Is Dancing Inherently Romantic?
February 8, 2010 7:22 AM   Subscribe

Dancing: how do girls feel about it? And also a problem with my jealousy.

My girlfriend and I are in different places, both of which provide some opportunity to go out and have some fun, to bars and parties, etc. The relationship is going extremely well and we're super happy together. And we obviously both need to be happy and entertained when we're not together (which is two out of every three weekends)

But, I think my incredibly childish views on what dancing means and what other things mean are getting me in a place where I'm too jealous of the fact that guys at the parties she goes to will dance with her, and when I go to parties, I generally don't dance much, and if I do, with my friends etc., if a girl starts grinding up on me, I nix it (out of a combination of disinterest and inability to dance well).

Girls dance just for fun sometimes, right? It isn't a pairing process? Are there always sexual undertones? In relationships, do girls still dance with other guys, and if so, to what degree, and do guys who aren't as infantile as myself do the same and reciprocate their nonromantic mood?

The fact is that I trust my girlfriend with my life and my heart, and love her dearly, and know the answer is that she's obviously not macking on tons of other guys but just dancing for fun, but it's hard to shake this preconception, especially with my self-admitted tendency towards jealousy (and, yes, that is likely causes by a lack of self-confidence in cases).

So I guess I'm asking you to smack some sense into me, or let me know about any of the principles of this whole dancing situation that I don't know about. I swear, I'm not an uberdork in a basement, but I haven't spent a lot of my life dancing. Also, I'm not a jealous monster, I've thought through and understood other things (like the fact that she has more friendguys than friendgirls), and no longer worry about them at all.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I love to dance, I mean I really love it. My SO doesn't really dance often, but I love it so I do, like he loves to paint and I don't really paint, and I love to sing and he is shy about singing so doesn't.

It is what it is - a really fun hobby and a passion for some. Just like any other hobby you can meet someone doing it, and you might bond over that shared interest. Mostly though, not, in my experience.

So either learn to dance (not so much of a chore!) or just leave her hobby to her. Anyway, your jealousy might stem from something different - envy of other people getting to enjoy her time and company, or a feeling of inadequacy over the things you can't do with her - what do you think?
posted by greenish at 7:28 AM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

incredibly childish ... lack of self-confidence ... infantile ... smack some sense into me ... uberdork ... jealous monster

I don't really have an answer to your question, but I'd just like to suggest that you stop using so much over-the-top negative language about yourself (even if sometimes you half-heartedly negate those negatives). It hints at a problem more serious than dancing.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:30 AM on February 8, 2010 [10 favorites]

When there is loud music on I find it difficult not to dance, whether I am on my own, with friends or looking for nails at the hardware store.

I dance on my own in the house. I dance with people with whom I have zero sexual attraction whatsoever. I would dance with family members if they showed the least inclination. I have danced at a dance class in which I didn't find anybody remotely sexually attractive. I ALSO dance as a form of flirtation (or perhaps foreplay) with people I would like to get in the sack.
posted by emilyw at 7:33 AM on February 8, 2010

No, dancing is not inherently romantic. Dancing is fun, dancing is stress relief, dancing is a great workout--and yes, sometimes romantic, but more often (for me at least) dancing is just about taking joy in life, in the fact that I can dance! I hope you dance with her when she is with you, though.

I think someone needs a repeat viewing of a certain Kevin Bacon dance scene.
posted by sallybrown at 7:35 AM on February 8, 2010

Yes, girls will often dance just for fun, and often even find it really annoying that the guys they're dancing with assume that they want more.

It sort of depends on what KIND of dancing -- if it turns into a full body fondle / dry humping session on the dance floor, well, yeah, that's inappropriate if you're in a relationship with someone else.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:36 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just for clarification, what kind of dancing are you guys doing? "girls starts grinding up on me" is not what I generally do when I dance, so my answer of "dancing is dancing, and love is love, and they're not really related" is pretty biased by my concept of dancing involving zero hip-region contact.
posted by aimedwander at 7:41 AM on February 8, 2010

I hate dancing, but my wife loves it and is very good at it. If we're at a wedding, I'm happy to have someone else entertain her for a while. I myself have many times acted as a dance pimp for her, telling a guy, "Hey, you dance well--how about dancing with this lady?"

But I know who she's going home with, she knows who she's going home with, and the guy knows too. And that makes a difference.

You trust your GF, you aren't the "jealous type," but you don't know what's going on in the mind of the guy she may be dancing with--but, being a guy yourself, you can make some pretty good guesses--and that can be bothersome.

