Submitted By: Sophia

"I pole dance, but I'm not *that*   kind of pole dancer!"

“It’s a dance pole not a stripper pole.” “It’s a sport!” “It’s called pole fitness.” “No, no, no. It’s not like what you think at all.”
I use to say shit like this a lot when I first started pole dancing. Then I started masturbating on the internet for money, and I started to re-think some of these things.
Tonight on my way home from a pole class, some girls I dance with and I were talking about an instructor’s upcoming performance in which she takes off her top. Now for those of you who don’t know, there are mixed feelings about this in the world of pole fitness. The conversation started with “would you ever do that?” but quickly devolved into one girl in particular saying, “Gosh I wish she wouldn't do that.” I started to cheerily rant (like I tend to do) about the tendency of pole dancers to draw hard lines between themselves and sex workers and how that’s really harmful.
“Well it’s gross what they do and I don’t want to be associated with that” she said. In what was my most unplanned “coming out” moment so far I told her that I was a sex-worker and that I didn't see anything wrong with it and definitely didn't deserve to be stigmatized for it. The disgusted, offended, hateful shit storm that followed was completely unexpected and left me feeling far worse than anything I have ever done as part of my work.
Pole fitness evolved from pole dance- the topless in a club sort of pole dance. I get to be all strong and empowered and unapologetic about my sexual expression through pole fitness because of what pole dance used to be (and still is). Someone who does pole for sport and claims all the benefits of fitness and empowerment anytime anyone questions their hobby, while simultaneously saying “oh no, it’s not that kind of pole dance,” is leveraging their own empowerment against someone else’s stigma. This person is also saying “I deserve to be allowed to make this choice, because it’s not bad and terrible and dirty like the choices that actual pole dancers make.” It’s a pretty big “fuck you” to the people who made the sport possible in the first place.
I’m posting this here for a few reasons. The big one is that I’m frustrated and need to get this off my chest. Additionally, I’m not ready to have this conversation in this way in a more public or personal place. The third reason is that I've met a LOT of pole dancers from all over the world. So to all of my pole-dancing friends, I hope you take a moment to think about this. And I hope that the next time you hear some disparaging remark about strippers in a class you’ll kindly call out that fellow student and ask them to think about these things.