Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Politics of Pole Dancing.

As all of you in blogland know, I will be a bridesmaid in a friend's wedding this summer. I recently got an email from the Maid of Honour telling us that the bride thinks it would be super-fun if we took a pole-dancing class to celebrate her dwindling days of singlehood. I was very surprised. Clearly, I don't know this woman as well as I thought I did. We've been friends since our first meeting in fifth grade, mumble, mumble, cough ,cough years ago and I never thought she would want to do this--and we have done some pretty crazy things in the years we've known each other.

My first reaction was: "Ew, gross, I would never do that!" After some time to think on it I have formed a much more coherent opinion. I also talked to several of my friends about this party and found them very clearly divided on the subject. It seems there is no middle ground when it comes to pole dancing. Some of my friends were really interested and said that it could be fun and asked me why I didn't want to be sexy for my husband. Others were in my camp and wondered what would be in it for them. They didn't see this as something that would make them feel sexy at all. One of my friends, a certified feminist (she has the woman's studies degree to back it up) was actually nauseous. I could hear her gagging over the phone. I noticed the people on the "con" side of the argument were a little older and married a little longer than the ones on the "pro" side. Have the older women had less exposure to the media influences that tell us how to be sexy and what is sexy now? I doubt it. We all watch TV and browse the magazines in the checkout line. Are we more self confidant and secure in our relationships and therefore more resistant to falling for these unrealistic expectations? Perhaps.

I still stand by the "Ew gross" and raise it to a "Why do I have to try so hard to be sexy for my partner?" I don't believe it when people say that wearing uncomfortable lingerie and spike heels and swinging around on a large phallic object bolted to the floor is empowering, sexy and "for me" in any way. We are not celebrating our womanhood and being powerful and independent by doing something that is so clearly for men. I don't want to be sexy for my partner. I want to be sexy with my partner. There is a big difference in my book. Quite frankly, if I ever did try to swing from a pole my dancing would look more like the Elaine Bennis version of pole dancing, not the Carmen Electra variety.

What about those that claim there are fitness benefits to be had? If I want to strengthen my core muscles I will take a pilates class, fully clothed, dignity intact. If I want to dance to celebrate my femininity and womanhood, I will do so by bellydancing--an artform that celebrates the female form in all of its curvy powerful glory with no stilettos and large phallic objects in sight. As for being sexy with my partner as opposed to being sexy for my partner? Well, that stuff is none of your business!

I will go to the party, because I love my friend and am so very happy for her and her upcoming marriage. I will not dance on the pole. I will probably knit licorice thongs for everyone. I don't want to be a total party pooper --and undies made from candy are fun for all consenting adults.

Are you wondering what hubby thought of all this? He just laughed. I didn't marry a man who needs me to subjugate and demean myself for his enjoyment. We don't believe in spectator sports behind closed doors--we are full contact participants.


Anonymous said...

As the certified feminist ;), I'd say you hit it right on. Sexiness is not about seperation between two people. Sexiness is not about passivity. It's about the marvelous and kinky things we do to each other.

If someone wants to do this on their own time, I affirm their right to choose. However, making it a required-by-peer-pressure stagette is weird and inappropriate.

Poppins said...

I teach pole dancing. Just to point out that often in such classes / or pole parties, there is really no pressure to 'be sexy' / 'feel sexy' and certainly not to make yourself into some kind of sex object for the entertainment of anyone else!! This is something I and others teaching such classes are very much against.

The way I see it is that pole dancing, despite its origins in the adult industry, has emerged as something distinct and more centred on the skill and energy involved. There is way more to pole dancing than slinking round a 'phallic object' in heels that never leave the ground.

In my classes we do spins, climbs, slides and generally the kind of moves that would employ the pole as a piece of fitness kit (similar to the horizontal bars in the gym, if you like, except vertical)

The moves are difficult, and when they are achieved, and performed gracefully, it is this which gives the sense of satisfication (or 'empowerment') often reported, and increased confidence. It's also a women-only environment where women bond and can have a giggle.

I'm saying all this because while pole dancing still suffers from a negative image to the extent it will put some people off trying, the reality of what goes on in the classes is quite different, and it would be a shame to miss out!

Pole classes are not there to train up fodder for the adult industry. They exist more or less entirely for the girl next door, smart professional, mother, wife, whoever, to have a go and learn a new skill in a friendly supportive and fun environment. There is no peer-pressure, and it's never any kind of beauty pageant where you need to 'out-sexy' the next person. Dancing is done not 'provocatively' but sensually - yes as in belly dance or salsa.

I'm not trying to be antagonistic, I'm writing all this to try and re-assure, and share my own experience as someone familiar with what typically goes in such classes! Give it a go! Wear your trackies and trainers ... don't see it as something demeaning or being subjugated .... the irony of pole classes today is we've swiped this object from the sweaty hands of the sex industry and reclaimed it as something very much for ourselves and do it on our terms, millions or women worldwide who've given it a shot and are now 'addicted' can't be wrong!

