‘I’m not a pole dancer’: Meet the guy pioneering pole fitness
Kent student Will has chosen poles over rugby balls
Pole fitness has long been a favourite of women wishing to tone up while looking sexy, and it’s now on the rise with men.
Meet Will Shillibier, a third year student at Kent who has been doing pole fitness for nearly a year.
While it’s tempting to call him a pole dancer, Will says this is a “bone of contention” among fellow-pole fitness fanatics.
He said: “The pole dancing in strip clubs is a world away from the stuff I do. It’s more vertical gymnastics than, you know.
“I didn’t go twice a week to turn people on, or entertain them like that.
“It’s not pole dancing, that’s the bottom line. That is the bone of contention with the people that do it.”
Pole fitness is a combination of gymnastics, acrobatics and pole dancing, and the International Pole Dance Fitness Association is even pushing for the sport to be included in the Olympics.
This year it celebrated its third annual Pole World Cup, which saw 150 men and women from 36 countries compete for a £20,000 top prize.
But even though it’s gaining popularity among men, it is still dominated by women.
Will said: “It is naturally a female dominated hobby. The guys who I know who do it are not overawed by the amount of girls who do it.
“We all know we are in the minority.”
Will has even suffered abuse for taking up the sport, with many people calling him “gay”.
“I got a lot of stick from a lot of people, but you just grow use to it. People take their jokes too far on any subject.”
Last year he reached breaking point, and posted a status saying: “I’d be grateful if people would stop taking the piss out of the fact I do pole fitness.
“I enjoy it a lot and have met lots of really cool people as a result. I could live with the odd gentle joke about it to start, but now it’s really fucking annoying.”
He told The Tab: “From that moment on I was taking no prisoners with little jibes, but my mom is probably the one leading the charge on the pole dancing jibes.”
Although many people, women especially, do pole fitness for empowerment, it is still sparking controversy.
The University of Swansea banned their pole fitness society last year because it was “inextricably linked to the multi-million pound sex industry.”
The Union said: “Pole fitness is sold as an empowering activity, and we believe women have been deceived into thinking this is a way of taking charge of their sexuality and their own decisions.