Pole Dancing in PE – What Next?

Pole Dancing in PE – What Next?


This week I spoke about the work of Girls Out Loud and the need for us all to step up and be real role models for our teenage girls at a women’s conference in Chester. As ever I was overwhelmed by the number of women, in many cases Mums, who came to talk to me after my presentation sharing stories relating to their daughters and/or their daughter’s friends. I am rarely shocked by their tales. As a youth advocate, I have worked with teen girls for many years now and have probably seen and heard it all but on this day I left with a new story, one I hope and pray does not become a trend.
‘Jane, I really resonated with your presentation, particularly around sexual exploitation and the effects of mainstreaming porn. My daughter’s school has just installed poles in the sports hall to encourage girls to work out.’
As I left the venue I was sad then, angry about this. The naivety of such a decision? I am all for encouraging girls to participate in PE but is this the best they could do? For me, it is a cop out.
I know many of you may think this is harmless and I am well aware of the value of pole dancing as a workout as many women have told me, repeatedly, if I ever mention my distaste for this. Just because it demands fitness is no justification for bringing a product of the sex industry onto school premises. What next? Waxing in health and beauty lessons? The best approach to anal sex and watching a live boob job op in biology? I despair. I am frustrated enough when women glamorise porn but atleast they are making a personal choice, one, I can only assume they are mature enough to make?
We have a generation of youngsters who are getting their cues on how to behave sexually from a porn industry that we have mainstreamed. Girls want to look like porn stars and boys expect girls to behave and perform like the women they see on film, in pop videos, in the media, on their PS3 game consoles and on reality TV. Again, many of you will be in denial about this and say ‘not my girl or boy’ but the biggest consumer group of internet porn users is 12-17 year olds so they are someone’s children?
Porn is no longer the naughty top shelf magazines or the blank covered videos under the bed. The imagery is everywhere and our kids are growing up, knowing far too much, too soon.
By-products of this industry include, 8 inch+ heels, growth in invasion cosmetic surgery, waxing head to foot, big, pouting lips, sexting, girls posting and posing in sexual positions on fb, perma tans, big hair, big lashes and body piercings, overtly sexual dressing up and dancing, inappropriate sexual behaviour, multiple sexual partners, pregnancy, growth in STD’s, reality TV, violence in young relationships, often damaging sexual experimentation. Shall I go on?……
Porn is fake, the stuff of male fantasies and the majority of it is definitely NOT female friendly so is it any surprise that girls are displaying inappropriate sexual behaviour, place far too much emphasis on appearance, see sex as a commodity to exchange for power, are desensitised to intimacy and quite often get into dangerous relationships and sexual situations? It is not fair to simply blame the boys for their demands or behaviour as they are just normalising what they see on their computer screen and watching girls in the sports hall pole dancing is not going to help the situation anytime soon.
The more we glamorise and normalise the products of the sex industry, the more we steel their childhood years and what about the girls that are appalled by this? Well, they become alienated, subject to serious peer pressure and potentially bullied.
Be assured, if my daughter’s school made the decision to offer girls the option to learn to pole dance in PE lessons, both myself and my husband would be making noises not only to the Head but to the Governors and if necessary the local press. Personally, as if you needed a reminder, I feel this is categorically unacceptable. Rant over, but I leave you with a challenge…..
Reality TV is part of this porn poison and a key influencer for young girls. I challenge you to watch some of this stuff over the following month in order to make your own mind up about the content and messages rather than take my word for it. And if you have a young daughter call it research! Tune in to The Valleys, Jordie Shore, The Only Way is Essex (TOWIE), The Kardashians or any of the holiday docu soaps like Sun, Sea and Sex or Holiday Reps Abroad. It is all there, in full colour.  Take a deep breath and good luck!

8 comments:

  1. Katherine

    Good God! Poles for dancing round in school?????? Are you kidding me? Somewhere, a head teacher needs to be dismissed. I wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving a minor in the care of someone who displays such a sorrowful lack of judgment.

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  2. I completely agree! Where have all the role models gone? And shouldn’t we be trying to bring them back rather than thinking, ‘Oh, this is just how life is now. We’d better just move with the current times.’ Oh, no, current times do not have to be like this because in doing so we’re allowing boundaries to move, and what was once unacceptable & shocking no longer is so. We need to take a stand. Fast.

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    1. janekenyon

      our mission at Girls Out Loud is to take real role models into the classroom. Check us out and get involved http://www.girlsoutloud.org.uk

      Reply
      1. Diane

        I feel we need to rebuild our own communities, starting with our own families. Be the role models we want for our families. Don’t rely on others to display what we want our kids/ families, friends to have in the way of values, morals and education etc. We as individuals need to step up be strong and do what’s right, even if it means getting rid of our comfort zones (I know its hard because I struggle with this every day).

        Reply
  3. Cherelynn

    Oh there is such a need for intervention of what and how girls should respect themselves and behave. Thanks for this great article.

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    1. janekenyon

      This is what my social enterprise does. Have a look at http://www.girlsoutloud.org.uk and get involved. Cheers!

      Reply
  4. autoprotraining

    I used to think the same, I saw something in the local papers about a hyear ago about 4 year olds learning pole and I chunnered and ranted about how awful it was…. having never actually been to a pole class or having any idea what it entailed other than my own sweeping judgement and supposition. 12 months later, as a keen pole fitter I realise my judgement was knee-jerk and ignorant. Pole Fit is NOT dancing, the sequences we do are no sexier or provocative than the dance moves you’ve seen by kids on Britains Got Talent.

    We start the class with stretches (LOTS of stretches, almost like a mini yoga class) and then we learn to build our upper body strength to lift ourselves up, turn upside down, make shapes such as crosses, eagles, ‘Superman’, we learn to do the splits, handstands, cartwheels… the exact same thing a child would learn in a gymnastics class only more challenging. It requires strength, discipline, flexiblility…. sometimes we fall, and we get back up and try again, we support each other in mastering a new move. You might think a class entails a group of skinny attention-seeking 18-25 year olds gyrating flirtatiously (that;s what I expected when I went along reluctantly the first time)…. not the case, with the class mostly being over 30’s, including an OAP or two, very large women getting fit and losing weight and the other women supporting them and celebrating their success. What’s not positive about that?

    Be careful not to just hear “pole”, let your imagination and media conditioning automatically add “dancing” to the end of that and draw knee-jerk assumptions about what it is, having never actually been to a class. If delivered correctly, with a fitness professional, teaching about muscle groups, and strength and endurance, and teamwork then it is a completely un-sexual and effective form of exercise very indifferent to gymnastics, ice skating or street dance, which I am sure nobody would bat an eyelid at.

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    1. janekenyon

      thanks for your response – your class sounds fab! And as an adult you are free to make this choice. My concern is that young girls (and boys) are too impressionable to view pole dancing in the way you do and personally the link to something far more seedy and disempowering is a risk I would rather we did not take with teenage girls. The pressure on them to engage and perform in sexual acts they find disconcerting is already far too great and this just adds more pressure, in my opinion. However, it is good to encourage dialogue on these issues so thank you for taking the time to connect.

      Reply

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