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The gravy train of selling sex

(This essay ran in my Sense and the City column in today’s Sarasota Herald Tribune TICKET, but for some reason they didn’t post it online — so I’m posting the piece below. All rights reserved by the Sarasota Herald Tribune.)

I just can’t get into the whole pole-dancing and burlesque scene that, by all accounts, is sizzling up the sexy quotient in Sarasota.

Go ahead, call me a prude. But before you get your knickers in a twist, let me assure you – I could care less who likes taking their clothes off and who likes paying for the pleasure of watching them do it. I have no personal objection or moral disagreement with it. But I do have a question or two.

We all know that sex sells. But what’s it selling?

Overtly, sex is selling tickets — to strip clubs, movies, even to charitable events like last year’s Planned Parenthood “Safe Sex Halloween Bash” where scantily clad female dancers slithered up and down stripper poles. Sex also sells business lunches at Hooters, Suncoast boat races, and subscriptions to Sports Illustrated. Heck, sex even sells newspaper websites, as Tom Lyons recently explained in his Sarasota Herald-Tribune column, “Sex and naked: bet you’ll click,” where he humorously decried readers’ preference for sexualized content.

And, if you read last week’s TICKET article, “You Sexy Things: Black Diamond Burlesque is steaming up SRQ,” you learned that sex, as presented by “old-school” burlesque, is now even selling self-esteem and confidence. “Empowered” and “empowering” is how two Black Diamond dancers described the burlesque experience.

“Empower” means to give or derive power or ability. I have a vague idea of how burlesque’s bump and grind might empower men, but what does strip-teasing empower women to do, or be, or feel?

Some women say there are powerful psychological rewards in knowing that the tassel-tossing and G-stringed gyrations of their own sometimes imperfect bodies can tickle the erotic fancies of a room full of men and women. And drawing money, envy, lust, claps and kudos by performing a shrewdly seductive strip and tease for the so-called sophisticated set, could arguably leave a woman with a very satisfying feeling of financial, sexual, emotional, or social “empowerment.” And, indeed, if the success of the Pussycat Dolls burlesque troupe of Los Angeles is any measure, there’s money, fame, and success, to be mined in them thar hills.

My problem is that when we’re selling sex – whether in newspapers, song lyrics, films, politics, burlesque, or even on the street – what we’re selling are women. Women as a commodity. Women as things whose highest and best use is as bodies that seduce and excite the senses at their “classy” best, and churn out “shake your moneymaker” dollars at their crass worst.

Maybe I’m over-thinking all this; I’ve certainly been accused of that enough, and in a way, I actually hope I’m wrong. I almost wish it’s true that moving burlesque from the boys-only back rooms to a community’s center stage as entertainment for couples just wanting a sexy night out on the town, is simply an indication of America loosening up a bit and not just another sign that women’s worth is in their wiggle. And, truly, I have no desire to disparage or discourage any woman’s means of employment, creativity, or self-realization. I want women to feel profoundly empowered and whether they get that from performing burlesque or brain surgery, hey, more power to them.

In the short run, I’m pretty sure that things like running girls up a pole at a fundraiser and setting a few libidos – and egos — on fire with an R-rated onstage romp, aren’t going to lead to the downfall of western civilization. And in the long run, I absolutely believe there’s empowerment to be had in the mainstreaming of selling sex. Somebody, for sure, is gaining real wealth and amassing true power by the ubiquitous and incessant buying and selling of women’s bodies and sexuality.

I just don’t think it’s women.

Posted on April 7th, 2011Comments RSS Feed
36 Responses to The gravy train of selling sex
  1. I happened to stumble upon this after hearing about it on a friends’ FB feed. As a local burlesque performer and instructor I can assure you that performing is done for the ladies, not the guys. In fact, at my shows at least, women enjoy the entertainment more than the men. And the ones who have taken my classes really do learn to be more confident and comfortable in their own skin. If you have the confidence(and drive) to perform burlesque you probably have the ability to do anything. It takes rehearsals at least twice a week, constant practice to improve old routines, and it’s not a cheap hobby. There is no way I would be doing all this work for someone else unless I was personally getting satisfaction from it. Unlike stripping at some lowly bar, burlesque takes an artistic eye, stamina, and the ability to let it all hang out without caring one wink what others think(though to be fair I don’t like showing my stomach, but I have no problem getting down to pasties). I encourage you to attend a burlesque show. Black Diamond is fantastic and I believe they teach classes as well which are tons of fun. Take girlfriends and guys with you to a show and then see how you feel about things :-)

