Winning at the Poles

The sexual revolution in the 1960s was great, but you know what? It didn’t fully take.

We can speculate about why. It could be due to periodic resurgences of conservative idealism over the last few decades, or it could be that Americans got too busy with consumerism and eating to care much about sex. But the inroads of that glorious revolution didn’t permeate our culture as well as was hoped. I mean, I was born sometime after it happened, and I’ve been waiting my entire life for the Christian right in this country to stop ruining all of our fun.

Historically, those exalted, self-moralizing dipshits have been the bane of folks like me who like to have a drink every once in a while, and particularly who aren’t ashamed they get randy and really like sex. The puritanical residue that sees sexuality as dirty and somehow immoral is still strong in the US, despite the 1960s. If strip clubs aren’t being closed down because they are too close to a school or a church, some asswipe is lobbying for pasties and a three foot rule for the dancers. Adult video stores and newsstands are picketed and eventually have to shut their doors under pressure from the “righteous”. We can’t have a breast exposed on TV, nor can we say or print many of the cool words associated with sex, like fuck and ass pirate.

Thank the god of pasty computer geeks that the Internet is slopping over with whatever kind of fetish porn anyone could ever desire. At least this wonderful bastion of sex and perversion is running strong with few challengers in sight.

But despite the fact that the US is centuries behind many other countries in the world when it comes to sexual freedom, despite the fact that labels like slut and whore and pervert still have negative connotations among the populace, there are signs that the armor is developing some chinks.

This subject will probably be nothing new to you all, but I was listening to the radio on my way in to work this morning, and while trying to find some music on the damn thing (I didn’t have my iPod or any CDs with me), I came across a discussion about pole dancing.

Now, if you’re not familiar with pole dancing (and I find that possibility extremely remote among Skepchick readers), I’ll give you a little background: Many of your better strip clubs feature brass poles on the main stage or perhaps near the tables that the dancers can use in their performances. The poles are used as a highly suggestive prop by the more creative dancers, and also as a means by which an innovative young lady can demonstrate her athletic acumen. It’s a very entertaining feature that in some cases can actually add an element of danger to the strip club milieu.

At any rate, the radio discussion I was listening to centered on pole dancing classes that are available for the average woman. Anyone, your wife, girlfriend, sister, daughter, mother, or grandmother can sign up for a class, and a qualified professional will teach them how to do a pole dance.

Now, like you, I’ve certainly heard of these classes before, and have even seen some semblance thereof on television. But what struck me was the number of average women calling in to the radio program to say they took the classes and thoroughly enjoyed them. There was not a negative comment among them.

And I thought that was just great. I thought it was awesome.

These normal women, hailing most probably from religious backgrounds of some strength, were shirking the stigma their conservative brethren and sistren had instilled upon any sexually demonstrative activity, and they were enjoying themselves. They were exploring their own bodies in new ways, feeling sexy about themselves, and learning yet another way to excite their partners.

How could it be anything but extra cool?

The only drawback that I found in the discussion was the “disclaimer” that most of the callersincluded with their comments. Where most of the women confessed that they felt sexy and sexually energized by the pole dancing, they were all quick to point out that the pole dancing classes were mostly just a great form of exercise for them.

Ladies, come on. You made progress. Don’t backslide on us like that. If you just wanted great exercise, there a million different aerobics and spin classes you could have joined, all with music and what can be termed dancing. Swimming pools are great places to exercise. Weight rooms. Running tracks. Bicycle paths. Tennis courts. Etc. Etc. Etc. If you’re a sexual creature, and the pole dancing was enjoyable, don’t sanitize a step in the right direction by putting that disclaimer in there!!!

But this is the kind of progress I like to see; the kind of step I’m hoping to see more of before I shuffle off to impotence. Even if it is a baby step, at least it’s a step.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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  1. Related….

    Wendy Kaminer is a leader in the ACLU and feminist, and started off encouraging anti-porn laws. Through her experiences, she came 180 degrees and is now a free speech zealot. She and Harvey Silverglate blog at The Free For All. As lawyers, they’ve had some interesting cases in the name of free speech, and as free speech activists its interesting to hear their thoughts regarding insider ACLU politics as well as their views of the suppression of free speech on America’s campuses.

