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The Truth About Pole Dance Shaming

If you have been wanting to try out your local pole dance fitness studio, but were terrified of the opinions of your friends and family, you are not alone. Many women dread the thought of calling to find out more information about pole dancing classes. 


"What if I have the wrong number?" "What if the person on the other line assumes I am trying to become a stripper?" "What if someone I love finds out I attended a pole dance class?"...What if, what if, what if....


The truth is you have nothing of which to be ashamed. Pole Dancing as a form of fitness is being recognized all over the world. Major news sites such as the Huffington Post and CNN have run stories dedicated solely to Pole Dance Fitness classes. There have been commercials aired showing pole tricks done on street signs and fence posts. Pole Dance is everywhere! Men, women, and children are beginning to shed the taboo stereotype of pole dancing from being a stripper-only activity to enhancing every day people's lives through strength training exercises and crash courses in confidence. Pole dance classes have so much fitness benefit attached to them that you will forget about what others may think or say once you have experienced a pole class. 


Use pole dance as a weight loss tool, a method of toning, a relationship enhancer, and a confidence booster. Kids may also attend pole fitness classes just as they would a normal gymnastics class at certain pole dance studios. Don't miss the wave of what pole dancing for fitness has to offer because of an old-fashioned stigma. If you have been waiting to call your local pole fitness studio, wait no further - creative expression and a challenging fitness opportunity awaits you!

Ending the Stigma

Pole dancing occupies the strange liminal space between a dance form and a sport that requires strength, endurance, a high pain threshold, and a fearless attitude. It is difficult and tiring, endlessly frustrating – and even more so when polers who are passionate about it do not get the recognition they deserve for all their hard work.

Slut shaming is an unlucky part of the aura of pole, perhaps due to the habitual wear of minimal clothing among polers. This isn’t always for erotic purposes, but because there’s an inverse relationship between expertise levels and the amount of clothing you wear as a pole dancer. While beginners can get away with t-shirts and tracksuit pants, at expert level this is not the case. This is because skin equals grip, and grip equals safety for the dancers. Some moves are handless and require the dancer to cling with their thighs or calves or waists, which is obviously only possible in non-restrictive clothing.



Additionally, there is dispute between ‘styles’ of teaching. Some pole dancing schools approach the discipline from a more sporty perspective, focusing on the moves themselves rather than full choreography, with the emphasis on fitness, strength, and athleticism. In recent times this has gained more publicity and understanding, but making use of what is seen to be a strip club prop is often disparaged (despite being very similar to certain forms of gymnastics which use horizontal poles instead of vertical ones). Other schools favor the more sensual aspect of pole dancing, in which the object of the performance is to embrace one’s sensual side. Practitioners who choose to explore the motions of their bodies with suggestive movements are most often doing it for themselves, merely for the joy of feeling sexy (be it for themselves or for a partner).




In any case, most classes regardless of school are women-only to prevent any ogling. These measures are not taken to be gender prejudiced, but to make students who may have their own insecurities and body issues feel safe while attending classes, as well as to allow new students maximum comfort during the initial stages of learning. As for those that choose to perform publicly, Claire Griffin Sterrett notes in her book Pole Story that anyone who has ever danced sensually for another person realizes the power they have over the other. The best way to rob someone of that power, says Sterrett, is to (slut) shame them out of it. Women cannot express their sexuality in public for fear of being shamed for wearing too little or enjoying themselves and their bodies too much. Similarly, female athletes who pose in a sensual manner in men’s magazines are seen as crossing some invisible boundary of socially-acceptable ways to use one’s body without ‘degrading’ it.


Even within the pole dancing community, this prejudice over what is ‘acceptable’ can be problematic. For example, while all dancers past an intermediate level are required to wear minimal clothing, there are certain types of outfits might incur the scorn of some other polers. Dancers who choose to attend their classes in lingerie or normal bras instead of sports bras may well be labelled as ‘slutty,’ even if performing the same strings of moves as the rest of the class. The crux of the clothing arguments seem to rest on the issue of whether or not to wear heels. Heels are often seen as too ‘clubwear’ for classes, despite their undeniable ability to create a beautiful line and facilitate certain moves or positions which bare feet do not. Despite having certain practical applications, those who wear heels to class teeter too closely to the ‘stripper’ label which polers strive so hard to avoid – which is why they are shunned.


Certain schools take care in choosing what to call the form of training they offer. Names such as ‘poleates’ and ‘pole fitness‘ try to distinguish from the more sensuous aspect of pole, making it clear to potential students that their clothes will stay safely on. Ironically both the ‘sporty’ and the ‘suggestive’ schools will teach the same moves; the main things that differentiate the two are the flourishes and floorwork that dancers will employ.


At it's best and worst, pole forces you to confront your fears, your body insecurities... your own limits. It is upsetting that slut shaming occurs both by those who do not understand the discipline as well as those that do.

As with all shaming, one needs to stop projecting one’s own issues onto another. Just because you are not comfortable with the idea of taking pole dancing lessons does not mean that those who are should be judged. And just because you attend your classes in a sports bra does not mean you are different from your neighbor who likes wearing heels.

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