In a nutshell - for a truer picture of pole classes today - try it first !!

Anonymous said...

Hello all (and Jennifer)!

I am "the bride" in question. My reasoning behind such an idea for a stagette was to find something fun, different and that wouldn't involve public drunkenness and creepy old men hitting on my friends and I. Plus it is still risque enough that it's a funky twist on hanging out with the girls.

I think it will be an absolute lark to swing around like a partially tranquilized monkey on a pole in front of my best girl friends. I maintain that I'm not forcing anyone to do anything they don't want to. I am glad that my friend is still willing to come and laugh at me (I'm really not graceful).

My fiance thinks I'm goofy for wanting to do this. I don't want a stagette that I am ashamed to come home and tell him about. He plans on a fishing trip with his friends which I'm quite comfortable with. He also has no plans to erect (and yes, I used that word intentionally) a pole in the bedroom. I've actually been to more female strippers than he has!

I just want to have fun with my friends.

Anonymous said...

It's not about "being sexy for your husband/boyfriend/significant other"... pole classes are about getting fit, and having fun while you're doing it... nothing sexy about women sweating and grunting as they try to spin gracefully round a pole... However, there is something very fun about it, especially if you're in the company of friends. Its in no way about subjugating and demeaning yourself for a man! Oh, and personally, I pole dance in jazz shoes, hotpants and a croptop, as does everyone else at my class - but if you want to wear uncomfortable lingrie and spike heels, you'll look out of place... besides, they don't allow spike heel in the gym that my classes are held in - Fitness First have rules about that sort of thing ;)

It's a real shame that you seem to have made up your mind before you've even seen what goes on in classes - I'm assuming that your experience of pole dancing has been the recent exposure in the press... well, you know what they say - don't believe everything you read in the newspaper ;)

If you don't want to join in your friend's party, that's entirely your choice... but please don't condemn us before you know what we're really about ;)

Anonymous said...

Oh, and just to clarify... You said

"I noticed the people on the "con" side of the argument were a little older and married a little longer than the ones on the "pro" side. Have the older women had less exposure to the media influences that tell us how to be sexy and what is sexy now?"

I'm actually 34 years old, the mother of a 4 year old boy and have been with my partner for 13 years... I've been pole dancing for MY OWN enjoyment for 8 months... :)

Anonymous said...

Oooops, I forgot to mention... I'm also a Senior Dermatology Nurse (UK Registered General Nurse) and have held that qualification now for 12 years :)

Unknown said...

I thank everyone for their comments and appreciate and respect them.
I wrote this post knowing I would probably open a can of worms and I am really glad I am getting the responses I am getting--my mind is opening. That is what is great about blogging--you never know who is reading and what kind of response you will get to a topic. I still stand by my beliefs, but I am glad to hear stories from people who do this and teach others.
I will be going to my friend's party and I will have fun and not ruin anyone else's fun. I am a grownup and can conduct myself as such. I can still do that and not go on the pole. Come back in a couple of months--you may see me eating my words.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer, why don't you visit - they have a fabulous forum there with over 300 new and experienced pole dancer members... it may help you understand where we're coming from ;)

And thank you for respecting our opinions, it is appreciated. I wish you a great time at the party :)

ninepounddictator said...

Oh, I'd never poll dance either. However, that's because I'm a really bad dancer and have no rhythm. But, if a friend asked me to go for her stag, you gotta go! And you gotta go with a smile on! And you have to drink before you go, because you never no. You might just do it! And we want to hear all about it...

My name is not Mom for the next 5 min said...

well I finnally got to read your blog... and I think now that I have you do need to listin a little to everyone. If you really care about this friend you will go, suck it up and see what happens. You will never see these people again. if you go with a closed mind you may miss out on something. That said I would not want to do it for a stag party, i can think of a lot of other ideas with out public drunkness and old men hitting on you. How about a home party, wine, and some good laughs. as for the older ones being on the con side you watch it lady I am only 27. :)
I don't have the time to say more so we will have to get together

Nit One Perl Two said...

I am so happy I found your site. It appears we have more in common than knitting! I'll let you know when I complete the "world renound" triple lindee patern!

Anonymous said...

I'm a straight 30 year old man.
I enjoy just about anything that involves women spreading their legs but some leg spreading activities are more more sexy than others.

The problem with pole dancing is that it's contrived, cheep, cheesy and sleazy. This combination put's a damper on the sexiness and lowers the level of respect I have for the woman "dancing".

Pole dancing is to sexy
what slim Jim's are to food

Pole "dancing" is dancing
what Jack ass is to movies.

Pole dancing is to fads
what the thigh master is to exercise

Hopefuly it won't be long 'till this lame fad goes the way of the of the fanny-pack.