I recently had a conversation about men in pole. Here’s my opinion in a nutshell. YES!
First, let’s talk about the obvious – women feeling safe to explore their sensual side. For many women pole is a way for them to find or reconnect with their sensual selves. Having a women-only environment can provide them a sense of security that they aren’t being leered at. It can also provide them a bit of a defense against the stripper argument – “it’s not like exotic dancing because there are no men watching”. But that’s giving men too little credit and women too much – not all men are the type to leer and belittle – and some women are! So in the context of pole class I think it’s up to the instructor and students to develop a safe culture of respect. We witness each others’ movement; we don’t denigrate it. Can men not appreciate beauty and grace and strength? Of course they can.
Now let’s talk about the purpose of pole class. There are 2 main schools of focus – fitness and dance. If the class is purely pole fitness/tricks, then sensuality may not come into it whatsoever and having men in the class is the same as any sport. If the class is about dance and it may involve sensuality then it’s like ballet or hip-hop or other dance genres where men are involved with the same expectations as women – to perform artistically. Both fitness and dance require respect and neither should tolerate anything less.
And now let’s talk about sex. We live in a culture very confused about how to treat sexuality. We know it’s one of Maslow’s basic needs. We know it’s good. But in an effort to keep sex in a tidy little box, we often treat it as bad in order to guide others to share the same opinions. We do this with children to prevent them from entering intimate ground before they’re emotionally ready and we do it with marketing to appeal to people’s desires to dabble in naughty and taboo things. And because of that conflict we lose sight of how to respectfully own our feelings. Pole dancing can teach women how to acknowledge and celebrate their their bodies and sensual feelings and those of their classmates. Why shouldn’t men learn to respect their own sensual selves and others? Seriously – can anything bad come of men learning to celebrate their own grace and power and the grace and power of others? If the studio teaches all people to be respectful in how they view themselves and each other I think this could be transformational for men as well as women.
Should every class or even studio offer pole in a mixed-gender environment? Of course not, they should do what’s right for them. But I hope that some can be brave enough to see the value in it, to allow men the same growth potential that they allow women. I believe our culture would be healthier and happier if we ALL learned how to respectfully honor our own and each others’ bodies and feelings.
As a reminder of how men can be a part of this wonderful movement, consider Edouard Doye. Amazing grace.