Trending with toddlers: pole dancing?

Just when I thought parenting skills couldn’t become any more questionable, I come face-to-face with a new activity atrocity: pushing pole dancing for children, adolescents, and teens.

I almost choked on my morning cereal (Don’t worry, it wasn’t Cheerios – I still can’t get behind their marketing mishaps) when I read a June 2011 article from the British tabloid, The Daily Mirror, about a Northamptonshire dance studio offering a “kiddie pole dance” program, where 3-year-olds and up were schooled in the age-appropriate art of climbing and swirling on a stripper pole.

Dubbed “Little Spinners”, the class consisted of teaching girls how to lift and maneuver their bodies around the pole while “holding their legs in a V-shape.” Thankfully, a recent perusal of the studio’s web site shows that this class is no longer being offered.

While this is good news, the implications that there is a market for it are frightening. Comparable courses are being offered to an equally delicate age group: teens and preteens.

The Art of Dance, a Pole Dance and Burlesque School in Plymouth, Devon, England offers an “i-pole Pole Dancing Class” for 12- to 15-year-olds where this “exercise concept” is touted not only as a way to keep fit, but to socialize. While I was unable to find the course description on their actual web site, the school still offers the class, and a recent delve into their Facebook presence revealed a post from a women interested in having her 13-year-old niece attend an adult class with her.

Although the course offerings available for this age group require parental accompaniment for the initial visit and a signed and acknowledged consent and advice sheet, this posturing paperwork seems to only serve as liability padding.

The Internet is replete with indicators that this “activity” is readily available to youngsters. An entrepreneurial teen who taught herself pole dancing at the age of 16 with the assistance of web-purchased poles and DVDs, opened a controversial makeshift studio in her parents’ living room. Her business endeavor has since blossomed into two highly successful dance centers in England.

Many advocates believe this to be a physical regimen innocently on par with gymnastics. The UK has a lauded pole-dancing community complete with accreditation requirements for instructors and studios, as well as an explicit code of conduct. A British company is lobbying for pole dancing to become a test sport for the forthcoming Olympics, with dreams of it becoming an official part of the games by 2016.

The UK typically allows people ages 16 and older to participate in their classes (with parental consent), while the age cutoff in the U.S. is 18. But how young is too young to expose preteens and even teenagers to this “sport” almost inextricably linked to eroticism? Youth are being taught to contort their bodies into provocative poses: to not understand the sexually suggestive nature of these moves is dangerous.

What is showcased as innocent body bending in the comfort of a classroom sends alarming messages if performed in other environments. Many of the instructors and web sites boast such class offerings as ways to aid the development of self-esteem. This puts our youth at great risk and in some cases dangerously close to endorsing pedophilia. Many teens dealing with confusing feelings and the onset of puberty may see that such explicit dancing garners attention from their peers. It encourages the objectification of the body during a tender time of growth and transformation, when mentoring and a focus on overall healthy and body image are crucial.

I’m a huge supporter of the expressive arts and firmly believe in teaching kids to connect with their bodies when they are young. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that this sort of activity aids in the fetishizing of youth and, in its extreme, could support the horrifying epidemic of child pornography.

To actively allow or encourage a child to be instructed on ways that sexually showcase her (or his) body borders on parental negligence. Undoubtedly, it puts a premium on certain body sizes and encourages conformity at a formative age when senses of self are blurry and bodies are burgeoning.

Plain and simple: Teens deserve the right to be raised in environments that support a healthy development of the self. As adults, our culture marginalizes and sexualizes women, which makes fostering and modeling positive body image for our youth all the more crucial.

Participation in such classes primes teens for the possibility of an antagonistic relationship with their bodies. Attempts to pass off pole dancing as physical fitness and “fun” further encourages the objectification of the body and can lead to lasting negative consequences. Does society have an obligation to limit the participation of teens in these adult-centric classes, or should this be a parent’s duty?

Heather is a blogger and yoga enthusiast who is passionate about body image, media literacy, and feminist activism. When not working at her corporate day job, her cultural commentary and other insights can be found at Ms. Mettle.

43 thoughts on “Trending with toddlers: pole dancing?

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  1. An interesting article but with poor research. Whilst I would not deny that modern fitness pole dancing has evolved from strip clubs the classes that I, and many others, teach are purely fitness based and carried out in sports clothing and bear feet. We teach a blend of western pole dancing, Chinese Pole and Mallakhamb blending gymnastics with dance elements. We do not teach so called ‘provocative poses’ as you suggest and if the shapes made by our dancers are perceived as ‘provocative’ then that is purely in the mind of the gazer.

    Before you are so quick to criticise my business activity I would suggest you stop to question the genuine problem with over-sexualisation of children through mainstream media such as pop music videos and through inappropriate teenage/kids fashion.

    Please also note that I teach men and women of all ages so this is not even a feminist issue.

    I look forward to your response and am happy to answer any questions you have about my art.

