September 7, 2009

Children and Stripper Poles

Do I really have a problem with this? I feel like I should, and yet I don't really care that much about it. To what am I referring? It's that new pole-dancing toy marketed at children. Read an article on it here.. Would I BUY this toy for a six year old? No. I wouldn't, but do I think that it's incredibly inappropriate for any six year old to have it. Hmm. I don't know.

You see, children are not all asexual creatures. The idea that kids are pre-sexual by definition is bullshit. Lots of kids touch themselves and each other and think about sex all the time. Yes, even at 6 or 7. I have seen 18-month-old babies look at Victoria's Secret catalogues while breathing heavily and looking aroused. These kids grew up to be normal adults, so no harm done there, either. I don't think exposing kids to sexuality means showing them something they are not ready for that will screw them up. I mean, kids whose parents tell them where babies come from at 5 are not fucked up for life. I know those kids, they don't seem any more messed up than me, and my parents never told me where babies came from and let me learn from those kids whose parents had told them.

If kids like poll dancing, which is considered sexual, is that too different from talking jazz classes? Jazz was considered super sexy back in the day (Have you SEEN Chicago? Such hot dancing!), and ballerinas dance in leg-revealing leotards that lots of people find super hot, so really, what's wrong with pole-dancing? It's aerobic, it requires strength, and it's artistic. The problem is that it's honest about its sexual associations. Sure, lots of people watch jazz routines for the sexy girls, but we pretend that that's not really what the discerning viewer should really be appreciating about it. Pole dancing, however, is all about embracing, celebrating and seeing the female body. It requires confidence, I think, to do that. To portray yourself, your body as art in the way that pole-dancing showcasing a woman's figure as the primary subject of a dance. We, however, often teach girls to be modest (read: insecure). Flaunting what you've got and embracing your body is called vain by many parents I know. But really, I think I might prefer my daughter feel okay with her sexuality and be a stripper when she grows up than become a ballerina with an incredibly high likelihood of developing an eating disorder because most ballet companies teach women to be ashamed of their figures unless they are small enough for a man to lift them. In pole-dancing, a woman just has to be strong enough to swing herself. Pole dancing is a self-sufficient art form. Perhaps this is part of what we don't like about it?

Listen, pretending sex doesn't exist until your daughter gets her period is not going to keep her a virgin any longer. I know there's a Cult of Virginity in the US, but being proud of your sexual body is not what makes you have sex at 12 any more than being ashamed of your sexuality is. What we need to teach girls is sexual confidence and self-ownership. That's how we'll make sure our daughters have sex when they are ready (not before, and not after, either). I don't think pole-dancing necessary is contrary to that goal - it might even help us achieve it....

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