In August I celebrated my three-year pole dancing anniversary but I didn’t get the chance to write about it because I was too busy getting angry about the Instagram shadowban. Yet, pole dancing really has changed my life and I wanted to give it the credit it deserves in this (hopefully) a bit more lighthearted post than usual. If you want to read my life story you can find it here and here.
1 – I Have Become A Hypochondriac For Fear Of Not Pole Dancing
I was the type of child who would do cartwheels when she had awful fevers. Now I live in fear of getting injured or ill and not being able to pole. So I see the doctor a bit more often than usual… have I become that immigrant who steals jobs and takes advantage of the NHS? Oh dear.
2 – I Now Listen To Popular Music
Before I started pole dancing, I was a hardcore metalhead who would not listen to anything beyond 1995 or, at the very least, to anything that was mildly pop. Initially I didn’t even want to. Then it became one of my quirks, a reputation thing that I wanted to keep up because… I don’t know… I wanted to feel different. Whatever.
I was young, but mostly I was not very fun to go clubbing with: by rejecting any form of popular music, I would not enjoy going out and dancing because the music they played in clubs didn’t match my taste. I couldn’t have conversations about the brilliance of new albums and their importance for pop culture because I was still listening to Appetite For Destruction 10 times a day (ofc I am exaggerating this, but you get the idea).
In 2015, I didn’t even know who Drake was. Then I started pole dancing, just for the sake of feeling less lonely while doing a Master in Australia, and to try a new sport that didn’t have me all up in my head like running. Suddenly I had to suck it up: Kanye West, Drake, Ariana Grande and the likes were in my instructors’ playlists, and I couldn’t just turn them off.
While I admit that knowing who sings the lyrics of “Been around the world, don’t speak the language, but your booty don’t need explaining” (spoiler alert: it’s Jason Derulo, and you’ve got to read this in a whisper like he says his own name) hasn’t changed my life, I am now a normal person who enjoys pop music. And this is great. Not only so much of my academic research now embeds popular culture into sociology and criminology; my playlists are less boring and monotone, my life is richer and my friends hate me way less. This is great.
Full disclosure: I still enjoy metal a lot. Together with 80s rock, it’s my favourite genre to dance to – and to twerk to, too. The hair flicks get WILD.
3 – I Have A Very Stretched View Of Decency
I am 100% that bitch. That bitch who is naked even before the nurse during my annual smear test tells me: “I’ll give you five minutes to get changed.”
4 – I Am Now In Love With My Body
A few weeks ago I filmed another section of a documentary about the relationship between pole dancing and my mental health, and oh boy, did my friends deliver in their explanation of that.
I probably hadn’t vocalised it, but essentially by seeing so many people wearing very little clothing on a daily basis, I’ve become more at ease with showing my body, despite its flaws. Plus, once you start pole dancing you get stronger, your body changes and you don’t only accept your body as it is for what it can do: you actually watch it get better and better.
Let it be clear that I am not advocating for fitness or a six-pack. In fact, every time I receive a message about what I did for my body to look like this I respond with: I train often, I enjoy training, I only do pole. That’s it. I am doing what works for myself, but I am not actively starving or over-training myself for the sake of losing weight or having a six-pack. I haven’t been on a scale since 2017.
Everything that has happened to my body since I took up pole has been a welcome surprise, and I am in no position to tell people who might have different needs, bodies, characteristics what they should to. I personally think that the beauty in seeing a half-naked body in pole is in how that body moves, not in whether it has cellulite or not.
5 – I Have Become A Better Feminist
You don’t have to pole dance to love your body and realise that all bodies are beautiful in their own way. But I wasn’t in that headspace before starting pole – I had problems with binge-eating and hated my body after an abusive relationship/ sexual assault. I was ashamed of myself and was therefore way more judgmental towards others. Pole changed that and made me realise beauty isn’t really in just one type of body, and that women or everyone should be allowed to look however they want / feel like without being judged.
You don’t have to be a pole dancer to care about issues such as sex workers’ rights, but this is something I never even wondered about before of starting my pole dancing journey. The sport I love comes from stripping and I am glad I have come across so many amazing pole dancers and strippers who opened my eyes to the different kinds of freedom women can gain from sex work, preventing me from being a judgmental wanker.
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I receive a lot of messages asking me about stripping tips / what to do if you want to start working in a strip club etc. and I 1) am incredibly honoured, because I am a recreational pole dancer who competes occasionally and still can’t take off an item of clothing in a sexy way without looking like a suffocating animal 2) unfortunately can’t help, because I have never worked in a club and can’t claim that background (look up @reductress parody article about pole dancers who refuse to respect sex workers or my Q&A with @ethicalstripper to read about the problem with #poledancers appropriating the stripper aesthetic while distancing themselves from it), let alone give you tips that’ll make you money. So this is why, if you are thinking of working in a club, want to educate yourself about stripping or are generally interested in what the life of a stripper looks like, you HAVE to read “The Beaver Show” by stripper, comedian, artist, writer and all-round superhero @jacqthestripper. L O V E D this book so buy it and support Jacq’s art! Pic by: @travelwith.mer
6 – My Idea of Consent Has Developed
Another thing we discussed during the filming of the documentary was consent. We noticed how, despite often being butt-naked, we all asked each other: is it ok if I touch you when I spot you?
And this is why pole really has opened my eyes to so many things. It is the perfect example of how people can co-exist in a safe space without harming each other. The fact someone isn’t wearing much, or the fact that you know them, isn’t an authorisation to touch them without their permission.
I have applied this to my life in so many ways. There are so many layers of consent in relationships that already exist and work – and the fact that they exist and work doesn’t mean you should assume people consent to everything. This is something I can now demand from friends and partners, and a behaviour I can stick to myself.
7 – I Have Become A Workout Addict
Before pole dancing, my definition of hell would have been to have to work out everyday for more than half an hour. Now I have a pole in my house and even on my days off I find myself somehow freestyling in my PJs.
The positive mental and physical health effects of pole are so many that it’s hard for me to imagine a time when I don’t do it.
8 – I Drink More Responsibly
Have you ever tried going upside down while hungover? Or twerking your ass off at 10 am when you’ve come home at 5 am after too many beers?
NOT. FUN. #Choices
9 – I Value My Time A Lot More
Pole dancing costs money and time. It requires a lot of effort, training and commitment. Which brings me to the next point…
10 – I Date Better People
Being a pole dancer unfortunately attracts a lot of unwanted attention – I wrote a post about things men have told me when they learn I pole, read it here. As a pole dancer, you’re often sexualised even more than the average woman, are often asked to give out lap dances as if they were free hugs and people who think they’re hitting on you can annoy you in a variety of creative ways.
However, this inadvertently provides an extra sorting mechanism between people I want to date and fuckbois who can go back to Party City where they belong. If someone isn’t able to understand that I am a person beyond the ass-shake, then they are probably not worth dating. [This was valid even before I was a pole dancer, but I couldn’t really get my head around objectification then.]
Also, if someone doesn’t respect my time and likes to mess around / ghost me/ booty call, the ultimate question I ask myself is: would I cancel pole for this person? If the answer is no… well… BYE.
How Has Pole Dancing Changed Your Life?
Hope you’ve enjoyed this semi-serious account of my past three years. How has pole changed your life? Would love to read your comments here or on social media!