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Uncomfortable Burlesque Discussion


I have been watching this thread and finally feel like I know what I’d like to contribute:

  1. I think it’s really important that the person who started this thread felt comfortable raising the question of how comfortable others felt with this event being part of the weekend. It means the right sort of parameters were set up that asking questions and sharing feelings about what happened at SHUX is possible. This is really important, and kudos to this community for making that safe space.

  2. As there are multiple perspectives here and clearly different feelings, I wonder why some participants in this discussion feel the need to tell others that their feelings about what happened are wrong or incorrect? Feelings are feelings, I get to have them regardless of what I intellectually think about things, and so do others. My feeling of discomfort isn’t something you get to have an opinion on, it’s my feeling.

  3. To me the important questions are: Is this burlesque show going to hinder people from attending SHUX in the future? Did it hinder anyone from attending this year?

To me, the most important thing about this con is how inclusive and purposefully safe it is. If a particular event makes someone feel unsafe or unwelcome, then we need to ask ourselves, “would not including a burlesque show make the con less appealing or less well-attended?” My guess is no. I suspect most people would have attended even if there were no burlesque show.

But, if someone didn’t attend because of it, or in the future would not attend because of it, that, to me, is a problem. It doesn’t matter what I think of burlesque, what matters is that by including the burlesque show, some might feel the con is not safe or welcoming. And I want everyone to feel safe and welcome to play games and learn new games and enjoy the board games that are the main focus of this con.


re Burlesque vs Booth Babes:

In burlesque, sexuality is the entertainment. It is the product. Everyone in the show and attending the show knows this, and consents to take part in some form.

For booth babes, sexuality is an unrelated extra used to sell a product. For many products, a scantily clad person is just as unrelated to the product being sold as a person dressed in a tiger suit. It’s purely meant to attract the customer’s gaze and bring them closer so the customer can be pitched some unrelated product.

Now, in some cases a scantily clad person might make sense if there is a close relation to the product. Then the line gets a bit fuzzier. But in general, a booth babe is using sex to sell a product that is not sexual in nature, whether that be a board game or a vacuum cleaner. And that can be a bit of a shock to someone going to a show expecting ‘family values’ type stuff and instead finding swaths of bare skin around; it’s not what they were expecting when they decided to attend the event.


I think you raise all very important points. I’d also balance it by saying that, as has been pointed out above, for some people in marginalized communities, burlesque is seen as a way to empower them to reclaim sexuality in a safe, humorous, and non-exploitative way.

Not being a member of those communities myself, I can’t speak to whether or not that was the case here but I have no doubts that the SHUX organizers will be actively looking to see whether or not members found the event inclusive, empowering, and a positive addition to their SHUX experience or unwelcoming, alienating, and made them less likely to attend in the future.


This made me think of a friend’s complaint. He said amongst all the panels, mega games, and general buzz of be space, the burlesque show and its catcalls were the loudest… Almost enough for him to go complain on volume alone. The audience in the theater are there voluntarily, but the people in the rest of the hall are not. I’m all for body positivity, etc. but I’m also for consent and inclusion. If someone didn’t want to go to the burlesque but have to listen to the catcalls, I think he might feel discluded from SHUX as a whole.

I dunno how that fits with “dress how you want”; I think someone should be able to do that… This stuff is complicated yo

Edit: and shanneranner totally beat me to the punch while I was typing


I think the difference between Booth babes and other things mentioned in this article are that people who are performing in Burlesque are absolutely excited and passionate about doing so, invite their friends/family and everything else to be part of it. I was at a show recently in New York where the persons grandmother was in the front row.

If a person is passionate and loves doing something, a safe space where that can occur in a format and manor that they not only like but also feel respected and appreciated is important. I also providing opportunity for that to be experienced by a wider audience than would be possible is important and thats why Geek themed shows like this as conventions is really a smart way to do it.

If it wasn’t for Nerlesque being at GenCon and my wife wanting to go, I never would have gone to any Burlesque shows. But now I get and see it as art, enjoy the atmosphere and appreciate the technique that is on display.

2 final thoughts:
1: People calling this female exploitation are missing that I believe we had 2 male and 2 female performers on this show
2: I do think that the show at SHUX (Geekenders) showed a much more consistent level of skill, but Nerdlesque at GenCon does a far better job of promoting body positive imho… something that Geekenders should work on.


I agree with you in principle, but I don’t think the op just expressed their feelings.
They more or less directly questioned the decision to have a burlesque show and made some value judgements about it.
They also responded to well-structured, respectful answers to their question with the assertion that

These arguments appear to hinge on the stance of “you just don’t understand” or “you just don’t get it.”