  2. I for one would be happy for my children (boy and girl!) to attend a class like this as I know they would LOVE it!! Kids will climb, dance and make up tricks on anything they can find! (ever been to a playground??) and usually its my Sofa! I find nothing about what these children are learning ‘sexually provocative; unless they were performing for a peadophile, which Im sure the parents are not allowing their children to do, even so, you can argue children could be looked at innapropriately at a swimming pool?!

  3. The thing that infuriates me as a parent is that these children, or more, the parents believed their children were in a SAFE environment having a good time, but SOMEONE took ‘undercover photograghs’ of them excercising?? I would expect some Legal action to be taken if these were my children!!

  4. I would be more than happy to send my 4 year old to learn how to gain upper body strength, balance and co-ordination doing this especially as she has truncal ataxia and other disabilitys something like this would benefit her immensely and Help her to learn how to use different muscle groups and gain the strength she would need!!!!

  5. I must say that as an academic I was appalled by the lack of research, lack of evidence and pure opinionated rubbish that has been written on your blog. Might I also add that your lazy criticism of this physically demanding activity was quite offensive in itself.

    Could you draw some parallels for your argument? Perhaps you could look at most floor gymnastics and argue that they too are sexualising our young people. They wear very provocative clothing and often the activities involve large phallic objects. I do not wish to put you or your views down, however I can’t see any evidence for any of your claims

    here for example: “Many teens dealing with confusing feelings and the onset of puberty may see that such explicit dancing garners attention from their peers. It encourages the objectification of the body during a tender time of growth and transformation, when mentoring and a focus on overall healthy and body image are crucial.” How would attending a fitness class, which is often carried out in gym style clothing, do this?! I would imagine that anyone attending these age specific classes would be all female without anyone there watching inappropriately, added to which, doing something healthy and fun would actually only add to one’s sense of self esteem and confidence.

    I myself have tried pole dancing, a long time ago when my older sister took me along to one of the classes at The Art of Dance (it was called something different then), I was SHOCKED by how difficult it is to perform any move on a pole and I am fairly sure that I did not look sexy at any point (due to the sweat, the red face and the bruised thighs).

    There really are no words for your reactionary and ignorant blog post about this issue. If you really were a feminist you would be supporting activities for young women (and as Sam pointed out – men too) that are empowering and focus on improving physical and emotional well being. I would suggest that society is at fault for objectifying women not a small dance studio in Plymouth that is attempting to enable young people to feel good about their bodies through challenging their physical fitness.

    “The Internet is replete with indicators that this “activity” is readily available to youngsters. An entrepreneurial teen who taught herself pole dancing at the age of 16 with the assistance of web-purchased poles and DVDs, opened a controversial makeshift studio in her parents’ living room. Her business endeavor has since blossomed into two highly successful dance centers in England” This bit I really really don’t get. Are you trying to say that this young women shouldn’t have taught herself a skill, stuck with it and ultimately made a thriving business for herself? What would you rather she have done? I would really like to know, as all I can see is a reason to commend her for her abilities and guile.

    Take a look at your own values and why you think that pole dancing is ‘inextricably linked to eroticism’, perhaps through supporting pole dancing as a fitness regime we as women could take the power out of that assumption and make it something that doesn’t have so much stigma attached to it.

  6. I think the biggest stigmatizing going on here is from you… I take classes with men and women all in bare feet and sweats, and it’s one of the hardest, most physically demanding things I’ve ever done, and I’m a long distance runner. Have you looked at competitive pole dancing videos? It’s no more provocative than the poses struck in gymnastics. I usually love the About Face blog but the arguments in this post are way over the top, swinging too far the opposite direction of their usual target.

  7. I believe that the status of poledancing has changed completely it is now more relevant to name it pole fitness which changes the view of it dramatically. Pole is a great way to get fit and a lot of fun, trying out new tricks and socialising, The child and parent should understand that it is not a raunchy erotic form of dance it is a fun form of exercise which is great for the body as it works all muscles builds up a lot of strength and confidence. As lessons are done in a gym with no audience with no erotic dances or moves it is completely different to the stereotypical poledacing in clubs. If you do however have a problem with it why not go to a lesson and see for your self.

  8. I cannot believe you attempt to criticise a specific business without even going to the studio and trying it yourself. If you had gone you would have realised that you are completely wrong about it! The art of dance has absolutely no slease to it. The classes are held in a closed environment with various legal and safety checks being performed before you are even allowed to start. The classes are ‘fun’ and and an amazing ‘workout’ and ‘Attempts to pass off pole dancing as physical fitness and “fun”’ are exactly what it is about. The stigma of it is changing and that is exactly what many clubs around the world are trying to aid. You clearly need more research, as the moves performed are not sexy poses but athletic and gymnastic moves that require an extremely disciplined and skillful approach.

  9. I am a uni student who teaches other uni students to pole dance, for the sake of the uni it’s called pole exercise because that helps remind people that what we’re doing isn’t stripping (i’m not trying to say anything derogotory about strippers here, but what we do really is very different). When I go home my little cousins aged 4-12 all love being taught to do stuff on my pole and get really excited when they manage a new move. I would never teach these kids “sexy moves”, i would feel highly uncomfortable if they were taking part in stuff that was oversexualising them at such a young age including other forms of dance etc, but I’m delighted that they are enjoying exercise in a fun and safe environment and I think over feeding children until they become obese is a much bigger issue than kids getting the exercise they need by basically playing on a fireman’s pole but with someone there to make sure they don’t fall and hurt themselves.

