Aesthetics, Art, Artist, Bad Ideas, Dance, Drawings, Emotions, Erotic Dance, Literature, Movies and Film, Music, Paintings, Performance Arts, Photography, Poetry, Sculpture, Self-Pity, Theatre, Visual Arts, Writing

Even Artists are Human. Even Artists.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:  Paul’s thoughts on the notion that artists feel things more deeply than other folks.

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THE CRITICS ROAR: “Sunstone’s ‘Artists’ post puts me in mind of 1975 when the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco lingered on his death bed for weeks before having the proper decency to exit the world and take his damnable evil with him.  ‘Artists’ is by most common measures a short blog post, but Sunstone nevertheless manages to make it a long one.  You soon find yourself praying for it to end. Praying hard for it to end.” — Gus “Gunning Gus” Johnson, The Blog Critic’s Column, “Leper’s Gulch Gazette”, Leper’s Gulch, Colorado, USA.

Continue reading “Even Artists are Human. Even Artists.”

Advice, Art, Authenticity, Being True To Yourself, Cultural Traits, Dance, Erotic Dance, Life, Living, Performance Arts, Sex, Sexuality

How to Watch Strippers (And Why You Should Care)

SUMMARY: Common mistakes people make while watching erotic dancers, plus the best way to do it in order to fully appreciate the nature of erotic dance.

(About a 6 minute read)

It seems curious to me that — from my point of view — people first make sex a problem when it need not be a problem, then they condemn sex for the mess they’ve made of it.

Why is that so?  Why do we think sex is the problem when it’s so obvious to anyone willing to look closely at it that it’s us — our attitude and approach to it — that are the problem?

Continue reading “How to Watch Strippers (And Why You Should Care)”

Abortion, Abuse, Aesthetics, Art, Artist, Authenticity, Bad Ideas, Beauty, Being True To Yourself, Dance, Don, Erotic Dance, Free Spirit, Fun, People, Sex, Sexuality, Sexualization, Wisdom

Elle: Nurse by Day, Stripper by Night

(About a 10 minute read)

The first thing I noticed about Elle was that she seemed mysteriously out of place.  She was sitting alone at a table in Shotgun Willies’, watching a young woman dance on one of the stages, and smoking a cigarette.

Because Elle was fully dressed in street clothes, I wasn’t sure what she was doing there?  Was she an erotic dancer?  Then why the clothes?  But if she wasn’t a dancer, what was she doing in an erotic dance club? I spent no little time wondering about her like that before she rose, crossed over to the other side of the room, and strolled through the dressing room door.

Continue reading “Elle: Nurse by Day, Stripper by Night”

Agape, Altruism, Art, Authenticity, Awe, Beauty, Being True To Yourself, Brotherly Love, Children, Community, Creativity, Dance, Education, Emotions, Enlightenment, Erotic Dance, Erotic Love, Ethics, Extended Family, Fairness, Family, Free Spirit, Freedom, Freedom and Liberty, Friends, Fun, Giving, Happiness, Honesty, Horniness, Human Nature, Humanism, Humanities, Ideas, Love, Lovers, Loyalty, Mature Love, Morality, Mysticism, Nature, New Love, Parental Love, Passion, Peace, People, Philos, Redemption, Romantic Love, Science, Self-determination, Self-Integration, Self-Knowledge, Self-Realization, Sense of Relatedness, Sex, Sexuality, Society, Spirituality, Talents and Skills, Transformative Experience, Unconditional Love, Vacilando, Wisdom

The Importance of Redemption

(About a 5 minute read)

I sometimes get the impression that plenty of us tackle the big ideas in life almost the day we escape our cribs for the first time.

“Gurk! Life is mine to seize! I see it clearly now.  I shall be my own hero. Gerp!” Or, “Poppels! But our capacity to love is what most defines us as moral. Twurks!  What’s this?  Why, it must be what what ma-ma calls, ‘poo’.  And look!  It’s endlessly shape-able!”

