Chris Rock has said in a comedy routine, “I have one mission in life and that is to keep my daughters off the pole.” He goes on to say that as a father, his job is to raise respectable girls who will never wear stiletto “stripper” shoes. But If Rock wants his girls to be women who own their sexuality, the value of the pole is something he might just want to rethink.
A good friend of mine works at an office during the day and dances on a pole in her free time. She does it for the sheer love of performing and expressing her creativity. I once agreed to work the door at an amateur pole-dancing event she was producing at a club in Hollywood. I found myself absolutely captivated by each dancer. Most of them had other jobs and pole dance for fun. And while they came in all ages and sizes, each seemed to be so comfortable in her body. For amateurs, they were fully self-possessed and not at all awkward in front of an audience filled with screaming and applauding men and women. I was in love with the freedom I witnessed within each dancer.
The other day this same friend invited me to my first pole dancing class. What I learned about myself in that one-hour class surprised me.
The class had about 10 women, all dressed in bra-and-panty-type outfits—not the pretty stuff you’d see on someone actually performing, but more athletic and comfortable. I wore yoga shorts and a workout bra. Initially I was very aware that I rarely, if ever, am in such close proximity to women who had that much skin exposed. I found myself staring at their bodies, comparing myself to them and feeling quite out of place.
Parenting can be all-consuming, and since becoming a mom, it’s been my priority to claim my sexuality.
When we started doing the exercises, I was shocked at how uncomfortable I was gyrating my chest and hips. I felt like I looked silly and could barely keep the rhythm the other women seemed to capture so easily. Exercises like walking across the floor while swaying my hips made me feel like I had the grace of an ape. All of a sudden rubbing my own hands across my belly or hips felt worse than if a stranger had touched me without an invitation.
Determined to complete the class, I decided to just close my eyes and feel the movements in my body. I just kept trying. I never really felt good, but eventually the other participants started cheering me on, rallying around me, giving me pointers. I did my best at swerving around the pole and slowly going down it while in a backbend. And that day, my best would have to do.
Pole dancing is a skill that requires not only strength and a certain level of gymnastics, but the ability to bring sex appeal to something very physically demanding. For the dancers, pole dancing is not at all about sex—it’s about the ability to be fully present in their bodies, feeling themselves and the pole as one. These women are sexy because of who they are being and not necessarily what they are doing. But you’d have to do it in order to experience what I speak of. After class, many of the women told me that it gets easier the more you do it. They said the ability to get out of your head and into your body will happen one day without even noticing the shift.
Parenting can be all-consuming, and since becoming a mom, it’s been my priority to claim my sexuality. My big takeaway from my pole-dancing class was that I had a way to go before I’m fully present in my body. I plan to continue the classes, because I’m convinced that it’s a great way to learn to own my sensuality—and losing my womanhood to motherhood is not an option.