Select Page

What is Burlesque? The Empowering Meaning Behind It


A woman demonstrates what is burlesque.

What is Burlesque?

Burlesque as an art form and musical play has been around since the Victorian era, it came to the United States in the 1840s as sketch performance. American burlesque was full of quick-wit, sexually suggestive dialogue and costumes. It died down in the 1930s during a cultural moral crackdown and has seen a resurgence since the 70s.

Today it is referenced as neo-burlesque and is characterized by self-expression, elaborate costumes, sensual dancing, striptease elements and names like Dita Von Teese and Raquel Reed. It is all of these things and more, and is not about seeking validation or approval from men, or anyone for that matter.


The Sexual Empowerment Behind Burlesque

Burlesque provides the opportunity for a corrective emotional experience similar to a traditional therapeutic process.  Individuals who were denigrated as children and adolescents for being too much, or in today’s zeitgeist, “extra”, have a place where this notion is praised and welcomed. Creativity and self-expression are inherent and lauded in this art form.

Burlesque shows allow for personal exploration and entertainment to collide. Entertainment can bring novelty and vitality to everyday life, including one’s sexuality. Many seek out burlesque for the same reasons.

It is an outlet for the erotic sensual self. For individuals with a proclivity for the provocative it provides a safe community of like-minded burlesque performers. Shame for outward expression of sexuality has no place in the world of burlesque. It is a place of transformation for those who may have internalized shame and held the narrative, “sex is bad” therefore “I am bad”. The potential trauma of adhering to purity culture can be wiped away, shame can be disavowed, and sexuality reclaimed.

Burlesque honors the sexuality inherent in humans and provides an opportunity for healthy sexual expression. Rather than continuing the discourse that women should save their sexuality for more appropriate venues, i.e. the bedroom, behind closed doors, or with another person. Burlesque brings women’s unique sexuality into the spotlight. Women’s sexuality is not men’s sexuality light, and this form of sexpression may provide a titillating sexual context for some individuals to move towards the desire and arousal they seek but cannot find.


A Piece of Feminism

In a world that praises youth and beauty there is hardly space for older or untraditional women. As you age, or if you don’t fit the patriarchy’s standard of beauty, you begin to disappear in western society. Not so much in burlesque. This is an arena where with age, comes mastery and prowess. Women are welcomed at all ages, shapes and sizes.

It is the variety of individuals that makes this art form notable and combative to internalized misogny.  You will find burlesque friends aka burly babes, supporting one another through promotion, mentorship, and above all community. Belonging and inclusivity are key to the continued growth of this space.


Finding Sexual Expression That Works for You

Burlesque provides a place for belonging and acceptance over validation and approval. Individuals that attend classes and performances dance for themselves and for the joy it awakens inside. Some live vicariously through performers until they feel ready to hit the stage themselves. Slut-shaming and body shaming have no place in this world. Through the pandemic, many have been introduced from the comfort of their homes.

Burlesque is a space for self-love and sensuality. Sensuality is about igniting the senses, this is not about SEX. Yes sex is great, but burlesque is so much more.

If you’re looking for a place to awaken that glorious exotic dancer inside, look no further, the world of burlesque is waiting for you.

Modern Intimacy is a group therapy practice, founded by renowned Psychologist and Sex Therapist, Dr. Kate Balestrieri. This inclusive blog is designed to provide a wealth of information and resources for mental health, relationships, and sexuality. Subscribe today to get the latest information from our expert contributors from all around the world.


Author Bio

Heather "Lulu" Mazzei is a Clinical Associate at Modern Intimacy, in Los Angeles, an Associate Clinical Social Worker, supervised by Dr. Kate Balestrieri, Heather is passionate about healthy relationships and helping the people she works with to develop relationships that thrive.



Subscribe to our Newsletter

You’ll get weekly sex and relationship tips, news, updates, podcast rundowns, and more!
You’ll also receive our 82-page e-book + journal for FREE!

You May Also Like…


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *