As hypersexualized dance programs like pole workouts become increasingly popular among women of all ages, especially young girls, one Christian woman is battling against the trend while others defend it merely as a form of physical fitness, not sexual exploitation.
"We are allowing children as young as 3 and 4 to use their bodies and movements in a way that really hurts them and hurts the culture," said Mary Bawden, who directs a dance ministry at the Evangelical-Free Trinity Church in Redlands, California, during an interview with The Christian Post.
"Instead of the beauty of dance this is the misuse of dance," she asserted, warning parents that "many forms of dance are now pushing young children toward adult-oriented themes and choreography."
Bawden added that parents "need to carefully evaluate the cultural choices that entice young children to be viewed as adults. [And] need to produce healthy boundaries in dance so that little girls are protected relationally."
Seeking to reclaim and promote the art of dance for Christian worship within the Church, an objective which she believes is her calling, Bawden suggests Christians should use their whole body during worship, as it "connects all parts of us as we worship Jesus. Visually, I think it imparts a tremendous truth and impact as they see the whole person.
"First of all, we have to know God and His Word and out of that foundation build a dance ministry that presents embodied faith," she said. "Anytime we do that, the opposite, of course, is being taught and is occurring in our culture. That has happened to dance. It has been twisted."
Kerilyn Reynolds, an instructor at the New York Pole Fitness Academy, has been teaching pole dance fitness for 15 years and told CP she doesn't see any conflict with Christians participating in pole fitness and said her classes "have nothing to do with stripping."
"We wear yoga pants that come down to our ankles," she asserted, noting that people from all walks of life have joined her pole dance fitness classes. "I have teachers, judges, healthcare workers, secretaries."
Reynolds emphasized that pole dancing originated in the circus, not bars, and said she even trains men as well as girls as young as 8, who are active in cheerleading, so as to help them with their flexibility.
"It depends on how you want to portray yourself," she said, explaining that she doesn't focus on sexualizing her students, but is focused on fitness.
In 2011 ABC News reported on Christians who said pole dancing helped them get closer to Christ. And in 2013, the Daily Mail reported on the growing trend among young girls who are getting involved in the activity, which some might find alarming.
Bawden, who has directed dance ministries for over 20 years, has a petition on her website Soul to Sole Choreography that parents and concerned citizens can sign to counteract and fight back against what she calls hypersexualized dance routines and programs that are pushing sexually suggestive content onto children.
"At an early age young children are often being taught how to approach relationships and how to approach intimacy in the wrong way. The art of dance should not be used to divert young girls from healthy sexual development," she wrote on the site.
Bawden's website also links to a 2009 article titled "The Sexualization of Children and Adolescents Epidemic," which concerns the over-sexualization of girls in every aspect of culture.
A segment of that article reads: "If you don't believe me, just try and go shopping for children's clothes and underwear that aren't too tight, body-fitting, low-cut, too short, 'sexy,' with messages and sexualized images that say things like 'eye candy,' 'So many boys, So little time,' ... "