  10. Have to laugh at the comment “holding their legs in a V-shape.” ! Umm thats called a straddle and its a commen gymnastic pose.

  11. Dear Blog Writer
    I have found your article rather interesting, yet at the same time I believe that had you a little more knowledge of the subject and perhaps even experience in the art of pole dancing your opinions may sway.
    You mention the article in the Daily Mirror in June 2011 (which I imagine is where the bulk of your “inspiration” for your blog came from). I have read this article and again don’t exactly agree with what is say as it suggests that a room with “pink feather boas and sparkling mirrors” would be an inappropriate place to dance. When I was young pink and sparkly was light years from unacceptable among my friends.
    I looked also at the website in question, and if you look around the World Wide Web it does not look dissimilar to many others out there promoting pole dancing. At no point during my browsing did I see anything that I would deem inappropriate for a teenager to view.
    In your blog you ask the question “how young is too young to expose preteens and even teenagers to this “sport” almost inextricably linked to eroticism?” I was particularly tickled by your use of quotation marks, if you happen to have a dictionary handy then you will be educated on the definition of sport – “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature”. I believe in this case (not one to argue with the Oxford Dictionary after all) that pole dancing fits like a glove to this definition.
    I fully understand that there is a stigma round pole dancing, however I also believe rightly or wrongly that people like you are at fault for leaving the stigma lingering. Pole dancing has the ability to increase self-esteem and confidence (I am a case in point for that) and I challenge your opinion that this is not good for teenagers and young children, if anything it could help them growth as a person.
    The moves in pole dancing, like gymnastics do contort the body, but isn’t that what makes them worth watching?
    I would strongly suggest that before you write another blog airing your opinions on pole dancing and particularly the Art of Dance, you should maybe go along and experience a class or two and find out for yourself that they are harmless fun and a great way to keep physically fit.

  12. I disagree with the other commenters. No matter what is said here by teachers and students of this activity, and regardless of the fact that “men do it, too,” pole dancing, or pole fitness, is still a sexualized activity to the broader public and you are fooling yourselves in thinking the 5 year old who is in a class today will not learn the history, sexist subtext, and reputation of the activity in only a few years. Is this child going to separate the two views? No, they are going to integrate them. In a society when 5- and 7-year-olds can identify “sexy,” why would you think they are suddenly blind to the sexualized side of what they are doing and not internalize these concepts concurrently with other explicit and implicit media messages telling them their value is found in “sexiness” either now or down the line?

    Comparing it to swimming or gymnastics is disingenuous because those are not popularly seen as sexual showcases. Compare it to a similar activity in the Chinese acrobatic tradition and you will see the moves using the poles are vastly different.

  13. There is a BIG difference between pole dancing and pole fitness. Pole dancing can involve stripping, trying to look sexy etc, pole fitness is about doing complicated moves and developing a lot of upper body strength and flexibility to do them. It’s very similar to gymnastics (which many 3 year old children do and no one criticises it!) why is it acceptable and considered to be a serious sport when a horizontal pole is used but slutty and degrading when the pole is vertical?! I’ve always wanted to try gymnastics but unfortunately I can’t find any adult beginner classes in my area so I’m doing pole fitness as a good alternative way of building strength and flexibility.

    Please actually look at some pole fitness videos and gymnastics videos and compare them. Pole fitness classes have men and women in shorts and tshirts while girls in gymnastics are in fancy skin tight leotards and often wearing lots of make up so how is pole fitness more sexualised and more about image? The comment about spreading their legs is ridiculous. Again look at gymnastics! It’s NOT about male titilation, pole fitness participants and gymnasts (women AND men) are just showing their incredible strength and flexibility. I’m not criticising gymnastics btw, I just don’t know how you can trash pole fitness when the stuff you complain about are the same moves used in a respected sport.

    Check out the following videos if you don’t believe me:




  14. This article seems to be a rant of opinion rather than indepth analysis. It loses its credibility when it uses the phrase “attempts to pass off pole dancing as a physical fitness”. Here the author is trying to deny scientific fact. Also most tricks, poses and lifts used in modern pole are stemmed from Chinese pole and mallakhamb.

    Using a picture of a girl in denim shorts and describing a pole as a stripper pole also takes the matter completely out of context. Would you call a pole in a playground a stripper pole? I suggest actually attending an induction class for research rather than spouting out uneducated and outdated statements which alienates a huge international community of athletes.

    The matter of age I agree is a subject of great debate but more so on the subject of muscle development at young age. On YouTube there are many videos of hardcore weight training by ten year old boys. Much more concerning in my view.

    The final point I would like to make is the raising of paedophilia as a related subject. Would you blame the actions of children for the sickness of a damaged mind? There is no unusual baring of flesh involved in these fitness classes and the moves are in no way provocative unlike those of freestyle and Latin dance which children may also engage in.

