Last week, a friend of mine told me that she was starting a new fitness class. Given her disdain for all things athletic, I was genuinely shocked by her enthusiasm and wanted to know what type of class had her so excited. Having spent my fair share of time in a gym, I was fully prepared to give her some advice on whatever trendy Hip-Hop, Tai-Bo, or Pilates class she was taking. To my surprise, she offered a different response. "I'm taking a strip aerobics class,” she matter-of-factly replied.

At first, I thought that the idea of strip aerobics was ingenious. After all, given America's notorious gluttony, who cares what brought them to the gym? Whether it's "Sweatin' to the Oldies” or "Drop It Like It's Hot,” the bottom line is that people were going to be healthier and happier, right?

Unfortunately, nothing is ever that simple.

Upon deeper reflection, I realized that strip aerobics is less about fitness and more about the fulfillment of sexual fantasy. Through strip aerobics, everyday people who regularly assert condescending moral judgments against strippers and other sex industry workers can "try on” their identities within the safe quarters of their local health club. Where else can a soccer mom or church choir director dry hump a chair and slide down a pole without compromising social capital and moral authority? Within the safe boundaries of a strip aerobics class, people can live out their oppositional fantasies without having to confront the real issues --such as poverty, sexism, drugs, and violence-- that birthed them.

To be clear, the problem with America's latest masturbatory fantasy isn't merely ideological. Rather, every time an American taxpayer takes "Intro to Pole Dancing” (that's a real class!), we become increasingly distant from the realities of an industry that has vicious effects on the health, psyches, and life chances of millions of people around the world.

Like pop culture's renewed infatuation with the "pimp,” as evidenced by the recent wave of songs, music videos, television shows, and movies that have provided redemptive representations of pimping, this latest cultural sublimation further strips away our innocence and compassion. More importantly, it facilitates the development of a world that normalizes the use of male and female bodies as sexual means rather than human ends. Soon, the site of a young woman sliding down the pole of a neighborhood strip club will no longer provoke moral indignation or outright disgust.

Instead, it will only remind us that we haven't been to the gym this week.