Continue reading “The Importance of Redemption”

Abuse, Aesthetics, Art, Artist, Beauty, Culture, Dance, Erotic Dance, Ethics, Morality, Morals, Nudes, Performance Arts, Sexuality, Values

Some Suggestions on How to View Erotic Dancers

A good friend of mine, an engineer who works in management, tells me of the time she went to a strip club with a group of her co-workers, all men except for her.  “I thought I knew these men and that they respected women, Paul.  And I should say that, outside of the club, they do seem to respect women.  But almost from the moment we got in the door, that respect was gone from every last one of them.  I was alarmed and dismayed both at how they treated the dancers and in what words they spoke about them.  To say they treated them as objects would be to understate it.  I realized this was a side to my male co-workers that I had never suspected before.”

Over the years, several of my friends and acquaintances have been people who were either working as erotic dancers or had in the past worked as erotic dancers.  Perhaps a majority of them have told me — or at least hinted to me — of how disrespected they are by most of the men who show up to watch them perform. Several of them have become cynical of men as a consequence.  This is a sad state of affairs.

I think it’s safe to assume that it’s commonplace in America to disrespect erotic dancers, and that there are cultural reasons for that disrespect.  In our culture, not just dancers, but sex workers in general are disrespected, and have been for centuries.  But I do not wish to speculate here on the historical roots of that disrespect.  Nor is my purpose in this blog post to try to convert to a different view those of you who feel justified in disrespecting sex workers, or specifically, dancers.  If you feel righteously justified in disrespecting people, that’s a matter between you and your conscience, and nothing I say is likely to change you.

Instead, I am only concerned with offering for consideration some views to anyone who is not of the firm conviction that dancers should be disrespected, and who rather is open to hearing a few ideas about treating them as persons in their own right.  So with that in mind, please allow me to offer these suggestions:

First, don’t take it personally if and when the dancers themselves fail to respect you.  As I hinted above, most of the young women have gotten pretty jaded about men in general very largely as a response to being disrespected by so many of their customers.  That is, they have returned disrespect with disrespect.  And while that is a rather foolish and ineffective way to respond to disrespect, it is also a very human way to respond to it.  So, expect most of the dancers to be at least somewhat contemptuous of you — or at the very least, suspicious — and do not make the mistake of taking it personally.

Although it’s been years since I was last in a club, I used to go with a friend of mine, a sculptor, who taught me to view what the dancers were doing as an art.  I would suggest you too, view the dancers as artists, not only because it makes it easier to see them as persons in their own right, but also because it seems to significantly enhance the experience of watching them.  But if any of that is true, then how do you go about viewing the dancers as artists?

Well, something that’s helped me do that is to, first, recognize that not all of them are very good artists.  I would say that about 12% of the dancers you’ll see — about one in eight — are natural born artists.  They almost certainly have not been schooled in erotic dance, but they are the sort of people who would make an art of nearly anything they were doing — very much including erotic dance.

In addition to that 12%, the vast majority of dancers are artistically average folks, and — at the bottom of the pile — are a percentage of dancers who are poor or quite poor artists.  Now why is this important?

It’s important because, if you look at erotic dance as an art — and the dancers as artists — then it is wise to keep in mind that not all the dancers you’ll see are good artists in order to avoid becoming discouraged.  But what makes one dancer a good artist, and the next seven dancers average or poor artists?

The key to the question is to recognize that, as a rule of thumb, a good dancer will authentically express her sexuality.  An average dancer will tend to be inconsistently authentic at best, and a poor dancer will be consistently inauthentic.   Another way of expressing those differences is to say that a good dancer will not pander to you, an average dancer will pander sometimes, and a poor dancer will always pander.  If you think about it, the very same thing is true with any art or artist: The best express their own vision, most pander a bit, and the worse are always pandering.

These distinctions might sound very vague or very esoteric.  But in practice, it’s fairly easy — given some experience of different dancers — to see which are authentic, a mix of authentic and inauthentic, or downright inauthentic.  That is, in practice, it’s just about as easy to see as it as it is to know when someone is probably telling the truth, partly telling the truth, and downright lying to you.

