Pole Dancers School Anti Abuse Organizations How Not To Abuse

Over the last 48 hours, the pole industry has been shocked and disgusted by:

A.) a meme featuring pole star Marlo Fisken stating that ‘pole dancing is an action to normalize men’s violence against woman.’

B.) a statement by the London Abused Woman’s Centre supporting this claim.

If you missed these posts here they are:




Upon researching the matter, these are the facts we have found so far:

  • The London Abused Woman’s Centre was to support an event named ‘Take Back The Night’.
  • Take Back The Night in Ontario, Canada contacted a local pole studio named The Pole House to participate in the event by demonstrating pole fitness.
  • It is still unsure as to why The Coalition Against Human Trafficking Australia shared the post by London Woman’s Abuse Centre, or what their involvement is.

traffickingUPA has reach out to each organization mentioned here to request a statement. At the time of printing this article neither has responded to our requests. We will update the article if they do decide to comment.

We spoke to the owner of the Pole House, Emily Kelman and Senior Instructor Kris Mac and they had this to say:

“We decided at this point that the best course of action was to respectfully withdraw from the event. The media coverage was creating a fiasco, which was overshadowing the Take Back the Night Event. We have chosen to withdraw from TBTN in hopes that it will help refocus the public on this very important event. While The Pole House will not attend in an official capacity, our instructors and members will attend as individuals to support the cause.

Rather than performing at TBTN, The Pole House will be hosting an open house and showcase on October 1st, appropriately entitled “Take Back the Pole”. There will be free classes during the day, followed by a more formal showcase featuring performances by pole and aerial artists from numerous studios in the region in the evening. This event is free, but donations will be accepted for a women’s charity. The goal of this event is to educate the public about pole fitness, while raising money for a great cause. Please head to The Pole House Facebook page to get all the details at www.facebook.com/thepolehouselondonontario

Pole dancers have shared these posts, hundreds of times over the last 24 hours.

So where does this leave the pole dance community? Many have expressed their anger, their hatred and their disgust towards these women’s groups and articulated such on their Facebook pages.

At United Pole Artists we would like to educate these groups rather than attack their ignorance and lack of knowledge of the pole industry. We hope that all pole dancers will join us by helping us educate these groups. If you can share your valuable information in the comments, we will be sending this article and the comments directly to the woman’s groups in a hope to give them a different perspective of the pole industry, not what they assume what it is based on the surface.

Let’s start with the history of pole dance/fitness/art etc. According to the IPDAF “Modern day pole dancing has evolved into exercise form practiced by not only professionals and performers, but by everyone from casual students and gym-goers to national and internationally recognized pole athletes. The world of Western Pole dates back a lot longer than many would imagine. Pole is practiced today by both men and women alike, and is a fusion of Chinese pole, Indian Pole or ‘Mallakhamb’, other circus-based (eg Dutch and French pole), exotic dance of various international influences and pole dancing as seen in the traveling fairs of the American Depression.”

The complete history can be viewed here: http://ipdfa.com/about/history-of-pole/

Next let’s talk about the largest gathering of pole dancer’s in the world that happened this past weekend, Pole Expo.

Pole Expo is an annual event that attracts thousands of pole dancers from all over the world. During Expo, attendees have the opportunity to learn form the world’s best athletes, shop in hundreds of vendor stalls and connect with people that will become life long friends.

United Pole Artists have been attending Pole Expo since 2010 live streaming the Pole Classic Competition. In the first year, there were 100 computers that logged in to watch the live stream. This year, in 2016, UPA had almost 25,000 computers, which equated to over 56,000 viewers!!! Why is this relevant? This demonstrates the enormous growth rate of the pole industry as a whole. This year there were viewers from over 50 countries in 3000 cities that watched the Pole Classic Competition.

Let’s not forget that the Pole Classic Competition is not only a competition for women, but there is a men’s division too. Following the competition was a showcase that was the most diverse we’ve ever seen. It included a one armed woman from Australia, a 70 year old woman from Japan, a doubles act from Ireland and a male contortionist. To watch the entire competition and showcase, head to http://live.upa.tv/pole-expo-2016/ where you can watch it on demand for free. We hope that each of the women’s groups mentioned in this article take a moment to watch part of it, if not all of it.

The next point of discussion is empowerment. At UPA we hear and see so many posts and articles about the broad topic of empowerment. How many of you have heard a story of how pole classes helped a person through a difficult time or saved a person from a difficult situation? Yesterday, UPA came across two such posts about this very topic.

