary both among and within countries in Asia. Even within individual countries, conditions can vary widely between venues.[citation needed]


Prostitution in China was eliminated during the period of Mao Zedong's leadership, but it subsequently returned. In the 21st century there are nightclubs where bargirls earn tips and solicit for prostitution.[10]


In postwar Japan, bar girls were to be found in the jazz clubs which provided a place for US servicemen and prostitues to meet.[11]

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.[12]


Bikini bar girls in the Philippines dance on elevated platforms wearing skimpy bikinis or two-piece see-through garments. They work in bikini bars[13] which are a part of the country's sex industry.[14] In the go-go bars of Angeles City in the Philippines, the bar dancers typically work as prostitutes and leave with customers after the payment of a bar fine.[15] In the Philippines, the role of bar girl has become stereotyped and stigmatised due to its association with prostitution and the US military.[16]

South Korea[edit]

It is a common practice in South Korea 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. "Juicy bars" near the gates of United States military bases provide prostitutes for US soldiers in South Korea.[17] Prostitution has been illegal in South Korea since 2004, and since 2005 the Uniform Code of Military Justice has prohibited US military personnel from buying the services of prostitutes, with bars and clubs suspected of being venues for prostitution being declared "off-limits" for military personnel.[18]


In Thailand, it is go-go bars rather than beer bars that are the venues for on-stage bar dancing. Bar dancers in go-go bars typically wear bikinis, lingerie or fetish costumes, though they may perform topless or occasionally nude. They sometimes perform pole dances or take part in sex shows[19] or trick shows such as the ping pong show.[20] Bar dancing in Thailand is sometimes used to solicit for prostitution.[19] In countries such as Thailand, where bargirl prostitution is common, it is technically illegal but widely tolerated.[21] Some bargirls in Thailand are employed by a bar[5] but most are self-employed, deriving their income from dancing, persuading bar customers to buy drinks, and prostitution. Where bargirls work as prostitutes, they may take multiple "short time" clients or accept "long-time" clients overnight or for a few days.[22] The most successful bargirls become entrepreneurs, in some cases travelling abroad with their foreign boyfriends.[23]

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 remainder being used to pay for STD and HIV testing for the bargirls.[2] The portion of the bar fine paid to the bargirl is often around half, though this may be less if the bar supports its bargirls by providing them with food and accommodation.[4] Although not universal, bar fines are frequently associated with venues offering prostitution to foreigners.[24][25][21]

The majority of the women who work in Thailand's go-go bars and beer bars (outdoor hostess bars) are economic migrants. They mostly come from the poorest areas of the country, Northern Thailand and Northeast Thailand. Bar work allows them to earn many times what they could earn farming. Many work as bargirls for a few years to help their families, allowing them to pay off their debts and improve their living conditions.[26] Some beer bars employ bargirls on a salaried basis while others employ them on a freelance basis, with there are some beer bars that do both.[27] Some salaried bargirls also work as bar waitresses.[28] There is significant variation in working conditions 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.[citation needed]


During the Vietnam War, a system of military-endorsed prostitution allowed bar girls to provide sexual services to US servicemen.[29] Vietnamese bar girls wore western clothes, unlike most Vietnamese at the time.[30]

"B-girl activity" in the United States[edit]

In the United States, B-girls (an abbreviation of bar girls) were women who were paid to converse with male patrons and encourage them to buy them both drinks.[31] The drinks were often watered down or non-alcoholic to minimize the effects of the alcohol on the B-girls and reduce the cost to the bar.[32] B-girls originated in nightclubs[33] and were employed by bars in the US during the 1940s and 1950s.[32] They were scantily clad[33] and often worked as female escorts rather than performers.[33] In her memoirs Maya Angelou describes working as a B-girl in a San Francisco strip club in the 1950s.[34]

B-girl activity has declined in the U.S.[35][a] 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.[36] Bars have been raided and closed down for "B-girl activity".[37] 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."[38] 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.[32]