    Also related:
    Renegade Evolution a blog written by a sex worker and porn star and feminist. She writes well regarding issues of feminism, and especially issues regarding porn and sex work and how “anti-sex work” radical feminists often deny women agency and free thought and free will. And yeah, there is this strain of radical feminism that sees sex with Victorian eyes, in which women are constantly assaulted and never complicit or eager, and in which every sexual act is politicized. Is it between man and woman or two same sex people? If between man and woman, are they married or single? Who is dominant? Exactly what are the reasons for the act? Two very well known feminist bloggers are known for referring to the “funk filled bratwurst” and believing that oral sex is terrific for gays, okay for singles, and coercive and demeaning for the married. (At the same time, in very unskeptical fashion, they quite literally blame everything negative they see on “The Patriarchy”, which investigation reveals to be an unfalsifiable, untestable theory involving a covert/overt/spontaneous construction of human behavior.)

    While I am pro free speech, and pro strip clubs, I am not sure they need to be across the street from schools.

  2. Now, I didn’t hear the broadcast in question, but I have to wonder how many of them were describing it as exercise as a disclaimer, and how many thought of it as icing on the cake they planned to jump out of…

  3. I too will join in the lovefest. Thanks Sam.

    While I wish to FSM that we lived in a world where women didn’t feel compelled to justify these classes as exercise, maybe the disclaimers might provide otherwise shy women with the excuse needed to explore that particular aspect of their sexuality.

    “Hey Tammy, want to go grab drinks tonight?”
    “I can’t, I have…um…an exercise class.”
    “Oh, really? Like TaiBo?”
    “No, it’s more like jazzercize…”

  4. Wow, thanks for all the love!

    Just know that it is returned to you tenfold.

    Now, I didn’t hear the broadcast in question, but I have to wonder how many of them were describing it as exercise as a disclaimer, and how many thought of it as icing on the cake they planned to jump out of

    Truth be told, I really wouldn’t call it a disclaimer in the strict sense of the word, but nearly all of the callers did mention the exercise aspect of it.

  5. Wouldn’t pointing at the sky wilst wearing a clerical collar, on a pole, make the smile even more sinister…or would that picture just be waaaaay too busy?

  6. I have a friend who is in one of those classes, called E-Fit, short for erotic fitness. It looks like a lot of fun! I’ve just had no time to check it out myself. Although she does extol upon the exercise benefits (you have to have some SERIOUS upper body strength to do some of those tricks!) she also talks about how it helps women to be more comfortable with their bodies and their sexuality, so comfortable, that they sometimes forget about the sexual mores of people who aren’t in the class! At least for those ladies, it’s not “just for exercise.” It’s been so popular, that some of their male partners have started their OWN class! Bow chicka wow wow…

  7. That’s awesome. You know sex done properly burns more calories than jogging, and jogging carries more risk of joint damage. Yet in our culture jogging is considered morally virtuous and if you are a lady and if you admitted to having sex for at least thirty minutes every day people would think you are some sort of insatiable slut. This, I think, is the fundamental problem with the world.
    Also, how surreal would it be to be a pro-pasties lobbyist?

  8. You know sex done properly burns more calories than jogging, and jogging carries more risk of joint damage.


    Wait… but done properly, sex takes at least two people, and jogging takes only one… so wouldn’t sex have more of a risk of joint damage.


  9. Ryst & Sam, will you be in next year’s calendar as pole dancers? (or priests? — see the quickies comments from today?)

    For the record, I am behind the pole-dancing priest idea 100%. And then maybe we can hold our own virtual nun beauty pageant to go along with it!

  10. Immorality: the morality of those who are having a better time.
    H. L. Mencken

    Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.
    H. L. Mencken

    I rest my case. ;-)

  11. the Internet is slopping over with whatever kind of fetish porn anyone could ever desire. At least this wonderful bastion of sex and perversion is running strong with no challengers in sight.
    If only that were true. At least in these United States, the government has been trying for more than a decade to stymie the availability of adult material online. Two major legislative initiatives have failed on the grounds that it infringes on the Free Speech rights of adult consumers. Congress has been trying to get the most recent version, the Children’s Online Protection Act, to pass constitutional muster since 1998.

