For one thing, pole dancing is a social activity. “It has an emphasis on the social aspects of sexuality,” a pole dancer from New Jersey wrote in an e-mail. There was another cultural aspect to pole dancing, she explained, which is that the dancers feel they have to look like their idols, either by wearing the same clothes or by wearing long hair and makeup, both of which are typically male body parts. “There is a feeling of pride. The men are all like that.” In some cultures, women do have to participate in pole dancing. “In Nigeria, the man is all the way down on the pole, but the woman is completely in control,” one woman from Brazil—one who declined to be named for her own safety—wrote in an e-mail. “If the man ever wants to do it, that’s fine, but a lot of people see us as too aggressive and we are never really invited to the party.” In South Africa (and, to some extent on its sister continent, Brazil), the men do some of the dancing at the end, while the women get to dance around on the ground. But that’s not what people at a bar on the outskirts of Johannesburg—a strip of clubs called the “World’s Largest Pole Dance Party”—look for. They’re most interested in the pole. “I can’t remember the last guy I did a pole dance with,” a 23-year-old African woman from Johannesburg told me. “But now it’s so popular, the pole is my life.”
What all these stories have in common is the fact that pole dancing isn’t really illegal in most countries. There’s nothing in national law saying that no one should get into an act like this. However, one of the reasons why most people haven’t tried it is because of the reputation—even a romantic one, as it were—that goes with it. In the United States, there’s a famous pole dancing contest called the “Jurassic Dance,” in which contestants stand in one spot while a male stripper moves them around like a dinosaur—a tradition that’s survived to this day. And there’s also a contest called the “Pole Dance” that happens every year in South Africa.
Pole dancing isn’t illegal in most countries. There’s nothing in national law saying that no one should get into an act like this.
But that’s not all it has in common with pole dancing. Like pole dancing, pole dancing requires
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