Not an Odalisque

Meeting My Inner Stripper

with 4 comments

I don’t like pole dancing. I don’t like exotic dancing, and I certainly don’t like lap dancing. I recognise that there’s some gradation from artful spinning around a pole to grinding a man to orgasm with your naked buttocks, but I’m sorry, I don’t like it.

I’ve had to confront my dislike of it in the last two weeks. One of my characters got a job in a gentlemen’s club. I can’t actually go to one myself, because they require women to be accompanied by a man, and I don’t have any local male acquaintances I would be willing to ask. I could take pole dancing lessons, though. I haven’t so far, because I have been able to find an excuse every Wednesday.

Next month there’s a burlesque workshop on in Leeds.  I’m so excited! It’s much further away, longer and more expensive than the pole dancing, but who cares? I could learn burlesque! I can see myself in heels and stockings, learning how to sensually slip elbow-length gloves from my fingers. I have a burning desire to be a burlesque dancer.

Surely if I find pole dancing repulsive, I should feel the same about burlesque. The purpose of both is to make entertainment for men out of the female body. They are, at core, commodifying and objectifying. I’ve always assumed that my objection to strip-clubs was a feminist one. Now, I’m not so sure.

Given that I love burlesque, could my objection to pole dancing be based in class? Pole dancing is trashy. Its fabric is nylon and its heels are Perspex. It is available in every town to everyone (male), the staple of sleazy middle-management men and stag parties. Burlesque, made of silk and satin, is an entirely different beast. Or do I resent the pressure that pole dancing puts on me, as it becomes more popular and its looks become more mainstream? No one wonders why I’m not dressed like a burlesque dancer (to the best of my knowledge) but high heels and thongs seem to be expected. Is my love of burlesque simply the effect of nostalgia on something equally terrible?

I’ve been going around in circles like this for weeks. Tonight, I identified my feeling about pole dancing. It’s the same feeling I get when I tell my father what I’m making for dinner, and he says “I’d rather have beans on toast.”

It’s sadness, rejection, disappointment, betrayal. I’m quite a good cook. I bake my own bread. My scones are light and my pastry crisp. My meringues are little white crumb-bombs, as they should be. Last week, I even made my own butter. So why does he reject my offering in favour of a tin of beans coated in sugar and salt, topping shop-bought bread?

I can recognise a diversity of tastes I don’t share. You may eat pheasant, or fancy blondes. Fine. The thing is, though, that women are great. They vary. They can be sexy, and funny, and acquire skills like martial arts or meringue making. The whole culture around pole dancing, lap dancing and stripping seems to conspire to make women less than they are. I’ve come across numerous dancers saying they dumb down to please the guys. It’s not just that they are reduced to a body, but that they dress up in cheap fabrics and trashy shoes to embody a fantasy, and that there’s nothing clever or subtle about that fantasy or it’s practice (although I bet it’s hard work). It’s the sexual equivalent of beans on toast.

So that’s why I don’t like pole dancing. I spent all this time learning to make meringues, and I’m disappointed there’s no one here to eat them. All the same, recognising that this is a journey, I’m going to give it a go. I’ll go to the pole dancing class, as well as the burlesque class, and I’ll let you know how it goes.

Oh, and if you know anyone in Yorkshire who’d like to take me to a strip club or a burlesque show this weekend, do let me know.

Written by Not an Odalisque

April 25, 2010 at 11:59 pm

4 Responses

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  1. You are brave and open-minded and I will eat your scones! I felt the same way as you did three years ago – when I started pole dancing. Much has changed. If you like, I can send you the article I wrote for Pole2Pole magazine, describing my journey. Maybe you would find it helpful? Good Luck and keepasking those questions!

    Claire Griffin Sterrett

    April 30, 2010 at 4:42 am

  2. I understand what you mean, but I see pole dancing as another form of dance – to be honest I shared the same reservations as you when I started a year a half ago, but I then found that this was a place where women’s strength was celebrated – both physical and mental. The instructors would praise women who were willing to try and conquer their fears and push themselves rather than those who could grind the pole.

    So many women who don’t attend pole classes have told me that women with muscles are ‘wrong’ and ‘not attractive’ – a bit ironic eh! So when I started to really tone up and be able to do more (see my blog – I am more of a gymnast / contortionist than stripper) I was told I wouldn’t be attractive to men at all. And to be honest, I don’t care. I want to dance, that’s all I care about. Whether the person observing likes it or not is up to them really.

    Anyway! If you’re ever in Leicester and would like an impromptu lesson give me a shout. And keep going with your open mind…


    April 30, 2010 at 9:35 am

  3. I’m afraid I’m still a little critical of pole dancing’s origins in titillation, but I’m holding off until I can make a more informed decision about it. Ethicalcreative, I hope you told the women who were concerned at your muscle development exactly how much you valued their opinion. Why should you be primarily concerned about your attractiveness? Even if you were, the equation of weakness with attractiveness is insulting.

    Claire, I would love to see your article. My email address is I’m not sure that I am going to come around to your point of view, and I am certain, having looked at both of your blogs, that I will never be able to do what you can do. Not because I disapprove, but because I don’t have the physical strength or the willpower to build it up.

    Thank you both for commenting, it is great to get some insights on the issue.


    April 30, 2010 at 2:59 pm

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