MSNBC recently posted an article in their “Weird News” section about the possibility of Pole Dancing becoming an Olympic sport. There have subsequently been a number of other news sites, blogs, and websites that have reposted this article and it has generated quite a buzz. The article was interesting enough, but the comments were what really fascinated me. After having read hundreds of comments on dozens of different websites (and commenting a bit myself) I think the public’s reaction to pole dancing becoming an Olympic Sport falls under a few different categories. One popular response was to ridicule the idea, based either on a lack of knowledge for how much athleticism pole dancing actually requires, or based on the exclusion of other sports (i.e. cricket’s not a sport, why should pole dancing be a sport?). Another common response was to immediately confuse what happens in a pole dance competition with what happens in a club thereby resulting in snarky comments about judges shoving medals into dancer’s thongs. A few applauded the idea, citing the hard work it takes and making comparisons to gymnastics, etc. However, the overall response was negative and the negativity, in my opinion, stemmed from our culture’s overall discomfort with overt displays of female sexuality. One commenter actually said that it would be fine to have pole dancing as an Olympic sport as long as it was stripped (haha) of every sexual overtone. Um, ok.
Let me be frank and straightforward for a moment here. I know absolutely nothing about what it takes to qualify as an Olympic sport. In fact, I know very little about sports, period. I have never danced competitively and it does not interest me to do so. I dance because it connects me a deeply feminine, sexual part of my self. I dance because it feels good in my body. The fact that it gets me fit is just a bonus. So I’m not really sure how important it is to me personally that pole dancing gain Olympic standing. With that said, I support the women who feel that it is important, and, I think that this very public push has done something excellent for the pole dancing community, which is to put pole in the public spotlight. And pole dancing, because of it’s sensual and erotic roots, holds up a mirror to our culture’s sex phobia.
The overall response from the general public reflects a real discomfort with women dancing sensually and evoking the erotic. Whether this discomfort is reflected by third-grade comments about women taking their clothes off (nudity! yeah!) or flat out misogyny from both men AND women (those skanky whores need to find a real job!) the message is that we have a long way to go before people begin to accept that an erotic, sensual expression of the female body is worthy of respect. Pole dancing is, and hopefully always will be, a sensual form of movement, and I think that is why most people balk at it being in the Olympics. Because in our culture, rather than celebrating the sensuality of the female body, we censor it and we shame it and we denigrate it. If we could change how we view a woman who chooses to celebrate her sensuality through dance, if we could look at this movement as a celebration of the female body, of its innate sensuality, of its sexual power and beauty, then maybe pole dancing, and even stripping could be integrated into the mainstream and viewed as a practice that is worthy of respect.So I want to know what you, the pole dancers think. Should it pole dancing become an Olympic Sport? Why? Should we sacrifice the sexiness for mainstream recognition? Do you think if our culture were more sex-positive, the perspective on pole dancing would shift? Is it possible for stripping and pole dancing to gain the respect of the general public as a legitimate sensual expression of female sexuality and power?