A 1984 report by the US Internal Revenue Service described bar girls soliciting for prostitution in bars, hotels and restaurants. The report said that they earned more for sex work than streetwalkers and typically offered more varied services. Bar girls sometimes paid commission to the establishment where they worked. In some cases they used hotel rooms for sex, typically provided by the hotel management or by a client. The report suggested that police attempts to suppress the activity by arresting bar girls had rarely been successful.[39]

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.[36]

Bar girls in strip clubs in the United States often entertain on stage as "exotic dancers", attracting male customers through the use of nudity and suggestive postures. They are not required to have professional training or experience as dancers.[40]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In the M*A*S*H season four episode "Deluge" Hawkeye tells Father John Mulcahy: "You look just like a 'B' girl I knew in San Diego". Father Mulcahy jokingly responds that "It's quite possible. I worked my way through divinity school as a 'B' girl in San Diego".[43]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ B-girl activity in the U.S. has declined so much that female breakdancers now refer to themselves as B-girls.


  1. ^ Hass, Aida Y.; Moloney, Chris; Chambliss, William J. (2016). Criminology: Connecting Theory, Research and Practice. Taylor & Francis. pp. 586–7. ISBN 9781317497486.
  2. ^ a b Steinfatt, Thomas M. (2002). Working at the Bar: Sex Work and Health Communication in Thailand. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 35. ISBN 9781567505672.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ a b Ervik, Kristianne (2013). "The Superior Thai-Western Relationship: A Culturally Negotiated Re-embedding Practice". In Bråten, Eldar (ed.). Embedded Entrepreneurship: Market, Culture, and Micro-Business in Insular Southeast Asia. BRILL. pp. 133–134. ISBN 9789004255296.
  5. ^ a b Nicks, Phil (2008). Love Entrepreneurs. Philip Wylie. p. 51. ISBN 9786169033653.
  6. ^ a b Bjerén, Gunilla (1985). Migration to Shashemene: Ethnicity, Gender and Occupation in Urban Ethiopia (Thesis). Nordic Africa Institute. pp. 90–92. ISBN 9789171062451.
  7. ^ Tashjian, Victoria B. (2005). "Review: Hustling is Not Stealing: Stories of an African Bar Girl John M. Chernoff". The International Journal of African Historical Studies. 38 (2). Boston University African Studies Center: 349–351.
  8. ^ Kishindo, Paul (1995). "Sexual behaviour in the face of risk: the case of bar girls in Malawi's major cities". Health Transition Review. 5, Supplement: The Third World AIDS Epidemic. National Center for Epidemiology and Population Health (NCEPH), The Australian National University: 153–160. JSTOR 40652159.
  9. ^ Pilzer, Joshua D. (2017). "Chapter 5: The 'Comfort Women' and the Voices of East Asian Modernity". In Weintraub, Andrew N.; Barendregt, Bart (eds.). Vamping the Stage: Female Voices of Asian Modernities. University of Hawaii Press. p. 112. ISBN 9780824874193.
  10. ^ Shuqin Cui (2015). Gendered Bodies: Toward a Women's Visual Art in Contemporary China. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 81–83. ISBN 9780824857424.
  11. ^ Partner, Simon (2000). Assembled in Japan: Electrical Goods and the Making of the Japanese Consumer. Studies of the East Asian Institute. University of California Press. p. 50. ISBN 9780520923171.
  12. ^ Wee, Lionel; Goh, Robbie B. H.; Lim, Lisa (2013). The Politics of English: South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Asia Pacific. John Benjamins Publishing. p. 219. ISBN 9789027228352.
  13. ^ Ebbe, Obi N.I.; Das, Dilip K. (2009). Criminal Abuse of Women and Children: An International Perspective. CRC Press. pp. 200–201. ISBN 9781420088045.
  14. ^ Law, Lisa (2012). Sex Work in Southeast Asia: The Place of Desire in a Time of AIDS. Routledge. p. 46. ISBN 9781134602100.
