In this article, we study pole dancing as a potential site of feminist theorization. Finding that instructors at pole dancing studios figure themselves in and through tensions between empowering feminine sexuality and the taint of sexualized labour, we discuss the productive potential of these tensions in terms of postfeminist discourse, on the one hand, and the feminist critique of this discourse, on the other. Holding on to both ends of this pole, the pole dance instructors twist and turn their words and bodies so as to produce emotionally attractive and socially recognizable subject positions for themselves and their female customers. We do not seek to dissolve the inherent tensions of these moves, but discuss how they can become productive: for the pole dance instructors, as they find opportunity to discursively resist sexualization whilst materially performing sexuality; and for us as feminist scholars as we become able to celebrate and criticize the idea(l) of empowering feminine sexuality.
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IMPORTANT NOTE from the Publisher regarding the attached version of the article (embargoed until Jan 8, 2021) "This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Just, SN, Muhr, SL. Holding on to both ends of a pole: Empowering feminine sexuality and reclaiming feminist emancipation. Gender Work Organ. 2020; 27: 6– 23. https://doi.org/10.1111/gwao.12339 , which has been published in final form at https://doi.org/10.1111/gwao.12339. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions."