Blogger on Pole: how the pole dance helps self-esteem and overcoming traumas

Cover photo: @vmilus

Carolina Are, originally from Olbia (Sardinia), is an energy volcano of ideas. Pole dancer, blogger of Blogger on Pole, activist, researcher of online content moderation with a PhD in criminology, university professor, she lives and teaches in London. Years ago, her cleverness was overshadowed by an abusive relationship. After graduation, she ran away, couchsurfing in the United States and then flying to Australia, determined to change her life. In 2016 Carolina discovered pole dance in Sydney that helped her accept her body and feel confident. Once back in London, she wrote a novel partly inspired by her strong experience, Bad/Tender (on Amazon). It was cathartic and it gave her a huge hand in the healing process from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) created by that relation. 

Carolina won the category Activist of the Year prize in the Sexual Freedom Awards for her commitment online and offline. On Blogger on Pole she writes articles and interviews with representatives of pole dance’s world, sex working and beyond. Her scientific-academic articles are published on Feminist Media Studies, Journalism, First Monday and Porn Studies Forum.

What can pole dance give more than other sports?

Pole dance incorporates a type of sexuality that other sports lack. While you can find a lot of sensual dances like belly dance, tango, also hip hop, the thing of the pole is its legacy with the stripping world because strippers created it. This sport forces you to stay naked for the friction needed with the pole, have grip and accept your body differently from other sport disciplines since they aim to weight loss. Pole dance doesn’t care about your weight or your body, it cares about how much strong you are and how much your body can do. Indeed, there are pole dancers plus size, no binary, heterosexual, homosexual and so on. It’s a nice inclusive environment. Also, relying on others to try some complex moves creates a sort of physical and moral support that helped me so much in difficult situations.

How it healed you from your abusive relationship?

I got out from my abusive relationship hating my body that, like other survivors, I blamed for what happened. It isn’t easy to accept my own body and see myself as sensual after being a victim of violence. It’s a defence mechanism to ignore sexuality for a certain amount of time. I could use that sexuality and sensuality aspect inside me with the pole dance, but I didn’t feel to try with a partner. It helped me a lot to love my body again, take back my control and to create a sensuality all mine. 

Is pole dance a good instrument to explore sexuality?

Yes, it’s perfect. Even if it can seem another patriarchal tool, given that people find sex working negative, I believe this sex working and sensuality bond can help people explore themselves in a way that a conventional heterosexual relationship would not allow them. People can look into their sensuality and sexuality with pole dance by finding out what makes them sensual.

Which biases do you hear more often about this sport and what’s your way to debunk them?

Biases can come from inside and outside the pole dance. Unfortunately, there are a lot of pole dancers who reject strippers as creators of our sport. It’s history that tells us this. It’s a matter of fact, as I report in a few last blog posts. Some people judge us as exhibitionists and anti-feminists. Sex is part of feminism. We don’t need to refuse sex and sexuality to be good feminists. As seen with Montemagno’s case in Italy, some people consider stripping people less smart or with an easy life or searching for favours. It’s not like that. For example, I have a PhD in criminology, teach the university, research online content and censorship, am a pole dancer instructor and love to strip. Intelligence and nakedness are not mutually exclusive. In my opinion, people who think like that aren’t able to grasp life’s shades. 

What kind of attitude is there about pole dance in England?

Pole dance in England is growing so much. When I moved, it seemed yet a niche sport. However, there’s a great history of pole dance spread in strip pubs, typically English, very different from strip clubs. In the 2000s there was a massive rejection for pole dance and strippers so much that races were primarily fitness. Luckily, now they are embracing the sexiest side of this sport with more cheeky, sensual races and more nude lessons regarding the outfits. 

How much is your novel Bad/Tender autobiographical?

It’s pretty autobiographical, but not entirely. It ends differently and I didn’t have a horrible experience like that of the main character. The novel’s writing was critical because it helped me heal, say goodbye forever to that affair, live with it psychologically moving on with life at the same time. I wrote the novel by pen on a series of journals while I travelled alone through the States. They proved to be helpful to put together the material and publishing it. 

Why is it wrong to romanticise the so-called ‘bad guys’ according to you?

It’s a very harmful myth. By chasing potentially dangerous men good only with their girls, you end up in the wrong hands and ignore many red flags. As I told in my Cosmopolitan’s interview, it’s a damaging stereotype that is another way to forgive men for their filthy behaviours. I hope that by now we are going to better men’s attitudes: less toxic or macho, more careful to others’ consent and sensibility.

After the end of your abusive relationship, you went immediately to USA couchsurfing and then to Australia. How essential is it to live the pain and self-analyse rather than move away from problems?

It’s a great question that describes a behaviour I must remember when I have problems because I tend to escape them. After that relationship, I fly to America and then Australia. For heaven’s sake, it’s a privilege since it means I can afford to travel, but at the same time, not dealing with problems doesn’t help anybody because they come back. The air change can be helpful to get distracted if you’re running away from a person who can’t travel like you. However, it doesn’t help your mental health. I thought to live a super glamorous life selling panini on Bondi Beach, but it never happened. I walked away from all the people I loved. So the best way to heal from an abusive relationship is therapy and dealing with problems. 

Have you ever lived the stigma of pole dancer = stripper in your working environments like university or journalism? How did you relate to it?

I didn’t live this stigma in workplaces. I think people understand why I am so open about my life, given that I research sex working and pole dance censorship. But now I’m applying for research positions finding a lot of difficulties. Therefore, I wonder how far British institutions discriminate, despite acknowledging the worth of my research. I didn’t have any problem, except for an inappropriate and creepy colleague. When people want to determine me, it happens on dates. Some men think that my nakedness is automatically consenting. If people do not smartly criticise me, discriminate or judge me, I realise that I don’t want anything to do with them. Pole dance is a radar that helps me avoid the worst people.

Which projects are you working on? 

I’m working on a project I will announce soon. I write for many blogs, do online public speech and live seminaries. I’ll teach a heavy metal pole workshop, and I’ll be a judge inside Pole Weekender in Peterborough, a weekend festival with many pole dance races. Finally, I’m working on academic articles on content moderation, and I continue my work on social media regarding activism and disclosure. 

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