Monday, 21 January 2013

Miss Glory Pearl Guest Post: The Art of the Tease

Following on from my previous post, Writing to TeaseI am more than delighted that internationally celebrated burlesque performer Miss Glory Pearl has written on the subject of tease from the viewpoint of the artiste.  There are definitely parallels between erotic performance and erotic writing, the essence of which is summed up by Glory in her article: "Tease, the promise of more, the promise of everything - later."  Love this!

The Art of the Tease By Miss Glory Pearl

tease verb (teased, teasing) 1 to annoy or irritate someone deliberately or unkindly. 2 to laugh at or make fun of someone playfully or annoyingly. 3 (usually tease someone into something) to persuade them to agree to it, especially by continual coaxing. 4 to arouse someone sexually without satisfying that desire. 5 to comb (wool, flax or hair, etc) to remove tangles and open out the fibres. 6 to raise a nap on (cloth) by scratching or brushing, especially with teasels. 7 to backcomb (hair). noun 1 someone or something that teases. 2 an act of teasing.
ETYMOLOGY: Anglo-Saxon tæsan to card. (courtesy of Chambers Dictionary)

My burlesque workshops always start with the question, ‘What is burlesque?’. I get a lot of random words shouted at me as a result, but almost always, among them is the word ‘tease’. Tease is seen as inherent to burlesque, usually in the sense of ‘arouse someone sexually without satisfying that desire’, sometimes in the sense of ‘to laugh at or make fun of someone playfully or annoyingly’, and almost never in the sense of ‘annoy or irritate someone deliberately or unkindly’. But I tend to define it slightly differently in the context of burlesque - it is about delaying gratification, interacting with your audience - or at the very least acknowledging their presence, and arousing curiosity that is satisfied at the performer’s pleasure. In this sense, tease is a convention of burlesque - the performer signals that a piece of costume will be removed then takes their time about doing so, discarding it only after they have used it to obscure the audience’s view of their body.

Of course, most of the conventions of burlesque are also conventions of striptease, but for many of today’s performers, burlesque has moved away from the overtly sexual striptease, where the viewer is asked to suspend disbelief and view the performance as a disrobing that ultimately leads to sex, and has instead become more playful, a device for engaging the audience, and a trick that leads to, yes, partial nudity, but also to some sort of comedic punchline.

When you perform burlesque for a living, it’s not uncommon for people to say things such as ‘your partner must be a lucky man’, as if the theatrical parody of female sexuality portrayed on stage must inevitably translate to the bedroom. It doesn’t. Frankly, I’d feel completely ridiculous prancing about in front of a lover the way I do on stage. The intimacy of the bedroom and the public stage are about as far away from each other as it is possible to be. But undressing on stage and undressing in the boudoir do share some things. Most obvious, I’d say, is the awareness of the onlooker’s gaze (and resulting tendency to pull our stomachs in and stand up straight), which creates a self-consciousness in our actions. That self-consciousness centers one in the present and causes us to act mindfully, presenting an aesthetic rendition of what we do every night before we hop into bed.

Secondly, being on stage requires passion - you have to believe in what you are doing up there, otherwise the audience won’t believe in what you are doing up there. Performing in front of a live audience is an exchange - the audience give you their attention and their applause, and you give them glamour, fun and entertainment. As a performer, I work hard to give the audience their money’s worth, to impress them, entertain them, make them laugh and marvel at what unfolds on stage. And while the bedroom may not be such an explicit exchange, where money has been paid, the desire to please and be pleased is an essential part of seduction. Tease, the promise of more, the promise of everything - later, builds pleasure, increases gratification when it comes and is an essential part of sex, whether it be as deliberate as slowly undressing for your partner, or as accidental as not being able to find a cab home from the intimate restaurant table. And to tease someone, you need to connect with them, to reach out and say ‘do you want this?’, and when the answer comes back as ‘yes’, to reply, ‘not yet’. Thus, the essence of good performance and good sex can be distilled into two words immortalised by E.M. Forster; ‘only connect’. Everything else is distraction.

Related links:


Erotic readings and burlesque performers - together in one fabulous show!  With cake!


  1. I've taken a pole dancing class as well as a striptease class. Both times it was mentioned how important the tease was as well as having that air of confidence about you. You project it, and the viewer believes it. I found that as I worked I believed in my innate sexiness and that translated.

  2. Hi Chantel - I used to teach pole dance but when it came to performing I was soooo nervous and self conscious. I also felt very self-conscious when I had my striptease lesson. It's weird because I am generally uninhibited and have always been cool with nudity and my appearance, and when I used to go clubbing I loved showing off and had an exhibitionist streak. Glad you enjoyed your classes and your confidence grew - pole dance is great!