Friday, November 29, 2013

Rethinking what makes you "Not A Stripper"

Polers, while most respect exotic dancers, spend a lot of effort making sure you know we are not strippers. (Well, except those of us who are. Well, no, actually, sometimes those of us who are too.) I clearly don't think that poling and stripping are the same thing, but sometimes I hear some arguments that make me go hmm. If you've ever said one of these things, think again.

"I'm not a stripper because I don't take my clothes off."
Lets talk about state laws for a second. "Gentlemen's clubs" in different areas might have various amounts of skin exposed for legal reasons. Some states you can run around in your birthday suit, some you can't bare anything, some it depends whether or not you're selling alcohol or what percentage of your square footage is devoted to adult entertainment.

The result of this legislation is that some joints that are "strip clubs" in every other sense do not have any nudity. They might be "go-go" or "bikini bars," where girls are dancing on stage and/or around a pole and/or on customers' laps have their naughty bits covered--top AND bottom.

Are you an exotic dancer if you're dancing onstage in a bikini? What if it's a thong bikini? What if it's opaque lingerie?

Some of you might be saying, "Oh, I can dance for money without taking my clothes off? Sign me up!" OK, but keep in mind that you might not just shimmy up and down a pole--you might still be expected to lap dance or do "champagne rooms." Does that change your feeling? Or is it still OK as long as you're wearing 2 inches of fabric? Is it OK to stuff your boobs in a stranger's face if as long as your nipples are covered?

Go-go bars aside, a lot of clubs are topless and not nudie bars (again, depends on state laws). Do you think it's OK to dance in a bikini but not if you take your top off? What if you're wearing pasties?

Oh, and consider the following: Nude beaches. Nude photos for a modeling career. Nude posing for paintings (I earned my grocery money doing this for awhile).  Nude because you're in a culture (much of Europe) where nudity is culturally acceptable.

At the end of the day, it's only a few inches of fabric separating all of these different categories. Maybe 40 cents worth of cloth, retail. Where do you draw the line?

"I'm not a stripper because I don't perform in public."
I honestly think this is where the whole competition culture in pole came from. Women performing on a pole is naughty, but competing? That's different! Even though every single competition is also a performance.

You can make this argument if you're poling at home by yourself. Maybe if you're in class, although I'd argue that more people are "performing" to show off to their colleagues in class than will admit as such. But once you enter your first showcase or competition, you're performing.

"I'm not a stripper because I put on a show, I don't just wave my titties around."
OK, so you're a burlesque dancer because you swing your tassles in a trendy venue instead of an upscale gentlemen's club. What if you took your entire set, including 30's music, feathery costumes, and suggestive props, and transported them directly to a strip club? What if you performed your entire set, just as you would have in your hipster bar, but now it's in a tittie bar?

Actually, something like this does happen. There is such thing as a "feature dancer" in strip clubs. Certain women have a following and will travel all over the nation, dancing themed performances in fancy, burlesquey costumes to preselected songs with props, and then pose for photos with customers afterwards. These women don't just wave their bums back and forth for a song and collect dollars--they put on a real show.

Sound like a career path you'd like to follow? Well, you usually have to be a porn star to get this gig. So get out there and build up your resume!

"I'm not a stripper because I don't do it for money."
Oh, how nice for you--you are so rich that you get to pay to do something that another woman is doing to feed her kids. Whether or not you pole for money has less to do with your moral values and more to do with how badly you need money. If you're going to use the "money" defense to explain what's different between you and a stripper, consider that that difference has more to do with being born into a world (or marrying into a world or MAYBE bootstrapping your way into a world) where you were able to achieve financial security. Maybe a single bankruptcy separates you from them and maybe it doesn't. You might have parents you can move in with, or marketable skills that will get you another job. But unless you've looked into the eyes of your child, crying from hunger, and then turned down the money to nourish them in return for doing a little pole dance, I don't give you cred for this one.

I'm not saying that polers are exotic dancers, or that there's anything wrong with poling, or that there's anything wrong with exotic dancing. We all know the famous definition of porn, "I know it when I see it." And I've covered this issue before (see Pole, where is thy audience? and The precarious ties between pole dance and stripping).  I'm as quick to differentiate my art from that of the pro exotic as the rest of the community. But I don't think it's a bad thing if we realize that the line between people who pole dance for fun, people who pole dance for profit, and people who do both, isn't a clean one.
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  1. love this and I agree with it so much. I wrote a blog on this a year ago and I still hold the ideal of "I may not be a stripper, but I'm flattered you think I could be"

  2. I think it's pretty clear that the whole "I'm not a stripper" basically comes from slut-shaming. You know, I'm not like THOSE women, I'm a good girl. Well what if we all celebrated and supported women who take control of their own sexuality, no matter what they do with their lives/careers? Seems to me that the longer a dancer is in this community, and the wider the variety of dancers she meets, the less concerned she is with being labeled a stripper. Some of our pole heroes are strippers or former strippers - people we would label "power polers," national champs. My viewpoint has certainly changed from skepticism of strippers, to skepticism of anyone that thinks less of strippers. Those people are simply willing to throw money at something they don't understand. More power to strippers, I say.

  3. I've just downloaded iStripper, so I can have the sexiest virtual strippers on my taskbar.