Is grinding inherently sexual?
January 8, 2017 10:30 PM   Subscribe

How common is it for people to view grinding as just another type of dancing? For people who do view it as just dancing what is the etiquette given that many people view it sexually? At what point would you then be obligated to make clear that you aren't expressing any sexual interest and are just dancing around and having fun?

I found this thread which wasn't as targeted but seems to hint that most people think grinding is sexual. This other thread seems to suggest from the upvoted answers that there definitely is a population of people who view grinding as just dancing. Is the best way to learn whether someone belongs to that population by just going out dancing with them often and seeing how they interact with other people?

If it helps, I'll give the specifics of my situation. We were out dancing with a friend of mine, his girlfriend and another friend. She and the other friend are giving me some dance pointers, showing me how to move my hips and all of a sudden she starts grinding on me. Mind you, he's standing right there. I pivot my hips so that she's grinding more on my left hip/leg she responds by after a few seconds moving so that she's once again parallel to me. I then pivot to the other side and thankfully after a few more seconds she stops grinding with me.

This felt incredibly weird to me. I don't have any interest in her and wouldn't have thought she had any interest in me but if her boyfriend wasn't there I would've thought she was trying to make a move on me. Given that he was there the only explanation I can come up with is that in her mind grinding is not exclusively sexual and she was just helpfully showing me how to dance through demonstration. Despite recognizing this as a plausible rational explanation of the situation it's still hard for me to believe she did that. Are my sexual definitions too rigid? Do many people view grinding as just another type of dancing and she just falls into that category? Or (and I know this isn't necessarily exclusive with the previous explanation of many people viewing it as another type of dancing) are my instincts probably right and she is too sexual/flirty with people other than her partner and it's an issue they'll have to figure out between them as some point?
posted by aaabbbccc to Human Relations (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Dude you gotta stop hanging out with this woman, it's driving you nuts. You just have to cut it off and move on.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:32 PM on January 8, 2017 [7 favorites]

Haha different woman :) I tried to make it clear with the "I'm not interested in her" but should've been more explicit. (I've been managing my feelings about the woman I'm actually interested in pretty decently in the past month or so. I'm actually in a good place about that right now! Forcing myself to actively use Coffee meets Bagel has been a huge help for that)

I swear this isn't a pattern in my life (maybe falling for uninterested women is, but that's neither here nor there) and is truly a one off situation with my friend's girlfriend. But the lady doth protest too much :p
posted by aaabbbccc at 10:41 PM on January 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's . . . sexualized dancing? No contradiction in my mind. Grinding is to non-contact dancing as mildly flirtatious conversation is to platonic small talk: it expresses a certain recognition of the other person as a sexual being, but it doesn't necessarily imply interest in anything beyond an enjoyable time dancing. People don't understand it as some kind of step on a ladder that eventually leads to sex.

As with flirting with other people, different relationships have different boundaries when it comes to the various degrees of sexy dancing. Sounds like it was not a big deal for them.
posted by ostro at 11:01 PM on January 8, 2017 [13 favorites]

As a guy, I would agree that what you're describing is more than "dancing". Now, my partner is an expert dancer, and when she's doing competitions there are some pretty way-out things going on in some dances. These are part of the dance, and it's completely non-sexual. Ditto if they really are teaching you a specific set of dance moves that are predetermined. But in the context of informal dancing, "showing you how to move your hips", and that sort of thing, then yes she is doing something that understandably makes you feel weird. It's up to her and her relationship, I guess. I would guess that she was either trying to make a move on you or alternatively trying to freak you out in what she thought was a humourous way. I think you did the right thing trying to avoid it.
posted by tillsbury at 11:52 PM on January 8, 2017

People have different opinions and boundaries around this that also depend on different situations and contexts etc. and that's okay. It seems that apparently to her and her bf this didn't overstep the boundaries of their relationship. You on the other hand feel weird about it and that's valid too. You're free to say it makes you feel uncomfortable and not do it.

