Are striptease aerobics classes anti-feminist?

Though I haven’t been to a class in a while, I love striptease aerobics. The classes I’ve attended were actually pole-free and the hour was filled with learning a high-energy, sexy dance routine.
They were always a great workout and always fun.

As I look for new things to try this year I’m eager to move on to more advanced classes (i.e. one with a pole). But (other than the fact that my body is still recovering from being knocked to the ground by a moving car this fall) there’s something keeping me from giving these classes a twirl.

I keep wondering: Are striptease aerobics classes anti-feminist?

If you’d asked me that question several months ago I would have quickly replied, “Of course not!” and went on and on about how empowering these classes can be for women.

I would say they encourage women to take time out for themselves and get some exercise. They make getting fit fun and they help stressed out moms feel sexy again.

But some of the feminists I admire most, such as Feministing’s Jessica Valenti, have argued that the sexiness offered in striptease aerobics classes is fabricated and based on the male gaze.

Even though the classes do have a giggly slumber party-like element, I know many women attend with a man in mind. So it’s not all about the ladies. I don’t think, however, that there’s anything wrong with going to these classes to pick up a few ideas to bring home to your partner.

What I do struggle with, though, is the idea of sexiness. When we say these classes make women feel sexy how exactly are we defining that word? Does sexy simply mean men want me or does sexy mean I love my body because it’s healthy and strong and because I can have fun with it doing things like these silly, over-the-top dances.

For me it’s actually the latter that’s going through my head during these and other dance-based aerobics classes that I love. So for now I’m sticking to my idea that I can be a good feminist and enjoy a good striptease class.

But I want to know what you think.



  1. Javacia, it’s J. I just got some pole-dancing aerobic classes for Christmas as a gift from one of my best friends. We’re going to take it together. I think it all depends on the woman. There are women like you and I, that have a mindset of it’s sexy to love your own body and have fun being healthy and fit. But there are certainly women out there doing it strictly for a man’s approval or adoration… But so many things have that double edged sword…

  2. I like the classes, but I’ve never really given that much thought to why. I think the idea of what is sexy varies/differs for many people. It could be said that women are learning to dance in this way to either feel sexy themselves or gain attention from someone else. I don’t see what’s wrong with either. As Jane said, so many things have the same issue (e.g., buying Victoria’s Secret undergarments, perfumes, cosmetics).

    And, this same argument could be applied to all types of fitness. I don’t just work out to be healthy. I work out to have a body shape that I desire, and yes, I appreciate when that shape is positively noticed.

    I hope one day that I’ll be able to flip upside down on a pole, but not because I think there’s anything sexy about hanging upside down, giving gravity a reason to make me look worse, but because I have a fear of heights and it’d be a challenge overcome for me. haha

  3. although i would never ever take one of these classes(have nothing against them just waaaay too shy and feel stupid when i try to be sexy) I the classes are fine as long as you have a good sense of self and you are taking it for yourself and not to get new sexy moves for your man cause you think he will go else if you dont break out into a stripper routine when he comes home from work.

  4. Jai, you know you keep me rocking with your questions and blogs and columns and I could go on and on but I digress.

    I think that sexiness is a state of mind and it means something different to everyone. However what I would say is that no one should allow another person define what sexiness is for them.

    I think those classes are great for multiple reasons, including toning, taking something home for your partner, learning new moves for when you go out or if you’re trying to be a professional. I think that it is all up to the individual.

    There are times when I get dressed to go out and I am like damn I look sexy! And not because a man will like my outfit but because I like how I look and how the clothes fit and I’m happy with myself. Now, I’m not gonna lie and say that sometimes when getting dressed to go out, especially depending upon the place, that I don’t think about how guys will think about how I look in a certain outfit because I do sometimes. But I think the key is to knowing that you are sexy when you look at yourself in the mirror.

    So many things are considered “taboo” these days and people will say you’re not supposed to feel sexy. WHAT THE HELL kind of hogwash (I’m from the SOuth ya’ll) is that??! If you don’t feel sexy and believe it yourself, who will?

    I also think that confidence is sexy. I have confidence in myself and my goals and I think that is something that makes me sexy to me and other people. It’s more than the clothes and the makeup and the undergarments and the shimmy I can do with my hips and dropping down low to sweep the floor with it. It’s about believing in yourself and being comfortable with who you are and loving you for who is inside.

    What I will say as I close (as if I haven’t said enough already) is that each person has to discover what sexy means to them and why they want to take the classes in the first place. I don’t think that they are anti-feminist unless you are taking them for all the wrong reasons and right or wrong is relative these days…right?

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