Elisa Duangputra


Holly “Honey” Miely


Both of these posts show just how powerful pole dance classes can be. There are thousands of stories like this that we at UPA have seen over the years and we hope to continue to hear about these situations as this gives us our purpose, to be ‘United By Pole.’

To the women’s groups: these are just a few facts and narrative pieces about pole dancing that we hope you read and seek further information. UPA would love to sit down with you to discuss any aspect of the pole dance community. We also hope that you become UPA’s number one reader of our articles, blogs and stories and we hope you watch every live stream we produce. We want you to understand what our industry is about as your opinion is merely a puppet reaction based from mass media coverage. Talk to us, learn about us and understand us, don’t just presuppose us. And last of all, take a friggin pole class!  It may just change your life and give you perspective.

Here are a few more facts for you:  This meme discriminates a group of people. It has offended a large group of people from all over the world. Pole dancers are not the problem when it comes to violence against women by men. Pole dancers are not the problem when it comes to ANY violence against ANY one what so ever. The people committing violent acts towards women or men or anyone are the problem. Education and communication is the key to change. Affect by teaching, not shaming.

Let’s teach these organization’s about pole dancing and pole dancers. Give us your insight into what they should know. Let us know in the comments.

And don’t forget to use #UnitedByPole in everything pole related




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    We cannot “Take Back the Night” by essentially asking women to “wear more clothes”. Asking women to deny or “be discreet” about something that gives them joy, strength, power, and community, is the worst possible way to “protect” women or make them safe. In fact it is no way at all! The refusal to allow pole dancing to have an identity other than it’s relationship to strip clubs is like saying that, since prostitutes sometimes wear makeup, high heels and long nails, women should reject, and refuse to associate with, all women who wear make-up, high heels and long nails… sounds very much like, “If you don’t want to be raped, don’t dress attractively or go out with your friends or have that drink”, which sounds very much like every repressive and misogynistic cultural or religious attack on women we are fighting so hard to be free of. Do not pretend to be protecting women by limiting them in any way!!! We are not the problem and neither is pole dancing!!!

    The very idea that we as pole dancers should need to argue for our distinction from pole as it originated in strip clubs is to give power to a paradigm which is faulty and misogynistic. The repressive, disempowering position, that sex work is inherently wrong and is a gateway for all the violence perpetrated against women is the root of much of the evil in question. If sex work were a legal and a respected personal choice for all parties involved, the open business practices and regulation which would necessarily be involved, would largely eliminate the opportunity for abuse. What ever abuse does occur is violence against women, the same as it is in all other situations, and in no way is one woman less a victim than any other. If our culture would stop trying to legislate against sex and start enforcing legislation against violence we would be a lot better off. Sexuality, nudity, and dance are all beautiful, natural forms of expression and we all have a right to these things as much as we have a right to be safe from violence.

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    I agree with the above comment by Hana Granados and the article. The hypocrisy by the people accusing pole dancing and even sex work as the root of violence against women is baffling. We need to hold the perpetrators responsible. Not the victims. There is nothing about sex work that provokes violence against women. It’s the entitled violent offenders that choose to abuse, rape, murder and other atrocities. Sure those environments can flourish that mindset and entitlement in the perpetrators, but that is because we have demoralized, stigmatized and pushed that industry underground through religion and mainstream society. Sex work is the oldest profession and it isn’t going anywhere. Biologically speaking, as long as us humans (sexual beings) use sex for procreation, like many other species, there will always be a need for sex or “peacocking” so to speak. Sex work will always fall under that. The real crime is trying to shame it and teaching boys and girls that it’s shameful, dirty or perpetuates violence. It gives the notion that one isn’t responsible for their actions because “she deserved it” “porn made me do it” “she’s a slut/stripper/prostitute so she doesn’t matter” Because that’s what society and these feminist women groups keep perpetuating. One does not need to be in the sex industry to get assaulted, raped, or killed. In fact most women aren’t. Its every day people that are in these situations. So how can you say that pole, stripling, prostitution etc cause and perpetuate violence against women? The last I heard, women wearing Burka’s and married to one one man get beat and acid thrown in their face. The last I hears, children and women who never set foot in a “whore house” or strip club or pole studio get abused everyday. So tell me where this stigma about pole and sex work cause violence against women? The fact that we pushed sex work underground, gives rise to violence against women, children and some men. It’s a black market now, just like anything society tries to prohibit. Now these abusers can take control and get away with it. There is no accountability in the black market. Now we have people being trafficked everywhere because we demoralized it and pushed it underground. If there was a safe place for this industry, accountability and a positive view regarding sex work for consenting adults, these atrocities would be far and few between. Perpetuating the stigma is the problem. People will always have sex. People will always pay for sex. People will always provide for that need. So instead of making the situation worse, we need to bring it out in the light and educate people and start holding THE PERPETRATORS RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS, not the victims.

