“THEY ARE CULT LIKE”
“I don’t think a woman has to explain her intentions for why she’s there but a man does. He is already guilty just for being a man.” ~ Glen Graham, Photographer & Videographer.
I met Glen about two years ago while seeking his expertise on how to fix the motion problem on the boudoir pole videos that I produce for my clients. (FYI, he teaches a SteadiCam workshop.) Halfway through our conversation, he mentioned how he had always wanted to film a pole dancer for his portfolio but he also mentioned how difficult it was to break through the trust barrier of pole dancers. “They are very protective and secretive,” he said. “They are cult like,” I retorted…knowing the “they” included ME.
“I’m coming up on my two year anniversary of pole dancing and I would like to have a video of me done. I also don’t have trust issues with a man filming me,” I stated. Less than a week later Glen produced my U-Need video. A few weeks after that, he produced my Dark Side of the Pole video.
Throughout the weeks of developing our project together, I shared with him what I knew about pole dancing from my women-only experiences at S Factor, to my technical training at the co-ed Body & Pole, to the various sub-cultures of pole dancing. Glen asked questions, he joined me at various pole events, he met other pole dancers and when people made incorrect or judgmental statements about pole, he became an advocate for us. (Seriously, you should hear him talk about pole dancing now. He knows about static and spin pole. He knows about grip, flexibility and floor work. On top of that he has studied and experienced our culture too. “Are you a feminist?” I once asked based on one of his pole speeches.)
When it comes to performing in front of a man, I have never had any qualms about that. Even prior to Glen, I had performed in various showcases in which men were in the audience. Performing for an event or for a shoot….for me personally, it doesn’t matter the gender. I simply want a respectful audience and for a shoot, I want a great end product that adds value to my craft and portfolio.
“Whether co-ed classes should exist or not is a different conversation than what a woman is inherently implying about all men.”
My first experience with a co-ed classes happened at Body & Pole. Actually. Actually, my experience began in the locker room. There were women and men in the locker room and that was new to me. Everyone was chit chatting, changing and prepping for class. So I followed suit and headed to the right studio, in which I believe there were 2 men in my class. I never noticed anything different about men being in my classes. I remember noticing how they executed a certain move versus women in general. That really was about it. At its very basic, VERY BASIC, pole is my weekly workout regime. I go, get in the zone, get my heart rate up, engaged my muscles, have fun and leave. This is similar to when I used to take yoga classes on the regular or pilates classes or even when I had a personal trainer coming to my home for weekly visits. If pole is, at its basic, a fitness workout, then just like my yoga classes can be filled with men….so can pole too.
I have heard from women though, that they don’t feel safe. I have heard from women that they are afraid of being seen as sexual, as strippers or as whores. I have heard from women that they are so self conscious that they couldn’t bare the thought of a man being in the room. What those comments seems to translate into for me is that it is NOT ABOUT POLE. It’s about that woman and her issues with self and her issues with men. Therefore whether co-ed classes should exist or not is a different conversation than what a woman is inherently implying about all men.
As much as I love women, I was sick of doing hip circles to a woman in a chair.
What’s my point? Back in June of 2012 I wrote about a class I took with Beth Bardin. She said, “It’s about having the inner awareness, the outward expression and the conversation.” Most polers have worked years on developing the inner awareness and outward expression. Few have moved forward into “the conversation.” You see I didn’t perform for my lover. I perform in showcases. I had a conversation with him. A conversation about intimacy and sensuality. It’s a profound, brave, courageous, life affirming, energy exchange. And while I love the ladies in my class, they simply are not enough. I don’t want to LIVE in the “land of women.” Beth went on to talk about people who have “black out” freestyle dances. I have even seen “black out” performances and competition pieces. Basically the dancer is so in the zone that no body could be in the room and it wouldn’t matter. I myself, have learned the value of someone being in the room! The relative metaphor here is your pole life being a “black out” lifestyle practice. For some, sure its your “meditative -tap into your feminine place” and for others, honestly, you’re lying. It’s your “black out” lifestyle practice. What did Beth have to say about this? “ If every dance is a black out dance, you end up living in your fantasy world 24/7. Sure this could be fun. Its your world. You make the rules. You do as you please. But it’s sad because there are no boys there.”
“This is how women should be seen!” I think to myself. “There is a holy ceremony taking place. It really becomes the land of the goddesses.”