Personally, if I were in a relationship, I wouldn't dance like this with other people. On the other hand, as a woman, I also have underestimated the perceived "sexiness" of my dance moves to men before, so there could simply be a mismatch of intentions and expectations here.
posted by leopard-skin pill-box hat at 12:56 AM on January 9, 2017 [6 favorites]

If her butt is making prolonged (rather than incidental) contact with your crotch, then yes, its sexual. She might not mean it that way but you can't rub yourself against a guy's penis without that being sexual.
posted by missmagenta at 1:17 AM on January 9, 2017 [13 favorites]

I think it really depends. I have definitely grinded up on male and female friends while dancing as a silly fun thing to do. I probably wouldn't ever with a stranger. I don't think she was coming on to you- just kind of joking around and showing you some moves. But yeah if it makes you uncomfortable definitely fine to put a stop to it.
posted by emd3737 at 3:03 AM on January 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

you can't rub yourself against a guy's penis without that being sexual

Well- yeah, you can. If you are wholly uninterested in the dude, and it's all in fun, and for lots of other reasons that make it 100% non-sexual, this is not a true statement. But you have to know what the other person is thinking. Absent any awareness of intent (like this situation), you can only opt for the benefit of the doubt and let it go. When those involved know nothing about each other, each other's motivations, etc., it's kind of impossible to intuit motive or intent.

I realize that bodies react involuntarily sometimes, but I don't believe it's accurate to say penis proximity in the form of dancing (even a style of club dancing that de facto represents sexual activity), is always inherently sexual. He may respond physically because that's what penises do... but to borrow a legal term, without "sexual mens rea", there is no way to judge.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:15 AM on January 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

Y'all, if you're grinding and its not at least pretty sexual, might be doing it wrong.

The whole point is to rub sexy bits on a gratified penis for fun times. Its not necessarily foreplay that is meant to lead to sex, and is if anything not usually meant to be an intimate thing, but it is a sex thing at least if you're doing it right, the mechanics of which are just as intuitive as you think they are. That said, its not at all uncommon for couples to negotiate boundaries that include sexy things but not intimate things, or intimate things but not sexy things, or both, or neither - all of which is totally fine so long as everyone is happy with whatever the arrangement is.

It is up to the couple you are friends with to negotiate the boundaries that are best for them, and in the scenario you described it should be totally fine to just trust your friend's girlfriend to be respecting her partner and their boundaries. That said, it is still up to you to decide whether grinding is something you want to do, which you haven't discussed outside of the context of wanting to respect your friends' relationship, which is their job. If doing this sexy thing outside of the context of a relationship, much less in the context of someone else's relationship isn't something you really want to do - that is a totally fine and honestly pretty normal thing. With the social expectation that men should always be up for whatever sexy thing we can get away with, it might not be intuitive to ask yourself whether grinding in a non-intimate way is something you actually want to do, but I suspect it might be at the heart of this question.

It does indeed sound like you don't need to be concerned at all for your friend or your friend's girlfriend's feelings, which only leaves your's to consider - and they are important. If you think back to the moment, and can imagine yourself without the concern for in some way insulting your friends' relationship, would grinding be something you would have enjoyed? Would it have still felt wrong for you in some way or would it have just been the fun gratifying rubbing times without any particularly more-than-friend-like-attachment your friend's girlfriend likely meant it to be? That is really a question only you can decide for yourself, and an honest answer introspectively arrived at will lead you to either a lot of fun times or avoiding a lot of awkwardness and heartbreak as you navigate situations like this. Both answers are great, so long as they are right for you.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:50 AM on January 9, 2017 [10 favorites]

To me, grinding is inherently sexual/sensual but in the realm of things that can be done with platonic friends (or strangers if you're comfortable with them). Because it's sexual, it's something that will vary in levels of acceptability from relationship to relationship.
posted by Candleman at 7:49 AM on January 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

Sexual isn't the same thing as coming on to you. If you were interested, it wouldn't be a promise, and if you're not, it's not a request you have to decline.

they did a sex thing on you, the question is not did they mean it, it's do you mind. I would mind a lot. you are probably too polite to yell at her to get her crotch off you but you're entitled to.

