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Sexercise? Really? That’s a thing?

Well, according to the Globe and Mail it is anyway.

Read Enough with the sexercise. Just let me work out already

Writing about Buti, the booty shaking, latest fitness craze in Hollywood Katrina Onstad says,

Really, Buti looks pretty much like one-person sex. In fact, a lot of working out is overtly linked to sex lately, and my liberal go-girl instincts are giving way to profound irritation. Suddenly, exercise – which is supposed to be a feel-good act in and of itself – has become another site of female inadequacy.

Pole dancing and striptease workouts have been around for years. In Toronto, a studio called Flirty Girl Fitness offers classes with names like “Pole Tricks,” “Rated R” and “Babes With Balls” (wait – that seems to refer to medicine balls). I understand how pole dancing could be a fun workout: It seems difficult and a little naughty, with some artistry required. But then again, Ryan Gosling is always right, and in Crazy, Stupid Love he said: “The war between the sexes is over and we won. We won the second women began doing pole dancing for exercise.”

Here’s Jezebel on the trend, I Can’t Stop Watching This Hypnotic Workout Video

Here is a review of the class from Well + Good nyc:

“We attended a preview class with Gold herself, who, in a string bikini, introduced us to its butt-shaking sequences set to club music. Buti is advertised as a “high-intensity workout that fuses yoga and dance with circuits of plyometrics and conditioning.” It actually consists of standard yoga sequences with lots of bump ‘n grind thrown in. So, once in plank pose or warrior II, you gyrate your hips. When in chair pose, you shake it like a Polaroid picture. There were a few high-energy cardio dance spurts where I started to have a lot of fun, but they ended too soon to get my heart rate up.”

Here’s my 2 cents. The sexy exercise phenomena isn’t new. I took a group fitness dance class at Goodlife more than five years ago (before I quit, read why here) that featured so-called “stripper moves.” I didn’t go back. Nothing wrong with being a stripper but faux stripper exercise isn’t for me.

Pole dancing classes have been around for awhile. I find them confusing mostly because the argument in favour seems based on a fallacy. Pole dancers have great bodies therefore to get a great body you should take up pole dancing? Um, no.

Katrina Onstad worries that this makes exercise yet another site of female inadequacy. But kind of like looking cute to work out, I suspect it’s empowering for some and alienating for others. Mileage may vary. If it feels good, go for it, though none of it strikes me as particularly challenging exercise. I like my cardio with intensity, my lifting with heavy weights, and yoga, when I do it, with lots of attention to form. I’d think of this like I do dancing generally. Not a serious work out but better for you and more fun than housework or watching tv.

What’s the attraction? Obviously some people think it’s sexy and fun. Some people think if you like two things, say like food and sex, the combo is even better. Not me. Not food and sex. Not exercise and sex either. If it’s fun for you, great. But me, I’ll stick to running, biking, rowing, weight lifting, soccer etc.

And finally, here’s the video:

Booty shaking yoga, Hollywood’s latest craze,

17 thoughts on “Sexercise? Really? That’s a thing?

  1. I take pole dancing classes. For me, it is *not* based on the notion that since pole dancers have great bodies, I should pole dance so I can get a great body. I chose pole for the same reasons that most people choose their preferred sports: it makes me stronger and more agile, it increases my overall athleticism, it is a good fit for my natural talents and preferences, and it is SUPER SUPER FUN. 🙂

    For what it’s worth, there are many styles of pole dancing, not all of which are stripper-y. (Check out videos of Natasha Wang on Youtube; she is an amazing athlete and artist.) But I also find problematic this notion that if an activity involves looking/feeling sexy, then it is deserving of criticism or disapproval. I enjoy expressing all of my capacities as a human being, including sexiness. Participating in sexier forms of exercise is not mandatory, and there are plenty of types of exercise that are anything but sexy, so what’s the problem?

    I don’t support equating our worth with our level of sexiness–obviously. But that’s different, and going to the opposite extreme of criticizing anything that allows/promotes sexiness doesn’t make much sense.