Now, should you bring any of this art talk up with the dancers themselves?  I myself would be a little hesitant to do so.  I’ve known a few dancers who viewed what they were doing as an art, but they have been by far in the minority.  Even most of the natural born artists who end up dancing for a living don’t think of themselves as artists, or think of what they’re doing as art.  This shouldn’t surprise you:  As Plato once famously said, artists are lousy at explaining themselves and their art.  So I think with most dancers, if you were to start talking to them about the “Art of Stripping”, you’d get blank stares at best.

Then again, just about the most erotic dancer that I ever have known used to enthusiastically gush to me now and then about the occasional customer of hers who’d sit down and knowingly discuss dance as an art form with her.  The key to her heart and mind was that a guy actually knew what he was talking about. So it’s up to you whether you want to bring up the subject with any of the dancers you meet.

Of course, very little of anything I’ve said so far will make much sense to if you happen to be one of those folks who is simply not moved by art.  There’s nothing at all wrong with you, but art just doesn’t grab you at a gut level.  If so, there are still some things you might want to keep in mind when viewing dancers perform for you.

I’ve found it best not to fantasize about having sex with the dancers — no matter how erotically they dance.   That might sound counter-intuitive: After all, why go watch often beautiful women dance half-naked or naked if you don’t want to imagine yourself having sex with them, right?  But in practice, that path leads to frustration, at the very least.  Indeed, one of my friends found it so frustrating that he ended up incapable of enjoying erotic dance at all.  I can contrast his experience with that of other friends who have found erotic dance “liberating” to experience, to say the least.

Most importantly, the key thing you should try to do is to see and treat each dancer as an individual.  In my experience, this is greatly aided by viewing them as artists.  But if viewing them as artists makes no impression on you, then you can still see and treat them as individuals simply by comparing and contrasting how they dance with how others dance.  Seeing the dancers as individuals is, I believe, the first and most important step towards genuinely respecting them as persons.

Conservative, Elections, Erotic Dance, Ideologies, Politicians and Scoundrels, Politics

Speaking of G-Strings…

I just remembered the issue of G-strings more or less came up during a local election a few years ago.  One of the town’s news organizations polled the candidates for city council on the various issues of the day.  And for unknown reasons, their poll included a question or two about what candidates planned to do to further regulate the town’s erotic dance clubs.

Now, this town does not normally have a wide range of political representation.  There is almost no real left here, except if you want to call one lonely, moderate Democrat a real leftist.  How he gets elected is quite beyond my poor power to fathom.

On the other hand, the right wing extends all the way to the extreme right…and then maybe a bit beyond that to include folks who would — in all probability — find a way to privatize the town’s moonlight on the grounds that free moonlight is godless socialism.  So, you might expect to find a bit — not too much, but a bit — of disagreement among the candidates on the issue of further regulating the erotic dance clubs.  That is, you might at least expect there to be a moderate right wing candidate in favor of further regulation; an extreme right wing candidate in favor of complete deregulation; and, of course, an even more extreme right wing candidate in favor of requiring patrons to hand-over permission slips signed by their church pastors before being admitted to the clubs.

But that’s not how the candidates responded to the poll.  One and all, from the lonely, moderate Democrat right through the “deregulate everything” crowd and on to the “privatize the moonlight” folks, the candidates agreed that erotic dance clubs in this town must be further regulated.

In my more than 15 years in this town, it is the only issue I can recall that has united all factions in the local politics.

When I read that poll, and saw how mightily the scoundrels were united, I knew that regardless of who got elected that year, the city council was going to be hellbent on further regulating the erotic dance clubs.  So, I prepared for the worse.

I got busy mourning the lacy past and emotionally preparing myself for a future in which the local dancing girls would be required by draconian ordinance to avoid coming within 30 feet of a patron, while wearing high-collar flannel night gowns and bank vault quality steel g-strings.  I imagined the dancers staring out from their stage at a room full of distant men with binoculars.  I thought of the Gregorian chants I’d soon enough hear blasting from the club speakers, and of the exciting ways my favorite dancers would find to — not dance their sexuality — but to dance their solidarity with the State’s fence posts.

