Pole pas de deux

Pole pas de deux

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

More Thoughts on Women Only

I'm not really sure that the notices on pole dance studio webpages and pre-recorded phone messages that say, "Women Only" are really necessary. When was the last time you saw guys lined up wanting to dance anywhere except outside a club where they think they might get lucky? I've have been pole dancing since March of 2009. Before I came to the studio where I used to dance there had been one group of men dancing in the studio and some of the men were dancers from a gay bar working on a documentary film.

I was in a couples class two years ago and five male significant others spun and laughed their way though two hours of basic pole dance. Did any of the guys sign up to dance in a class afterward? Not one. The invitation was there and their girlfriends or wives were certainly not adverse to the idea of their man hanging on a "stripper" pole.

Wankers and some men aren't going to put themselves on display in front of a group of women where they are out numbered eleven to one. Some men cannot give up control or power. They need to be sitting on the edge of a runway with paper bills in their hand. Venturing onto female turf means not acting like Beavis and Butthead giving away beads on Bourbon St.

After the first ten or so minutes of getting your butt kicked and your skin burned by that 50 mm pole the last thing you are thinking about is the people around you. It reminds me of my first time on a nude beach. You think everyone is looking at you and you pray that nothing starts sticking up when it shouldn't. After a half hour or so you get desensitized and realize that people are more interested in the books they are reading and teaching their dogs how to catch a frisbee than your obvious tanline.

During my initial coed class my first thought was, "This isn't a go at your own pace private lesson, there is a curriculum here and I gotta move my butt because the next woman in line wants her shot at the new move." I've been in almost complete darkness with Lady Gaga pounding away in the background freestyle dancing  with ten or twelve women. Am I drooling? No. I am too busy figuring out if I have enough points of contact to get into a move without landing on my hard head or just inside myself feeling the music.

The first time I danced in an advanced level class I was asked me to pick a freestyle song. Caught a Lite Sneeze by Tori Amos was my pick. The protocol back in the old studio was that if you picked the music you had to dance on the pole closest to the audience. The music played and I danced up in front with my heart in my throat. Afterward the pop music women wanted to know more about Tori's music and they mentioned how much they liked the change of pace. Was I just a little apprehensive and wondering if I was going to make someone uncomfortable with such a strange choice of music? The answer is yes. But those misgivings gave way to wonder after one of the women in the class thanked me for coming because she said that things were getting catty and competitive between a few women and the atmosphere wasn't fun. I had changed the chemistry by just showing up and dancing. I had to step back and think a moment. Such a statement runs counter to all the arguments used to justify keeping men out of pole dance studios.

So not all pole dance classes are filled with sisterhood and support. Sometimes women compete with each other and treat each other disrespectfully. Contrary to popular belief the atmosphere in that class had nothing to do with the presence of testosterone. It was all about the individuals.

When my former teacher asked the women in two of her classes if they were ok with a man dancing in class she gave all the women a vote. One no vote would be all that it would take to keep the class closed. I danced twice a week that summer and made some great friends. I'm pretty sure that the signs and messages can go away. I doubt there is a flood of wankers waiting for the doors to open. A man open minded enough to want to try pole dancing is not the kind of man who is going to be undressing women with his eyes and treating them like sex toys. It is like putting up a sign on a steak restaurant that says, "No Vegetarians."


  1. you write really well, and i commend you for that.
    I've just gone through and read a few of your other blog entries, and it's been so interesting reading from a male perspective!!

    The studio I learn at has just introduced male dance lessons, and they're right after my class. A few of us girls hung around to watch, because we wanted to see what sort of dancing they'd be doing; it was more athletic and didn't have as much as a sensual element in it that our classes did.

    The guys were a lot of fun to watch - many of them were already so strong they could hold themselves upside down with no instruction or fear (in an absolute beginners class!!)

    To be honest, I wouldn't want guys in my class. Not because I'd fear they were perving on me, but because I'd feel intimidated. Most of the other women in my class have come from the same background as me - which is no dance background and we're all not that strong. So it's been great, being in an environment that isn't competitive and is really encouraging. I'm competitive by nature, and would be really put off by a guy being there who is naturally stronger than I.

    I could see it working in advanced maybe, in a similar way to ballet, where there would be male/female role. But when the pole is the main apparatus, it takes away from that need.

    Anyway, your post made me think! Sorry this has been such a ramble!!


  2. Thank you Michaela. As you might have guessed from my writing I'm not too interested in the athletic side of the dance. What intrigues me is the artistic side. And while it is true that men have natural upper body strength I find that such strength is not an advantage when you are dancing artistically. I think it matters to some extent when you are starting out because a guy might invert sooner or learn flagpole but once a dancer can shoulder mount, and invert the table is pretty much even. What matters to me is lines, musicality and emotion. The pummel the pole attitude that some men have or the "Lets see how long I can hold a flagpole" stuff turns me right off. Strength isn't beauty by itself and shows of testosterone don't do anything for me either in the dance studio.

    I appreciate your comments!