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    1. Thanks for this. I didn’t mean to be taking a jab at all pole dancing. Not my intent. It’s not for me, just not my sort of thing, and I do think some of the motivation people have for it is mistaken. I get that it’s not all sexual. I actually went to a terrific ariel arts show based on fairy tale stories, perfectly appropriate for children. But again, that’s not the vibe I get from some of the pole dancing classes offered around town at various fitness studios. Best of luck with it. I do think it takes an incredible amount of strength and coordination.

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      1. And I do say in my two cents, that it’s likely empowering for some but not others. Mileage may vary. So do it if you think it’s fun. My comments about how to count it as exercise were aimed at Buti.

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  2. I have the Buti workouts on dvd and really enjoy them. They sculpt the shoulders really well because of all of the plank work and push-ups. The deep squats and lunges make the quads and hamstrings burn. I also sort of think of them as interval workouts because my heart rate dips and climbs through the whole workout. I also, no offense, think it doesn’t seem fair to critize or equate a workout to a step above housework if you’ve never even tried it.
    Bizzie says in the workouts that it’s not sexual, it’s tribal. Tribal dancing goes back many, MANY, years before strip clubs and pole dancing. I don’t do these workouts to turn on some guy or to be watched. I do them because they are fun and I feel strong and powerful when I’m done. I lift heavy weights and do sprints for the same reason. What’s wrong with feeling like a strong, powerful woman, even if it’s not your particular method of getting there 🙂

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    1. Maybe I should try them. It’s probably just of the genre that’s never much appealed, dance oriented group fitness classes. And if you enjoy them and get a good workout, great. I think the nearest I’ve come to a dance oriented fitness class that I liked was a night club like spin class, complete with a dj. Seemed like exercise, plus going out in a Friday night. And as a non drinker I guess I could see some attraction there. Different strokes for different folks.

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      1. Sam, I should have also mentioned that I do these in the privacy of my home, not in public 🙂 I’m not a fan of group classes and I’m more of a loner when I workout (which is why I’ve invested a lot of money for heavy weights at home, so I can avoid the gym) and the joy of doing it at home means that if I want to do it in a ratty t-shirt and sweats, who cares 🙂 I think everything is less sexual, and maybe a little more tribal 😉 when you’re doing it in sweats, lol. This sort of workout is not for everyone, but with the amount of women that I know that don’t workout and continue to have more and more healthy problems, I’m in support of any program (be it dancing, biking, kickboxing, heavy weights, pilates) that will get women up, moving, and taking care of themselves. The more variety of workouts that is available, the more likely someone is to find something that works for them and actually get them off of the couch and moving 🙂
        I really enjoy your blog! Keep up the great posts!

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  3. Chiming in as another pole dancer. There is a bit of gimmicky marketing in it, I admit, but I see that as growing pains as it develops as a sport. Certainly, if you look at videos of the competitions like Pole Art or Pole Ranking, you can see that it’s far removed from the stripper origins. However, I think it’s still important to honour that history. I see it similar as ballet, which started out as something not for a lady but developed as an art form that’s very physical.

    Pole helped me develop the core and upper body strength to be able to get into my newest activity of aerial silks and rope at a local circus studio. Like

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    1. (Whoops. Posting from mobile device. )

      Like pole, circus had an outsider status due to it’s performance by outsiders. Yet it’s also very commercial as art. Low brow. Pole is even more low brow. Athletes won’t respect the art even when they are forced to acknowledge the difficulty of the advanced moves. High brow artists won’t acknowledge the beauty of something clearly meant to amaze and titillate. So it is what it is. Most strippers don’t do half the tricks we learn in pole fitness (it’s not what earns them money) but I wouldn’t want to deny that heritage of the sport either.

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      1. I read the greatest zine by a woman who trains as a professional acrobat, and so much of what she wrote not only resonated with me as an athlete but also with what my friend (pole instructor) has told me about pole. I came away from it with a whole new appreciation for athletic pursuits that incorporate artistic vision, which is something I would say about pole as well as circus.