    The Bush Department Of Justice has been waging a two-front war on online porn. First, they’ve stepped up obscenity prosecutions of distributors who use the Internet to sell physical videos across state lines. By “stepped up,” I mean started doing them again, after years of not bothering.

    Second, they’ve tried to beef up recordkeeping laws to make them so burdensome that they put smaller distributors out of business, make large businesses much less profitable, and make it easier for everyone who deals in adult material to be vulnerable to prosecution.

    I’m running off at the keyboard, so I won’t go into detail about the changes, except to say that they’re almost identical to parts of the regulations that were struck out of the original for (again) being unconstitutional.

    I worked for an mid-sized adult website for a while, right when the DoJ announced the new recordkeeping requirements and obscenity enforcement, and there was a lot of panic in the business. There have since been injunctions against the new rules, but it’s still brewing.

  12. @QuestionAuthority

    Very nice.


    Interesting. I have heard of some of the things you mentioned, but I’m wondering, is any of that really a threat to Internet porn?

    (Hey, that me be a good topic for an Afternoon Inquisition.)

  13. Sam: It probably wouldn’t destroy Internet porn, but it could have a major chilling effect, at least on the domestic industry. The regs currently require that producers have signed statements of age and copies of ID for every model that appears in any film.

    The site I worked for streamed licensed movies on a pay-per-minute basis. We used to be able to rely on sworn statements from the producers that they had the proper documents. The expanded regs would require anyone who distributes or hosts the content to also have copies of those documents. If one is incorrect or goes missing, you’re vulnerable to prosecution.

    When the expanded regs were announced, some smaller distributors folded. They didn’t have the time or manpower to collect and manage the documents for the material they had, as well as for the new material they would be adding. There have since been injunctions issued against enforcement, but it’s still out there.

    Another provision would require anyone that does live streaming to record and permanently archive every single second of the streamed footage, which could add up to terabytes of data. Nobody knows for sure if you’s be vulnerable if, say, you have a major hardware failure and lose your archives, but its a possibility.

    The major upshot, of course, would be that all of the Internet porn production and hosting would move oversees. Companies that could afford to do that would make the transition, but many thousands of amateur producers and niche sites would probably go out of business. It’s a worst case scenario, but it’s a possibility.

  14. So, sell porn of people with gray hair so there’s no issue. Really, I have no problem with ridiculously detailed laws to protect children. If you’re selling material where you can’t tell if the participants are minors, that’s a big problem if you ask me. Find material to sell that includes actors that are obviously adults and you won’t have a problem.

  15. . . . .The major upshot, of course, would be that all of the Internet porn production and hosting would move oversees. . . .

    See, this is what intrigues me. I mean, this isn’t like prohibition where consumers would be forced to create their own porn (althought many do), or even run it in from Canada. The Internet is already global. Porn consumers in the US only need add a .uk or a .au or whatever to the address bar of their browser, and they have porn. If you’re a legislator, couldn’t you see that shutting down domestic sites and distributors is only going to send American dollars elsewhere?

    To me, it seems merely a moral powerplay that has no benefit to anyone other than foreign sites and distributors, and possibly the conservative right because they will sleep better at night for doing the lord’s work.

  16. WriterDD: That’s not the way the law works. It doesn’t matter what the performer looks like. Even if you’re showing G.I.L.F. porn, you have to have documentation for everyone who appears. If you don’t, you’re in violation.

    And let me be clear, I don’t see a problem (and the federal courts don’t either) with making the producers collect that information. But forcing anyone downstream who redistributes it to reproduce that work is silly and (according to the courts) unreasonably burdensome.

    Sam: To me, it seems merely a moral powerplay that has no benefit to anyone other than foreign sites and distributors, and possibly the conservative right because they will sleep better at night for doing the lord’s work.

    Nail, meet hammer.

  17. For those of us old enough to know, the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s came to an end in the early 80s. The true cause of its end was the coming of AIDS to the sexual transmitted disease (STD) scene. At first it only affected those who were gay and then intravenous drug users. For the first time you could actually die based on life style choices. The religious right exploited this saying its was God’s revenge for those not living a virtuous life style. However, we know that AIDS/HIV did not stay in the community and eventually affected those in the heterosexual community. That ended the sexual revolution and I do not believe it will be again until there is a vaccine or cure for HIV/AIDS. That was the actually end, however, the religious right did exploit it to their ends claiming sinners were being punished.

