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Dancing as foreplay, for middle schoolers
November 15, 2006 5:32 PM   Subscribe

What is the purpose of school dances? An NPR story mentioned a school shutting down its dances because of explicitly sexual dancing; but what else do they expect kids to do?

Do kids (especially in middle school) have the ability to participate in the activity known as "social dancing" without some kind of overtly sexual agenda? Why would adults even bother to encourage this by formally organizing it or allowing it to occur?
posted by sandking to Society & Culture (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
They expect kids not to be fully sexual beings at the age of 12. A dance is really just a way to get boys and girls in the same room in a social setting.
posted by smackfu at 5:40 PM on November 15, 2006


As far as I understand it:

School dances are like modern balls. They provided upright and moral teenage men and women the opportunity to comingle and perhaps begin the ritualistic selection of a mate-- remember that as recently as 30-50 years ago, people in a certain segment of society still married their high-school sweethearts. Balls in antiquity were social events, but also events where members of the opposite sex were able to view and evaluate one another as potenital mates.

School dances are a reminant of the time when there was chaperoned mixing between the sexes. The issue now is that the "moral fiber" of society has "loosened" to the point where we do dance pressed together as opposed to shoulder-apart, and the messages about sex and sexuality in the media are far more obvious and overt. Men and women also comingle in other contexts now, so the cancelling of the school dance sems to be a rather futile, twisted effort towards restoring chaperoned mingling.

NB- I don't personally have a problem with loosening moral fibers. Well, most of them. and this is not to say that kids were never having sex, even in the time of balls and masquerades.
posted by oflinkey at 5:44 PM on November 15, 2006


Or what smackfu said.
posted by oflinkey at 5:45 PM on November 15, 2006


Do kids (especially in middle school) have the ability to participate in the activity known as "social dancing" without some kind of overtly sexual agenda?

Probably not. Dances are a relic of from a time when they were a socially-appropriate way for young men and women to interact socially in a chaperoned environment. Nowadays, boys and girls hang out unchaperoned all the time, so dances have become rather obsolete in that respect.

That said, I still don't think they should be banned. I think it is perfectly legitimate to provide young teens an avenue for romantic/quasi-sexual interaction - it is chaperoned, for god's sake, it's not as if they are making babies on the dance floor.

On preview, what oflinkey said much better.
posted by gatorae at 5:47 PM on November 15, 2006


Well, it didn't used to be that they would grind up against eachother, although there were a few kids at my middle school dances who would do that. I have no idea what these people are on about, but people have been complaning about dancing being moral undoing for a long time. It's not like this is new. People used to complaign about the waltz being immoral.
posted by delmoi at 5:48 PM on November 15, 2006


A dance is really just a way to get boys and girls in the same room in a social setting.

It seems to me that gender mixing in a social setting requires levels of preparedness and maturity that most 12 year old children are absolutely not prepared to deal with, given the social and educational contexts that they are used to.

Maybe I've become crotchety in my young old age, but telling kids to dance without any formal dance training, but with some booty-shakin' beats on the DJ table is just asking for trouble, and people shouldn't be surprised when that trouble comes around.
posted by sandking at 5:54 PM on November 15, 2006 [1 favorite]


Dances are for socializing and forming a school identity, it seems. At the high school level, dances are supposed to be a safe alternative to what students might end up doing if they were on their own.

I see both sides to the argument. Teachers and parents don't want to chaperone an event in which they have to watch this and be disrespected. On the other hand, students would like some freedom. To me this does seem to be pushing it, though.
posted by Camel of Space at 6:16 PM on November 15, 2006


Schools theoretically provide education and social skills. The opportunity to go to a dance should be part of everyone's education. Unfortunately, since some parents have such a negative view of freaking, yet there isn't really much else that kids know, a dance with a no-freaking rule seems a bit self-contradictory, so I guess cancelling the dance becomes more understandable.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:12 PM on November 15, 2006


It would be wonderful if a local dance school would agree to provide swing/foxtrot/line dancin' lessons in classrooms adjacent to the gym at the dance. Kids could go for a quick lesson, and then jump out onto the dance floor. I went to an AIDS benefit in Boston some years ago that did this, and it was tons of fun for me and all of my high school friends.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:15 PM on November 15, 2006


As an aside, I find that the 'highschool'/'senior elementary school' dances (aka proms) to be much much more important in the United States than it is in Canada. Yes, these things (early-mid '90s?) were known for groping/grinding as well as fights/getting drunk/stoned/being-stupid.