Which is both rude and a gross misrepresentation imo.
I also feel that arguing with inclusivity is balancing on a slippery slope.
If these artists whom I feel were excited and enthusiastic to perform at SHUX were not invited next year, is that really inclusive?
And isn’t it possible that some people wouldn’t attend because they feel the exclusion of the show equates to bowing to ideological thinking, thus making them not feel welcome anymore?


Yeah, definitely a challenge of the space. While they were pretty good about ensuring no one who didn’t want to be in the burlesque show space wouldn’t accidentally see anything while walking by (brought in extra curtains) there was no real way to control the noise.

That being said, as much as were calling it “cat calling” the type of cheering during the burlesque show wasn’t that much different then what I heard during the Wrestling or Victorian Parlor Game panels. I briefly left the show to use the washroom and while it was loud, from outside the curtain (and from inside as well) I would describe it as “generic enthusiastic audience noise”. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel it would have been difficult to know what was going on at any time from the cheering alone (most of the the loudest cheering actually happened while it was just the fully clothed emcee on stage).

And that seems less a problem with it being burlesque specifically and more with any large panel that encourages the audience to cheer?


Do you think they minded the volume or rather the nature of the ‘catcalls’ (I don’t think the expression fits here, since a catcall is usually a ride remark made in passing, intrusive and unexpected, which these definitely weren’t)

Edit: @jrb eloquently summarized my thoughts on that and answered some questions I had.


Webs, I’ve mostly been agreeing with you but I think your last two paragraphs are kind of a slippery slope themselves. Whether I agree or not that F222 started this thread in good faith, I do think it’s fair to ask if any panel furthers the mission of making SHUX the most inclusive board game convention possible and adjust future years’ programming based on the feedback, especially from those least likely to already see themselves represented in board gaming (which is not a group I am part of).


Yeah, maybe I should have phrased that differently and added that I’m all for evaluating events, especially in how far they have added or detracted from making the con as welcoming as possible.

I just don’t think that this absolute idea of inclusivity that @Shanneranner seems to propose is itself without contradictions, and ultimately desirable.
Orthodox Christians might not feel welcome because there’s a burlesque show at a conference, but would catering to their ultra-conservative beliefs be inclusivity?

Similarly, maybe the SUSD gals and guys indeed intended the inclusion of the show as a political statement of sorts: making political statements always has the potential to alienate some people.


Tbh I was visiting Vancouver friends at the time and my info about noise is 2nd hand. Both of us were present at other times with cheering, etc. and he no complaints then, so I assumed the burlesque must’ve been extra loud.

Re. The no burlesque next year = disclusion of people who liked it vs burlesque next year = disclusion of people who didn’t like it, welp the cat’s out of the bag now: someone’s getting discluded whether you like it or not.

While I think we’ve made fantastic strides in gender identity inclusion, sexual and body positivity in clothing expression, and just overall niceness to each other on a face-to-face level, I don’t think society has reached the point of “do a sexy thing for sexiness’ sake in a public-ish space” yet.

The question is how do we deal with this Pandora’s box we’ve cracked? SHUX is the first con I’ve been to with the geekenders in such a public space… they’ve usually been in a more private location like a different room. Most people seem to be ok with that, but the aforementioned inclusion-problem isn’t totally solved by moving it.


It was definitely the loudest panel I was in the conference center for but I don’t know if they want to go the route of banning panels that cause the audience to cheer too much. :smile:

And I have no doubt they’ll be able to collect enough feedback to determine if the burlesque was a net positive or negative for making non-traditional gaming communities feel welcome and make any adjustments as needed. And given the SUSD community, I’m sure that vast majority agree that whatever makes SHUX the most inclusive is the right decision, even if it’s not the one we would have made.


I agree. Pretty much anything taken to an extreme is ultimately not desirable in my opinion. Even inclusivity, because no matter what someone is still going to feel discomfort and therefore excluded.

For example, some people will not play games involving magic or fantasy themes due to religious beliefs. Some extremists will not be comfortable even having such games played in the same location as themselves. Do we ban these types of games to include these people? If so, we exclude a person who just wanted to attend to play some fantasy RPGs for the weekend.

To get even more hyperbolic, the con is welcoming to all. A group of pedophiles attend, and unashamed of their proclivities they talk about them publicly, and then get down to gaming. I would not feel comfortable gaming with these people and would likely leave. Alternately, and less hyperbolically, a racist person attends. When looking for players for a game, he turns away a black person when they express interest in joining. Yes, there are plenty of other games the black person can go join, but this moment made them feel unwelcome and excluded. But kicking out the racist person for this would exclude them.

It is impossible to include everyone. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do our best to try, but there will always be someone discomfited by something. Some things are easier to account for than others.

