You may have heard this term ‘power of the pole’ mentioned by go-go dancers, strippers or other sex workers. I actually was a go-go dancer for a brief time in the summer of 1996. It WAS powerful – mentally, physically and sexually. Sexy clothes, dim lights, tantalizing grooves, seductive dancing. The eyeballs on me vying for my attention, waving or throwing dollar bills hoping I’d come over, talk to them and let them have a grab or two. I felt like everyone in the room wanted to fuck me.
For me, though, the power of the pole goes way beyond all this. It is really the power of confidence in my sexuality.
I think sexuality is a tricky word to define. It’s so personal – a blender of thoughts and feelings you have about your sexual interests and desires, sexual orientation and sexual self-awareness. I checked a few online dictionaries for assistance and found many didn’t quite capture what it was to me.
The Oxford Dictionary said this:
“The feelings and activities connected with a person’s sexual desires.”
Sort of, but not very wholistic, so I kept looking.
“The quality or state of being sexual:
a: the condition of having sex
b: sexual activity
c: expression of sexual receptivity or interest especially when excessive”
What? Sexuality means just sex? And WTF is “…especially when excessive”?
To me these miss the mark because they only address the part of sexuality focused outside of one’s self mostly as it relates to others. They totally overlook the concept of how I think and feel about who my sexual self is, my sexual confidence, my body confidence, my sexual power. Sexuality, to me, isn’t defined solely in relation to someone else and what I may or may not do with them sexually. It is my sexuality – not yours or ours.
Looking back I believe I first started building a sense of my own sexuality pretty early in life when I began dance classes at age 4. For five or so years, I learned my body – its rhythm and how to move it and how to move it with confidence. At age 9, I discovered sports and continued, without self-awareness mind you, to learn performance, how my body was, how it worked, and how it was changing.
This gave me a connection from my mind to my body in an entirely new way, but still, I was slow to understand this connection and slow to feel comfortable and confident with my body. As many youth are, I was also self-conscious as I was growing up.
In my angsty teenage years, I hated my body actually. I had a big nose, small boobs and ribs that didn’t lay flat along my torso. I was uncomfortably taller than everyone else. I grew fast – about 5’8″ when I was 12, 5’10” in high school and then 6′ in college. I didn’t experience growing pains, but I did get stretch marks on the outer sides of my upper thighs. I thought I must be fat because only fat people have stretch marks.
My mind went through very chaotic and sometimes very dark years with my body.
When I was 16, I received my first body compliment and that helped me link the feeling of connection to my body with feeling comfortable and confident in it. It’s not surprising that that had to come from the outside – I didn’t have the perspective and self-awareness within me yet.
The compliment was about how nice my legs were. I was so surprised and also beyond flattered. I hadn’t consciously thought of them as sexy – more that they just were long, muscular, and helped me run down the strikers on the soccer field as the sweeper.
Then I started looking at women’s legs. Wow – mine were really nice! Long and muscular was sexy. I gained body confidence in the awareness and my sexuality began to bloom.
By 19, I was taking revealing pics to mail to my first BF who went back to London after a year abroad at my university. Me in my single dorm room working some suggestive poses dressed only in a thong with my face very visible. This was the 1990s back when I had to take them to a place to get developed. I actually didn’t care. Lucky photo developer – I hope I was material for a good wank!
The next summer I wasn’t making enough money waiting tables so I got a job as a go-go dancer. Topless with thong. The power of my more mature sexuality prancing around on that stage was intoxicating. It was fun to feel so sexy, so powerful and get paid for it. When I go to strip clubs now, I think even at 46 that with a few days of clean living I could easily get back on stage. I may need to take pole dancing classes to update my moves from 1996, but I look just as good, sometimes even better than, those 20 and 30-somethings that I see up there now.
But unfortunately my evolving sexuality suffered for the 5 years that I lived in NYC in my late 20s. I saw lots of beautifully thin, fit people and I became obsessed. I worked out every day. Road my bike everywhere instead of taking the subway. Kept my daily caloric intake during the work week to 1000. Binged on the weekends and became depressed on Monday if the scale said anything over 152 pounds. (Today, I range between 153-156, exercise about 4-5 times per week and eat healthy with a good balance of French fries, cheese, pizza, cookies and mayo. What a fuck of waste of time all that was!)
My developing sexuality, including my body confidence and sexual self-awareness hit pause after that – all through my 30s. I don’t think my sexuality really became a full adult until it all came together in the last 7 years. It started at age 38. PhD and I were separated. He was cheating at that point, but it was unconfirmed. A guy 9 years younger than me (Wino BTW) started flirting with me one night at a local bar near my culinary school apartment. I hadn’t felt sexy or sexually confident in a very long time.
That night I felt powerful. I felt my sexuality. I felt like myself – not repressed or weighed down by past baggage. Again, it came from an outside source, but it whipped me back to focus. It was all inside me – being sexually self-aware and body confident.
A year later I broke up with PhD and decided to get on some dating apps and have fun. I got all kinds of perspective then – just read through the FUCK posts! This was the time my sexuality finally graduated – over those years I learned the last part that made me complete – my sexual interests and desires. You would think at 40 YO I would have known that stuff by then, but I didn’t. I was in three back-to-back monogamous relationships from 19 to then and shit just gets routine and boring after awhile. This is why I went on lots of dates with lots of different people, including women, guys totally opposite to what I was normally physically attracted to, older men, foreigners, every shade of color.
Today, I own my sexuality and its inherent power. I am sexually self-aware, sexually confident, body confident, and I know my sexual interests, desires and orientation – although I’m always curious to try new things. I actually think the self-awareness and confidence that comes with knowing all this and loving it about myself gives me more power, but I also might secretly have a little dictator running around inside my brain.
Even if you’ve never gotten on a stripper pole in front of a bunch of randy drunkies, you can develop your own power of sexuality. You made not need the outside perspective to give you sexual self-awareness and sexual confidence in who you are. You may not yet fully understand your sexual interests, desires and orientation. But I hope if you haven’t found the power of the pole, you’ll go seeking. And if you have already arrived, I hope you’ll continue to walk with fierceness in your own secret super power.