Then, not a damn thing happened.

No one on the new council bothered to write up and introduce even a single ordinance further regulating the dance clubs.  The issue wasn’t even mentioned in the meetings.  And no reporters followed up on the candidate’s campaign promises.  It had become a non-issue.

The only issue in recent history to unite the whole slate of candidates, was now the only issue in recent history to unite the whole body of the council.  The only difference was all the candidates had been for it, while all the council members were against it.

I could only marvel at how winning an election could change a person.

Attachment, Consciousness, Don, Emotions, Enlightenment, Erotic Dance, Late Night Thoughts, Meditation, People, Self-Integration, Sexuality

Erotic Meditation

Unlike those of us afflicted with excessive sanity, I happen to think one of the best places for meditation is a good erotic dance club.  Inevitably, the music is too loud, the lights too flashy, the booze too expensive, and the girls too gorgeous.  Yet, surprisingly, all those “distractions”  seem to improve my ability to meditate.

Of course, there are different kinds of meditation.  The kind I practice amounts to little more than dispassionate observation.  I don’t attempt to direct my thoughts and feelings into any mold or channel, as is done in some kinds of meditation.  Instead, I just relax and watch what’s going on moment by moment with my thoughts and feelings.  There might be much better forms of meditation, but that one seems to best suit my temperament.

I wish I could claim I was foresighted enough to have sat down one day, pondered the matter of where to meditate as if it were a tough math puzzle, and then victoriously exclaimed, “I’ve got it! An erotic dance club!”.   That might have shown some genius.  But that’s not how it happened.

Instead, my friend Don and I went to a club one evening and, at some point, I simply discovered myself meditating.  And, as near as I can figure it out, I slipped into meditation because my thoughts and feelings were so pronounced and obvious to me in the club environment.

Everything about a club, from the loud music to the nude women, is designed to stimulate.  I find all that stimulation tends to exaggerate and pronounce my thoughts and feelings.   Consequently, it seems no more difficult for me to observe my mental processes in a club than for me to observe mountains while looking towards the Front Range of the Rockies.

Naturally, my tendency to meditate in erotic dance clubs has amused me ever since that first evening — to say nothing of the amusement it has caused Don.  Perhaps even more importantly, it seems to have taught me something about the nature of desire.

For instance, I’ve noticed how in some sense desire is like an optic or lens that brings some features of reality into focus while blurring others.  And it even seems capable of creating some features that do not exist — that are delusions — while completely obscuring other features of reality that indeed exist.  That seems to be important because we act (or don’t act) on the basis of what we take to be reality.  Perhaps it is therefore useful to us to learn what we can about the ways in which our perception of reality might become distorted.

Yet, precisely describing in words how desire works seems to me as difficult as precisely describing in words the various ways a tennis ball might bounce.  If you are curious about the workings of desire, it is by far easiest to dispassionately observe those workings yourself.  And with enough observation you will gain a pretty good sense for “which way the ball will bounce” in any given situation.

Of course, you can observe the workings of desire just about anywhere — anytime you are curious — for in some sense, all desires work the same.   Whether you are observing sexual desire while sitting in an erotic dance club, or observing a desire to obtain enlightenment while living in a monastery, you will notice the same patterns, the same tendencies.  For me, it has been somewhat easier to see those patterns and tendencies in an erotic dance club than in many other venues.  But perhaps that is only because — as Don likes to point out — I am “not afflicted with excessive sanity”.

Barack Obama, Economics, Elections, Erotic Dance, Income, John McCain, News and Current Events, People, Politics, Sarah Palin, Taxes, Thrift, Values, Work

Will Obama Lower Your Taxes? Find Out Now!

According to a recent Gallup poll, over half of Americans expect their income taxes to increase if Obama is elected president.  Yet, it turns out that Obama’s Tax Cut Plan will lower taxes and save money for the overwhelming majority of Americans.

Now, thanks to the fine people at Alchemy Today, there’s an online calculator that allows you to quickly figure out for yourself how much money you stand to save if Obama is elected president.

