Yes, pole dancing requires strength and flexibility. But it's also about sex.

Hold onto your sequinned short shorts people because pole dancing has well and truly entered the mainstream. It turns out that the provocative dance/sport is now being offered to children as young as six-years-old, and proving awfully popular.

Elizabeth Domazet runs a kids’ pole fitness class in Canberra, and spoke to Lisa Wilkinson on the Today Show this morning:

Domazet argues that kids are little monkeys, and that pole fitness suits them perfectly because they tend to be more flexible and have greater comparative upper body strength. And while Lisa Wilkinson inquired politely during the interview, back in the studio, she admitted, “I wouldn’t want my kids doing it.” Co-host Karl Stefanovic said that, “It just looks wrong.”

Judging from the response to the program, many viewers agreed with them.

I once considered taking pole dancing lessons myself. I loathe am disinclined to participate in traditional forms of organised exercise, and so am always on the lookout for fun and unusual exercise classes. Roller skating, hula hooping, swing dancing, etc.

And I figured, why not give pole dancing a go? After all, pole dancing doesn’t even necessarily go by that name any more – now it’s pole fitness. There are national and international championships. Advocates want to make it a sport in the Olympics. It’s about strength, and athleticism, and flexibility. And given that strength, athleticism and flexibility are qualities I do not possess, I started looking into classes, to try and get an idea of what it would actually be like.

While researching I stumbled across a video of an instructor, from the school I was checking out, competing in a pole dancing competition. There were high heels. There were very tiny underpants. There was hair flicking, and leg opening, and back arching. (This video isn’t the one I watched.)

I ultimately made the decision that the sport wasn’t for me, because I am far too shy to flick my hair in a sexy fashion in public, let alone gyrate, and I knew that I wouldn’t enjoy the class.

Let’s be clear – there is absolutely nothing wrong with adults making the decision that pole dancing is their preferred form of exercise. Power to them for finding a sport that makes them feel sexy as well as athletic. But for little kids?

Pole dancing may be about strength, and athleticism, and flexibility — but let’s not kid ourselves, it’s also about sex.

Pole dancing sexualises the human body.

pole dancing for kids
A child competing in Miss Pole Dance in Russia, 2012.

As an adult, I can make an informed decision about whether this is an activity I want to participate in. I am able to make that decision, because I have discovered enough about my sexuality to know what I like and what I don’t like; I know the extent to which I am comfortable expressing my sexuality in public, and what I am not comfortable doing.

A little girl doesn’t know this yet. She is a child.

Yes, children are going to discover their sexuality – and gasp! Start touching themselves – probably earlier than most parents are ready for. And we have to be okay with kids discovering their sexuality, because they don’t know what their sexuality is yet. They’re still figuring it out.

But there are already so many forces at play in our society that present an incredibly limited perspective of what sexuality is – what it looks like, and how it is performed – and pole dancing fits right into that narrow parameter.

It dictates an approach and style of sexuality to a child before they’re ready to process it. And do kids really need another subliminal message, this time disguised in their weekend sporting activity (as well as hidden in the TV shows they watch, the magazines they read, and the music videos their favourite singers make), which says there is only one way to be sexy? And that’s to wear tight clothes, be incredibly thin and flexible, and be very hairless?

Studios that offer kids pole dancing usually call it ‘pole fitness’ and insist that there are no sexy moves or funny business. Ms Elizabeth Domazet, from the video at the beginning of this piece, also recently told The Canberra Times that parents were calling up and begging her to teach kids’ classes.

In response to some community concern, the former gymnast told the paper, “With our style of dance they climb the pole and spin on the pole. There is no inappropriate dancing, our dance is more focused on modern, lyrical and contemporary dance styles.”

But despite their protestations, there appears to be very little meaningful difference between pole fitness and pole dancing.

Sexiness shouldn’t be a measure of sporting ability for kids. And if your kids want to do pole, make sure you talk to them about the messages they may be taking on – and the messages in society that have made them want to do pole in the first place.

Do you think kids’ pole dancing lessons are okay? Is it fine as long as there are no sexy moves, or do you think it might sexualise young children?

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