A lot of the times, I participate in “Moving Meditation” with my eyes closed. Every now and then, I open my eyes, pause and just look around me at my classmates. It’s magic. All I can make out are sillhouettes and shapes with a red light. The music is thumping and our spirits are seeping out of our hip circles. To me, its a siren’s lair. And all the siren’s have come out to play. They are doing their ritualistic dance of the earth and spirit. I don’t know if they are trying to summon the sun to rise or make lava flow or bid the earth to yield fruit. All I know is when I open my eyes and just watch the magic happening, I know I am watching beauty, sensuality, joy, celebration and I understand community, why movement is important, why women are important, why we must dance and what grace is all about. I see vulnerability and expression. I see truth and epiphanies. I see so many things in that moving meditation. Its like seeing someone, their spirit, their inner goddess as it really is. “This is how women should be seen!” I think to myself. “There is a holy ceremony taking place. It really becomes the land of the goddesses.”
And most often…WE NEVER LET MEN IN.
We want them to understand our value, respect our bodies, see us as goddesses, love our vulnerability, not judge pole dancing, touch us with gentleness, value our sexy and our sassy and the list goes on. We want so much from men. We want them to let us have our power too. We want them to see us and love us.
And most often….WE NEVER LET THE MEN IN.
We write in our journals about our frustrations. We talk with our girlfriends over dinner about what he did this time. We go to pole classes because its the only place we can truly feel free. We spill our guts to our therapist. We cry alone in the bathtub out of longing and frustration.
Let me close with a story.
During “Moving Meditation” and during our individual freestyle dances at S Factor, I always ended in energy play exchanges with a woman named, Abby*. (If you don’t know what that is, PAUSE and CLICK HERE for Pole Dance Energy Play = Band Jam Session) It did not matter where Abby or I happened to be in the room, we always found each other and would dance together. Our “erotic creatures” were kindred spirits and had to be close.
One day, I get an email from Abby. She wanted to do a S Factor private dance…like I did for my lover. But Abby’s request was different. She wanted to do the private dance for 3 of her male friends….of which 2 were married and neither wife would be in attendance. (The wives KNEW what was happening but they didn’t want to join in.) So Abby wanted to dance for 3 MALE friends and she wanted me to freestyle dance with her like we did every week in class. The difference is that her male friends were not going to sit in the chair and receive a lap dance. Abby had wanted the experience to be similar to an S Factor class not a “private dance”. In class, when one girl does her individual freestyle dance, the rest of the class sits on the bench and watches and cheers. The rest of the class isn’t receiving a lap dance nor are they dancing with her. They are observers and supporters. So Abby wanted her 3 male friends to be observers and supporters. To help with the situation, Abby also invited 3 other women from our dance class to be the observers and supporters in the “peanut gallery” with her male friends. So we had 6 people…half men and half women watching as Abby freestyle danced alone and then I joined in midway, freestyle dancing with her. WHOA!!!!
The men may have been nervous or maybe didn’t know what to do, but the girl’s from our class cheered and growled and yelled for us. It must be understood we didn’t PERFORM for the men. Neither did we give them a PRIVATE dance. What Abby did and what I WANT to happen more often is that she let the men into our SIREN’s lair. She let them watch our ceremony. They saw our “moving meditation.”
We talk about the power of pole and then we limit it because we are uncomfortable. We limit it under the guise of feminity. We limit it because we have low self esteem. We limit it because we believe most men are out to get us. We limit the power of pole and sensual movement because we don’t fully understand it. We limit the power of it because we are under a notion that sensual expression can only be a privately restricted experience. Just like men and women had gender specific ceremonial sensual, sexual and erotic dances that they did for the earth and gods since the beginning of time…..we forget that they also danced together and we forget that they conversed together.
I believe there is power in men observing us. I know it sounds strange. I know it does. For me personally, if I want a man to understand the sensual goddess in me….well, he actually has to meet her.
Racism will not be healed by having black people meet in a room and talk about their culture. Eventually black people need to be in the same room as white people.
Homophobia will not be healed by having same sex attracted people meet in a room and hug each other in support. Eventually same sex attracted people and opposite sex attracted people need to be in the same room together.
Religious intolerance will not be healed by having one spiritual sect meet in a room and pray together. Eventually you’ll need a buddhist, a jew, a christian and a muslin in a room together.