Simply click here to find out how much money you will save under Obama’s Tax Cut Plan.  It will only take a minute and the results are confidential.

Alchemy Today, which created the calculator, has no relation to the Obama Campaign or any other organization.

For fun, I ran the program for a single person with no dependent children making $35,000, $50,000, and then $125,000 per year.  Here are the results:

•Filing Status:  I selected “one real cool single guy”.

•Number of dependent children:  Yikes!  None, I hope!

•Money saved on an income of:

$35,000 per year >  $481.06

$50,000 per year > $468.76

$125,000 per year> The calculator told me: “You will probably not get an Obama tax cut”.

I won’t say what my income is — but Obama’s Tax Cut Plan looks good for me.  Or, more precisely, it looks good for the erotic dancers I will be patronizing if Obama gives me that much money back.  Of course, I consider patronizing erotic dancers to be a personal duty — it stimulates the economy, you see.

Beauty, Erotic Dance, Freedom, Sexuality

Grace and Eros on the Pole

Pole dancing today is not necessarily erotic despite its origins in Vancouver strip clubs during the 1980s.

For instance, in this video, the winner of the 2006 “Miss Pole Dance Australia” competition performs in a way that barely acknowledges the erotic roots of pole dancing.  Her dance is beautifully choreographed.  Every one of her moves flows like smoke into her next move without moments of awkwardness.  The emphasis is on grace rather than eros.

While I think non-erotic pole dancing is a good thing — often very beautiful — I certainly hope it doesn’t displace erotic pole dancing.  Of course, I enjoy erotic pole dancing.   But perhaps more importantly, I think that erotic dance in general — and erotic pole dancing in particular — collide with and challenge the oppressive vestiges of Victorian sexual morality which, among other things, assert women do not own their sexuality.

If it were up to me, erotic dance would be as established, respectable, and well funded as classical ballet.  Some people might object that erotic dance exploits women.  There might be some truth to that, but I do not believe erotic dance necessarily exploits women.  That is, there is nothing about a woman dancing her sexuality that inevitably exploits her.  Why then don’t our societies embrace erotic dance as a legitimate art?

My hunch is we can blame the lingering notion women do not own their own sexuality for that.

Here is a video of a somewhat more erotic pole dance.  Although the dance is not quite as breathtaking as in the first video, the dancer obviously has taken charge of her sexuality. She owns it.

Art, Artist, Authenticity, Beauty, Danielle, Erotic Dance, Nudes, People, Sexuality, Spirituality

Danielle Goes to an Erotic Dance Club

When Danielle was 22, she wanted to go to an erotic dance club. She did not want to go alone, however, and instead, she thought it was a good idea for me to take her.

The first time she brought it up with me, I was skeptical.

Erotic dance in this town is very much hit or miss. You are lucky to find a dancer who can express her sexuality through dance. I feared Danielle would encounter some poor dancers and consequently be hard pressed to understand what good erotic dance is all about.

The second time she brought it up with me, I was reluctant.

I was only a little younger than Danielle the first time I saw an erotic dance, and the dancer was so numbingly awful, I didn’t go back for 27 years.

In hindsight, I understand what that dancer’s problem was: She wasn’t dancing her own sexuality. Instead  she was going through a series of motions someone perhaps had mistakenly told her were sexy.  Most likely, she was pandering to the crowd for tips. Witnessing that ugly farce was enough to put me off erotic dance for almost 30 years. I certainly didn’t want Danielle’s first experience to be anything like mine.

Danielle is the oldest daughter of a San Francisco police officer and an art teacher. When she was about 20, she decided to explore the world a bit, and her wanderlust eventually brought her to Colorado, and to the coffee shop were we met.

She’s full of life, Danielle.  She loves to grin and you can’t help but grin back.  She has a playfulness and a ready sense of humor.  And her mind is clear as a mountain stream.

Her degree is in anthropology and she has a taste for African designs. Mostly, she expresses herself not through writing, nor through the clothing she wears, nor through any classical art, but through how she decorates her living spaces. Interior design is her art. She’s very good at it.

The third time Danielle brought up my taking her to an erotic dance club, she mischievously played “the former boyfriend card”.