(also um making an unmistakably sexual move on someone when their partner's standing right there watching wouldn't suggest to me that it's not sexual, it would suggest to me that the partner's into it.)
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:59 AM on January 9, 2017 [8 favorites]

In my party days I would do this all the time to people that I was 100% uninterested in sexually, just because it's fun to dance around. If one of my friends did that with me I would just assume they got into the song and were dancing. That's me. If YOU think she was too sexual with you then you need to speak up and lay down the boundary with your friend.
posted by Marinara at 8:31 AM on January 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

TBH, it doesn't really matter how other people feel about it. What matters is that it made you uncomfortable.

Your instincts were good in trying to use your body language to convey that you weren't enjoying the experience (pivoting your hips), but it seems like she didn't get the hint immediately, which is too bad.

As far as what your friend's girlfriend was thinking -- I have a funny feeling that she was maybe trying to get you to loosen up a little. From the way you've phrased your question, it seems like you approach the world in a very analytical fashion and that that might show in your personality in real-life encounters. If the "other friend" who was there was female, I could totally see this as an attempted matchmaking situation, and the girlfriend was just kind of priming the pump, as it were, to maybe get some sparks flying between you and Other Friend.

But regardless, what matters is that it made you uncomfortable, but because it's not necessarily something that makes everyone uncomfortable, there's a little more onus on you to speak up/act more assertively to make your feelings clear. For example, taking a half-step backwards but continuing to dance to the beat while looking at the other person is a good way to signal "I don't want to be quite so close, but I still enjoy dancing with you."
posted by sparklemotion at 8:34 AM on January 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Data point: I realize I'm old and therefore considered hopelessly out of touch, but what "kids today" call grinding, we called dry humping. It was what you did when you were a virgin and weren't ready to "go all the way." It generally led to orgasm by at least one of the participants.

It's also basically what dogs do to your leg. Which is what I think of anytime I see people grinding.

But as sparklemotion said, what matters is how you feel about it.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:58 AM on January 9, 2017 [5 favorites]

Grinding as part of dancing is not the same as dry humping. The former, you do with other people around who are also dancing; it's a not uncommon way to dance. If you're alone, making out with/touching someone and grinding up against them, that's a sexual thing because it's occurring as part of sexual contact (even if it doesn't lead to sex). Context matters.
posted by quiet coyote at 11:15 AM on January 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

I think we really need more information here.

Grinding in dancing is really specific to the music, culture, ages and even sexual orientation.

I'm a pretty old lady but I go dancing quite a lot. At the club I usually go to that plays house, rock and alternative music, the grinding is pretty infrequent and mostly gay men with straight women - an obvious non-starter as a sexual match. My girlfriends will participate in this with the gay men, maybe befriend them or maybe never see them again. A few of these gay men become ongoing dance partners for my friends week after week. At this club, I expect no grinding to happen between people that are actually interested in each other, generally. A few PDAs and hookups will happen with some grinding but the culture at this club (older, whiter, hipster, feminist and gay) doesn't really encourage it.

When I go to the downtown clubs playing hiphop with a much younger crowd than I am, I always expect that I will be dealing with strange men grinding on me if I want it or not. It's normal and expected and just the way people dance. If you were trying to dance at a club like this and didn't know how to dance like everyone else, you would stick out. Maybe that's the situation and your friend was just trying to help you dance like the rest of the crowd.

I don't go to the salsa nights, and I know that is focused on real salsa dancing, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear that there's some variation of grinding going on there too.

So the music style, age and culture all matter. If you were at a square dance and your friend was grinding on you it's very different than if you were grinding to hip hop.

If this was a hiphop club, consider your friend was just trying to show you how to do what everyone else was doing. But if that wasn't what everyone else was doing, it might be something else.
posted by littlewater at 2:23 PM on January 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

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