Pole-dancing disasters

Evil pole-sters are charged with destroying children's innocence and making amateur dancers look like idiots.

Published October 27, 2006 10:22PM (EDT)

Oh, dear. As noted by BoingBoing and the infamous Daily Mail, family-values activists are in a faceoff with U.K. chain Tesco over a little product known as the Peekaboo Pole Dancing Kit. The kit, which packs an Instructional DVD "with dance moves" and 100 Peekaboo Dance Dollars with its adjustable chrome pole, recently appeared in Tesco's toys and games section, prompting cries that it was poised to "destroy children's lives."

In fact, Dr. Adrian Rogers of the group Family First was full of dire predictions. "It is an open invitation to turn the youngest children on to sexual behavior," he told the Daily Mail on Friday. "This will be sold to four-, five- and six-year-olds. This is a most dangerous toy that will contribute towards destroying children's innocence. Children are being encouraged to dance round a pole which is interpreted in the adult world as a phallic symbol. This should only be available to the most depraved people who want to corrupt their children."

I am sure that those eager to corrupt their children are racing to stores as we speak. But Rogers, who clearly has good intentions here, unwittingly highlights a hitch in his own argument: He initially claims the Peekabo kits will be sold to 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds, but winds up implicitly acknowledging that it's generally the parents who have the power of the pocketbook when it comes to children's toys. I don't know how many 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds would want a special pole-dancing pole, but more relevantly, I definitely don't know any with $100 to buy one.

I can understand being bothered by consumer items that seem designed to turn young children on to sexual behavior; these days, it seems our society is full of them. Plus, I'm not crazy about the messages pole-dancing kits send to women, much less children, and in an age when "I'm in Love With a Stripper" is a chart-topping hit and Chris Rock's favorite parenting advice is "you got to keep her off the pole," I can see why parents would be steamed if their kids are absorbing sexy and sexist messages in the toy aisle. But the Peekaboo kit doesn't seem to be targeting children, and Tesco has agreed to pull the kits from its toy section (while continuing to sell the Peekaboo pole as a "fitness item"). Fretting about innocence destroyed seems a little premature in this case.

On the other hand, I do take issue with the Peekaboo promise that "With your own dance pole the possibilities are endless!! You can boogie on down in the living room, spice things up in the bedroom or even liven up a friend's party!!" It's not just the worrying implication that impromptu pole-dances will come to characterize our neighborhood barbecues. If there's one thing that Popular Science magazine's new blog (also linked by BoingBoing) has taught us, it's that it's irresponsible to advocate pole-dancing without advertising the risks.

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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