She told me how she’d always wanted to see erotic dancers; had even begged her former boyfriend to take her; how he’d refused on the grounds “erotic dance wasn’t right for a girl to see.” What made his rejection biting, she said, was that he himself frequented dance clubs — yet he wouldn’t take her.

That did it for me. I wasn’t going to let Danielle’s former boyfriend get away with patronizing her. I agreed to take her. But only if she would consent to go to the clubs as many times as it took before I was satisfied that she’d seen at least one decent erotic dancer. Danielle readily agreed to that, and so we set Thursday for going.

When Thursday came, I was far more nervous than Danielle. Even though I was taking her to the club with the best dancers in town, I wasn’t sure who was dancing that night, and even the best club in this town has its share of poor dancers. But as it turned out, we got lucky.

Good erotic dancers dance their sexuality. I cannot begin to describe in mere words how they do that, but if you get yourself to a few clubs and then compare and contrast dancers, you will sooner or later notice the differences yourself. Some dancers dance their sexuality. Some dancers dance what they perhaps merely imagine is their sexuality. And some dancers dance anything but their sexuality. The latter two are just going through the motions.

As we watched the dancers, I would ask Danielle what she thought of them. It was encouraging to hear her say things like “She’s for real”, or, “I thought she was faking it”. Danielle and I seemed to be on the same page.

Picasso once said something roughly along the lines of, “Art is sex and sex is Picasso.” Whether it is true or not that art is sex, it is certainly true that one’s sexuality can be expressed in any art form — in painting, in sculpture, in poetry and, of course, in dance.

There are several things that make erotic dance interesting, but perhaps one of the most intriguing things is the way you can recognize the dancer in her dance. A dancer who genuinely expresses her sexuality is quite beautiful to witness, even if she herself is not the prettiest woman to ever take the stage.

The beauty does not come from her physical beauty, but from her authenticity in expressing her sexuality. And that’s the very same beauty you have always found, and always will find, in any authentic self-expression.  When a person is being true to themselves, they are in some special way beautiful.

Honesty, integrity, authenticity — these are all terms than can be applied to any art, including erotic dance.

So much of it is in what we look for.  If we go to a dance club only because we want to see nude or near nude women bounce around, then that’s all we will see. Then it doesn’t matter to us whether those women are dancing their sexuality or pandering to ours. In fact, we will probably prefer them to pander. Yet, if we go to a dance club with eyes for how someone transforms their authentic sexuality into an honest dance, then we might discover something deeply beautiful.

A problem many men face when watching a dancer is wanting to possess her.  If we really want to be moved by the beauty of erotic dance, we must avoid that trap. That trap makes the dance all about us. It leaves no room for the dancer and her self expression. Just as you watch a beautiful sunrise without wanting to own it, the best way to watch an erotic dancer is without wanting to possess her.

That night with Danielle, the two of us got very lucky because at least four of the dancers were alive to their sexuality.   They were expressing it honestly, and one even came over to our table and sat with us for 45 minutes. She and Danielle immediately hit it off and were soon sharing secrets like sisters.

On the ride home, I asked Danielle what she thought of the night. “That was so liberating!”, she said with unusual force: “I never imagined it could be anything like that.”

“Liberating” was precisely the right word. It was the word I’d hoped for.

To see someone dance a lie about their sexuality is not liberating. To see someone dance a truth about their sexuality is liberating. Isn’t that intuitively true?

You’ve noticed how you feel more alive when you are with someone who is authentically themselves, someone who is true to themselves. Well, it is the same with erotic dancers.  A woman who dances authentically makes you feel alive.

On the whole, erotic dance in America might never become as much of an art form as it could be. But here and there you can find a decent dancer, an artist in her own right. And if you approach her performance appropriately, then you can find her dance just as inspiring as any good art.

Writing this tonight has made me realize how much I miss Danielle. She left about a year after this for Portland, Oregon. Perhaps it is impossible not to miss a person who shares the same eyes as you when watching dancers.  There is kinship in that.

(Photo copyright Bill Dobbins)