  2. Thanks for reading the blog and adding your thoughts Kayla. I have heard that burlesque does give a great deal of personal satisfaction and reward for the women who do it — and that they’re really doing it for themselves. That’s why the piece was sensitive for me — I want to honor that — guess I just wonder about the “global” effect … how the “public” interprets it. I hear only good stuff about Black Diamond and in fact am acquainted with some of the women associated with BD. I wish them — and you — good fortune and good luck with what you’re doing. I may wonder about broader implications on the perception of women on the whole, but I support self-realization at the individual level on the whole as well!
    Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts and personal experience. And, if you’d care to provide any photos and let me interview you over email or on the phone, I could do a follow up blog or story! All best, MC

  3. John W. Perkins
    April 8, 2011 at 7:00 am

    many years ago I was dragged to a strip club by friends.. All I can say was that I felt embarrased, and haven’t been to another one since.

  4. Interesting article, at first my reaction was a bit defensive since I am a female pole dancer here in the community, though of no association with the event you mentioned. However, since I am an engineer, I had to evaluate and interpret the article in it’s entirety before I jumped to any informal and emmotional conclusions.

    I understand you are not questioning the skill it takes to perform either pole or burlesque, but the big picture of these two artforms and the lasting impacts they may have on our community.

    I would encourage you to not make conclusions yet without making further investigations. Take classes, talk to the women and MEN who perform these acts as professional entertainers and as hobbies. Pull back the veil a bit further and unpeel the layers of these artforms.

    Additionally talk to the men and women who have experienced these activities for fitness benefits. Talk to academic and professional individuals who are qualified to speak of these “empowerment and psychological benefits”, as I am not. Talk to the women who are making money off of these forms of expression whether it be performance based or entertainment based. I only know one male pole dance studio owner, and he is on the west coast.

    I own Apple Jelly Studios in Sarasota and our doors are open to both men and women. I encourage you to continue your questions and investigations. I would be happy to share my experiences from a pole dancers perspective, a fitness enthusiast, a local small business owner, and an engineer. I am sure we could have interesting conversations and possibly we both could learn something new about the topic at hand.


    Kelly Blake

  5. Thanks for reading JW — burlesque is a far cry from a strip club but i’ve heard from several men saying the same thing — that they found strip clubs to be embarrassing or demeaning.
    i’d love to hear from men who’ve experienced burlesque — enjoyed it or not — either way, feel free to comment!

  6. Kelly — thanks for your perspective … and for taking the time to read the column .. .

    I appreciate the broader perspective and your encouragement that I look into the subject matter a bit more. I’ll probably reach out to you to follow up. Thanks so much!

  7. I have not been to a live burlesque show yet, but my wife and I both agree that we would love to attend one. It seems like fun, adult (like, not for the kids) entertainment. To conflate burlesque and the strip club scene would be like lumping Angelina Jolie movies and porn together. Some people are going to see more gray areas than others, but I think for the most part we can agree that one is harmless adult-oriented entertainment and the other is a negative influence on our community. Now, on the other hand, if the next Sarasota High School theater club performance incorporates burlesque, I’m jumping right into the prude boat with you.

  8. Very much appreciate your comments, Tim — and thanks for reading the column and taking the time to share your thoughts. I agree there’s a huge difference between burlesque performance and what goes on in the average strip club…..

    let us know how you and your wife enjoy burlesque — not sure where Black Diamond is performing next … but if any reader knows, post a comment here so people can check it out for themselves!

