febuary blog hop

Gender, Men & The Art Of Pole: There’s a man in my pole class. PT3

Photo by Poleagraphy

By Danielle Giannantonio

“Is he gay?” That’s always the first question. When people find out that there is, often times, a man in my pole classes, their first concern is if he's gay. Most of the time the answer is yes, but it's not like I've ever actually asked. It shouldn't matter. It certainly doesn't matter to me. In fact, when I was first asked to give my opinion on having men in my class, I was worried. I was worried that I didn't have enough of an opinion about the topic.

I hadn't ever put much thought into it. And with that realization, I immediately felt proud of myself for my forward thinking. And I felt brave for stretching and bending and strutting around, barely clothed, in a co-ed class. But don't get me wrong... it's not like pole dancing isn't sexy. And I understand why the topic of men in pole classes should be explored. Some, maybe most, women may not feel so comfortable straddling their legs open or body-rolling with a man looking on. But I suppose it's all about point of view. Pole dancing is a sport. And the amount of booty shaking involved is completely up to each individual. Man or woman.

Which leads me to my next realization: When I am in a class full of women, we will often times learn a routine. A routine that includes hip rolls, figure eights, crawling, etc... the sexy/sensual stuff. But when we have a man in class, we never do. Never. The class is always focused on tricks. Something I had never put together before I sat down to write this. Once I realized this, I experienced a bit of a perspective change. I began to think about how a man might feel in a pole class. Maybe teachers at other studios aren't so aware. Maybe they don't change-up the plan depending on who's in class. How would a man feel about being told to "lead with his ass" or "arch his back and stick out his chest"?

I realized that maybe it isn't us women who are brave enough to include men in "our" classes, but the men who are brave enough to ignore the stereotypes and do it because they love it. Gay or straight. I don't care whether they want to embrace the sexy or the strong... or, like me, both. All I care about is if they are serious about learning and are supportive of their fellow students. And I hope that all instructors are as considerate as mine is to who is in class on any particular day. But, mostly, I hope that "Is he gay?" can no longer be an issue. In more than just the topic of pole dancing.

"Male pole enthusiasts are extremely fun to work with! They are usually open-minded and eager to learn! The only thing I wish was different about male pole students is that we had more of them!" - Performer & Instructor Veronika Pole

*This is the 3rd and final article in our series exploring Gender, Men & The Art Of Pole. I hope that each of these perspectives can be a jumping point for conversations. Communicating our fears respectfully to each other can be amazingly empowering. I know that by starting this discussion with my friends, students and others in the pole community, I have a better understanding of some of the challenges men face in pole dancing, as well as the women who dance along side of them!

PREVIOUS PT 1 - Gender, Men & The Art Of Pole

PREVIOUS PT 2 - Gender, Men & The Art Of Pole: It's A Mans World - Or Is It?

This post is part of our entry for the “Pole Dancing Bloggers Association” Feb Blog Hop on Pole Dancing & Men

Click here to enter your link and view all the additional Pole Dance Blogs in the Hop…

 

Gender, Men & The Art Of Pole: It's A Mans World - Or Is It? PT2

Photo by Jar Alcala

By Chad Allen

My exploration of pole dancing began almost two years ago following a 20 year plus professional dance background as a performer and now choreographer.   Pole dance was something I was always intrigued and intimidated by.  Dancing for the purpose of expressing sensuality, sexuality and eroticism was something I could hardly imagine a person could feel free enough to do.  I assumed this was largely a bias coming from my dance background where technique and correctness were synonymous and using dance and eroticism in the same sentence was a different kind of professional. Now I'm not so certain it was my dance background that I had to overcome, but more an insecurity as a man, that made pole and sensual dance so intimidating.

As a student of a studio that embraces men in pole classes I have to say I have never been anything but supported both in my desire to be in class and my presence in class.  I do make a specific point to introduce myself to all the women so that they know that I am there in support of their own journey.  The studio environment, staff and client, is extremely friendly and extremely supportive. What I have come to observe and I offer here is a subconscious expectation of men, or possibly a lack thereof.

The journey of breaking through the fears of being, and being seen as, sensual, erotic, beautiful and powerful may be a consideration for women that is not quite appreciated for men.  Men are afraid of exposure too.  It seems women almost expect men to be strong.  We're given permission to excel at tricks faster than women but I've noticed that women are less intrigued or sensitive to the journey of men when it comes to the eroticism of the dance as they might another woman. And maybe this is where we are all the most afraid, women and men alike.  I suspect it's the greater discomfort for everyone in the room.  We can watch someone struggle with a shoulder mount much more than we can watch them struggle with finding their own sensuality. But I wonder what is being lost when we don't.

I can say men, including myself,  use strength not because it's so natural but as a distraction from our own fears, especially our fear of "is this sexy?" or  "am I sexy?" I've seen many male pole dancers scale a pole about as sexy as the cable man and people still applaud the trick where I am quite confident the same forgiveness would not be given to a female pole dancer.  I have definitely heard it being instructed in class by our amazing teachers; it's not simply about getting to top of the pole, it's how you get there. I do think women really do want a man to climb to the top of the pole with sexy sensual deliberation, but maybe they are afraid to expect it.  And men, like women,  are just scared to be bad at it.