    Maybe the feminist concern here shouldn’t be the subject of pole dancing but that of a female author who can’t even be bothered to research a subject before publishing a piece on it

  15. Come see me, let me teach you what you need to know when writing an article about Pole Fitness. You have my email, you have my website there on my submission form, I look forward to meeting you very much, Im here to educate and will look forward to reading your article after you have experienced fitness at its highest level.

  16. This is the most shocking and horrendous thing i have ever heard — let’s just teach girls at a young age that if they want to be physically strong, they need to be “Sexy” first and if they want to be empowered and have higher self-worth – they must use their bodies to achieve it.

  17. @ Sam

    “Please also note that I teach men and women of all ages so this is not even a feminist issue.”

    How is this not a feminist issue, simply because you declared it not to be one because “men do it” too? That’s about as pathetic as the argument, “porn isn’t degrading because women watch it” — so now it becomes apolitical and thus not a concern of women and women’s rights activists? I think not — that’s an easy way to get out of a discussion, to derail from the fact that this sort of thing (and fake tanning, makeup and padded bras) are on the rise (due to rape culture’s prominence) in sexualizing and devaluing girl-children…

  18. Considering the gazer is suggested to be a paedophile in parts of this article, swimming and gymnastics, anything involving children would be seen as a sexual showcase… unfortunate but true. The archaeic view that a pole resembles a phallis is the only thing that makes this different. If children were learning to thrust against a pole maybe i could see your point but funnily enough they are not. Are we meant to stop kids sitting on chairs incase they come across a link with chairdancing, i know thats a flimsy statement but it looks like thats the root we are taking. A pole can be used in strip clubs, but the apparatus does not define the action.

    My male friend studies strength and conditioning in sports science and also uses the pole for exercise, a knowledge of the physical benefits and innocent enjoyment strips away the stigma for the individual.

  19. Pole dancing might be considered a legitimate sport for children if the connotations between it and pole dancing as sexual display didn’t exist, even if (as claimed) the poses weren’t provocative. As the connotations do exist, I would not allow my children to participate. I don’t believe these connotations exist for swimming, gymnastics or any of the other examples given.

  20. I agree. Sure, if they’re not actually stripping, then the actions itself might be legitimate (and certainly require strength and agility!). But as long as stripping and pole dancing are so closely associated, it’s a dicey activity for such young kids. Maybe it’s unfair, but that’s just the way it is…the first thought most people would have when “pole dancing” (or, more recently, “pole fitness”) comes up is the kind of pole dancing you would find in a strip club. For that reason alone, it is highly sexualized, at least in concept, if not in reality (just as a note, I’m not convinced that NONE of these classes are teaching the more sexualized/stripperized form of pole dancing; though I’ll concede that there may be many who don’t). Just as there is nothing INTRINSICALLY wrong with a thong, as a concept it is symbolic of sex/sexuality, and therefore widely considered inappropriate for children.

    For those complaining about/insulting the author, while you may have some good points, you’re going about it all wrong. She is reacting like most ordinary people would react to the idea of pole dancing (which is still rife with sexual implications, fairly or not) as an activity for children. While you may be right that the reaction is unjust (perhaps even kneejerk), you have to realize that there is a good reason for it. You’re aim, rather than tearing down and insulting the person having the reaction, should be to separate yourself/your activity from the negativity that CAUSES the reaction. This has already begun in the proliferation of the phrase “pole fitness” as opposed to “pole dance”. However, I feel more distance is needed. If you truly feel that the activity taught in the aforementioned schools is different from that performed in strip clubs, then you should accept the fact that it will be necessary to find a way of naming it and marketing it that clearly differentiates the two. Continue to casually refer to it as “pole dancing” or even “pole fitness”, and don’t be surprised when people continue to react against it because of the long-held assocation with stripping and strip clubs.

  21. if you had maybe attended lessons and done it yourself i could actually take the article seriously but clearly you havent. So how can you criticise a sport (which it i) that you have never tried before?! As a member of a pole club i think that you are doing some serious damage about pole dancing as a fitness technique without realising. I myself have gained tremendous confidence that i cant even describe, the feeling of achievement when you do a pose that you have been working on for weeks is amazing and until you try it and see how much strength, dedication and discipline
    it takes (all qualities we want to be teaching children!) then you have no right to comment!
    do your homework properly!

  22. There have been many great comments, responses and points raised and I want to thank everyone for lending their collective voices. I do agree that perhaps there should be some clarity with regards to my personal view on this practice. I DO think that pole dancing/fitness is a legitimate, physically demanding endeavor. I think it does have credibility as an activity for age appropriate adults and am not questioning its efficacy. But there is an undeniable sexual subtext and association in our society related to it and to certain moves. I am not attempting to raise a moral argument for or against it; I simply aim to acknowledge that it exists and that its implications for our youth can be damaging and dangerous.

