Learn more about Ecdysiast on their website and definitely follow their Instagram, it’s gorgeous.

Perhaps you recall the first time Shannon showed up on OJST, back in the “How to be a Good Strip Club Patron” comic, or perhaps the name of her studio rings a bell from the time I wrote about “Ecdysiast: A Pole Dance Studio“? Well, I’m delighted to finally do a comic dedicated entirely to Shannon Gee and the work she’s done building Ecdysiast!

It was painful cropping this down my interview with her to fit into 500ish words, so here is a piece that I wanted to share but just couldn’t fit into the space I had to work with.

Erika: There’s been this huge influx of regular civilian-type girls who are like “oo! I wanna pole dance! …but not like a STRIPPER.” On Instagram there’s this whole movement of girls who use #NotAStripper just so nobody conflates the two. Do you have any opinions or thoughts on that?

Shannon: You know I do. You know I don’t like appropriation, whether it’s appropriation on a culture — well, this is, it’s stripper culture— or a race of people, or gender, whatever. You know that I’ve always been a huge advocate for women in the sex industry, and we chose the name Ecdysiast —which means “exotic strip teaser”, coined by the writer H. L. Mencken— on purpose, because we, even in ’01, I was like “I’m not gunna appropriate this.” even though I didn’t really know what that word meant back then, but I could see it already happening. There is this duality, it’s in every woman. They watch porn and they want to be that porn star, but no girl is gunna let ten guys gangbang them. You know, the average person, there’s this weird fantasy of like “I wanna be that girl that’s SO wanted, like a stripper, like a porn star!”

E: And then if they DO meet the porn star, they’re like “I can’t believe you DID that.” But they’ll watch it on video!

S: There’s this huge juxtaposition and duality with people. It’s this horrible society we live in of sexual oppression and stuff. I don’t like it when people- and I’ve heard this line many times, to my face, and the line is “I think pole is great, I’m a pole dancer, but I’m not a stripper.” I wanna add the next line to that statement of “And even if I was, that’s ok.” So maybe the hashtag should be #NotAStripperAndEvenIfIWasThatsOK.

E: So to you, that would be an OK hashtag.

S: To me it is! Because you’re clarifying that, yeah, “I’m not a stripper.” But I can totally see how that hashtag itself, that general statement, has gotten spun out of control to the point— and I HAVE had people literally be like “Well, the reason I love pole is because I saw this video and it was like totally not sexy at all!” And I can’t judge that person. I mean, if that’s their perception and that’s why they wanna take pole, I’ll take it, whatever, better than nothing. But that shows me they’re a bit like this [hand motion to show limited view] and by Intermediate I [A class level at Ecdysiast], I can probably get them to be like this [hands open to make wider view], you know what I’m saying? And I make it my personal— that’s where it gets personal for me, is I try to use the studio as this weird medium to help people feel like they’re in a space where they can actually think and be this [hand motion showing really wide range of perception] even if their world and their real life is like this [closed hands]. At least they can come to that ONE space, once a week, y’know.