Last week, while humping the floor, I realized I felt sexier than I had in years. 

Synth-heavy music thrummed overhead. Pink and purple spotlights illuminated the bricks on one wall, and snakes curved into 'S' shapes papered another. Silver metal poles sprouted out of the wood floors across the studio, climbing to the ceiling. Outside, everyone on the main drag of Greenwood Avenue remained blind to what was going on behind the studio’s blacked-out windows, to the women dancing, and moving, and having epiphanies about how, maybe, they never actually knew true eroticism until this moment. 

Okay, sure, only one woman was having that epiphany, and she was me. But I didn’t expect this. I expected a workout and some dancing, not to re-evaluate my relationship with my own body while scrunching myself up like a caterpillar and slapping my ass. I came out of that “Delightfully Deviant” class with my shoulders rolled back, my head held higher, and my senses hyper-focused. 

For my latest exploration into Seattle subcultures, I slid ass first into the pole dancing world. Through the classes I took and the community I met at Savor Studio, I tapped into a part of myself I didn’t even notice I’d been missing: my eroticism.

The Savor Way 

Savor wants you to let loose. NG

Savor is a studio unlike other pole studios in Seattle because it centers the dance and the erotic parts of pole dancing.

“There’s been tremendous erasure in the pole community around eroticism,” Savor owner Eve LeMarque, 36, said.

Most Seattle pole studios focus only on the exercise aspect of pole, LeMarque said. By doing so, those studios separate themselves from the origins of the sport—strippers. 

“They’re wearing the fucking outfits and they’re doing the dance, but they’re stripping away anything that makes it sensual, anything that makes it gritty, that makes it filthy,” LeMarque said. “It’s the gymnast version of pole.”

Savor, meanwhile, is the only former sex-worker owned studio in the city, according to LeMarque. She also employs many strippers and former strippers as instructors, and she offers a slate of classes for strippers and sex workers only.

The studio’s community has helped support the Strippers Are Workers bill, which recently passed in the Legislature, because they know from first- and second-hand experience how vital workplace protections and alcohol law changes could be for strippers. Plus, several SAW members dance at Savor. 

While Savor centers the sex-worker community, it’s a place for everyone.

“People see our brand and think ‘It’s too hot for me,’” LeMarque said. “We’re freaks who are going to scream at your butt and celebrate you and create this environment where you don’t have to feel ashamed of your body and what it can do. If you want to show your butthole we’re going to be thrilled, and if you want to just come for exercise that’s beautiful, too.”

Sensuality 101

Sometimes you need a little nap during pole class, and that's just fine, too. NG

I wasn’t anywhere close to showing my butthole the first time I stepped into Savor at 8:45 am on a Wednesday. When I pulled open the door to the studio and stepped into the sexy, dim lighting—as if this were an alternate dimension of desire where it wasn’t 8:45 am in Greenwood and never would be 8:45 am in Greenwood—all I could think about was how I was afraid to dance. 

As anyone who knows me or who’s read my first “Play Date” column is aware, I am not a dancer. I was nervous about this.

“Do whatever you want with your body. Roll around the floor if you want,” she said. Dance? On my own? That was my nightmare. Sensing my discomfort, she added, “I won’t watch you.” 

Panic swelled. But, determined not to fail, I closed my eyes and moved my body, hurling myself in circles around the pole. I skated across the floor in my socks. I tried to feel the song. 

“How did that feel?” LeMarque asked. 

“Scary,” I said, “but good.”

My limbs hung looser. My chest unknotted. It was as if I'd already been through the gauntlet of embarrassment and gotten the self-consciousness out of the way. The sensuality required of me for the rest of the lesson came easier. 

I learned to walk around the pole, dragging one foot's toes and bouncing on the other foot's tiptoes. One hand held the cool metal of the pole. 

“With your other hand, take up space,” LaMarque told me. She encouraged me to trace my body, to tug on my clothes, to run my fingers through my hair all while doing this bobbing, cat-like saunter. 

Robotically at first, I felt my body under my hand, the slope of my stomach, the curve of my breast. My hips, notoriously rigid, swayed. I ruffled my hair. All throughout, LeMarque cooed, telling me this was hot and that was sexy. The motions became more natural. I enjoyed them more. I liked whoever this person was walking under me with these long, languid steps. 

I wanted more.

Delightfully Deviant

The second time I went to Savor, I was closer to showing my butthole (spoiler: I didn't). One of the classes LeMarque teaches, “Delightfully Deviant,” is specifically about getting in touch with eroticism. Interested in finding that part of me, I took the class.

LeMarque started it by asking people what made them feel sexy. “Putting lotion on,” someone said. “A bath with lots of salt in it,” said another.  “Industrial music,” someone else said. 

I couldn’t think of one thing that I did just for myself that made me feel sexy. 

“Eroticism is something that is so deeply misunderstood,” LeMarque said. “There's a lot of missed opportunities for people to connect to their erotic or sensual self.”

Fear or trauma pull people away from that part of themselves, she said. Many sexual abuse survivors take pole as a way to find that thing that was taken from them, LeMarque said. (Savor offers specially-designed classes for those people).

“Having a space and an opportunity to really sink into it is important,” LeMarque said. 

I thought about my own relationship with the erotic. The thing about me and eroticism these days is that we are disconnected. Maybe it was a pandemic thing, or another one of the small, annoying side effects from the severe concussion I suffered, or just the constant hell of being a woman with a body in society, but I don’t think I’ve felt truly sexy in my own skin for years. It wasn’t that I never felt sexy, but summoning it was like grasping through fog for a shred of a memory about how I thought I should feel.