Jealousy is lame and destructive, but being protective--not OVERprotective, mind you--can be very healthy. The trick then, to ease your mind, is to make sure you feel that she is safe. If she went out in a bad part of town, late, alone, got hammered, and danced with guys, you SHOULD be feeling edgy. But I'm guessing she's not doing (all) those things, so it might help you to have a talk with her about how she keeps herself safe, and that may reassure you.
posted by etc. at 7:43 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I love dancing. I'm also terrible at it. I can't clap to a beat so you can only imagine.

What I want to address is that you're really down on yourself. It sounds like you actually want to get down, but you're terrified. And, this may be reaching so I apologize, the jealousy may stem from the fact that you're worried other dudes are having this intimate-seeming experience with your girl that you can't or won't.

Here's the thing, dancing with strangers is fun. It's a time when you're allowed to really get into one another's personal space without any promises of it going any further. It's a communal thing. Dancing with your SO, on the other hand can have all sorts of fun sexual undertones. You can touch her in observationally appropriate but personally intimate ways she would never let some random dude with whom she is dancing and vice-versa.

I just want to say one thing that helped me back when I didn't "want" to dance: no one gives a shit about your moves. Clubs are loud, dark, smelly, smoky, whatever. I can assure you that if there is someone on the sidelines ridiculing you, they're the asshole and everyone knows it.

I think your girl would really appreciate it if you got down with her regardless of whether you "can" or not. Pound back a drink or two (if you drink) and embarrass yourself. And then you'll realize that you're not actually embarrassing yourself. And then you'll have a blast.

Oh, and one last thing. Do your dance-music tastes coincide? If you're into, for instance, darkwave and she likes reggaeton and you've only gone to reggaeton clubs, why not go down to a goth club where you'll be comfortable with the beats?
posted by griphus at 8:03 AM on February 8, 2010

Dancing is fun and it doesn't always necessarily have sexual undertones, unless you're dancing with your sweetie, or someone you want to be your sweetie.

You should sit down and talk with your lady about what you both think about dancing, and what is and isn't okay on the dancefloor. Dance with her whenever you get the chance (everyone is a bad dancer! The secret is to be okay with it) or at least watch her and let her know you're appreciating it.

And stop calling yourself names! You sound nice.
posted by teraspawn at 8:50 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Wait, do you mean like waltzing or grinding on each other?
posted by anniecat at 9:17 AM on February 8, 2010

I'm guessing you're talking about dancing that isn't dry humping standing up, but isn't exactly ballroom either.

Look, I'm not in a dissimilar situation myself. My SO loves to dance, and while I indulge in the dance floor myself from time to time, it is not with the frequency my SO requires. So she goes out dancing with her girlfriends or whatever. At first I was bothered, at first I was quite jealous, skeptical, etc. But you come to realize that 1) being jealous is like stringing beads with no knot at the end. It accomplishes nothing except for 2) ruining a relationship for no reason at all. If you trust her like you say you do, then trust her. It's sort of a decision you just have to make, and it is quite a liberating one. If she dances with another dude, well, what's it really to you? If your SO is anything like mine, she's just doing it for fun and the idea of it being sexual really doesn't cross her mind. And if the other guy goes home and whacks of thinking about this benign dancing tryst, well, what's it to me, really? I know that she will come home when she's done dancing and spoon me.

And sometimes I do go out dancing with her, and sometimes I dance with other ladies on the dance floor. Not grinding or whatever, but still dancing together. It's part of the dancing thing; everyone is drunk and happy and moving around and it's a very old human custom. Dancing isn't fucking, it's dancing. If she ditches you, and you seem like a caring and loving boyfriend, for someone she randomly meets on the dance floor, well then it probably wasn't the great relationship you thought it was (it does not sound like this is happening at all, just trying to put it in perspective for you).
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:35 AM on February 8, 2010 [4 favorites]

What kind of dancing are you talking about?

Different kinds of dancing obviously have different sexual undertones. There's a big difference in the amount of sexual undertone in the waltz, to the tango, to the kind of humping you see at an 8th grade formal. Which of these is she doing?

I would not be okay with anyone I was dating grinding on someone, nor would I be doing that with friends if I were in a relationship. If someone I was dating expressed discomfort with me doing the tango, I would consider that reasonable too.

But this isn't my relationship, it's yours. You get to decide what you're comfortable with and what is reasonable, and so does she. Your feelings are both totally valid, even if they clash.