In the case of the burlesque show, I doubt anyone came to SHUX solely for that. I also won’t argue that the general geek themes of the performances would not have been a better fit at the Fan Con going on the same weekend, as they obviously would have been. I do not think attendance would suffer if the Geekenders did not return next year. Some people may feel more comfortable about this. But then, are we not making the Geekenders feel unwelcome? Or making those who enjoyed the burlesque show feel that they are somehow wrong for enjoying it?

This is a situation that has no correct answer. This is where tolerance has to enter the picture. People need to tolerate some of the things they don’t approve of in order for society to function, and I feel the same goes for a convention.

The racist can tolerate the black person for a game, or the black person can tolerate the idea there is a person who does not like them for no reason other than their skin color and just find a game with people who don’t care. The religious can tolerate games they don’t approve of being played by others. People offended by burlesque can just not attend the performance. Those who enjoy it can try to locate the show in a more private location.

I do hope this all makes sense. It is late, I am tired, and I am doing this on my phone.


This has been a heavily and heatedly debated topic.

It’s fine in the category it’s in, since it’s about SHUX, but I’m quite up to moving it to The Thunderdome if it gets beyond “heated” to "boiling."

Everyone seems angry on every side, but still (as always) shockingly polite and reasonable for the internet, but it still seems like there is a conflict here that will never be resolved.

If everyone else feels that is the case, I would be all too happy to move this.
If everyone feels we can have a peaceful resolution, let’s please focus on resolving it.


It kinda feels resolved already?


For me, this isn’t about the woman, it’s about the audience. Booth Babes are not voluntary for me, the chap trying to get somewhere to avoid (especially as a wheelchair user and right at the wrong height). I don’t really care how empowered the model feels wearing scanty clothing emblazoned with branding so she can help a corporation sell a product to me, because apparently, making my trousers twitch is the best thing their product has going for it - I care about the fact that I can’t avoid it, whereas if I don’t want to go to a burlesque show, I just don’t go and it’s not shoved right into my face.

And regarding “high art” which you’ve mentioned positively several times - in my opinion, high art is the most exclusionary, body negative, toxic art form out there. Tell me, why didn’t Banksy illustrate the little girl with the heart shaped balloon as unappealing looking, or overweight?

Beyond that, I don’t go to cons any more because of the booth babes, and they are a particular horror to those in wheelchairs - our eye level is different, and no, you touching me does not express sympathy for my condition, which I didn’t ask for anyway, and yes, I saw your client telling you to drape yourself over me. A burlesque show wouldn’t put me off, even if I didn’t have any interest in seeing it - which I can’t see that I would. So there is a difference, at least for me.


To go back to the original question, which was something like

“what place does a burlesque show have at a board game convention?”

To me the answer is in a variety of entertainment.

Don’t get me wrong, I personally would be more than happy to go back to the days when a board game convention was a village hall packed full of wargamers, sneering at games workshop, extolling chess (while never actually playing a game of it) as the game of kings, while grudgingly acknowledging that Go has some merits, and playing extended campaigns of D-Day landings and holding the Maginot line with byzantine rules… but you’ve got to admit, with a better variety of entertainment, these events have only become more inclusive, and frankly nicer to attend. A convention these days is a lot more than just a laser focus on the subject, it’s a social event, and social situations are better when more people are catered for. It’s my understanding that burlesque is very popular in Canada, so why not?


I did have significant concerns about this event and how it was run at SHUX.

Full disclosure:
I attended SHUX but did not attend the Burlesque show.
I was, however, in the building and it was very loud and raucous… I don’t think anyone present didn’t know what was going on.
My work regularly brings me in contact with acute sexual assault victims as well as those who suffer from the PTSD from these events. I also have personal experience with a family member who went through this

My concern is not with Burlesque itself.
Even if we accept that Burlesque is empowering and has no elements of exploitation (and lets face it… a simple google search will show you that this is a debated topic) you cannot expect everyone to be comfortable with this.

Playing a game in that convention centre and hearing the cheers and roars next door made me concerned for how that might impact attendees who have a history of sexual assault.
PTSD symptoms and triggering are unfortunately very difficult to understand for those of us who have never experienced it.
I am lucky that I do not suffer these symptoms, but I have patients who most definitely would have been caught off guard by hearing fellow attendees cheering for a show involving the exposure of sexuality.

There were other conferences (such as the naturopathy) occurring in the same convention centre and thus I can reasonably conclude that there were other rooms available.
If a show like this is to be at SHUX in the future it should be separate from the main hall to avoid the potential for triggering.


Not just sexual assault victims, people with sensory requirements, such as myself - autism and fibromyalgia would find this unbearable! This can be, in my experience of living with someone with depression, have been a problem for her as well.


This would probably extend the problem to also include the Wrestling Show and other loud events, provided they were held at the same place.
I understand that the background noise at a convention is quite high in any case, so trying to prevent further volume might be a good idea for future Shuxes?