  9. a year ago, if somebody had told me that i would obsessively love pole dancing, i would have scoffed at them. i probably would have done more than just scoff.

    now, 7 months into being a very loyal student at apple jelly studios, i spend more time at the pole studio than i have ever spent at any gym. hell, i spend more time there than i do at home. i’m in the best shape i’ve been in since i was a teenager, i have made so many close girlfriends and i am having the absolute time of my life.

    there is a very large difference between being a prostitute or a stripper and doing pole dancing and burlesque for fun and/or sport.

    as a somewhat ‘prude’ myself, i understand the need to care about where ‘the line’ is. i see teenage girls walking around in shorts that could pass as underwear, 7-year-olds getting highlights and extensions and tv shows dedicated to teenage pregnancy. i do agree that sexuality should be monitored among our young girls.

    however, for the rest of us adults – i believe that we need to respect the human body and its ability to perform – no matter what it’s wearing. when watching scantily clad women perform at a cirque de soleil show you call that art. watching it at mccurdy’s theatre, you call it scandalous. it’s unfair to change the label based on the venue.

    i happen to be acquaintances of several of the burlesque girls. i more than assure you that they are bright, fun, intelligent, humorous, educated, creative and most indeed – empowered.

    mc, i appreciate your input however, i believe that you need to do some more research before drawing your final conclusion. come to apple jelly studios – you’ll see that the pole is a tool for fitness, fun, self-esteem, focusing, etc. and not a place where we learn to shake our asses in order to entice the opposite sex. in fact, there may be a lot of sweating, grunting and awkward positions ..but, i assure you, there is nothing remotely sexy about trying to learn a new pole move.

    as far as the burlesque, lighten up, my dear. those girls are wonderful, they are having a good time and i’m positive the audience is having an even better time. now, if one of them gives a peep show in the back room for cash, you may have won the argument, but until that event occurs, i’m going to have to give it to the burlesque troop and pole-dancing gals of the once sleepy town of sarasota, fl.

  10. thanks for reading and commenting megan. the one point i think people are missing about the piece is that i’m not dogging burlesque! i mention a whole host of other stuff — hooters, sports illustrated, my own newspaper, that uses “sex” to sell stuff. i have nothing against burlesque and say that in my piece at least twice. hope people can see that!
    i don’t happen to enjoy going to parties and fundraisers and watching half-clad girls shimmying up and down poles — but that’s just me. i’m sure a lot of people do enjoy watching and doing it, and i specifically wrote that i have no judgment — moral or otherwise — of either activity. but my opinion about personally enjoying or not enjoying the experience isn’t what the column was about — it was just asking the question of overall, how does the intense focus on using women’s sexuality as a “selling” feature affect women in the long run — their own external power in the long run, and women’s broader ability to have power on a global level, and how they are viewed in the long-run. i relaly appreciate your input. this column is getting a lot of attention — doesn’t surprise me, since it’s ostensibly about “sex” — wish another column i wrote this week — about race issues in sarasota — would elicit similar interest!

  11. I’ve been sitting at a desk for 25 years. The same desk. I never worked out and have found it hard to breath climbing one flight of stairs. Kelly at Apple Jelly invited me to workout at the studio.

    Kelly is a brilliant Professional Engineer who along with some close friends made a clever business decision to stop paying for yoga, dance and pole classes and open their own studio. They got their teaching certifications and never looked back.

    I began in September, slowly. At first not being able to lift a foot off the ground (unless I jumped). Then, very slowly I was able to make 1/4 turns, then 1/2 spins. Working on the pole is very hard for me, but it is also fun and rewarding. Its not like walking or repetitive exercising. It is measurable achievements. One day you can’t do a move no matter how hard I try and a few weeks later you can. Then you’re hooked!

    Apple Jelly Studios isn’t just about pole. I’ve also taken TRX, Butts and Guts and my favorite – a Chair class with Wendy. Chair is a very grueling workout but very, very fun and rewarding. They also offer Yoga, Zumba and Ballet.

    I wasn’t looking for a second career. At my age they would pay me to put my clothes back on. No free shows for my man at home, just hard work and a lot of fun with some wonderful (and patient!) instructors.

    It may scare you that this dancing revolution is catching on in Sarasota, but that is only because you’re not a part of it. Try it, but be warned, its addicting.

  12. You should know MC that more people are comfortable talking about sex than race.Take a POLL and you will see.I really enjoyed both columns MC and everyone made great points.Thanks

  13. Bonnie — pole dancing, burlesque, stripping — none of it scares me! and i think women who do dancing like that — like what you’re doing at Apple Jelly — have rockin’ bodies! this is a very interesting perspective you’re sharing — about the exercise benefits, etc., and that it’s, for you, not about, performing, it’s about your own body. very interesting. thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  14. Kelly Frances
    April 8, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    I just don’t understand journalists these days. After seeing what you wrote in the first paragraph it bugs me that you would judge a book by it’s cover without even taking the time to understand what it is you’re writing about. “I just can’t get into the whole pole-dancing burlesque scene”! TRY IT BEFORE YOU WRITE IT!! That’s what REAL journalism is about. But I guess that’s what we can expect from Sarasota. I bet you didn’t know that if you walk around anywhere on the entire island of siesta during any given perfect Florida sunny day you’ll see people including Amish folks with less clothes on than at our pole studio.

