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The Debate Continues: Banning Strippers/Sex Workers from Pole Competitions

The Debate Continues:  Banning Strippers/Sex Workers from Pole Competitions

The Debate Continues: Banning Strippers/Sex Workers from Pole Competitions

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This is a subject that will go on for a long time in our industry, we suspect.  The healthy debate continues.  Should pole competition be banning stippers/sex workers from pole competitions?  What does this say about our society as a whole?  Recently, Philip Deal released a video of his distaste for this type of discrimination, specifically calling out the Florida Pole Fitness Championship and it’s organizer.  We have reached out to the organizer of FPFC to comment on this subject.  We have not yet received a response. The video can be seen HERE. The rules of Florida Pole Fitness Championships can be seen HERE. Since then, we have seen current and ex-strippers speaking out.  Below is an excerpt from Lux ATL’s newsletter.  Lux is known as the professor pole dancer, as she has a PhD in American Literature and Culture with a scholarly focus on race and gender in America.

Lux ATL’s Thoughts on Banning Strippers/Sex Workers from Pole Competitions

Due to a recent batch of acceptances into a particular well-known pole fitness competition, the issue has come to a head again: why do some competitions explicitly ban sex workers? It’s rule number three in the guidelines for the particular pole fitness competition most recently inciting this age-old pole debate: “The candidate is not employed in the pornography/adult industry.” I’m not going to call any competition out by name, and I want to be clear that I’m not here to mudsling or defame. This is a conversation larger than a single competition. This is a conversation that has been going on for years. It’s the meaning of that rule number three, and what it says about our culture at large, that I wish to interrogate. Competitions are expensive to produce, and often require sponsorship. Apparently corporate sponsors don’t want to tango with anything associated with pornography. As a competition organizer, not complying with these rules can mean potentially forgoing large amounts of cash that enable your event to occur. However, this rule is a problematic extension of the larger cultural hatred and silencing of female sexuality, and is furthermore an act of cultural appropriation. In other words, banning sex workers from a pole competition is misogynistic discrimination that slut-shames the very foremothers of pole dance. First, one must ask: why is this rule even included? Why does the prohibition of sex workers need be delineated here? I see no similar rules in weightlifting competitions, for example. Why does this rule even exist? The rule exists because pole dance is and will always be associated with strippers. While I have been informed by a reliable source that strippers are actually allowed in the particular competition with rule three disallowing engagement in “pornography/adult industry,” the fact remains that this association with strippers is the impetus for the existence of this rule. Even so, why allow strippers but not porn stars–what’s that about? Reportedly this pornstar prohibition stems back to sponsors–apparently pornstars are easier to identify online than strippers, and therefore more likely to defame the image of the competition once identified. Regardless of any hair-splitting on what makes a woman too pornish for pole comp, Rule Number Three goes back to this: in order to legitimize pole in the mainstream, we need to hide our origins, shun sex workers, and break any association of pole with sex work. This approach is wrongheaded. Firstly, it is not practical: pole will always be associated with sex workers–because strippers are sex workers, and because modern pole fitness exists only through actual strippers. Secondly, the explicit disassociation of pole with sex workers in a grasp for mainstream legitimacy is tantamount to tap dancing for The Man. It is agreeing to the cultural narrative that women’s sexuality is delegitimizing and shameful. When it comes to sponsorships and mainstream marketing–It is hard to not agree to this narrative when there are thousands of dollars at stake. I know, I’ve been there; I’ve been a stripper my whole life, and I’ve smiled and nodded to some wack-ass shit in my day. banning strippers/sex workers from pole competitionsHowever–we don’t have to smile and nod. I’ve learned that. We don’t have to tap dance. I’ve learned that. Audre Lorde once wrote, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Through compliance with the Master’s rules, we may gain individually, but we will never affect real social change. Wecan be our own authentic selves unapologetically and still enjoy success. I know now that this is possible, because it’s been possible for me. I don’t want pole dancing to become a “sport” on the backs of the women who invented it. I don’t want pole dancing to be sponsored by Nike if that means I have to go in the closet. My dear friend Michelle Mynx, pole dance pioneer and fellow career stripper, put it this way: “I keep imaging a playground scenario. It’s like we were the poor kids that made some awesome game out of some fucking found shit and then the rich kids came along and took all of our stuff, change all the rules, and then told us we couldn’t play anymore.” What does this ban against sex workers imply? What purpose does this rule really serve? What narratives does this rule uphold? Can’t competitions continue in the absence of this prohibition, or all pole dancers assumed to be sex workers unless proven otherwise? So why not change this rule? Why not just delete it altogether? Will the money really stop flowing if the rule is removed, and if so–wow, we really need feminism on this one, folks.  What do you think? United Pole Artists Pole News is a place where news from around the world regarding pole dancing is shared.  UPA and UPA Bloggers write and/or gather news and stories for you so you don’t miss a thing.  Have something to add to this story?  If you are a registered UPA user, you can sign in, leave a comment and let us know what you think. We would love to hear from you! News, articles, blog entries and other stories do not necessarily reflect the opinion of United Pole Artists LLC.

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