  23. Exactly! I’m not disputing the physical rigors or even the athletic merit of the activity – I am simply stating that there is sexual symbolism inherent in what is being taught in many of these classes. Right or wrong it exists and is inappropriate for children. Sara so aptly compared this to thong underwear. There is nothing immoral about it; it simply is not suitable for young children. I would find few who could dispute that. While performing my lazy research I did discover that these classes are progressive and are lauded as a sport in many circles. My daily Groupon’s inform me of many local course offerings and I was not lacking in my findings of studios. However mainstream, pole dancing/fitness (it’s really just semantics, folks) largely lends itself to a reflexive association with exotic dancing and provocative poses regardless of whether or not the intent to appear so is present. I’m not questioning the morality of the activity or the physical prowess required to perform it, nor am I stating that the association is a just one. Rather, I am acknowledging its existence and that in my personal opinion, it is an inappropriate offering for children and a questionable one at best for teens/pre-teens.

  24. i can understand your side of the arguement how ever i beleive it to be shallow minded and judgemental just like most people out there who do not try out pole dancing (which is a sport). We are so used to the stereotypes of strippers, exotic dancers and the words provocative and slutty. However to label this on to a woman who i can hazard a guess that you have never met, or been to her business, or even attended a class, i beleive to be seriously OUT OF ORDER. I personally encourage anyone of any age to do pole dancing, I have had the great opportunity to meet not only sam, and learn at her pole dancing/burlesque school, but other teachers from around the UK. To hear someone talk negatively about them is one upsetting and two degrading.
    You mention in your article that a girl had become sucessful, so i fail to see how this is a negative.
    To assume that pole dancing attracts paedophiles is out of this world, and can damage a person character (which you blatanly didnt consider when writing this article, as well as some other points you have raised). Seeing as though you have attended probably one class or read it in the media (which is known to blow stuff out of proportaion, ITS A FACT. its how they sell paper etc) i believe you do not have the right to have such accustions.
    If you beleive pole should not be taught to young children, where will this end. From your reasoning many sports will have to be stopped. Pole because it is to sexual, Swimming as children are put into bikinis or just shorts which people can OPENLY watch, UNLIKE pole. Gymnastics, as splits are performed and there are what you called sexual showcase, trampoling is the same too, what about football or rugby BOTH agressive sports but yet children are able to take part in these, isnt this just teaching them that agression can lead to a win, Body building of ten year old which affect thier bodies, muscles etc.
    Parents are more than happy to let their children take part in a physical activity, so why are you attacking this sport. I know that sam has been negatively portrayed in the media, for no possible reason as she does not teach sexy dancing, beleive me i know i am the most unsexiest person around. Instead it is more about elegance, posture and confidence. Its more gymnastic, and in her famous word ‘toes pointed ladies’. Does that seem sexual to you.
    I urge you to attend our showcase to see the strength my fellow sportsmen/women have, to see the fluidity, the confidence and the stammer of these girls. And you will automatically change your opinion. You have my email to ask for further details.
    You also forget to mention all of the charity work and community work these people have done through the aid of pole dancing, and how far they have come.
    I think this article has been written by someone so narrow minded that they could not research something extensively or even bother to attend the persons business they are criticising at all.
    Chair of UPPDC

  25. I disagree with the part saying it endorses pedophilia. But I do think working with the pole sets up a dangerous mindset for children, especially girls. If adults want to participate (to have fun, to exercise, because they want to – any reason is ok, and none are my business), and even actively work to change the meaning of the activity, that’s one thing – but it is not for a child to participate or be a part of that reclamation while it is still so closely tied to eroticism. As Heather said, the implications are damaging to young, immature, mentally developing girls. Also, when your male friend uses the pole, is he doing the exact same (sexy) move as the young girl in the first illustrative photo for this article? Probably not. Are many classes out there (admittedly not all)? Yes. That is the problem: when the sexualized moves are learned by girls who are just starting to figure out a) what society expects of them as females and b) what they expect of themselves as humans.

  26. This could have been an interesting article had it been backed up by more reliable sources than The Daily Mirror and a Facebook stalking session. Young girls who keep fit through the sport of pole fitness aren’t taught that pole dancing can be sexy. They infer this from the media, music videos and the like. Just like dance classes – are they promoting sexual inferences to youngsters? No! They’re teaching a fitness which unfortunately girls link from elsewhere to derogatory forms. I think it’s disgusting that you name the Plymouth studio, because I’ve never seen such a professional studio. I tried a class once thinking much like you I imagine, and my view was completely changed after realising what strength and dedication goes into the sport. For girls to have role models like Sam is a much better thing than role models like Rihanna and Lady Gaga who sell records by being half naked and not looking after their bodies.

  27. As a current pole dancing student and a member of the UPPDC committee I would like to urge you to come to one of Sam’s lessons at the Art of Dance. I’m sure you’ll be shocked at how difficult and how much of a workout it is. The reason it is portrayed as a social sport is due to the support that everyone in the lessons provides to one another and the friendships that can be formed in these lessons. If you attend one of Sam’s lessons then you’ll realise that these lessons teach discipline and self-respect and I along with many others have become more confident since starting the lessons. Sam has always made me feel comfortable with myself and no one in the class is ever judgemental.. Surely as a self proclaimed feminist you must agree that these are qualities that young girls should be learning; to support one another and to have the self-respect and self-assurance to be independent and not reliant upon comments from others to feel confident.