Even though she now describes herself as living from an “unapologetically erotic state,” LeMarque wasn’t always in touch with her sensuality, largely due to a past where she engaged in street-based sex work to survive as a teenager.

She channeled that experience into a 10-year psychotherapy career specializing in complex and severe trauma. From there, she went into software engineering. (“That’s such a blip on my radar that confuses everyone, including myself.”) Those weren’t especially sexy times for LeMarque.

“As I got older, I realized how much I missed [my sensuality],” she said. “Once I touched it again, I was like, ‘I don’t ever want to live without this being part of my identity,’ and now I think I embody it all the time.”

She found her eroticism again when she started pole seven years ago. She found a Groupon for a class—everyone who isn’t a stripper seems to find pole through Groupon.

“It was one of the first times I’ve felt so profoundly alive in my body and so embodied and safe,” she said. 

Feeling Alive

River in motion. NG

River, 28, became a stripper after trying pole (via a Groupon) during the pandemic. They fell in love with it, particularly because of how it allowed them to be erotic while straddling a spectrum of gender identity. 

“I am a gemini—I have five gemini placements—I’m also nonbinary,” River started explaining. “I like to find an erotic space that combines my masculine and feminine energy. Pole is really fun for that because you can go really hard into the feminine and then bring in more of that Magic Mike type of energy. I love to weave those together and leave the audience confused and turned on.”

River, wearing low-slung camouflage pants and a halter top, attributed pole’s sexiness to the connection involved in it.

“Sexiness is very tied to sensuality and sensuality is tied to the senses,” River said. “When you're actually feeling your skin on your own skin, or on the pole, or on the floor; when you are feeling your hair trailing across your body as you’re doing a hair whip; when the audience is watching you and feeling a little bit of what our body is feeling because you’re so in the movement—to me that is the pinnacle of sexiness and that looks different for everybody.”

That connection and sensuality changed 40-year-old Sarah’s self-confidence. 

Sarah took her first pole class (thanks to Groupon) back in 2011. 

“I found comfort in my own body through pole in a way I have never found through anything else,” she said. 

Not only that, but she found what turns her on. Sarah keeps a private folder filled with erotic selfies of herself on her phone. 

“Exploring my sensuality and my sexiness through the lens of this camera is truly liberating and eye-opening for me,” she said. “It’s something I do for myself to enjoy who I am and the body that I’m in.” 

I asked Sarah if she would have that selfie collection if she’d never done pole. 

“I wouldn’t be the person I am if I hadn’t taken that pole class in 2011,” she said. “There’s a whole person that grew out of this cocoon because of pole and because of the community I get to surround myself with and because of the energies we get to exchange with each other.”

The Energy Exchange

The third time I went to Savor, I joined the experienced dancers and instructors of the Savor community for a class and erotic dance night. All of them were close friends. Any butthole showing that occurred was purely accidental. 

Elizabeth, 33, used to run a business making pasties for burlesque dancers. She discovered pole through burlesque, finding her closest friends along the way. 

“I’ve had a hard time connecting with people, making friends,” she said. “I feel like the pole community has been one of the first ones where I’ve made deep friends.”

Everyone cheers for each other, everyone flirts with each other, they’re all half-naked a lot of the time—how could they not be friends? 

People wore all types of things at the meet-up. Booty shorts, panties, a black bodysuit with slashes cut out across the whole thing, towering platform heels laced up like ice skates. LeMarque wore see-through lavender lace leggings and black panties. 

We all warmed up together, did a warm-up dance, and then danced in two groups. 

As I gripped the pole and swiveled my hips back and forth, I caught sight of my silhouette cast on the wall. Particularly, I noticed the curve of my back in the shadow. There she was again, the vixen I could be. Electrified, I danced.

Then, each dancer performed their own solo dance.

Everyone danced except for Jenny, 37, Savor’s operations manager. 

Jenny used to strip. She only learned pole dancing after walking into a club because she needed the money. Now, she’s trying to figure out how to dance just for herself. 

“When I worked at the club, it was very performative when it was just ‘look at my butt cheeks,’” she said. “I’m finding out what it feels like to close my eyes and just dance for me, how it feels in my body rather than performing at somebody.” 

She’s working through the whole “being witnessed” thing right now. Dancing in front of this big group of her friends as everyone else did tonight is hard for her. 

“I would rather be half naked on stage in front of a bunch of people I didn't know,” she said. “These people are like, looking into your heart. I have such a personal connection with a lot of people here that I feel seen in a different way than I ever did at the club.”

The love and support poured out of everyone in the room. 

“That was melt-your-face-off hot,” someone said after the first person danced. When River finished twirling up and down the poles like some kind of sexy helicoptering seedpod, LeMarque said the dance “was like feral fucking sex magic.” When another person went, someone commented that it was “so cool to see the strength in your etherealism.” Some dancers made eye contact with their friends, smiling and giggling while they spread their cheeks. 

As I watched this community heap love on each other, I wanted to join them. And as I watched the splits, spins, and self-administered ass slaps, I wanted to be free in my body like them. 

I left Savor in a daze of self-confidence. When I got home, I stared in the mirror and consumed myself. That night, I slowly rubbed on lotion and pulled on a silk robe. I was at ease, the fog surrounding my own sensuality starting to clear. This, I thought, makes me feel sexy.

Any ideas on which Seattle subculture I should explore next? Want me to tag along with you on your favorite hobby or pastime? Send me tips at