    I’m 30 years old and a mother of two and was raised by a christian family. I’ve been pole dancing for over a year now and would recommend it to anyone. There’s no better way to meet amazing, talented, smart, educated, open-minded people of all ages and be in the best shape of my life. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and I trained in martial arts for 7+ years. The skills and strength it requires, determination, motivation, it’s endless. And yet there’s people out there like yourself who think we are all just a bunch of amateur strippers teasing all the dirty-minded men of the world.

  15. thanks for the feedback, mc. i do understand the point you are making. it’s hard to disentangle your point from the automatic defensiveness we women who ‘dance’ immediately feel at the possible insult. that being said, i do realize you meant no offense and you are trying to spotlight the negative effects of using women’s sexuality to promote business/art/festivals, etc.

    that being said – i recently danced, at apple jelly, for a crowd of 150+. i never would have thought that i would pole dance in front of people, let alone men, let alone a crowd. but because pole dancing has made me feel so empowered, i was able to see it as a performance – not a pole dance.

    so, to try to draw out a singular point you made, about empowerment, i feel very empowered by using my body in that aspect. i think there is a big difference when you make a lifestyle or professional choice to be sexual for money and when you do it for fun or fitness.

    so..just based on the word empower alone…i think, for so long, women were told what to do, how to act, etc. we couldn’t use words like ‘period’ or ‘pregnancy.’ still today in many countries, women are oppressed and told how to behave. living in a society that allows women to make the choice to do sexy performances because it makes THEM feel good, not just make MEN feel good, is one of the most empowering things i’ve ever done.


  16. Thanks Kelly, for reading and writing a comment to share your experience. I don’t agree that I “judged” anything — and I don’t think you have to try everything to have an opinion about it. I clearly say there’s nothing wrong or immoral whatsoever about pole-dancing or burlesque or stripping. n any event, I think there’s room for all kinds of opinion — whether that opinion is expressed on a burlesque stage or in pole-dancing privately or otherwise — or in an essay in a newspaper. They’re all valid opinions and expressions. The success of pole-dancing in Sarasota clearly shows that more people share your opinion than not. And my opinion — as I said int he column — is that it’s GREAT for the women who do it. I was just asking the broader question of what the bigger, long-term effects of selling women’s sexuality by hiring pole-dancers at fundraisers is all about. that’s using sex to sell tickets and i’m not quite sure i think that ultimately that’s a good thing for women’s sexuality or freedom to express their sexuality. i appreciate you reading and posting a comment!

  17. thanks megan for expanding your thoughts on “empowerment” — you’re provoking a lot of thought in me and are giving me food for thought. and i know what you mean about automatic “sensitivity” — i think women, in general, feel that a lot about a variety of issues, so your point is well made and well taken. i think the GREAT thing about the column is that I’m getting an education and learning a lot more, and people are having a venue to share their experiences. that’s what i want as an opinion writer. even when people get mad at me! :) i may have to do a follow up piece specifically about pole-dancing!

  18. thanks MC for taking all the fun out of responding to your blog- You got to call yourself a ‘Prude’ before I could…DANG! If you actually DID something taboo like pole dancing -maybe you would be EMPOWERED to write a blog with a more robust opinion. I’m not interested in another person trying to convince me they are open-minded…just say what you really mean and back it up. We have a name for folks like you…its called “Apple-jealous”.

  19. Kelly Frances
    April 8, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    Sex sells because nature has programed us and every other living creature to procreate. It’s the classic story of birds and the bees. If pole dancing brings the guys, then it’ll bring the girls and there is always singles looking to mingle. It’s brilliant for business since clowns and magicians stopped working the day our loins started. Let’s not play dumb. And I disagree with your statement. You can’t sell a car if you’ve never driven one. You can’t write a cook book if youve never cooked. You shouldn’t write a blog, MC “reality”,about pole dancing if you’ve never seen the inside of a studio or felt what it’s like the wake up with bruises all over your body because you wanted to learn how invert.

