This Morning faced criticism this week after running an item about child pole dancers, which included a live demonstration from three girls — two age 8 and one age 11.
The show also featured a debate about whether “pole fitness” is suitable for children. Psychologist Emma Kenny suggested that it sexualised youngsters, saying it had “connotations to something far more salubrious” and describing the outfits worn by the young performers as not “resonant of childhood.”
One of the girls’ mothers, Lisa Grosse, defended her decision to enroll 8-year-old Tilly-May in pole fitness classes, saying she took it up after being bullied at school over her weight, and since then she has “never looked back.”
“I want to say it’s not sexualising children, and they should go and try it themselves and see the strength and stamina they need,” added pole-fitness instructor Zoe Hardy. “It’s pole fitness, not dancing.”
Tilly-May, Timea and Mia wore white crop tops and black hot pants for their pole routine in the ITV studio.
While the show aired, viewers took to Twitter to express their opinions.
Many were against pole fitness for children:
Can't believe I've just watched 3 children pole dancing on this morning 😳 disgusting! #thismorning
— Leigh salmon (@leighsalmon1987) February 16, 2016
This pole dancing teacher is a moron! And her defending of this perverted form of exercise is quite staggering. #thismorning
— Brendan Bunting 🇯🇲🇮🇪 (@DapperArtist) February 16, 2016
Im sorry but kids POLE DANCING on this morning and mothers saying it's just like gymnastics??!! – stop sexualising children! #thismorning
— Kate Lewis (@KatieKoo22) February 16, 2016
And others challenged the notion that there was anything sexual about it:
Clothes are not sexual. Poles are not sexual. Things should only be sexualised if the person involved intends it to be. #PoleDanceDebate
— emily 🐈 (@dxedpool) February 16, 2016
#poledancedebate why should young girls be brought up thinking they shouldn't do something because they're going to be objectified by men?
— LJ (@lejaev97) February 16, 2016
why is pole dancing for kids even a debate, if yall would just stop sexualising it, it wouldnt be a problem whatsoever #poledancedebate
— mar (@pickmines) February 16, 2016
I’ve taken pole-dancing classes, so I can vouch for how difficult it is. You need an incredible level of fitness, loads of stamina, the ability to work through pain (the bruises are like nothing I’d ever seen), and — in terms of the outfits — bare flesh is needed to grip the pole.
I don’t think for a second that children who do pole fitness are being sexualised. It’s time to move away from the idea that pole dancing is nothing beyond the seedy lap-dancing clubs of the 1980s. Making young girls feel they’re doing something wrong by honing a skill that improves their fitness and boosts their confidence is shameful.
Of course we need to protect youngsters from predators who see something sexual in a child. But we should do that through awareness and education, not through placing the blame at the feet of the child.