probably didn’t come into Imy own regarding feminism and activism until I came to university. But since I’ve been here, I’ve realised that its more important than ever to keep on challenging perceptions, in a time when society seems increasingly confused about how to view my sexuality and my expression of it.
I am a pole dancer. No, I’m not paid for it, whether that be to moonlight in a strip club or compete on any level. The first part of that sentence reeks of “But I’m not a stripper!”, a sentence which by and large, raises my hackles and makes me prepare for shouting down anyone idiotic enough to use it to sanitise their own hobby of “pole fitness”.
The pole community owes strippers for making the art what it is today
But I’m using it for quite a different reason. I can’t sing the praises of strippers enough, to be frank. The ones I know are amazing women, entrepreneurs who have played the system in a way most wouldn’t dare. And I wouldn’t presume that a few “stripper style” pole classes put me anywhere near their level of ability and mental, as well as physical, strength.
Too many people in the pole community are willing to tear down strippers to make sure that they aren’t seen as “slutty”, that the way they do pole is the right one, that it’s “just exercise!” Thankfully, this attitude is changing. The pole community owes strippers for making the art what it is today; there’s no way that pole fitness would have been brought into the mainstream without its place in strip clubs, regardless of what die-hard “pole athletes” might tell you about Chinese Pole or Mallakhamb, completely different sporting activities which just happen to involve a pole too.
It’s okay to see pole as a sport. It’s okay to view it as an art form. And it’s perfectly acceptable to be drawn to the exotic aspects of it. And above all, there’s nothing wrong with being a stripper! I don’t know how many times I’ll have to say that. Sex work is work. Those who partake in it deserve workers’ rights, and our respect.
Recently, I’ve become less interested in ticking off moves and tricks one by one, and more interested in putting on the seven-inch heels and learning how to flow, pull off some floorwork, and connect with myself. Humans are sexual beings; there’s no way of getting around it. So why are we, particularly women and non-binary people, still vilified for portraying our sexuality?
Humans are sexual beings; there’s no way of getting around it
We’ve got to appreciate, however, that being able to express our sexualities, to be “sex-positive”, is a privilege in itself. It’s all well and good for a middle-class, cisgender white woman to speak out about her sexual exploits in order to lessen the taboo and judgment society places on promiscuity, but could a working class trans woman of colour do the same with as little repercussion? Of course not. Expressions of sexuality are no longer seen as quite the scandal they used to be, but that doesn’t mean that a growing culture of “sex positivity” is entirely inclusive.
We’re all learning. Being more open about sex, sexuality and gender can only be a good thing. But we need to be aware that this isn’t a possibility for many. Marginalised groups continue to be vilified for asking for the same rights as those who fall within a sexually normative picture of society. Those of us who are in a position to speak out often take our position, and our voice, for granted. It’s our responsibility not to.