  20. Thanks back to you, Kate. for reading the column and for sharing your thoughts. Judging by the number of comments being posted, I’d say my opinion column was very robust indeed. And your comment adds well to the robust dialogue.

    I did say exactly what I meant.

    I guess my only nascent concern at this point is how angry so many of the posters commenting sound.

  21. mc – kelly frances further commented on my fb page, saying:

    “Sex sells because nature attracts us to it. Procreation is the foundation of which every thing in natures survives and is intended. Know what else sells? Comedy. Comedy sells tickets, movies, and gag gifts at parties. You don’t see people or journalists asking why? Or sending out derogatory blogs about comedians. Our country has been so censored to anything sexual that each generation is now getting more and more outspoken and more loud with their sexuality. So it angers me to know that with the obvious birds and the bees, people hide behind these topics asking why hooters, pole dancing, burlesque, sports illustrated, movies, etc for a “journalistic” point of view as to somehow open the minds to the people as if we have never noticed it before and try to portray it as a view of someone from the 1800’s looking in on today.”

    i think she has a very valid point. lots of things sell, other than sex. hey, if sex is teaching kids at a planned parenthood bash that you can be sexy without having sex – great! if it taught them ANYTHING AT ALL that would prevent teen pregnancy ..or if it’s teaching grown-ups about safe sex, or if it’s teaching anybody anything positive..then great! hey, i’ve been to a lot of seminars, forums, readings, you name it. i would give anything to jazz those places up with a little more sex.

    in any event..thanks for getting the topic on the table. i think a lot of people have a lot of opinions about anything that can be perceived as sexual. we think we’ve come a long way, but us ladies are still fighting to to earn the same paychecks as our male counterparts, let alone fighting to be sexual creatures without being called whores.

    i know you were passing zero judgment on the pole gals and the burlesque babes – nevertheless, i think you hit a nerve. :)

    .so what if sex sells? i think it is perfectly legitimate to use sex to spotlight an event, fundraiser, gathering, you name it. sex may sell, but as long as you aren’t selling sex than you are playing a whole different ball game.

    anytoodles — come to apple jelly or try to join in on some burlesque fun. i bet you’ll be singing a whole new tune and will probably buy some pretty pasties and some glittery shoes to boot.


  22. Kelly Frances — thanks for reading the blog and for sharing your thoughts. I’m astounded by the number of people writing to me here and elsewhere who assume I’ve never seen burlesque, never seen pole-dancing, or that I’ve never been a dancer or even a stripper myself. Would it matter if I told you or everyone else that I used to perform at Scores in Manhattan? But your point saying that you can’t write about something unless you experienced is not something I agree with. That’d be like saying I couldn’t write about women being hit unless I’d been hit too. Or couldn’t write about skipping stones across a lake unless I’d done it too. So, can’t agree with you there. But appreciate your input and interest in the story!

  23. Kelly Frances
    April 8, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    You should experience it. You gain what’s called credibility! To label all pole dancing from a fundraiser hosted by planned parenthood (or should we say unplanned parenthood) a name labeled by birth control and abortions is bound to attract a certain crown of people who thrive by living a certain sexual lifestyle. You can find pole dancers everywhere. They aren’t all selling themselves. In fact, most of them are paying a lot of money to learn how. Now if in fact you did work at some strip joint in manhattan, then maybe you should be raising some questions yourself as to what made you sell yourself. Pole dancing isn’t about getting paid to take our clothes off, rub each other and hump poles. We aren’t selling our sexuality inside a studio. We are instead celebrating the gift of being sexy, and enjoying the art of poling.

  24. MC: I am FURIOUS that you used my picture and full name as cheap clip art for your loaded opinion column. I will formally respond, because now I’m too angry to form sentences. I understand that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but you used my image and name in a piece that demeans and cheapens the art of Burlesque. That image is me in a cathartic and joyous state of celebration. My performances are layered with ballet, modern dance, theater, and comedy. My art is personal, powerful, and full of concept. How dare you group that into strip clubs and pornography with my picture right next to it! Freedom of the press is important. Now I really understand what that means. Look forward to my full response.

    Oh and those pictures that were taken at the last Black Diamond Show were to make up for a huge printing mistake that was in our last ticket article. Now they are being used as ammunition. I’m not used to being in the public eye. I generally trust people, even journalists. This has been eye opening for me.

