Mental Health stylish modern dancer posing 2

Published on June 13th, 2014 | by Healthy Gay Lifestyles

Vulnerable Empowerment

by Ray Cook

Have you ever wondered why one becomes a dancer for money? Subjective morals aside, is objectifying one’s body degradation? What if it were a catalyst toward a better life? I’m not talking finances here, although monetary reinforcement can be lucrative. I’m talking about how my accidental venture into dance entertainment not only helped to develop my non-existent body-image, but also facilitated a spiritual experience that would redeem my faith in myself and with a greater power I call the universe.

Unexpectedly propositioned, I disbelievingly entertained the idea out of curiosity. After the harrowing inauguration into the scene, I found myself gradually building self-confidence. It took courage to be vulnerable, yet being vulnerable empowered me.

“Walking into their changing room, the manager complimented my looks and asked if I’d like to join them-as a dancer. That was quite a loaded question for me, having never even thought of such a thing. I had a serious body-image complex. I didn’t believe that I had a body worth flaunting; I didn’t feel that I ever had that “it” factor. Such a concept eluded me. I was so self-critical and -conscious … fear and anxiety set in. My obsessive-compulsive tendencies in regard to my body were amplified. I panicked … I lacked self-confidence. How could I possibly strut my stuff with such paralyzing insecurities?”

However brief, the intense immersion into carnal means in order to ameliorate inner conflict, was such a paradox-juxtaposed with the stigma of stripping and the edification of myself.

“As I walked toward the bar each night, I was drawn to the thumping crescendo of the music. Nearing the bar, my heart raced and my stomach churned with anxiety, knowing what was demanded of me … my expected exposure and vulnerability. My most memorable experience occurred not long after I entered the scene. I was writhing to the music, dancing euphorically, dripping sweat, entranced. Momentarily, I thought of how not long before, I was a Mormon missionary, proselytizing in Germany … and now I was gyrating around the bar in my skivvies, my socks stuffed with lust money. I had come far (in which direction is subjective). Ironically, I was more sincere and spiritually inclined at this stage than I was as a missionary. Tears welled as I looked up to keep them from draining down my face. What I felt was the same feeling that I was taught in the Mormon church to be the Holy Ghost (the Spirit). It was like God’s stamp of approval that I was okay and didn’t have to hate myself anymore. I had felt that before as a missionary, which was pivotal in my reconciliation between spirituality and self-integrity.”

So, why did I do it? … Initially, because I was naïve and desperate. However, I’m grateful because it helped me to like myself, and to experience that spirituality is a product of my soul and not my circumstances. I was proud … dignity intact.


Ray Cook, an Idaho native, came of age in Germany as an excommunicated Mormon. He lives with his partner in Boston, where he graduated with a BA in modern languages and works as a flight attendant. Ray is also the author of the book Reclaimed

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