    I have been sexually assaulted as a child, raped when I was 12 and have had plenty of other assaults acted on me sexual and physical. Not once was it provoked from pole, sex work or anything of the sort. These groups further pushing the stigma about sex work, slut shaming, the way we dress, etc.. Are part of the problem. You are doing nothing but keeping that stigma alive. You people are so backwards in your thinking you don’t see it obviously. The day everyone can be held accountable for their OWN actions, is the day the world will be a better place. Instead of making excuses for the scum by using our clothing, the way we look, professions and hobbies, drug or alcohol consumption etc.. Pole dancing LITERALLY saved my life. It made me a stronger more confident person and gave me a hobby that not only nourishes my body, but my mind as well. Even my dad pole dances or tries to do tricks lol! I have a lot of support from people all over and not once have any of those men and women assaulted me or attempted to assault me because I pole dance. I’ve had haters and trolls threaten me, but that is because they are weak, already violent and have this notion that pole dancing, strippers, or prostitutes are below humanity.. Hmmm I wonder where that comes from?? And I wonder who keeps that stigma going??? The very people masquerading as feminists trying to abolish the sex trade. Teach your children to respect and love. Not to be entitled or to think they are above those who hold different jobs, classes or looks. Sex trafficking is horrible and for anyone to be forced into it is horrible. But the industry isn’t the problem. It’s the stigma and the black market behind it. Women get assaulted everyday doing everyday things. Period. Misogyny and patriarchy with religion is the root of violence against women. Not the industry itself. I know men who utilize the sex industry. A lot actually! And they don’t harm the women. They actually respect them. Because they aren’t entitled violent men. They want a service and it is provided. Everyone is consenting adults. What’s wrong with that? Your pushing it underground and demoralizing it is what gave root to sex trafficking. It also keeps people from coming forward and or keeps the perps from getting prosecuted. Because we all know sex workers are less then everyone else, no one will miss them, and they must have been asking for it because of their job or clothes….Way to keep up that stigma. Biology will win every time. We are animals to being with. There will always be a need for peacocking and sex work. It isn’t going anywhere. So instead of trying to abolish it and make women feel ashamed and blame them, try coming up with more logical valid solutions to violence against women. We can start with religion, patriarchy and teaching all children to respect all life. I will pole dance until I’m physically incapable. That’s a fact. And if I get assaulted, its because the assailant is responsible and views women as less then. You don’t blame banks for getting robbed do you? You don’t blame victims of drunk driving because they should know better than to be driving knowing their could be drunks on the road do you? You don’t blame homeowners for getting robbed because they should have known their expensive stuff was a target do you? So why blame women, pole dancing and sex work for violence against women? Its absurd and hypocritical. We need to teach boys and girls that no one has privelage over them. Patriarchal societies and religions breed a notion that women are less then men. That men have some entitlement or ownership over women. Let’s start by abolishing that and that notion. Then we can start making this world a better place for all.

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    I’m not sure where the misplaced idea in this meme came from, but it pains me to see something I love be so incredibly misunderstood. I’ve been pole dancing as a hobby for 2 years, and it has been nothing but a positive, empowering experience. Every instructor I’ve had has gone out of their way to boost their students’ confidence. They teach us to embrace our bodies and our sexualities, not because of any men who may be around, but because it’s ok to be sexy and gorgeous for ourselves! Even when there are men watching (for me there usually aren’t), I’ve never felt threatened or demeaned. Just the opposite, my pole studio is a space where I can be sexy in a judgment-free, expectation-free zone, and that’s extremely liberating. I really value having that space in my life. UPA is right that anyone who equates poling with abuse needs to take a pole class and see for themselves what a beautiful, empowering thing pole can be!