I think you guys need to talk about this more. And not a conversation about what "principles" there are in any "objective" way because that doesn't exist and/or it is irrelevant. I think you guys need to talk about how much sexual undertone you each, specifically, feel in each of these situations, how much sexual undertone there is coming from the dancing partner in these situations, how much of that you are each comfortable with. And then, to state the obvious, you need to come to a compromise, or break up.
posted by Ashley801 at 9:38 AM on February 8, 2010

But, I think my incredibly childish views on what dancing means and what other things mean are getting me in a place where I'm too jealous

Aaaaah male insecurity, we dare not speak its name. Before we go any further, I suggest accepting the obvious--when we are young and in an LTR, it is totally natural to feel jealosy while our partner is away from us. It is far from childish. Its built in to us and designed to drive us towards the object of our desire. In other words, it is designed to impel you to go where she is and be with her. In modern life, sometimes that's just not possible, however.

This causes a problem, because our expressing of our jealousy isn't the best move in terms of a romantic relationship. Like it or not, many young people put a great premium on the outward symbols of impurturability of emotion as an outward sign of a person's ability to recover from the very hard blows life deals out. So expressing the emotion directly is out, especially to young ladies.

Also, I'm not a jealous monster, I've thought through and understood other things (like the fact that she has more friendguys than friendgirls), and no longer worry about them at all.

Here's the crux of this question. It isn't dancing, it isn't even that she has more men friends than women friends. Its that you fear that this woman will not tell you the truth and keep promises she has made to you.

Now, this is a tougher problem. Because it is only human to fear that you will be betrayed. Because it happens. Here's the hard part--sometimes you think it is happening and it isn't. So you can push someone who is doing you no wrong away. So how do you keep yourself on guard against getting hurt, without pushing away a person who isn't hurting you.

The answer is a hard one--you allow yourself to feel bad. Our endrocine system is built to push us towards that mate. It is designed to protect us from getting cheated on, too, by allowing is to detect threats against our pair bond and to signal the mate that the result of them breaking the promise they made to us will be the dissolution of the pair bond. Its also designed to drive us away from mates who break their promises to us.

This means you are gonna have to feel bad. Supressing it will make you miserable, you will walk around all day and it will keep popping up as you try and stuff it down. Expressing it to your gf will drive her away. So you have to feel it. That means when you feel jealous, you will have to just feel it all at once. I do this with all emotions by focusing on the physical sensations of the bad feeling and avoid escaping, supressing or expressing the feeling.

This means no fantasies of it being ok or ending in firey betrayal, no ignoring it, no eating, drinking, doing drugs or engaging in your own infidelities and no yelling at people or expressing anger towards your gf.

You can't really protect yourself from being hurt very well by jealosy in this situation, she is far away. You can only grit your teeth and bear it, or move to where she is, or break up with her. She could also move to you if she agrees. But there is no way out or amount of "beating you up" we can do to solve this eternally reoccuring problem. The situation is so common that our animal ancestors had a complete suite of emotional resposes designed exclusively to this situation. Acknowledging the real presence and power of these emotions is the first step towards learning to work with them.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:00 AM on February 8, 2010 [8 favorites]

If anything but their hands are touching, I hereby validate your discomfort as normal.

I suggest that she dances without body contact, or with straight female friends.
posted by kathrineg at 10:17 AM on February 8, 2010

Yes, girls will often dance just for fun, and often even find it really annoying that the guys they're dancing with assume that they want more.

I second this.

It's just dancing.
posted by Xany at 11:08 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

A lot of women dance just for fun. Most dancing has sexual undertones, some dancing has sexual overtones. Women and men can enjoy dancing, including its ritualized sexuality, without wanting to get with the person they're dancing with.

I'm a guy who's not much of a dancer, who has had a number of girlfriends who really like to dance, and I think it's totally normal for you to be asking these questions. But there's a good chance your girlfriend enjoys, at least in part, the formalized sexual aspects of dancing. I think you need to look harder at whether that in itself would bother you.

There are very few humans, even the most staid monogamists, for whom their partner is their only source of sexual excitement. I bet that you know women besides your girlfriend who turn you on. Because you love your girlfriend and are a gentleman, you don't try to get them in bed. You have still responded sexually. I tend to agree with Ironmouth that jealousy is kind of hard-wired, but if you trust your girlfriend as much as you say you do, you can at least look at her interactions with other men, including dance partners, in a different way.

When I'm in a committed relationship with real trust, I'm not trusting that my SO is never turned on by other men, or that she'll never enjoy their attentions, or that every part of her sexuality is tuned to me. I trust that at the end of every night I'll be the one in bed with her. Of course people's boundaries differ wildly; that's something you figure out by talking about it (as Ashley801 said). If there're radical differences in expectation/boundaries, the relationship won't work.

