Washington Post’s Laura Sessions Stepp raised her reservations about “freak dancing” — or as she aptly described, “teens grinding their bodies together to the sexually explicit lyrics of hip-hop or rap, in twos, threes and chains of four or more. It’s impossible to describe the moves exactly in a family newspaper, but let’s just say it’s a lot more than shaking booty.”
First, some perspective: Miguel Muñoz-Laboy, who studies hip-hop culture, says, “Parents should be more concerned about teaching their children to make decisions about drug use and alcohol intake than worrying about the ways their children dance.”
Binge drinking encourages risky sexual behavior, says Muñoz-Laboy, an assistant professor of sociomedical sciences at Columbia University. Clubbing is also a factor, he says, because it promotes excessive consumption of alcohol and hooking up with partners one hardly knows. And there is no evidence that sexy dancing causes young people to have sex early or unprotected.
Those are good points, I think, though not a reason not to also raise concerns about freaking.
How about this: Let’s add to the list of topics we talk about with kids (1) the importance of valuing themselves and (2) the difference between pornography, eroticism and romance.
While I would be embarrassed if one of my kids appeared on a YouTube clip freak dancing, the rest of Sessions Strepp’s column read like an old-fashioned lecture. Doesn’t everyone feel that their time were the good ole days when kids did nothing to upset their parents?
These questions are difficult to raise because as teens, today’s parents weren’t exactly Fred and Ginger on the gymnasium floor. Dances of the 1960s and early ’70s — with ridiculous names like the twist, jerk and mashed potato — were so individualistic we might as well have been dancing with trees. Girls were comfortable doing them, but guys, afraid of looking stupid without someone to hold on to, hung out on the sidelines.
At least grinding attracts both sexes onto the dance floor. Said one young man, “Men like to dance, and women like to have sex. But neither are supposed to show it. Grinding allows them to do what they like in a socially acceptable way.”
But is simulated sex actually sexy? This is where, instead of shaking our head, we introduce them to the idea that dances can be highly erotic by delivering nothing while promising everything.
Despite Sessions Strepp’s disapproving tone, her article ends on a positive note. Some high school students received ballroom dance classes in their PE class and helped lay some ground rules on freak dancing at the prom. The ground rules? No groping, no bending over at a 90-degree angle from the floor and no sandwiches of two or more partners. The principal agreed to the ground rules, choosing not to ban freak dancing altogether.
Sounds like a good compromise.