Lap dancing may oppress women, but is it also an insult to dance?

Another community post for you: This time it’s from Harriet Long, an English lass living in Belfast and working to support women through some of the most difficult periods in their lives.

Following Shirley’s reflections last week, this is another deeply personal and at times provocative look at the distortion of female sexuality in our popular culture. Presented in 2 parts, here’s the first installment.

 

On dance, porn and beauty…

Whilst I have never really made the issue of women as sex objects a particularly defining feature of my feminism, I guess I would describe my sexuality and body and confidence as a defining feature of me. I treasure the freedom I have in my relationship with my partner, my friends, my family, my community and my city to reveal what I choose to in terms of my beauty, my femaleness, my sexuality, my character, my skills, my interests, my humour and more. I believe my sexuality and my beauty to be an important and essential part of who I am. I think that many of my beliefs about women and men are rooted in a desire for equality and mutuality, and I tend to kick against the emphasis culture places on difference. I constantly try to suggest when encountering strongly conditioned thinking about gender, that we each, male and female are not as different as culture and society, and the powers operating within that, would like us to think. I would like to hope that if men and women treated each other with a more respectful mutuality there would be less power and control involved in our relationships to one another. If we realised what we had in common and celebrated difference, there would be less opportunity to exploit that which we do not understand, we would not need to objectify the other in order to break down the mysteries of our differences, we could perhaps enjoy discovering and exploring the fun that is to be had in attraction, arousal and the choices we make and the actions we take.

As I thought about the backlash feminists have encountered because they objected to a sexist, degrading depiction of women’s body parts, not even the whole woman, I noticed that anti-feminist backlash accuses women of being anti-men, anti-sex, anti-freedom. I would like to suggest a couple of ideas for people to mull over…


Firstly, dance, which is what pole dance or table dancing is essentially, is a beautiful thing, it always has the potential to be provocative not just sexually, but emotionally and physically too. Dance is mesmerising, stunning and captivating. Where it has been taken and manipulated to exploit and oppress women it has been corrupted. Where it is placed so that it is not even appreciated, adored and applauded it is ruined. Where it is used to pleasure men who are lonely, violent, misogynistic, unattractive, drunk, high, tired, depressed, angry, uninterested it is a disgrace. But dance should be celebrated. Dance reminds us to get in touch with our bodies, our shapes, our rhythms, our energy, our freedom and passion. Dance expresses our sensuality as well as our sexuality, dance makes the dancer feel sexy and beautiful as well as potentially making the audience feel the same thing. The thought of men with erections, hoping to get a sexual favour out of a lap dance, laying money on a woman not because they love the dance but because they are hoping for sex or enjoying the masturbation images she provides, is disgusting and of course its disrespectful. But it’s disrespectful not only to dance, but to beauty and to the shared experience of our humanity that the expression of dance can evoke. If a man despises a woman for the way she can make him feel, out of control, at her mercy in terms of his arousal, and desires to hurt her, to master her, to wound her, he is sick and diseased in terms of his understanding of woman, of himself and the relation they could have to each other.


I adore dance, I think it is fun, I think it is clever, I think it is attention grabbing and I think it is sexy. I believe in monogamy and I believe in fidelity but in the context of respect and mutuality I think dance as a sexual and sensual expression is something to be celebrated, explored and experimented with. I believe dance of any form has the potential to be reclaimed back from those that choose to strip back sex to body parts, and coarse language, to monetary value, to relationships of power and abuse.


There are all kinds of exploitative, patriarchal, sexist reasons why dancing is culturally associated with women, the more men and women can celebrate it as an expression of humanity, body, energy and more, the more potential we have for equality and the levelling of hierarchy. I love seeing tv and film footage of tribal dances where first the men dance for the women and then the women dance for the men. These dances are propositionary, but also celebratory of culture, tradition and tribal life.

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