Spinning the pole: A discursive analysis of the websites of recreational pole dancing studios


Pole dancing is an activity that came to prominence in strip clubs. Despite its widespread reinvention as a fitness activity for women, pole dancing is still strongly associated with, and indeed trades on, its exotic, erotic and sexual connotations. In this article, we examine how the pole dancing industry portrays itself to potential participants via a discursive analysis of the websites of 15 major pole dancing studios in Australia. In particular, we examine some of the ways in which pole dancing trades on its erotic associations and capitalizes on the emerging postfeminist sensibility in western countries and its advocacy of empowerment through sexual agency, while at the same time promoting an alternative, ironic construction in which pole dancing is simply something a bit different – a novel way to get an upper body workout while having ‘a bit of a laugh’. We argue that the tensions between authenticity and parody uncovered by our analyses reflect a tension that infuses ‘raunch culture’ more widely, and discuss the insecurity and contingency of the ‘empowerment’ offered in these practices.

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