  25. Mariel — I didn’t use your picture or your name. I didn’t even write the headline. You may want to speak to the editors of the newspaper.

  26. As much as I would love to argue the virtue of empowerment through burlesque, pole dancing, or stripping I think you are right to point out that the women involved are in fact doing more harm than good. I am a women’s studies major and I can tell you all about the problems with women objectifying themselves in order to feel good. Perhaps the bigger question is: Would these women still do what they do without an audience? In the 80’s Naomi Wolff wrote a book called “The Beauty Myth” and she speaks of the invisible and very transparent fact that women often try to find solace in the approval of other people rather than from within. I have met many women that have explained empowering situations such as stripping, burlesque, or even”picking up a guy at the bar.” and in many cases they are victims without knowing it. Feminism has become complicated in the last decade but the spirit has always been about empowerment and equality for all women. It’s been about “breaking the glass ceiling” and believing in having an equality amongst all sexes. Perhaps the greatest impact we can have in our society is to teach girls when they are young to believe in themselves and find self empowerment from within. Perhaps the greatest reality check is seeing your daughter misinterpret self empowerment with pasties and tassels. I guess we can’t always get it right.

  27. You say you’re not “dogging Burlesque”, but I feel like you are. Burlesque is such a beautiful art form, a celebration of women, their curves, their humor, their creativity, and their braveness. You cannot seriously compare it to Hooters, Boat Races, and Sports Illustrated. I am not a Burlesque performer, but I have taken classes and it is very empowering. I also take pole dance classes and have regained my self confidence because of it. That right there is power. I’ve met wonderful “sisters”, found passion for dance again, and realized that I do not have to be a size 0 to be beautiful and sexy. I think my friends have defended pole dance above quite nicely. Obviously, we are all very passionate about it. I just wanted to say that I think you were a little harsh on the amazing women of Burlesque. I think our world is more interesting because of them. Hooters girls I could care less about.

  28. Noname — thanks for reading the column and for commenting with your unique perspective. i went to bed last night wondering if indeed there were any women in my readership who might feel similarly/think similarly to what you expressed. as happy as i am to hear the perspective of the other women so far, i wanted very much also to know whether other women felt differently. or who at least felt that my columns questions were valid and important — if all women are to be and feel empowered. i do think several of the women who pole-dance have said it’s done for themselves, and that they don’t even want an audience. i don’t think burlesque is bad or poledancing is bad — i said that in my column. — but i do think it’s important for women to be able to talk about it and look at it and ask each other questions about it — to me that’s true empowerment, even when they disagree.

  29. Billie, thanks for reading and commenting. yes, folks commenting here are very passionate — and that’s a good thing. we should all be passionate about what we love and value. and we should — within legal and not-harmful parameters — encourage others to be passionate. i think i clearly supported that in my column. but i did ask some hard questions about the overall effect of all that is going on with women in the world right now. just like a poledancer or a burlesque dancer or a Hooter server has every right to express her personal ideology and personality through (nearly) whatever she chooses to do — so does a writer. thanks again for reading and commenting.

  30. I would love to talk to you! I could even put you in touch with some former students- most of whom are very well educated and doing quite well for themselves. I think, at least on the side of burlesque education, it’s something that will take time. Showing your ankle used to be scandalous but we got over that. Eventually it will be seen as something women do for fun and/or to make a statement and it will just be another art form- some will see it as too provocative while some will see as a beautiful expression of sexuality. Some will not care. Please feel free to contact me through my site if you want to set something up!

  31. I am always so excited to see contemporary feminist debates being reignited in local contexts. Your essay brings up some great points, MC. Like you said, these questions are not specific to Sarasota, but are part of a larger framework. The fact is that we are still attempting to navigate the effects that a culture of sexualization has on women.

    Although I certainly cheer women’s claim to sexuality as a celebrated part of human experience, we’re now at that point in our culture where we have to face the sexualization of women (voluntary or otherwise) and all that it carries in tow. We have to deal with what is liberating about selling sex, but also what is limiting, or even damaging. It’s really important is that we look critically at our culture and the current expression of sexual freedom embodied by things like Black Diamond Burlesque.