I wonder if this difference has anything to do with the old debutant tradition as well as the tradition of organized sports (esp. american football and wrestling)? We had soccer and rugby teams (and tennis, track, field, field-hockey, badminton, &c&c) but the atmosphere/environment that's associated with football in the US was entirely lacking. No highschool "homecoming."

As for non-sexual dancing, we Canadians had to do square dancing in PE (co-ed) from grades 6-10, roughly. I remember a particularly ambitious female PE teacher who tried to get us to learn the fundamentals of ballroom (basically, the 4-4 waltz).
posted by porpoise at 9:26 PM on November 15, 2006


It was far from square dancing in my Canadian highschool. We did Prom all the way (without the football bs--our highschool somehow ended up pretty hippy and arty, don't know why), at least one dance a month, usually with about 5 people kicked out for obvious drunkeness. Lots of furious making out in the middle of the dance floor, but the teachers didn't seem to mind.
posted by stray at 9:39 PM on November 15, 2006


I think middle school is too young for dancing. If you must have a prom, do it for seniors, but I wish schools would stop doing them. What does it have to do with getting an education? They're useless and expensive, and I think a lot of teenagers don't really want to go, they just do it beacuse they're "supposed to," or they're afraid they will regret not going later.

Disclaimer: I myself would not have been caught dead at the prom.
posted by Violet Hour at 10:15 PM on November 15, 2006


In Australia (late 80s early 90s), we had school socials every term from grade 4 on. Our socials were nothing like proms (formals) - they were more like a disco. We had to do square and ballroom dancing in PE, so the socials were for getting drunk and stoned at the back of the oval and then slow dancing with as much groping as possible. We were fully chaperoned once inside the social, so anything too overt/gross was stopped quickly.

What does it have to do with getting an education?

Social interaction is an essential part of an education. And socials were great fun.
posted by goo at 12:15 AM on November 16, 2006


I should also note that such things didn't only occur at school - the alternative was the weekly Blue Light Disco, run by the police, which was pretty much identical to a school social except there were kids from other schools also present to widen the pool.
posted by goo at 12:30 AM on November 16, 2006


My middle school dances consisted of the boys on one wall, the girls on the opposite wall, and a big empty space in between. Eventually one or two couples would meet up in the middle and do that lame slowdancing thing that kids do (hands on shoulders... awesome!) and then the rest would follow. Once I hit high school (in a suburb of Toronto), dances became a thing of the past. At least at my school. We had a semi-formal (grade 12s) and a formal (graduating students, there were 5 years of high school in those days) every year, and that was it.
posted by antifuse at 2:31 AM on November 16, 2006


Umm... and the point that I was actually trying to make is that without that socialization in middle school, I would have been much more awkward around girls come high school, when it actually mattered. Socialization is a highly important (and IMO, seriously underrated) aspect of the education process. Just look at all those weirdo homeschooled kids!

Just kidding... many homeschooled kids have parents that understand the importance of socialization, and actually encourage them to get involved with other people. But some of them seriously do end up as weirdos.
posted by antifuse at 2:45 AM on November 16, 2006


"What does it have to do with getting an education?" ... ... "I think a lot of teenagers don't really want to go"

Look to some of the reasons behind the later, for some of the answer to the former ;-)
posted by -harlequin- at 4:05 AM on November 16, 2006


As for non-sexual dancing, we Canadians had to do square dancing in PE (co-ed) from grades 6-10

I grew up in New Jersey, and we square-danced in elementary school gym class. Everybody hated it. I have no idea if it's still done.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:06 AM on November 16, 2006


as a high school teacher who has chaperoned dances, I he
posted by tristanshout at 10:52 AM on November 16, 2006


as a high school teacher who has chaperoned dances, I hear this all the time: 'why do they dance that way? it's gross', etc. sheesh. It's a form of sexual display. In the case of 'grinding', the girls are in total control: if a guy acts stupid or gets disrespectful, the girl straightens up and walks away. The problem is the effect after the dance. It's probably very hard to regain the feeling of being on a date after you've been doing this quasi-sexual dance. The couples dancing are generally in settled couples and are just showing 'hey, we're a couple' to other kids.
An easy modifier is to turn the lights up and control the music! I don't think kids would come to such a dance, though...
posted by tristanshout at 10:58 AM on November 16, 2006



It seems to me that gender mixing in a social setting requires levels of preparedness and maturity that most 12 year old children are absolutely not prepared to deal with, given the social and educational contexts that they are used to.


I'm sorry? What gives you the impression that school itself is not a "social setting"?
posted by juv3nal at 12:29 PM on November 16, 2006


I'm having flashbacks of guys groping girls's asses and the girls slapping them off in middle school now.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:36 PM on November 16, 2006


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