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    I’d like to share my story when it comes to pole dancing.
    I first started my pole lessons when I was 16. I was depressed, in an abusive relationship with an older man and I had barely any self esteem. Dancing was always really hard for me. I was a chubby/clumsy kid with a passion for dance, which dance studio would ever take me seriously? Nome of them did. I felt weird, ashamed, like I would never be able to make art with my body.
    Until pole dance came into my life. I became confident, flexible, strong. It made me want to persue other dreams, it made me feel capable. Pole dancing lead me to take Stiletto, Aerial Hoop, Flexibility lessons, all of it. I fell in love with myself while dancing. I got to explore my body’s limitations, my sexuality, my artistic — and very dramatic — half. I’ve always done it for myself and NO ONE else. My (now, ex. thank god) boyfriend hated it, my dad too. And agaisnt their will, I found myself. There is not a thing in this world more empowering than that. Now, 4 years later, I am a proud pole dancer, with not a fiber in my body of shame. I am all I’ve ever wanted to be, all thanks to pole dancing.
    Please, don’t judge such beautiful and powerful practice. It’s a sport, a dance, a path to discovering yourself as a strong individual. It can be sexy, artistic, dense, sensitive, fitness, just like all of us, people, are. Pole dancing is my world and I could not be more grateful.

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    Reposted from my private facebook group! (Please note, I’d misidentified LAWC as “LAWS”. Sorry!)

    So, I said, I’d write more about the scandal with LAWS and their use of Marlo Fisken’s image. . . (If you want to know more about that issue, Kenneth Kao’s page has a pretty good description of what happened. In brief, LAWS, a DV and SA advocacy group pulled out of the London Take Back the Night event because a pole studio was doing demos as a part of it. They then pulled a photo of Marlo teaching a class from her professional website and created a meme indicating that she was promoting the objectification of women and supporting sex-traffficking through her teaching and performing of pole. After being confronted by several polers, LAWS has refused to apologize, and they still are not participating in Take Back the Night, despite the pole studio backing out because the studio felt that the scandal was pulling focus away from the event’s purpose of preventing violence against women and supporting survivors of sexual assault.)

    Some of you may or may not know about my day job, but it’s particularly relevant to the issues brought up by these incidents. I am a lawyer who represents survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence. I work for, and have worked for in the past, an organization that also provides legal services to trafficking survivors, although I personally have not handled a trafficking case. (I haven’t ever had one come in my intakes yet. If I do, I would very likely take the case under my organization’s protocols.) I began this work in law school, and I’ve continued it throughout my career. Even during the few times I was not employed by a legal aid organization, I worked to help survivors through pro bono work and volunteer work on policy groups. I have learned about gendered based violence on an academic level, through professional trainings, through professional real-world experiences, and as a friend to many women who are survivors and have trusted me with their stories. I am incredibly proud of the work I do, and it fulfills me more than I can ever express.

    I write this not to brag, but to show that I really do know what I’m talking about when I say that pole is a powerful tool to fight gender-based violence! Through pole, I’ve met several women who are survivors of DV and SA. In many cases, I’ve seen how pole transforms these women’s sense of themselves. They see that they are strong, that they are sexy on their own terms, and that they have a community supporting them and a safe space to explore different aspects of themselves. I’ve seen pole reinforce healthy relationships and make them stronger, and I’ve seen it give women the courage and strength to leave unhealthy relationships. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence. The confidence I’ve personally gained through pole is incredible, and I suspect it’s the same for other polers. Pole dancing is not the problem, it is part of the solution! While there are abuses and dangerous situations within many strip clubs, poling is not the problem. Drugs, human traffickers, club owners who don’t worry about safe working conditions, and rape culture are the problems! (Really, it’s like when a rapist blames alcohol for raping a woman. Alcohol is not the problem, rapists are.)

    On a final note, I want to address some of what LAWS has said about strippers. Many of the articles and quotations from LAWS, to me, are dismissive of the agency of women who strip and seek to frame stripping as a shameful, disgraceful activity which they could only be forced into. I’ve written previously about this being a horrible, slut-shaming attitude, so I won’t repeat myself. Instead, I want to say that this is an attitude which directly hurts the population of survivors that LAWS is attempting to provide services to. Many of my clients have worked as strippers in their pasts. For many of them, it was an economic opportunity that enabled them to survive and feed their children. For most of them, it was something that their abusers held over their heads. The abusers would threaten them with the shame and stigma of stripping, threaten that this was justification to remove their children from their care, and threaten them that this meant they were undeserving of love or basic human decency because they were “dirty strippers”. LAWS’ attitude may be slightly more nuanced, but if you are the survivor in one of these circumstances, and if you worked as a stripper, how much of a difference is that going to make to you when you are seeking help to get out of an abusive situation? How much harder does this make the difficult decision to leave an abuser? LAWS’ attitude is not only insulting, it is downright dangerous and counterproductive! To really, truly work to end violence against women, they need to support and embrace all survivors, not just the ones whose resumes they approve of!

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