He-he… “Pole” dancer…get it?
So, here I am, a pole dancer, and burlesque artist and… a man. But that’s OK because I must be Gay. No, wait. I like women! The scandal! How dare I, right?
This is the truth of the reactions that men like myself get in the world of pole. Not that it bothers me personally, being comfortable in my sexuality, but it is an issue for men who don’t have that level of confidence in themselves. I can’t count the amount of times that I have suggested Pole Dancing to men, who want an exciting way to get fit, yet they have nearly all turned it down because they “don’t want to appear gay”.
Now in my head this immediately flags several questions. Firstly, what’s wrong with being Gay? I know many gay builders, engineers and body builders…I don’t see anyone throwing down their tools and weights saying that they are afraid of appearing Gay. Secondly, YOU know what your sexual preference is, so what does it matter what others think? And thirdly, in my experience, most women (you know, the ones who you are sexually attracted to) love the concept of a male pole dancer, so why do you view that as a bad thing?
Women in the workplace
Unfortunately, it is still considered an unusual thing that an industry can be female led, and yet here we are beholding a fast growing sport and arts industry that is breaking boundaries, and is strongly led by women. As we all know, pole dancing is a fantastic way to get fit, get confident, and get in touch with your inner self, both expressively and occasionally erotically.
As much as being a female lead industry is empowering to woman kind, there is also a stigma around it socially. Many people primarily associate pole dancing with its strip club origins, which was naturally aimed at the titillation of men in exchange for cash. As such, pole is seen as a feminine activity designed primarily for the pleasure of men. Therefore, if you are a male pole dancer don’t you HAVE to be gay? Obviously not, yet no one seems to be able to point out why? Maybe it is the fact that we are doing something that is considered feminine, elegant and graceful, so much so that those aspects overshadow the sheer strength and control required to be good at what we do.
The Reverse Reaction
Now, unfortunately I cannot broach this “reaction” topic without talking about certain rare times. When presented with the concept of pole dancing, a straight man sometimes gives me the “Reverse Reaction”, or as its also known “Misogyny”. I tell them that I am a male pole dancer, and they immediately respond with, “I bet that is awesome, being in a room with mostly naked ladies”. As if they view my classes as some kind of private strip show just for me.
I am thankful that this doesn’t happen often, but when it does it gets right under my skin. As anyone who dances or trains their body knows, especially if they are training for performance, there is very little that is sexy about tired, sweaty, bruised bodies doing the same thing over and over and over again. Even if any of us came into class wearing makeup it doesn’t last very long. Sorry guys; pole dancing is not the flouncy lez sesh you are dreaming of. We go in and work bloody hard, pushing our body to the limits to make everything seem effortless.
However, despite how little consideration I give these men, they still affect my life, and quite possibly the lives of every straight male pole dancer out there. It is because of them that some women feel uncomfortable in a class containing a man. It is because of them that before I go to a workshop/class, I ask the instructor to check to make sure no one in the class will feel uncomfortable by my presence.
The trouble with Men
It must be said, it’s not all outside problems that we “blokes” face. There are other difficulties that we experience from being within a female led art. The main one is that our bodies and physiologies are inherently different. I, for example, have little issue doing a good old handspring on demand, ask me to sit on the pole though and I will find every excuse available. That’s down to the male physiology, and the fact I have more leg hair. Ouch!
I frequently feel sorry for female instructors that haven’t had much experience teaching men, not because they are unable to or that we are particularly awkward students, but because of the little things. For example not noticing what would seem like some obvious differences – helping us into moves, but not realising that we have bits in the way, or the fact that it pretty much hard wired into us not to caress ourselves. Easiest way to make your average guy feel awkward… ask him to sensually stroke his body.
That being said, personally I love the sensual side of pole. I am perfectly happy to strap on a pair of Pleasers and be as sultry as the woman next to me. But then I came to pole not for the fitness side of things, but because I love to perform. Hard to believe, but you don’t have to be gay to love performing either…shocker, I know!
Should men just give up?
HELL NO! At the end of the day guys, pole dancing offers you a training regime that exercises nearly every part of your body. It offers you a way to use your brain as well as your muscles, as you work out how to get into and out of moves. It offers you supportive social interaction, as no one will support you as much as your fellow dancers do. And it allows you to express yourself in ways you wouldn’t imagine, whether through performance, competition or just the thrill of the next challenge.
The only way to stop the social perceptions of something is to get involved and change them. If you are a guy considering pole, remember that by taking up pole, YOU step out of the mold and become a pioneer of a fast growing, intense activity, that is equal parts sport, art form and social club.
Valen Vain, Alternative Male Model of the Year 2016, Stage Addict and Over-The-Top Performer.
Mr Vain was accidentally lured into Pole Dancing by the instructors of Pole4Fitness (Hull) a few years ago whilst he was meant to be practicing an Aerial Hoop routine. However this little taster soon had him returning time and time again, adding another link to his performance repertoire.
Pushing himself hard in 2016, Valen, no longer satisfied with the limits of the studio, showcased his pole performances at several cabarets. Now, 2017 sees him stepping it up again, ready to hit the competition stages.
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