  28. As one of Sam’s students about to enter in to the extremely male dominated world of International Business I would like to argue that you can not put what I learn in my lessons any where near the realms of porn. I have learnt to be a young independent and confident person through these lessons which has already started to help me in my promising career. I find it sad that as a feminist you will not accept this sport for what it is; challenging and fun. These lessons do not even come close to “sexualizing and devaluing girl-children”, in fact they do the opposite. I strongly believe that the self respect and confidence gained in these lessons teaches girls and women of any age to enjoy the person they are and not seek validation from other sources, If you have not already done so please attend one of Sam’s lessons and see for yourself, I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the level of difficulty and the sense of community and support within our lessons.

  29. I would also like to point out that these are my views and do not represent those of my club or university.

  30. As a pole fitness instructor myself, I obviously feel the same as most of the other people that have commented on this blog. Pole is an unbelievably skilled and beautiful form of exercise. To be honest, when people have these narrow minded views based on little or no experience and research, it really bores me. It used to offend and/or upset me when people made comments about pole being sleazy or sexual, but now I just laugh and let them go on their way back to their boring lives!!
    However, there is always going to be a stigma attached to pole, and no one can deny that a woman dancing/performing tricks/posing can look sexy. That is why my classes are just for women, no men, and no children. Why shouldn’t us women have something that is just for us? And after I have held my body horizontally away from the pole in a flag position (extremely advanced and requiring a lot of strength and skill), I might even wiggle my bum and flick my hair!
    I think if you really are that concerned about children keeping fit, teach them circuits, play games and let them be kids. I am not saying that I totally disagree with kids being taught pole, I just don’t understand why instructors want to if there business is successful teaching adults? Maybe because it gets in the news?? Bit of free publicity??
    My main concern is are these instructors teaching children safely understanding the ways that their bodies are changing at different stages? No one has questioned yet whether or not the schools involved are actually QUALIFIED to teach fitness to children!! Just because Sam has been approved by the Pole Dance Community, that doesn’t mean everything she says should be taken as gospel. After all, she runs the Pole Dance Community and so is approving herself!! DUH!!

  31. In retort to your comment above, I must express how infuriating it is that the words ‘pole dancing’ instantly connote stripping and the sexualisation of the individual. The moves taught are not taught for any sex-appeal (of which there is little when sweating and bruised as pole fitness demands), they are taught to strengthen the required muscles and tone the body.
    I’m a student with numerous self confidence issues, so believe me when I say that the idea of stripping is far from my mind. I’ve been attending lessons at The Art Of Dance for the past 5 months and the difference it’s made to my fitness and muscle strength is incredible. I am regularly explaining to ignorant people that pole fitness is not related to stripping at all, and as it’s been suggested above, you’d do well to attend a lesson or two before passing judgement on others, as you might then have some appreciation for the strength, and control, that the sport requires.
    There are various pole dancing competitions in the UK, which are both enthralling to watch, and terrifying. Some of the moves performed I can only dream of attempting and the fact that this sport is linked with stripping is a sad fact, but perhaps it demonstrates the narrow-mindedness and stubbornness of our society that people cannot dissociate the two actions and allow them to exist independantly.
    I hope that you’ll actually consider attempting a lesson or two before making any more ignorant and ill-informed claims about what i will continue to call a sport, as that’s what it is, regardless of your opinion.

  32. This is a fantastic article. I am thoroughly dumbfounded by the amount of negative responses you are getting… Frightened might be a better word. To those of you who say “this is simply a ‘fitness’ program” for kids,” why not try the 100s of other exercising activities that don’t tie DIRECTLY towards the objectification of women? How naive can you be to say “oh well we don’t discuss stripping in class” or “our moves aren’t exactly the same”… or better yet, how naive do you think your kids are? Do you honestly think that at some point these kids won’t grow up to connect the dots? Psychologist’s everywhere will be making money hand over fist explaining how mommy didn’t really have them dancing on a pole at age 3 but “exercising.”
    Everyone is crying for research research research… here’s research, OPEN YOUR EYES. Who will deny that our children are engaging in risky sexual behavior at a younger age than ever before? Sure I can give you statistics, but unless your oblivious to the real world you know it’s true. So here’s a good idea to combat it, let’s promote it through popularizing it! Teenagers are in their age of sexual exploration… let’s give them more tools to play around with! Don’t worry…. its just exercise!
    There is no doubt this is a challenging activity that has many health benefits, so those of you who workout this way can get off your horse. Nobody’s trying to ban it for adults who can obviously separate exercise from stripping. But immature TODDLERS and sexually charged teens? I’m not so sure they can differentiate as easily. The adults who engage in this form of fitness personally, I’m not sure why you are so sensitive about it. No one attacked you or judged you. The question is related to the appropriateness for younger demographics. I for one think its a horrible thing, please let common sense win this debate.

  33. I can see both sides of this argument.

    1st side. Guess what? Sex exists. Why? So we can reproduce. Are we allowed to enjoy it/flaunt it/feel confident in it? Yes. WHY NOT? Get over it. Especially since you are a YOGA instructor. Must we bring up some particularly INTERESTING yoga poses?! Can’t people of all ages do yoga? My goodness, little children doing provocative yoga poses should be banned!

