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Written by Benjamin Cameron Hunt – A UPA Contributor/Workshop Coordinator
First time at each pole studio:
I am aware of my appearance (despite rumors of being color blind and fashionless), and I am aware of expectations and stereotypes of men (in this case, straight men). Regardless if I have a beard, every time I walk into a pole studio for the first (and often second) time, I expect the looks, facial expressions, awkward silence, and sometimes blunt comments pertaining to me possibly being in the wrong place. I have never taken offense from this, and I never will. If I’m fortunate enough to see a familiar face in the female crowd, whom might be able to help ease the concerns by vouching for me, then it is often a short-lived and adorable situation. If I’m completely on my own, I try to be as cordial, calm, well-spoken, and honest as possible.

“I’m Benjamin Cameron Hunt, and I am a poler. I travel to different studios and events, and I was hoping that I could drop-in on a class, or at least see your studio. I’d also love to talk to anyone who is passionate about pole, and hear their thoughts and ideas pertaining to it. I completely understand if you need me to leave right now.”
That’s the basic idea, give or take a few re-wordings and possible interruptions. For the most part, unless my timing is bad (if the studio is having a private party, or any sexy classes), the studio, either immediately, or eventually, welcomes me to partake in classes (where applicable) or at least get a tour of the studio. The awkwardness doesn’t stop there. Only those who heard my original introduction are now at ease, and if there are any students that did not hear it, their looks, facial expressions, et cetera mimic those of the first group all over again. Still not offended, but my fear is that IF they remember seeing me, they might not ever know who I am (more importantly, what I am not); being misunderstood for more than a moment is one of my biggest frustrations and fears. I totally get that I can easily look like a creep, and for that, I am sorry. I will gladly wear a mask if I must, though I’ve never been asked to.
By now, every female poler has either met or at least heard of a male poler or two. It might seem rare to meet one in person, and if they have heard of them (via Facebook, and especially YouTube), then that male poler is probably already well-established, and possibly also a pole champion of some sorts. Even still, especially when I have a beard, I’m likely obviously NOT a well-established poler, and I have never even competed; so I never count on anyone recognizing me or remembering me from an event, unless I actually made friends (even if just Facebook) with them.
Even in the all-male pole classes that I attended six times at Philly Premier Pole Dance Studio in Philadelphia, PA; of the eight or so students that attended, I was the least fit, by a long-shot (these guys were cut and chiseled), and I wore the most clothing (though, they did convince me to remove my shirt for a few moves). I have yet to pole in anything shorter than my denim camo shorts (one exception), and I blame it on my own insecurities, but also out of respect for the girls in the classes. I know how it can be negatively distracting to see a guy in tight bike shorts or bikini bottoms, and even if the girls think they would not mind it, I still do. This still applies to my shirt, as well. Even with a tee-shirt and generous shorts, I totally understand if having a male in an otherwise all-female class can be distracting.
Some studios in my travels specify, even in their motto, that they are female-only. That is a huge peace-of-mind factor for the female students, and I strongly believe that every studio should have a class or two that strictly limits the attendance to females. In return, those same studios should consider having one or two male-only classes (scheduled non-adjacent to any female classes). The happy medium being the co-ed (but honestly mostly female) classes. This allows the unsteady or self-conscious females and males to learn pole without distraction of the opposite gender. The first irony that this reveals, is those who are not limited to the confines of heterosexuality. Personally, regardless who might be checking me out (yes, please) or complimenting me (everyone can use more compliments), I’m flattered to bits.
This brings up my topic for next time: How to flirt with another poler (without creeping out anyone and losing all credibility). Spoiler: You can’t (just kidding, tact & timing… more on this next time)

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