We Never Let The Men In | #PDBloggers

“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.

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“Whether co-ed classes should exist or not is a different conversation than what a woman is inherently implying about all men.”

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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.

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As much as I love women, I was sick of doing hip circles to a woman in a chair.

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I began pole dancing for fitness and kept doing it because it became a spiritually erotic experience for me that was essential to my soul and daily living practice.  I never did it for a boyfriend or lover. Whenever someone I dated inquired about a lap dance or strip tease, I would reprimand them. “Pole is moving meditation for me. It’s a private thing. So unless you come to my next showcase, NO!” They pouted.
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However, I started dating one lover who I wanted to share this side of me with. I wanted to invite him into my private world. I wanted to excite him and turn him on. I wanted to play with seduction and tease him. I wanted him to feel my body weight or just my hair. I wanted his eyes on me as I inverted. WHY? Well, because I wanted that for him and we have developed that level of intimacy and trust. Plus…as much as I love women, I was sick of doing hip circles to a woman in a chair. That wasn’t the story of my life and my life existed outside the dance studio.
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You see, at S Factor, while it is a woman only studio, they teach you lap dances…with a woman in a chair as your receiver. I’m assuming they do that because they are teaching you how you’d dance for a lover, right? Otherwise they’d leave the chair empty. Or they host “Private Dancer” where you pay over $100 to dance to about 3 songs for a lover. (A teacher stays in the room too.) Basically, they have a few marketed programs for profit and a few techniques in class that are geared towards private performances for a partner.
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Therefore, if you are teaching me how to lap dance and I date men, at some point I need to actually learn how to lap dance on a man. What’s the point of learning how to slither down a woman’s body who has breasts, a vagina and soft shaved legs when at home HE has a chest of muscles, a six pack, a cock and jeans on? Therefore, I can’t indefinitely practice on women. I had to actually dance for a man.
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So I did it. I had to get over myself and my nervousness and just dance. I shelled out the money to have access to the big studio and for 3 songs, I danced for my lover. It was beautiful, intimate, nerve wrecking, and awesome. Dancing for a man privately is in no way like dancing for a woman…unless you are bi-sexual…even still a man’s body is different. Later, in the privacy of my home, I danced for him again. This time to like seven songs and it was just so sexy and yum.
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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.” 
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As quoted in my post, “That’s where the conversation bit comes in. We are all connected. We live in community with one another. We crash into each other. We flow into each other.  We exchange energy, love and feisty little glances. We are not islands or bubbles and therefore it doesn’t serve your personal growth to ONLY perform or ONLY black out or to keep it all to yourself. (You can if you want. It’s your prerogative. But I personally believe life is better when after inner transformation, we find a way to express that and connect with the world. Otherwise we could all live as hermits and never come out to play.) “
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This is why, as much as I love S, I do not understand why they teach women to give lap dances to only women and in doing so they ask the person in the chair to close their eyes, so the women giving the lap dance can feel comfortable. That is not how the real world works. And while fantasy play time rocks….after my 2 hour class, I have to go into the real world and interact with men and date men and move my body in the proximity of men. So having a woman close her eyes while I  learn to slither around her on a chair becomes….not enough, unrealistic and ultimately stifling. It’s like raising a sheltered child.
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At the very beginning and I mean UBER beginning of my pole journey, maybe that was helpful. Nope, I lie. From the moment S Factor included lap dances into our weekly classes, I at the least asked my lap dance receiver to OPEN HER EYES AND LOOK AT ME. That is how the world works. If we talk about empowerment and helping women find their voice and setting women free and the fourth wave of feminism….how can we evolve and grow and if we don’t practice conversing WITH people. We have to look each other in the eye.
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There is ONLY so much growth you can do by yourself or within the comfortable bubble of your friends. Its a bubble. It may be an empowering bubble that shields you and blocks the evil horny men…but just like any other wall built…it also blocks the love, understanding, gratitude and amazing intimate conversations of amazing men that seek only to love you more wholly and authentically.
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“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.”

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It seems like I’m coming down hard on S Factor’s class structure. It’s really not the case. I recommend everyone take a class there and even go through all of their 8 week level series there. They offer a unique product that does not exist anywhere else. One of my FAVORITE parts of S Factor class is called, “Moving Meditation.” After our 45 minute warm up  but before we learn pole tricks and do our individual free style dances, there is a portion of class dedicated to “Moving Meditation.” The teacher  turns the lights even lower than the already dim setting. Most rooms have one or two red lamps on and there is an electric energy pulsating in the room. 3 carefully curated songs ranging from slow, soulful and emotive to sassy and fiesty, to downright sexy fun, heart pounding tracks are selected. The group of 6 to 12 students are then encouraged to freestyle dance…in a moving meditative way all around the room. As we dance we are to be mindful of each other and just let loose however we want. Some women crawl, others mount chairs, some dance on walls, others climb and spin on the pole. Some dance with each other. Some dance in a corner all alone. But for 3 songs everyone  in the room is moving together.
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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.”
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And most often…WE NEVER LET MEN IN.
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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.
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And most often….WE NEVER LET THE MEN IN.
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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.
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And most often….WE NEVER LET THE MEN IN.
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I personally believe, in a careful and respectful way, we must allow men a glimpse of the siren’s lair.This is different than dancing a private dance for him and having that intimate conversation. This is different than a showcase with an audience. Some of you are probably throwing the biggest fit and telling me to SHUT UP! :-)

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!!!!

