Performing in a night-time leisure venue: a visual analysis of erotic dance

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This article analyses a range of different meanings attached to images of erotic dance, with a particular focus on the 'impression management' (Goffman 1959) enacted by dancers. It presents a visual analysis of the work of a female erotic performer in a lesbian erotic dance venue in the UK. Still photographs, along with observational data and interviews, convey the complexity and skill of an erotic dancer's diverse gendered and sexualised performances. The visual data highlights the extensive 'aesthetic labour' (Nickson et al. 2001) and 'emotional labour' (Hochschild 1983) the dancer must put in to constructing her work 'self'. However, a more ambitious use of the visual is identified: the dancer's own use of images of her work. This use of the visual by dancers themselves highlights a more complex 'impression management' strategy undertaken by a dancer and brings into question the separation of 'real' and 'work' 'selves' in erotic dance. © Sociological Research Online, 1996-2012.
Original languageEnglish
Article number19
JournalSociological research online
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2012


  • photo-elicitation
  • self
  • performance
  • emotional labour
  • aesthetic labour
  • erotic dance
  • visual methods


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