  15. ^ "Sex is on sale in Angeles City, Philippines". rockitreports.com. 2012-12-31. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  16. ^ Zhao, Xiaojian; Park, Edward J.W., eds. (2013). Asian Americans: An Encyclopedia of Social, Cultural, Economic, and Political History. Vol. 1: A–F. ABC-CLIO. p. 376. ISBN 9781598842401.
  17. ^ Jon Rabiroff; Hwang Hae-Rym (9 September 2009). "'Juicy bars' said to be havens for prostitution aimed at U.S. military". Stars and Stripes. Archived from the original on 9 September 2009. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  18. ^ Vine, David (3 November 2015). "'My body was not mine, but the US military's'". Politico.
  19. ^ a b Weitzer, Ronald (2023). Sex Tourism in Thailand: Inside Asia's Premier Erotic Playground. NYU Press. p. 95. ISBN 9781479813438.
  20. ^ Hall, Michael C.; Ryan, Chris (2005). Sex Tourism: Marginal People and Liminalities. Routledge. p. 23. ISBN 9781134646975.
  21. ^ a b Askew, Marc. Bangkok: Place, practice and representation. Chapter 9: Sex workers in Bangkok - Refashioning female identities in the global pleasure space (PDF). Pacificdiscovery.org. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 6 Jan 2015.
  22. ^ Hitchcock, Michael; King, Victor T.; Parnwell, Michael J.G., eds. (2018). Tourism in South-East Asia. Routledge. p. 272. ISBN 9780429775840.
  23. ^ Hall & Ryan (2005), p. 23.
  24. ^ "Internet Archive copy of Stickman's guide to Naughty Nightlife in Bangkok". Archived from the original on October 4, 2002. Retrieved 18 September 2015.
  25. ^ "How Bars Work". pattayanewbie.com. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  26. ^ The Rough Guide to Thailand's Beaches & Islands. Apa Publications (UK) Limited. 2023. p. 183. ISBN 9781839059315.
  27. ^ Weitzer (2023), p. 157.
  28. ^ Weitzer (2023), p. 93.
  29. ^ Thomas, Sabrina (2021). Scars of War: The Politics of Paternity and Responsibility for the Amerasians of Vietnam. University of Nebraska Press. p. 64. ISBN 9781496229342.
  30. ^ Park, Jinim (2007). Narratives of the Vietnam War by Korean and American Writers. Peter Lang. p. 28. ISBN 9780820486154.
  31. ^ "B-girl". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  32. ^ a b c 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.
  33. ^ a b c Shteir, Rachel (2004). Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show. Oxford University Press. p. 164. ISBN 9780195300765.
  34. ^ Maya Angelou (2010). Singin' & Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas. Hachette. ISBN 9780748122387.
  35. ^ "B-Girls Fading Attraction in Bars Throughout U.S." (PDF). Schenectady Gazette. 1954.
  36. ^ a b Quinlan, Adriane (March 18, 2014). "In Kenner, B-drinkers will still be illegal, but don't call them girls". The Times-Picayune. Archived from the original on March 22, 2014.
  37. ^ "Peppermint Lounge's New Owner Gets OK". The Boston Globe. January 28, 1966.
  38. ^ Rogers, Warren (June 15, 1962). "Capone Heirs Defy Senate B-Girl Probe". The Boston Globe.
  39. ^ Carlson, Kenneth; et al. (1984). Unreported Taxable Income from Selected Illegal Activities. Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service. pp. 122–3.
  40. ^ McClellan, John L. (25 June 1963). American Guild of Variety Artists (Congress report). U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 39.
  41. ^ Littauer, Amanda (April 2003). "The B-Girl Evil: Bureaucracy, Sexuality, and the Menace of Barroom Vice in Postwar California". Journal of the History of Sexuality. 12 (2): 171–204. doi:10.1353/sex.2003.0087. S2CID 141592537.
  42. ^ John Kennedy Toole (2006). "Chapter Five". A Confederacy of Dunces (paperback ed.). Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-856-13278-7.
  43. ^ "Deluge". M*A*S*H. Season 4. Episode 24. 17 February 1976. CBS.

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