"#PDBloggers"-sheenalashay.comThe 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.”

After the class, they had questions and responses. They were grateful for being invited. They were stunned to realize we hadn’t choreographed that “routine” but that it had been freestyle movement playing against and with each other’s energy. They thought it was beautiful and sensual and important. They felt she was gorgeous. They loved the other women cheering for us. They had never seen that before. It was amazingly ridiculous. Now they understood. Now they got it. They hoped other women had that experience too.  Its a theory, but I would conjure that they probably understand their wives even more and understand women even more.
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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.

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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.

Otherwise, while you’ve possibly created a safe space….you really just appear to be an AA meeting…a support group for people needing self help. That is important. But only for awhile. I’m done with pole dancing and sensual movement being a support group for sensually deprived women who have no other place to express this innate beauty within them. That’s important but it truly is not enough.
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*This post is my entry in the February #PDBloggers Blog Hop on “Pole Dancing and Men”.  The Pole Dancing Bloggers Association [PDBA] is the first global network of independent lifestyle, pole, aerial, and fitness bloggers who curate and produce inspirational, personal and editorial content. The PDBA is also a creative agency that offers content creation, editing, consulting and social media services that promote fitness, health, dance, adventure, empowerment and action. 

Photography by Laura van Schendel

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Showing 13 comments
  • krissykiki
    Reply

    I really enjoyed your story telling and your ideas. I agree that it is important for us to show that inner self to others and dancing is a great way to do that. I do find that I struggle to dance from my heart with anyone watching. video cameras don’t bother me but people standing there always takes me out of the moment. It is something I think I will need to keep working at.

    • Sheena LaShay
      Reply

      @KrissyKiki, the opposite is true for me. I feel as if I’m performing if the video camera is running. In our High Heeled Hottie Night videos…honestly, I wasn’t really connected. But if people are watching….it helps me get in my zone even MORE! Its so interesting how different it is for each individual person!

  • krissykiki
    Reply

    I think a lot of those feelings about performing come from what we are used to. As a home poler, I am used to have webcams and videos on, as that is how I track my own progress and work to improve myself, but since I don’t access a studio, I am not used to having others around watching me. This has me thinking a lot about how I interact and share myself in my relationships and in my dancing with others.
    I have desensitized myself from being filmed but have become overly sensitive to being watched in person…Interesting how that happens to someone who used to dance on stage when she was a child….

  • Kim
    Reply

    Wow, you make a really powerful argument here. I love the idea of involving men and letting them see what it’s all about. You are also a fantastic story teller. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jillian
    Reply

    I have taken a few classes at S factor and I understand the appeal, but it is not for me. I have an exhibitionist streak a mile wide and having a co-ed audience enhances my experience as a dancer. I don’t see the point of creating anything in or for a vacuum.
    Your experience with dancing with your friend for a small audience sounds amazing!

  • PussCat
    Reply

    Your writing is truly beautiful, and I love the story-telling aura to your posts! I think you have a fantastic point that embracing men into our sensuality is key. I think it’s fear that they will not understand or take well to it that holds us back but we need to pioneer forward. Moving meditation sounds so great, I wish we did that at our pole class! I think I could pretty much perform anything and everything with dimmed lights but I have a strong aversion to bright lights – I feel exposed and uncomfortable. But I’m also terrified of the dark. It’s a weird combination. I like the twilight, the middle light it’s when I feel sexiest.

  • RegS
    Reply

    Your article was very thoughtful and insightful. I’ve been a Student at SFactor for almost 2 years and I’ve learned so much about myself because of it. I’ve also learned that everyone’s journey within it, (just like with anything in life), is different. Personally, I have no problem with performing in front of women or men. And I love the conversation aspect of the dance…not everyone does but I do, but I respect their journey and where ever it may take them. I love the group private that you had, it was such an awesome idea! I wish those wives would’ve joined so they could’ve shared that great experience!

  • Toni
    Reply

    Wow. I love this post. I have only just found your blog and I wish I had found it earlier.
    I have this amazing love for pole and dance and I have all these sexy and sensual routines going on in my head but I struggle to bring it out of there in to reality. I would love to be able to bring this in to my everyday life. I want to show my boyfriend how much I enjoy pole and what is really going on in my head most of the time.
    He thinks I’m totally crazy sometimes but I just need to learn to bring it all out!
    How do I do this? How do I build up my self-esteem to let out my wild, sexy self?

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