    2nd side. When I first thought of pole dancing, I have to admit it brought to mind many sexual connotations and perhaps little children without maturity, understanding or knowledge of important topics such as sex etc. shouldn’t be introduced at SUCH a young age to a sport that is commonly used for two different things in the world (stripping and exercise). I am not sure many children would understand the line between the two and this could cause some problems (emotional, social, etc).

    I DO believe that pole dancing is an AMAZING sport where you gain extreme strength, confidence and all those other good things that make your body happy and your life better. I have never felt so good as those moments when I find I have improved something a week or two after just learning it, especially since I was always terrified of competitive sports. In earlier years I played football and rugby and ended up injuring myself fairly badly. I never wanted to play sports again until the moment I tried pole dancing. It brought back my interest in physical activity when for YEARS I remained static in any sort of interest to ‘work out at the gym’ or involve myself in any activities.

    I read above as well that muscle growth would also be a factor in this. Children doing all those tricks and heavier exercise on a pole COULD possibly be dangerous… But I am sure you would be hard pressed to find any sort of scientific study or facts proving this is dangerous.

    Get off your computer. Enjoy the sunshine. Worry about the bigger problems the world is facing.

  34. As a student of Early Childhood Studies, (who just to point out for those of you who may find this odd; I am CRB checked) and a pole fitness student, i see no difference in these classes to the classes like freestyle dancing. Classes and activities such as free style dancing, ballet or any other high impact activity can damage your body just as much as pole fitness, the children are expected to wear revealing outfits (which pole fitness classes do not) but they is normally excepted in society. It is only people with closed minds who see pole fitness as sexualized and therefore apparently “wrong”. It is not going to change a child’s opinion of themself by attending a pole fitness class, media and societies opinionated prejudices are what influences a child’s opinion of themself, and there are many resources that evidence this. If pole fitness is going to do anything for the child it would only build their confidence of their body image, as it promotes strong rather then thin. If you need to blame anyone for sexulising children then you can put the blame on the media as its fashion and make-up industries are forcing children into adult ideas of “beauty” and it is much more publicly available and advertised then a pole fitness class, which parents and children can CHOOSE whether or not to go to (just because its available doesn’t mean you have to attend!)

    another point that made me giggle was 5 to 7 yrs know what “sexy” is… you can not proove what a child means by what they say, they may know of the word but may have no idea of its social meaning.

    I dont understand how you think this is ok to actively comment on your own prejudice and believe that it is totally correct, it may be your belief and thats fine, but it is not everyone’s and you should except that and value it. Going back to an old wives tale here “if you dont like it- dont do it”

  35. This article is thoroughly under-researched – the author had time to facebook-stalk someone, but not to attend an hours induction class to see what pole fitness is all about? Ridiculous.

    Do you condemn gymnastics and ballet as well? I did both for many years when I was younger, and if you want to talk about “putting a premium on certain body sizes” and “encouraging conformity at formative ages”, take a look at those sports (which are encouraged activities for young girls especially). The pressure on young girls to be dangerously skinny is rife within ballet and gymnastics, yet pole fitness doesn’t demand any particular body shape or weight. I’d say it’s a much healthier alternative!

    As a “feminist”, have you ever considered that with this article, you are inferring that any woman who dances is in fact only doing it to impress/attract a man? Are we not allowed to express ourselves through dance without being seen as nothing but sex objects? Should we be forced to walk around, knees tightly together at all times, skirts at floor length, just in case a man should sneek a peek above our ankles? – An exaggeration, I know, but only in keeping with the tone of your article.

    Pole fitness is trying to build a reputation separate from that of the pole dancing you find in strip clubs, and this article is an excellent example of the kind of narrow mindedness that the pole dance community is having to battle against. Pole fitness is not inherently sexual, and you can see that from the videos posted in previous replies. It is an art – not a means of exciting a man. Would you refuse to let your boyfriend/husband go to the ballet because he might get too aroused? No. Would you stop your children from going to gymnastics because they would need to wear skimpy leotards and learn how to do the splits? No.

    As as sport, pole dancing increases flexibility, strength, co-ordination, confidence, positive body image, and general fitness. You’re never pressured to do anything that you find scary or are uncomfortable with, and it’s a great way to make friends. I don’t see your problem.

    Your only objection to this sport is that YOU find it sexual because of your narrow-minded views. You’ve seen a TYPE of pole dancing in strip clubs and tar us all with the same brush. Pole dancing has evolved into something skilled and beautiful, and we don’t need people like you judging us.

  36. “It is not going to change a child’s opinion of themself by attending a pole fitness class, media and societies opinionated prejudices are what influences a child’s opinion of themself, and there are many resources that evidence this.”