    It’s not enough to simply claim that burlesque dancing is “empowering”. Sure, women may feel powerful about getting paid to be sexy, receiving positive reinforcement about their bodies, or entertaining… But what does empowerment actually mean in this context, where a woman feels “powerful” for being treated as if her sexuality is her exclusive value?

  32. Well, Bernadette, you said — much better than I! — what I’m trying to get at. I, too, celebrate women’s sexuality and expression of that … but in context of all else that is going on in our culture, I wonder where it all leads. And, who (or is it whom) will ultimately be empowered. I appreciate you reading the blog and adding your three cents. Means a lot to me, so thanks. MC

  33. The Yard Dog Road Show, just look them up. Lilly Rose is the most!

  34. I think that so many of the burlesque- and pole-dance enthusiasts commenting here are a little up in arms about your piece because you are talking about the potential harm to society that can be done by women expressing their sexuality in a public way. If you would spend some time in the post examining why society as a whole demonizes women who express themselves sexually instead of joining in on that demonization (whether you meant to or not), you would have a much more positive reaction to the piece.

    As women, we have been taught our entire lives that being pretty and/or sexual is something we should all aspire to, while being simultaneously taught that being pretty or sexual only means you are stupid, or a whore, or worse: both. These women are showing society that it is more than possible to be pretty and sexual, and also be smart and funny. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    Sex sells not only because we are all hardwired to want it for procreation purposes, but because it has been demonized by society as a whole, because it is taboo. These performers, whether they perform for personal/health reasons in private or for entertainment/empowerment reasons in public, are actually doing society a solid by showing that it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

  35. What does it matter to anyone why a woman wants to express herself? Who cares if it’s through sexual, artistic, spiritual, maternal, obedient, defiant, profitable, or philanthropic means? There are so many ways women express themselves and none of them have had a negative impact on the future of all womankind. We continue to make huge strides forward. For that, we should rejoice!

    The multitude of negative connotations surrounding strippers and strip clubs (this also includes strip club owners, strip club DJ’s, bartenders, waitstaff, housemoms, restroom attendants, door girls, shooter girls, security and valet attendants) are most often wrong and not based on facts. Many of the adult establishments in this country are family-owned, being passed down from aging parents to their children and are viable businesses with which they can support future generations of their families. Some of the larger of these businesses are owned by executives and lawyers and are publicly-traded companies. The Association of Club Executives is a national organization, lead by a woman, and is a highly-diverse group of entrepreneurs, well educated in first amendment law. These people are fighting for what we all want, freedom! If you have never been to the Gentleman’s Club Owners Convention, held annually in Las Vegas, NV, then you probably do not even realize how many people are involved in this industry. Besides just the club owners and dancers, those who attend are lawyers, consultants, insurance companies, writers, photographers, webmasters, publishers, furniture maufacturers, clothing companies, sound, lighting and refrigeration equipment, jewelry makers, costume designers, dance schools and teachers, talent agencies, printing companies, liquor, beer, wine and food distributors, and many other business minded professionals, many of whom are women, who love what they do, are passionate and hard working and make a good living doing it. To lump these individuals into one lowly category would be a gross underestimation of their value. These are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandmothers, aunts and uncles will are involved in a highly legitimate and lucrative industry. Please educate yourselves!

    When you boil it down, burlesque strip teasers and strippers do the same thing…remove articles of clothing for entertainment value. One may prefer modern music and attire, while the other likes retro era and vintage. One may use poles or props, and the other may leave her dancing ability to simply make the statement. One may perform to recorded music, the other to live. A burlesque show might have a comedian or emcee, no different from a good club DJ. There are so many creative and talented people on both sides. Some even manage to crossover from one to the other seamlessly. Look at Dita Von Tease! Where do you think she got her all her practice?

    I personally studied ballet, modern and jazz dance my entire life since 3 years old, attended performing arts middle school, high school and college. In adulthood, I have gained 13 years of experience working in over 200 strip clubs and performing in burlesque shows all over the country. I can tell you that there is no difference in the way I feel when I am onstage performing in front of an audience, from dance recitals to strip clubs to variety shows. It is empowering, it is a work out and I will never feel bad about making money from it!

  36. […] teaching their children how to skip stones across the water, charities and fundraising events, and women who put their titillating talent (and tassels) to the burlesque test, to pieces about local firefighters, nurses and profiles of some of our area’s most […]

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