From Boudoir Photos to Crisis Line Training

This past week I took boudoir photos, sort of for the first time. It was a nice full hour. I wore a lot of my dance clothes, my sexy heels, and took some pictures with my belly chain. Turns out that the photographer is “friends with a lot of the girls” at the club where I work. (PS: I think any middle-aged guy who describes 20 year old strippers as his “friends” may have other stuff to work through). We had a lot of fun talking about why I like dancing, my exhibitionist tendencies, and his experiences photographing. I had a wonderful time wearing my sexy clothes, getting naked, and smiling. 

And then… I had to immediately drive to the beginning of my volunteer training to help with the crisis line in town. This rapid transition reminds me of the post I wrote back in April about going from my feminist conference to my strip club birthday stage dance. I had a hard time, again, mentally transitioning so quickly from feeling sexually powerful and in control of my body to a space largely dominated by topics like sexual assault, sexualization, and objectification. Reconciling these two very different spaces is a bit disorienting for me.

Something that I have been thinking a lot about is identifying particular spaces that are safe in which to disclose my experiences dancing. I had been curious up until this week whether or not this training space would be safe or not. I had been thinking that it might be, because the organization also has a sex worker outreach program and is focused on harm-reduction methods of assisting those they are in contact with. And yet, attending two sessions of the training this week, I am still trying to figure out whether there is still a sense of “us” and “them” with regards to people who work in the sex industry. While it is an accepted fact that everyone in the room has direct experience with sexual assault or abuse either because they experienced it or someone they know has, and thus there is a sense that everyone can understand the impacts of assault and sexual violence, I have not yet felt a similar level of understanding for those who work as prostitutes, strippers, call girls, or lingerie models. I am curious to find out the stances of the trainers and other people in my training as I continue attending sessions and getting to know people.

Also: I have been trying to figure out my game plan for applying to my PhD program in public health with regards to disclosing my personal experiences. So far in my personal statement I discuss my personal motivations for studying relationship health and sexual violence prevention: being in an open relationship, identifying as bisexual, and my current experience as a dancer. I feel like academics are more likely to have an open mind about such ideas and perspectives, but I am still nervous about the stigma related to each of those identities and backgrounds.

Something else I realized this week related to dancing is my sense of “flow” while I am dancing. I posted on “flow” a while back with regards to how being with sexy friends is another instance during which I feel this way: 

It is a state of consciousness so focused that you are totally absorbed in an activity and lose track of time. It is a state of complete engagement with life in which you feel strong, alert, in effortless control, unselfconscious, and at the peak of your abilities. You are highly challenged by a particular situation, but also highly skilled at experiencing it, resulting in a peak level of confidence and satisfaction.

I really do feel this way. There really are not that many activities I have done in my life where I feel so engaged, stimulated, happy, peaceful, challenged, and excited. I have felt that way at times in my life when I was swimming, spending time with friends, and having sex. It makes me feel so relaxed realizing that I gain this sense of enrichment from dancing. It makes me feel relaxed about not having a “long-term” job and about not having all of my “plans” figured out. Because clearly I am a happy, satisfied, and fulfilled person right now, which is pretty important.

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