    But don’t you see? That’s the problem. Pole dancing/pole fitness is reflected in media and in society as a sexualized activity, and BECAUSE of this, it will have an impact on how they see themselves, especially as they get older and are influenced more and more by sources outside of themselves and their families. It’s not that the activity itself is necessarily harmful, it’s the societal/cultural associations that make it problematic. The fact that that may not be fair does not negate the powerful negative impact it could potentially have. Nobody is suggesting that it be outlawed, but it is definitely something that should be examined closely; the potential benefits as well as the potential harm should be analyzed and weighed. Although the author may have been a bit too biased in her language and word choice, it isn’t wrong for somebody to question the appropriateness of such an activity for children.

    “another point that made me giggle was 5 to 7 yrs know what “sexy” is… you can not proove what a child means by what they say, they may know of the word but may have no idea of its social meaning.”

    Again, that is part of the problem. We’re talking about kids that are old enough to know the term sexy, and maybe have a vague understanding of the concept, but who don’t really have the maturity to truly understand it’s social implications. Because of this, we once again have to question whether or not it’s appropriate for them to engage in an activity that many people will categorize as “sexy” (fairly or not). For example, a preteen girl may participate in pole fitness for a couple of years and not find anything sexy about it; however, she may mention the activity to a classmate. If it gets around to the boys, who are just starting to think about sex but still have no real understanding of (and certainly no sensitivity towards) it, they’ll have no concept of it as a legitimate and rewarding fitness activity. All they’ll know is “oh, that’s what strippers do”. Because of this, they now see her as like a stripper (i,e., a sexual object), and will change their treatment towards her. They may call her a stripper, or a slut, or they may actually commit ignorant acts of sexual harassment. None of this is fair, and none of it is really the fault of pole fitness; but it is still a situation that no one wants to see happen, and there are dozens of different scenarios like this that could potentially arise from a child’s participation in such an activity. The goal of those who are pro-pole-fitness should be to calmly educate people about it, and to distance themselves from sexual activities such as stripping.

    As far as the “if you don’t like it – don’t do it”….it’s always been a pet peeve of mine when people pull this out, and a lot of commenters on this particular article seem to keep coming back to it, directly or not. This is an opinion blog that questions society’s treatment towards women; the operative words being “opinion blog”. If not here, where is it okay for someone to state their opinion? You may disagree, and at the end of the day you may be right, but the proper way to demonstrate that is to state your case and intelligently debate the opinion, not attack her right to post her opinion.

  37. I expanded upon my original piece on my own blog and do appreciate the feedback and voices raised thus far. To further clarify, as I believe my point was largely missed: it‘s not the pole dancing practice I believe is cause for concern. I am certainly not disputing the physical rigors or even the athletic merit of the activity. I am simply calling into question the appropriate age for participation. There is a sexual subtext and symbolism in pole dancing that is deeply embedded in the fabric of our society. The debate that is on the table is not whether or not this link is just, but that it exists. The legitimacy or fairness of the stigma is not the topic of this particular post or the inspiration for my article, so I feel it is best left of out of this debate.

    While performing my highly criticized research, I did discover, and give credence to the fact that these classes are in fact surprisingly progressive and lauded as a sport in many circles. My daily Groupon’s inform me of many local course offerings and I was hardly lacking in the a availability of studios or impressive websites that often courted women with tag lines promising to make one “feel sexy at any age”. Of course not all employed this approach, but a large majority did have this advertising angle. And I’m not surprised by this. The inference of pole-dancing is that in many forms it is sexually explicit. It would stand to reason that feeling sexy would be par for the course, and thus a marketable position for some studios offering these classes. Pushing sexy is fantastic for a consenting adult. But for children and adolescents it is close to criminal. Teenage participation, is at the very least, problematic.

    I am neither in support or against this choice of a fitness regimen for adult men or women. With so many ardent supporters of the practice as physically challenging, I am willing to take on those who urged me to really get down with the subject. (No pun intended, I promise!) However, I still hold that teaching young girls or boys moves that in our culture have sexually explicit messages and connotations inextricably tied to it is what is up for discussion. Most girls and boys are not taught to love, honor or respect their bodies, but to objectify them. I think there are a plethora of child/youngster focused activity that thwarts the development of a healthy self-image.
    I am in full agreement with the commenter who highlighted the perils inherent in dance and gymnastics world. I have come into contact with many young girls and boys who were exposed in their most formative ages to the stressors of highly competitive and physically demanding sports that required an overemphasis on appearance and weight. This focus proved beyond damaging in terms of developing a healthy body image and many resulted in full blown eating disorders and adopted dangerously harmful behaviors.

    I have no doubt that studios exist that are completely devoid of any sort of sexual facet or approach. I’m not questioning the morality of the activity or the physical prowess required to perform it, nor am I stating that the association is a just one. Society objectifies and marginalizes women in a myriad of ways and there is certainly a stigma surrounding sex workers and the inanimate objects related to that trade, but that is a separate feminist issue that I did not intend to debate in this piece. Rather, I am acknowledging its existence and holding that it is an inappropriate offering for children and a questionable one at best for teens/pre-teens.

  38. Um what kind of parent would sign their child up to do this? If you are a parent that would sign your child up for pole dancing you don’t deserve a child. And to all the people who say its not sexually provocative haha yea and I’m the king of Egypt.

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