The Ugly Truth About the Stigma

It’s no secret where pole fitness got its beginnings. It’s also no secret that pole is still trying to shake the “stripper stigma.” While I agree that the seedy stigma should be “stripped” (hehe) from our sport/art form, how do we do that exactly, is it possible, and can we all agree?

Now, before you go any further, I need to make myself very clear; just because the pole dance community wants to detach itself from strip clubs and the stigma that follows does not mean we are discriminating against exotic dancers. Or at least, I’M not. We want to be recognized for something different than what strip clubs want to be recognized for, and I think that is perfectly acceptable. Continue.

Take the sexy out?

There are some polers (albeit not very many) that say we need to be careful with how much sexy we’re giving off. I don’t think I’ve actually met anyone like this (praise!), but I’ve seen my fair share of trolls on the web. This small percentage of polers are of the mindset that by wearing those big, beautiful 8″ heels we are only holding ourselves back.

“Pole fitness can have no real merit if we are being too sexy.”

I’ll tell you what is holding us back, it’s comments like that! Too sexy? Really, so that’s it? Just never mind the incredible feats of strength and grace being demonstrated in said heels. Go on, pack up your platforms and adorable cheeky shorts ladies, it’s getting “hot in herre.” So, before you go all Nelly and “take off all your clothes”, you better think twice. Ha! Yeah right!

I don’t know about you, but defending the non-poler’s questions and comments is annoying enough. Now, it’s like you have to cop a plea with the poler next to you and deal with snide comments like, “I see you decided to go with the stripper heels huh? Wow, you’re really okay showing that much butt? Those shorts are miiiiighty cheeky!” Can I just say, I’m very sorry to anyone that has had to deal with a pole bully. I will never bully or judge any of you! Don’t let anyone decide the amount of sexy you can have! Stand up and take your sexy back! In the words of Justin Timberlake, “I’m bringing sexy back…” because bitch I can! Woah! Sorry. I got a little carried away.

Having said all that, I do have a small confession to make…personally, I’m not the “sexy” type of poler myself, mostly because I’m too awkward and don’t see myself that way (don’t judge me I’m working on it); however, I sure can appreciate the hell out of it for many reasons. For one thing, I love the big platforms and sexy outfits. It is incredible that people can even walk in them, let alone do crazy, awesome pole combinations in them! Look at Amy Hazel, that woman is fucking incredible! And for two, it is extremely difficult to make “sexy,” sexy and not explicit. Believe it or not, there is quite a fine line that separates classy and, well, not classy when it comes to pole dancing.

For instance, when I’m alone, and ONLY when I’m alone, and decide to attempt sexy (speaking of awkward), I embarrass the shit out of myself every time. It usually ends with me cursing, falling, or breaking something, “WTF is that Chelsea Renee? No, never again!” When done right though, it is the most amazing thing to see. So, to all my sexy beasts out there that can straddle the line and rock it, just know I admire the shit out of you and I may or may not be slightly envious.

In my opinion, being sexy does not, necessarily, have anything to do with what you’re wearing or not wearing. We’ve all seen that performance that started out down Sexy Lane and took an ugly turn towards Vulgar Town. Now, before you go postal on me, “Well Chelsea, it sounds like you’re criticizing the ‘exotic’ style of pole dance,” let me just reiterate there is, in fact, a difference between sexy and vulgar even within the “exotic” style of pole dancing. Exotic style of pole dancing for fitness, competition, or expression is vastly different from exotic dancing in strip clubs and I don’t think I need to explain why.

Many pole dancers before us have worked so hard to get non-polers to see the credibility in pole dancing, heels or no heels, sexy or not sexy. It’s time to stop condemning your fellow polers. Yes, pole dancing can be sexy. So, what?! Why should we have to tone it down? What are we hiding? What are we afraid of? I say embrace the shit out of it. Being sexy will not somehow taint what pole fitness is all about. You will never get rid of the stigma by putting yourself above exotic dancers or shaming others for being too sexy.

When it comes to taking the sexy out, I say leave it in! It is your God-given right to be sexy if you so choose. Wear those big stilettos and wear them proudly! I don’t think heels are the problem here, I think close-mindedness and shaming are keeping the stigma alive.

Become an Olympic Sport?

Here’s another one that will rid pole of that stigma once and for all, or at least that’s the general consensus in the pole community.

I’m aware that by mentioning this one, I may catch some flak, but hear me out. I’m all for pole dancing to be in the Olympics and I truly believe it deserves to be there. It displays all kinds of strength, grace, acrobatics, precision, balance, endurance, flexibility, etc. It also has an international governing body (International Pole Sport Federation or IPSF) and is practiced around the world. It certainly isn’t too subjective, because, hello, gymnastics, ice skating, synchronized swimming (yes, synchronized swimming is a part of the Olympics and has been since 1984), etc. It’s just, I’m not silly enough to believe that we can drop the stigma just because it becomes an Olympic sport.

There are a slew of sports, in my opinion, that are not Olympic status and maybe should be. Baseball, cricket, racquetball (if table tennis can be in the Olympics why can’t racquetball?), surfing, skateboarding…I could go on and on. The same list can be made for sports that you might question how they became an Olympic sport. Take curling for instance. If you are unfamiliar with this sport, I suggest you Google it. For the rest of you, how many times have you seen curling and thought, “wtf is curling and why is it a part of the Olympics?” Some may say, “but Chelsea, it demonstrates precision and accuracy.” Yes, so does aiming properly when taking a piss in a public restroom…I’m just saying.

Look, all hypocrisy aside, I’m really just playing devil’s advocate here. Curling is actually pretty cool to watch if you understand the game. To get back to my point, which is, that pole already has merit. It doesn’t need to be an Olympic sport to prove that. Would it help? Maybe, but pole can stand on its own and the sooner we polers see that, the sooner the rest of the world will see it too!

Let’s keep it sexy and get pole to the Olympics because it deserves to be. As for the stigma, the ugly truth is, as I said before, close-mindedness and shaming. At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter though, does it? There will always be someone who will judge or form inaccurate opinions about you (or the pole community). I think it’s time to stop caring what others think and stop tailoring what and how we do things to please the haters! Let’s make like Elsa and, “let it go,” because we polers are a strong bunch! Stigma Sh-mig-ma! Happy poling Bunnies!

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Chelsea Kotlowski

About The Author

Hi guys, I'm Chelsea! Pole dancing is not just my sport of choice, but my passion. In high school, I realized how much I loved to dance; however, being on a dance team was out of the question because I was not a "trained dancer." Then, I found pole dancing. I took my first pole class January 2014 and that was all she wrote. It's only been a short time, but I can't imagine my life without it now. Pole dancing is the perfect display of strength and grace, and I find it completely fascinating. I love it to so much, I started teaching in August 2015. I even registered to compete in my first pole competition in April 2016. Every day, I am inspired by the people I teach and the instructors I train with. Visit Chelsea on the web HERE.
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