Friday, June 28, 2013

Judging a Pole Dance Competition

A few weeks ago, I was asked to be one of five judges at Scores' 2nd Annual Pole Dancing Competition. I was super excited and a little bit concerned. I'd attended the competition last year. If the field was anything like last year - judging was going to be tough. These women are amazing athletes and artists.

Full disclosure: I spent a year working as a House Mom at Scores. It was a great experience and I have a huge soft spot for everyone there from the owners to the bar backs, but especially the performers. A House Mom is a person (not always female) who hangs out in the dressing room, makes sure the dancers have what they need to perform, fixes costumes, listens when someone's
having a bad night, celebrates when the night is good, provides support through life transitions (moving, parenthood, new relationships, starting college, finishing a masters, and of course, break ups), badgers dancers when they're late, does everything possible to keep the peace in the dressing room including watching money and last but not least, narcs out someone who's too drunk to work/drive home or is using other substances. Many of the performers are young enough to be my daughter and they all call(ed) me Mom. And trust me. I'm a pretty protective mama. But I knew I could be impartial. I'm a pretty fair person.

So, after some going around and around about what to wear (see pic), I showed up at Scores. It was so fun to see everyone. I miss them a lot. And then, it was time for the competition to begin. Luckily for me, none of the women who had worked there when I was there were competing. In fact, most of the competitors were from the Pole Dancing world, not the stripping world. Stripping as a job is actually not very much about the individual's performance on the pole or stage. It's more a job that's focused on sales and building a relationship with the individual customer. Some dancers choose to really go for it on stage, and an amazing stage show can bring in some serious cash, but it's the regular customers and the champagne rooms that really pay the rent. While there certainly is overlap, competitive Pole Dancing is a whole other thing. There are rules - like no nudity. One of my fellow judges, LuLu  was on America's Got Talent! Pole Dancing is, to me, a hybrid of dance, gymnastics, flexibility and sheer strength. Some competitions include people of multiple genders:

but this one was just women (not this woman - but she's amazing).

And so were the competitors at Scores. They were all good. There were incredible athletic feats and moments of sheer beauty. As an athlete and a dancer, I appreciated both. Several women scaled the pole UPSIDE DOWN. One women performed in a blindfold. Which had me and my fellow judges ducking and grabbing for our drinks a little bit. But what really got me were the performers who created a dance with the pole, not just on it. It was a gift. The winner did Gloria Estefan proud with a routine to Conga.

All in all, it was a super fun night. I wish I could share pictures, but one of the rules of the strip club - no photos. Some customers and some performers don't want their images shared for lots of very legitimate reasons. Not least of which is the stigma associated with working as a stripper (that's another blog). But, if you have a chance to go next year - trust me. You want to go. In the meantime, if you're looking for a strip club in the Baltimore area, I highly recommend Scores. Just make sure you tip well and that you're nice. Cause otherwise, well, Mama might have something to say.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Weekend in Miami with about 600 sex geeks

A few weekends ago, while the rest of the staff managed Hon Fest, I was off at the American Association of Sex Educator's, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) in Miami. From Friday through Sunday I attended sessions on topics ranging from Sexual Side Effects From Prostate Cancer Treatment, Strategies for Managing Pelvic Pain, to Healing for Healers and Orgasmic Meditation. It was fabulous. And a smidge exhausting.

First, getting there was a bit of fiasco. I showed up two hours early for my flight out of BWI. As I do, because being late for flights makes me super nervous. I was happily at the gate and working away on my lap top for my on time flight when the announcements started. The plane that we was to take us out of BWI, hit a bird on the way in and bent a fan in the engine. After constant announcements and two hours they finally figured out that the thing was unflyable. And they didn't have another plane. So, flight canceled.

After being offered several rather crappy rescheduling options, I got a chance to practice asking for what I want and having firm boundaries. Which resulted in a direct flight on another airline. I got to Miami late that evening. From door to door, the whole thing took about 12 hours. It turns out I was lucky. A tropical storm had been making it's way up the coast. The Miami airport was a mess, people sleeping, playing cards, waiting to have their flights rescheduled. I thanked my lucky stars that I'd made it.

Next morning bright and early, I was at the conference.

In this field there are essentially five kinds of conferences:
AASECT is the latter type. So I was surrounded primarily by sex therapists, counselors, researchers, and physicians. When I go to a kink conference, an adult industry trade show or a bloggers conference, I see five people I know within the first few minutes of walking in the door. Not so much at AASECT. My shyness kicked in.You see, I can get a bit nervous around folks I don't know that I don't have a reason to talk to. In the store, I'm perfectly happy talking to strangers all day. At a cocktail party where I don't know anyone? I'm highly likely to hide in the corner. So I took a deep breath, stayed quite and went to a workshop on pelvic pain.

By the end of the weekend, I'd found folks I knew (waving at you Charlie Glickman & Princess Kali!), ran into an colleague that I last worked with 1998 (I'd missed her!) and made some new friends. More importantly, my brain was packed full of new information that I'm thoroughly excited about sharing with you and new ways of thinking about things that I already knew.

Here's a few of the highlights:
  • Flossing can help your sexual function - it helps reduce inflammation, inflammation impedes blood flow, blood flow is the core of our physiological sexual response
  • Vibration can help break up scar tissue (U of WI is about to release a study demonstrating this)
  • Orgasmic meditation is fascinating and new research is indicating it can actually change (and improve) brain function
  • Lifestyle choices, like diet, exercise and meditation are key to our sexual health and function. I'd been thinking about this a lot before the conference, especially in relation to the significant impact that lifestyle choices have our sexual function during menopause. I was delighted to hear so many other people, people with much fancier degrees, talking about it too. Stay tuned - there will be a workshop on this happening soon! 
  • Treatments for cancers, including prostate cancer, can have a significant impact on sexual function. There are multiple ways to mitigate these effects, but many physicians aren't talking about them. There are, however, a few centers in which patients fighting cancer, survivors and their partners are paired with a physician, therapist and physical therapist to develop a multi-speciality approach (how smart is that). 
  • We need to start talking about masculine sexual response and health with much more nuance and diversity. I've been saying this for years, as have many others, but in multiple ways, this conference really drove that home. Sex is complicated. And sometimes, the penis or the prostate isn't going to work or isn't present. We need to have a broader cultural understanding of masculine sexuality that goes beyond erections.
I'm grateful for many things in this job and one of them is the opportunity to continue learning in so many ways, I learn things from our customers, co-workers, other educators, academic journals, conferences - it never stops. So, I'm sending a big thank you to each and everyone of our customers for making my job possible. I'm grateful every day.