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  4. I confess to being intrigued by pole dancing (the stripper kind) because when I’ve seen it done well I find it both sexy and impressive. But I’m not all that keen on dance fitness of any kind either. Like even Zumba isn’t for me. I’d rather go swimming or running. And if I’m going to dance I’d rather go dancing. And if I’m going to learn to work the pole (not likely) I’d want to learn it straight up. They wouldn’t need to pitch it to me as exercise.

    But if that’s what gets someone moving, I’m not about to object.

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  5. Sam, to say that “dance” is not a serious form of workout – well, I really don’t think you’re right about that. Have you ever watched the people who do even just swing dancing for fun? Looks like a pretty serious workout to me.

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  6. My best friend is a pole instructor and we talk about this a lot. There’s evidently a schism within the pole community between people who really want to establish legitimacy by stripping (no pun intended) the sexy out of it, and others who like the sexiness of it and don’t want to give that up. It’s been fascinating for me, as a swim-bike-run-weights lady, to get this glimpse into a world that I would have not known anything about. So I guess the point is that it’s not as simple as “pole dancing = faux stripping” especially since the women aren’t taking their clothes off, dancing for audiences or taking money.

    As far as the sexercise workouts in the video? I have to say they actually look kind of fun but I don’t know if I would do them, as I could see myself totally throwing my back out or tearing a ligament because I went too far into a lunge. That’s a lot of really dynamic bouncing that I don’t see going well.

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    1. We have a shared first thought about Buti! Ow, my back. 🙂

      I know pole dancing is complicated in a bunch of interesting ways. I have a friend who does ariel dance including pole stuff and it’s beautiful and athletic. The stripper stuff can be beautiful and athletic too, as Tracy says. And if someone enjoys it as a work out that’s great. I do worry about constructing female sexuality as being on display for men and I worry that lots of the commercial fitness classes play into that. In the end, I’m happy to say if it’s good for you great, me I’ll stick to biking etc. Different strokes etc.

      And who knows? It’s my goal not to age gracefully. I could be the first eight year old pole dancer out there! 🙂

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      1. I totally hear you. It’s interesting to untangle it because it really does play into the notion of women as the sex class (to steal a phrase from Twisty Faster at I Blame the Patriarchy). I don’t think this is something that’s just for sexercises, though, although sexercises are really blatant about it. One of the things that used to annoy the shit out of me about women’s lifting magazines was about all the focus on sexy this and sexy that. And I actually like feeling sexy and doing sexy things! I just hate feeling like it’s required for all women everywhere in order to be taken seriously as women. (I feel the same way about things like pink, hair removal, make-up – basically most of the trappings of femininity.)

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      2. One of the interesting things about pole is that I have never experienced it as being about being on display for men. I’m sure that’s not universal, but it’s not like there are men standing around watching classes at the studio, and many if not most of the women in classes at my studio don’t even have poles at home, so it’s not like they’re going home and performing for their husbands or boyfriends. It’s hard to explain, but it just…isn’t about that. The experience of it is a lot more about, “Can I figure out how to manipulate my center of gravity to go straight into a helicopter invert? What parts of me need to be stronger in order to advance? Can I make myself more flexible, and what new moves will that open up for me?” So from the inside, it feels like it’s a lot more about growing, developing, and strengthening your abilities, just like most other sports.

        I agree that the marketing of some studios does make it sound like it’s all about looking sexy for your man. But that isn’t really an accurate representation of what the sport is about, or the reasons why a lot of us love it. There’s also the fact that there are more reasons a person might enjoy looking sexy than just to enhance a male partner’s experience. You’re right, it is complicated in lots of interesting ways. I just want to resist categorizing any form of exercise that looks sexy as problematic. People are free to dislike these forms of exercise for other reasons, or to just not be drawn to them. That doesn’t mean that there’s anything “wrong” with them, though.

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