'Not pornography': Hysteria in China over 'sexy' male pole dancers in water park

Chinese water park receives single complaint for hiring male pole dancers to perform.
PHOTO: Douyin

Hysteria over pole dancers has erupted on Chinese social media again, this time after a video of two men performing at a water park while children are playing in a nearby pool was published online.

On July 2, a brief and grainy video posted on Douyin shows two shirtless male performers wearing shorts pole dancing next to a pool in a water park in Dezhou, Shandong province in eastern China.

The brief video is only 37 seconds long and is taken from quite some distance making it very hard to discern specific dance moves or see the full context of what is happening.

The video poster was the only person to complain before the video went viral.
PHOTO: Douyin

"What a ridiculous scenario," the male poster was heard saying in the video.

According to Miaowen Video, the poster of the video claimed that: "The kids were playing in the water nearby while the two male pole dancers made some sexually suggestive moves."

The video poster complained to the water park the next day, and published an audio recording of an employee who responded that the performers were not trying to make sexual moves and explained that is how pole dancing is normally performed.

"Pole dancing is such a dance with moves like these," the employee said. "The performance was not intended to spread negative energy, and you should not overthink it."

"But won't those moves have negative effects on children?" the man questioned.

The staff member then told him that the complaint would be passed on to the recreation centre manager.

Following the release of the video, some people said that pole dancing should not be performed in the presence of children, while others stated that the moves were normal and that people were overreacting in moral panic.

"It's inappropriate to perform like this in front of children," one person said. "They could have chosen some movements showing man strength rather than sexy ones."

The complaint was based on the fact that children were in the water park at the same time. PHOTO: Douyin

Another commented: "Isn't that what pole dancing is like? Or does he anticipate cotton-jacketed dancers performing for the audience in a water park?"

Pole dance has long been labelled as an "erotic dance" and associated with "nightclubs" and "sexy moves" by some people in mainland China, leading to occasional disputes.

A female pole dancer performing in front of a large group of children and their parents at a new semester ceremony in a kindergarten in Shenzhen in 2018 was widely criticised as "inappropriate." The director involved was dismissed by the local education bureau.

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Many people argue, however, that as an art form combining dance and acrobatics, it can be perfectly acceptable for children to watch or even perform.

"Scantily clad is not the same as sexy, and sexy is not the same as pornographic," one person wrote. "Adult dances, including pole dancing, can be adapted to make them suitable for children to learn."

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.