I am so grateful that I have been allowed to explore these questions for myself in an environment where I think everyone really does care, but we may still be trying to figure out how to articulate it.   At the end of the day, when I leave pole class, I am most fulfilled by the feeling that I have made myself present to other people's journeys and that, like me, it isn't only about the trick and skills.  Being exposed to a room of people and not shrinking in the corner when you don't necessarily feel terribly sexy that day is an accomplishment that I think has bigger value than a trick, or the workout, or the calorie burn.  I get to express being a man in ways the outside world might not embrace.  Just like my fellow female dancers.

You can find Chad in Los Angeles at The Xcceleration Station

PREVIOUS - PT 1: Gender, Men & The Art Of Pole

READ NEXT PT 3 By guest blogger Danielle Giannantonio

Gender, Men & The Art Of Pole: There’s a man in my pole class.

This post is part of our entry for the “Pole Dancing Bloggers Association” Feb Blog Hop on Pole Dancing & Men

Click here to enter your link and view all the additional Pole Dance Blogs in the Hop…

Gender, Men & The Art Of Pole PT1

Photo by Jar Alcala

Gender is such a tricky issue, it affects our relationships, our work environments, our love lives, it shapes and defines who we are. Navigating the ocean of femininity and masculinity is difficult enough on our own, without someone else assigning judgement to ones own view of gender. It made me wonder, just how does gender fit in within the pole dancing community and in pole dancing classes specifically?

This topic is one that is near and dear to me and as I started this post I realized there was no way that I could complete it without reaching out to some of my students and instructors to give their journey a voice as well. Therefore this entry is one of 3 that will come out over the next 3 days exploring Gender, Men & The Art Of Pole.

Being an African-American, female studio owner in her 40's, who hovers anywhere from a size 10-12, it was very important to me that my studio was welcoming and inclusive of all ages, shapes & sizes. I like to think of myself as that open, artsy, liberal type with friends that run the gamut whether it be sexual orientation, class, age, race, religion etc. I wanted, no, I needed a studio that represented all of these differences, hell our tag line is one studio, with no judgments, where everyone and every “body” can come together to work out and have fun while doing it. I was extremely proud of the fact that all of our classes were co-ed, well all except for pole. I saw nothing wrong with excluding men from the pole classes and it was never really an issue - until it was.

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We had only been open for a few months and started to receive a few calls from men regarding pole classes. While I was adamant about creating a "safe space" for females to explore their sensuality and pole, it never really occurred to me that maybe men would benefit from the same consideration so I cheerfully brushed the calls off with "Sorry our pole classes are female only but all of our other classes are coed!".  After a while that statement started to leave a bitter taste in my mouth. And then it got really confusing.

My husband and co-studio owner called me one day and said "We have a young lady who is a pre op transsexual in the middle of transitioning that would like to take pole. I told her I would speak to you regarding classes and get back to her. I think she should be able to." Boy, I did not see this coming. It really made me take a hard look at gender equality in classes and honestly I was torn. The liberal Gemini in me thought "Hell yes come take class!" The not so liberal Gemini thought "but if you don't allow men in class isn't this the same and won't the students feel uncomfortable?" I spoke with my husband and he said "Maybe it's just you who is uncomfortable, why not ask the students and instructor?" So I did.

Everyone was extremely supportive of her and at that point it hit me, one studio, with no judgments, where everyone and every “body” can come together shouldn't just refer to size, or age, it really needed to refer to gender as well. From that point on we went completely coed. Has it being tricky at times - sure. Do we deal with issues of finding a happy medium and balance for all of the students in class - yup. Are there some students that it may not work for - I'm sure there are. Do men have just as many issues exploring their sexuality in class - maybe more so as it is so unembraced and unexpected of them within our society. Do I regret having all coed classes - nope, and I wouldn't turn back! I have learned so much from our male and female students. I truly believe by working together we gain a better respect for each others struggles and emotions. I would like to think that by bridging the gap in pole class and helping to empower men explore their journey we are empowering our own as well.

"I've taught male polers of all ages, ethnicities, shapes, sizes and orientations. Contrary to what people may think, it takes a man very secure in who he is to embark on the rewarding adventure that is pole fitness. Pole can be what you make it: sporty, sexy, athletic, flexy... It's all a self-expression. " Veronika Pole - pole dancer & instructor

READ NOW -  PT 2 By guest blogger Chad Allen:  Gender, Men & The Art Of Pole: It's A Mans World - Or Is It?

READ NOW - PT 3 By guest blogger Danielle Giannantonio:  Gender, Men & The Art Of Pole: There's a man in my pole class.

This post is my entry for the “Pole Dancing Bloggers Association” Feb Blog Hop on Pole Dancing & Men

Click here to enter your link and view all the additional Pole Dance Blogs in the Hop…

*** And just because - here are 2 of my favorite pole dancing videos which happen to be by men. The first is by Ibrahim Tunic and I love it because it challenges what we think of Pole Dancing and the 2nd is Steven Retchless who is just pure hotness to watch and always challenges the norm!

 

[youtube=://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lz4ZqcSjoQM&w=854&h=480]

[youtube=://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EklN7_lQ8U&w=854&h=480]