  18. Danimal, your assessment matches my old memory. :-) But I think the right wing bullshit can be ended without a cure for AIDS or a vaccine. The real problem is the withholding of needed information about safe sex practices and the lies perpetrated by the religious right, even in so called health classes at schools.

    And pole dancing won’t get you HIV anyway. :-)

  19. The real problem is the withholding of needed information about safe sex practices and the lies perpetrated by the religious right, even in so called health classes at schools.

    When I talk to a 16 year old who thinks she can’t get pregnant if she doesn’t swallow, it makes me want to cry. How is this supposed to help our children again?

  20. writerdd if memory serves, the AIDS epidemic started it all. Ronald Reagan was in office and rapidly all the sinning had to be brought to an end. This includes raising the drinking age to 21, the war on drugs (started by Lenny Bias’ death), the beings of anti-tobacco by claims the second hand smoke causes harm, etc. But it with the advent of AIDS and Reagan that gave the religious right their power. I hope that it will all end with the election of Obama.

    With regard to pole dancing giving one HIV, when the HIV/AIDS epidemic started people were in fear of getting it from public toilets, kissing, etc. People did get it though blood transfusions. But all this was unknown at the time. There was a general public panic even being around individuals that had HIV/AIDS. Again this was exploited by the religious right as God’s wrath against sinners and it put to end the exploits of the hippie generation. With it ended the sexual revolution. It really sucked.

  21. One farther comment, without AIDS/HIV, I do not believe the sexual revolution would have ended. The fear of death can put a stop to a lot of things. Of the STDs, before that, there was herpes, that it not kill one however. But as far as I know it cannot be cured, even today. All the rest could. The liberals preached safe sex and condom use and the conservative preached abstinence until marriage. The conservatives won. Billy Clinton the only democratic presidents in office sense then did not help the cause any.

  22. Danimal and writerdd have it correct. The HIV/AIDS outbreak has had a major chilling effect on sexuality. I was in my teens in the 1970’s (ok, now you can all fugire out how old I am!) and I stayed away from sex until I married in 1979 because of the potential danger. I was just too worried about the consequences, because so little was known about AIDS then and no one had good information. At one point, no one was sure if the infective agent could pass through condoms or not. As a teen boy, I wanted sex, but I wanted to live, too. Frightening that I had to think that way…

    What I have to laugh about is that they use the same “beat up on the sinners” logic when a major storm hits somewhere like New Orleans (think Katrina) and they are strangely silent when Jeb Bush’s Florida and good ‘ol Texas are smacked by one.

  23. As I recall, in the late 1970’s there was already discussion about “something” medically bad going on already in the gay community. Gays were coming down with ridiculously rare cancers and conditions. and no one knew why. It was in the scientific and medical media at the time, but no one was sure what the cause was…it was just emerging. There was speculation about a virus or other cause. I’ve been a science nut since I was a kid, so I saw the stories. It hit the main media in the early 1980’s – as usual, they were behind, partly because the gay community was still under their radar and “unmentionable.”

  24. It was a long time ago so I don’t remember exactly when I first heard about the rare conditions that were popping up in the gay community.

    It is hard to remember that far back. I just don’t remember AIDS being scary until well into the 80’s.

    But that is just my recollection.

  25. There was awareness of an immune-compromising condition in the early 1970’s, but it didn’t get the formal name recognition until the early 1980’s.
    AIDS didn’t get scary for the mainstream until it turned out that heteros could get it too. When it was just a “gay plague,” it was mostly ignored. The only people paying attention were gays, gay rights advocates, and religious demagogues, who called HIV and AIDS a righteous punishment for a sinful lifestyle.

  26. LBB – You are certainly right that most mainstream folks didn’t care. I was rather precocious and highly intelligent, plus science did (and does) interest me. The thought of a mystery disease gave me chills.

    Spurge – For most people, AIDS wasn’t scary because no one outside the science and medical press were covering it then. Those of us that spent a lot of time in the library (geek/bookworm that I was in high school) reading science coverage were ahead of the curve.

    As an aside, I thought (and still do) think the Web is one of the most wonderful inventions ever! So much content, so little time…!

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