I have gotten over most of my ingrained jealousy by a kind of dumb analogy: I'm like a battery. I get charged sexually by many women, whether just looking or flirting or whatever, but the energy is only discharged (heh) with my girlfriend. And I trust she's the same. She might get turned on by others, but I get the goods. The bonus of looking at things this way is that you can watch your lover flirt/dance/whatever and instead of getting jealous, you actually get turned on, knowing you will be the beneficiary of the "charge."

And stop being so hard on yourself.
posted by generalist at 11:45 AM on February 8, 2010 [5 favorites]

Club dancing is notoriously impersonal, contrary to appearances. People looking for dating of all ages universally lament "the club scene," so take a lesson from this. If it's house parties where this is happening, it's a little less clubby, but also more likely that people will know about you. Either from you being there (regardless of whether you're dancing) or from the closer social circles inherent in parties located in someone's living room or wherever.
posted by rhizome at 11:53 AM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I LOVE to dance but I hate dancing with a guy, even my husband as in we go to clubs together. He cant' dance and has no rhythm (usually I wind up getting punched somehow). I only like dancing with friends. But if a guy comes up to us and wants to dance near us but isn't "jacking us up", then that is fine. Just don't invade my space. I don't like contact with dancing so anything sexual is not even on the table. It's fun. Sometimes others want to dance near pretty girls but are shy and really, it doesn't mean anything so that's ok.

You can tell if it's something more. But if someone is dancing and is polite, really, don't think too much into it. A lot of times the other guy didn't see the wedding ring (in my case) and if it's a girlfriend situation, there is no ring so how would they know? Trust your girlfriend. If she's innocently dancing with someone else, big deal. If she's jacking him up and goes off with them, then wonder.
posted by stormpooper at 12:10 PM on February 8, 2010

Dancing is a truly great stress reliever and simple pleasure. It rarely has anything to do with romance--it's about having fun. I might feel differently if it's two people grinding away on each other, but a guy can be a really great dance partner and not be a love interest. One of my oldest friends and college roommate was my favorite dance partner back in the day and he's like a brother to me.
posted by greensalsa at 2:18 PM on February 8, 2010

You ask an interesting question -- whether dancing is inherently romantic. I think historically that was very much the case, where young ladies danced with suitors and it was noticed who danced with whom and how many times, as this was one of the few socially accepted ways for men and women to touch each other. Things have changed, but I'd say the biggest thing is that there are now different kinds of dancing. There's still the "romantic" dancing, where men and women gaze into each others' eyes and share moments and all that, sure. But there's also solo dancing, and group dancing, and pre-hookup dancing... There's really all kinds of ways to dance according to how you feel and what you want. And most women know intuitively how to steer their partner (if they have one) towards the kind of dancing they would like.

I'd say your girlfriend is most likely entirely in control of what's going on when she's dancing. She's not going to be "overcome" by some guy who channels her into a romantic dance when she doesn't want that. I don't think dancing is a gateway to infidelity (unless that infidelity was already on the agenda from the start).

I imagine that if you find your girlfriend to be beautiful and sexy when she dances, you naturally assume that other men do as well. And that's probably true. But your girlfriend is well-equipped to handle unwanted attention on the dance floor, just as she handles it in the rest of her daily life.
posted by woot at 2:34 PM on February 8, 2010

Like several others have written, girls who really like to dance find it annoying when guys dance in their space, or try to dance with them, or *shudder* up ON them. I love to dance and I love dancing at a place that has lights that move and change and sound that you can feel in your belly. Unfortunately, that means a club or a bar and some people think (if I'm there alone...yes! I will go alone and dance alone) I am hunting men.

Doesn't matter, as long as I can dance. And if someone dances with me (meaning, near me, facing me but no touchy), that's okay. And if I get hit on, I can handle it. But dear lord, do not EVER take my hands or hips or shoulders and try to lead me to dance to YOUR rhythm unless you are very very very good. And no one is.

(Exception: years ago, I was doing a variation of the cha-cha by myself at a club and some guy, barely any teeth, unshaven, shabby clothes, shaking like an alcoholic, approached me without smiling, and grabbed my hands and we dropped right into a cha-cha, wordlessly. The only thing he said was "Firm UP", rather sternly, because I allowed my arms to go slack and my form was suffering. Afterwards, he disappeared into the crowd. I remember that SO fondly. Then again, that's the magic of social dancing.)
posted by Jezebella at 7:14 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

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