Saturday, December 14, 2013

You Keep your Rules, I'll Keep my Gluteal Folds

There is an interesting conversation happening at Studio Veena at the moment.  It's about whether or not there should be a dress code in pole studios.  You know. Whether we should start telling women they need to COVER UP a little more when they are in the studio.  I scrolled through the comments, which range from "hell no" to "yes of course" and came up with my own response to the situation.  Read on.

For the love of God. If I wanted to be a part of a community that was going to tell me how to dress right down to the number of centimeters my gluteal folds are permitted to be "exposed", I would have been a damn gymnast. I would have been been an ice skater. I would have been a swimmer. No, see I became a pole dancer because it gave me freedom - freedom to be who I am in the studio and out, freedom to explore my dance through things like dressing up or down, playing with heels, collars, ties, boots, hoodies and whatever else I found myself drawn to in the moment. Pole is subversive. It's subversive because it challenges the traditional ideas of what a woman can and cannot be, should and should not do when it comes to her body. When you have a woman who is smart, articulate and perhaps works as an engineer by day (like Nadia Sharif) and then who puts on high heels, and dances out the sexy in her free time, you have a woman who is actively breaking down stereotypes. Why yes, I can be smart and sexy and be public about both. Why no, dancing in high heels on a pole does not make me a dumb, desperate woman. And yes, I am CHOOSING to dance like this, to move like this, to DRESS like this because it pleases me. And I really don't care what you think. Because what you think is a reflection of your own values and issues. I'm at peace with my choices, and who I am. 
This is what infuriates me the most about these kinds of "rules" about dress and bodies and exposure in pole: Underneath is a thinly veiled expression of shaming. And shame is what I shed when I started pole dancing. The words "appropriate" and "professional" come up a lot in this thread in reference to clothing. I spend my days working in a place where I have to be appropriate and professional. The last thing I want to do is walk into my studio at the end of the day and get the same rigamarole. As far as getting the mainstream to accept pole, I truly don't think pole will go anywhere if we whitewash the sexy out of it. Why should we change in order to be taken more seriously? If you change yourself to be accepted by another person, what happens? You lose the respect of that person and you lose your identity. That same dynamic exists on a macro level as well. Yes, pole is athletic and it gets you fit and it's beautiful and yes it has many faces, including competition.  And yes competitions and studios need rules for safety, among other things. But forcing pole dancers to look or act or present themselves a certain way just so that "other people" will accept pole as "legitimate"  is just squeezing the very soul right out of our pole culture.  Pole is already legitimate. We make it legitimate just by the simple act of dancing.


Monday, December 2, 2013

The Sexual Is The Spiritual

Recently, I began inviting people to share their stories with me about how pole dancing has changed and shaped their lives.  The Pole Story is as much about you as it is about the culture of pole.  In fact, your stories are what create the culture of pole.
My first brave guest writer chose to write about the intersection of her spirituality and her sexuality in pole class, and the ways in which this meeting furthered her healing process.  Given the time of year, a story about the spiritual aspects of pole seemed the perfect way to kick-off a lovely new series of Pole Stories.


For some pole dancing is about the workout.  For others, it is about feeling beautiful and sexy. I go to S Factor for all of the above reasons.  But the main reason I go is for what it does for my spirit.  It makes me feel connected to myself and to the Divine.  
When I get to class, the room is dark.  I sit down on a purple mat and the world around me quiets. I close my eyes and ground into my body, letting my mind go for just a couple of hours. I feel the music coming into the room, pouring onto my skin, into my ears and I allow it to take me. I hear the teacher's voice and it guides me on a journey to connect with my heart, with the Divine. With my eyes closed I go into deep meditation. I don't let my mind rule me; I just do what feels right. It's completely magical.
In meditation the goal is to master your mind.  In class, while I’m dancing, I attain that mastery. I don't think to myself, "Ok, I'm going do a couple hip circles here and then I'm going to throw a spin." I let the music enter my body and let my body take over, allowing my mind to follow. It is a conversation between God and me. 

I have been taught that my spiritual self and my sexual self should be separate. That there is a time for your spiritual self and there is a time for your sexual self. And that the time for your sexual self should be in the privacy of your own bedroom, with your husband. In some ways this is true. There are certain things that need to be saved for you or your partner in the privacy of your own home.  However, it is also true that we are spiritual beings and we are sexual beings. In order for us to live sanely in this world we need to tell ourselves that it is ok for the spiritual and the sexual to merge. There is a common misconception that sexuality is "bad" and "dirty." In reality it is just a part of who we are. There are so many things that we do instinctually that would scientifically be classified as sexual behavior that we don't even recognize.

I have done Kundalini Yoga since I was 12 and I have been a Sikh for about the same amount of time. It has healed my soul and saved my life, but S Factor has taken my soul and my sexuality to a different level. It helped me to KNOW that it is really and truly ok to be sexy. Since I was young, people have been telling me that I am "Too Sexy." I never understood what that meant.  It always made me feel like I was doing something wrong, but I never understood what, because I didn't feel like I was "doing" anything.

I don't tell many people outside of the pole community that I take classes at S Factor because I know they won't understand. But, S Factor has changed my life. It has given me an outlet to heal myself and my sexuality on a whole other level – one I have never experienced before. Because of S Factor, I know that I am sexy and that it is 100% ok to be that way.  It is not only ok, but it's good for me. It isn't about the workout (although that is a plus), it is about the deep spiritual journey that I go on in each and every class.
As a deeply spiritual person, who lives a spiritually disciplined life, I never would have thought that S Factor would give me the "enlightenment" that I needed to continue healing myself. It takes me into my heart and allows my body to express itself the way it wants to. What I have come to realize is that my spiritual self and my sexual self are one. I have been able to merge the two in a way that I never thought possible through this movement. It has given me an outlet to release and let go of things I've been holding onto for years. It has allowed me to discover myself on a new level and showed me that who I am is beautiful and perfect.