The Rise of Recreational Burlesque: Bumping and Grinding Towards Empowerment

Abstract

American Burlesque is a historical movement dating back to the late nineteenth century that has had a recent revival in our culture. Searching for community, physical and emotional well-being, and increased self-esteem, women are flocking to recreational burlesque classes, seeking to draw upon the bold confidence of the audacious burlesquers of the past. This study examines the experiences of eight women on a reality television show who sought empowerment and increased self-esteem through sexualized dance. Through participant observation and reviewing video-footage and transcripts of filmed interviews, the study examines the relationship between burlesque dancing and empowerment through the experiences of these individuals. All the participants perceived the burlesque training to be empowering and asserted that the experience enhanced their sense of self-efficacy. When dealing with a performance form in which women have historically displayed their sexualized bodies primarily for the enjoyment of men, the question of objectification arises. This article examines the rise of recreational burlesque and its impact on individual and collective empowerment of women.

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Correspondence to Kaitlyn Regehr.

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Regehr, K. The Rise of Recreational Burlesque: Bumping and Grinding Towards Empowerment. Sexuality & Culture 16, 134–157 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-011-9113-2

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Keywords

  • Burlesque
  • Sexualized dance
  • Empowerment
  • Self efficacy
  • Reality TV