Has Stripping Become a Sport?

Is this our way of erasing the social stigma surrounding sex work and Stripping in general? In the early 2000s we saw a new exercise craze sweep the nation: Strip Areobics. Gyms across the country offer classes in Strip Areobics (often spelled “Areobixxx”), private studios have been popping up in cities, and there is even now a US Pole Dancing Federation.

Sheila Kelley founded the S Factor studio where her tag line is “Come for the Fun. Stay for the workout. Be amazed by the journey.” Kelley is appealing to the mass groups of women who struggle with self-esteem issues concerning their sexuality. She plays into this on the home page of her website: “Do you hear the work ‘sexy’ and think… ‘who me?’ When someone says ‘You’re beautiful,’ do you believe it?” The message seems to be one of empowerment for women and it leads me to believe that this workout sensation is advocating for female agency over sexuality and bodily appearance.

With comments like these, I cannot help but ask who all the “Aerobixxx” is for? Boyfriends, husbands, lovers? Or have we found a way to make sex work a little more main stream? And furthermore, would it be bad to exploit ourselves and our bodies in this fashion if it was our free will to do so? It seems as though pole dancing can be dabbled in by those women who wish to be a little naughty and tighten up their cores while doing so. As seen in the Carmen Electra video, strip areobics and pole dancing has a broad range from lap dance to group workout to advanced competition. But does this mainstreaming erase a little of the mass social stigma that surrounds the sex work industry? Or is it just another workout craze?