Personal Space

...or Guys who grope...and the women who have to dance with them!

One of the interesting benefits of running DanceNet is that I get to meet a lot of different and interesting people, particularly the women since I'm a "leader" and rarely dance with guys. Because I have this public forum for talking about my views on the dance scene and hopefully because I'm not doing what these women are complaining about, I get to hear some interesting (though sometimes discouraging) stories about things that bother the women while they dance with [other] guys in the dance community.

Have you had someone get too friendly with you? Are you someone who ignores personal boundaries? This article was written with you in mind.

Benson Wong
May 3, 1998

One of my friends came back from a dance completely outraged at some of the men at a recent dance because she felt like several of the guys "groped" her while dancing. She said that there were "a lot of sleazy guys" there. This is not a unique story, as I have heard similar stories from other women over the years...

Horror stories from some of the ladies:

Every women has her own personal space which she does not want violated. An acceptance to an invitation to dance is not permission to feel or grope your partner (I can't believe I even have to say what is obviously common sense, though I suppose "common sense" is really an oxymoron and not that common). Some women *might* prefer a closer dancing position, but it's the woman's decision to allow the closeness, not the man's. Also, one person's (a man's, for instance) thoughts on what constitutes "groping" or just "part of the dance" may very well differ from that of another person's view (the woman's, for example). It's the woman's/follower's opinion that's important here.

At least one woman indicated that she was less upset about the incident itself than the attitude (see above) that "because this is dancing, it's okay." When a woman accepts a dance, she pretty much agrees to let him touch her back, hands and arms; that's it. The rest of her is reserved for people whom she might know better, and even then, the other person should know her limits and obey them.

"...but hey! I saw those competitors at that championship do that move!"
Right. Perhaps those people did get a little risque on purpose to catch your attention while performing or competing; however, they are couples who have practiced those moves with each other and agreed that it's okay. It's not an approval for leaders to do these moves with strangers. Some of these moves might be funny or amusing, but only when there's an appropriate rapport between the dance partners. And one more thing, when you see performers do these touchy-feely moves, are they really touching or are they pretending to?

Some minor suggestions to keep you out of trouble:

Perhaps it was the tone of the dance? The incident that provoked this article/editorial happened in a place where West Coast Swing is very popular. West Coast Swing has been touted as a very "sexy" or "sensuous" dance and some guys who flunked English in high school probably translated that to mean "sexual". No, it wasn't the dance because this happens in other dances. Don't try to deny it because I dance in different dance circles and I hear the same horror stories. If you ever get into these uncomfortable situations, talk to your dance teacher about how to dance "defensively"...and don't dance with that particular partner again.

It's outrageous that some guys will treat their partners, particularly strangers, this way. If nothing else, it'll give the followers a bad taste and they just might find other activities to do where their personal space wasn't violated. It also hurts the dancing of the nicer leaders because their partners spend their time "protecting" themselves instead of enjoying the dance.

What would be a good rule to follow? Okay, how about this? Would you pull that move if you were dancing with your mother? :-P

PS: If you found this article interesting, you might want to read my other article which covers many other issues from the dance floor.

This article does not attempt to solve the situations that pop up in social arenas that can cause emotional distress when dealing with other people on the dance floor. For solutions to those problems, you will have to consult The Dancing Graces (who, for your information, is certainly *not* me); she is much more eloquent and polite (and prettier) than I am.

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Copyright © Benson Wong, 1998. All rights reserved by the author. This article are intended for the reading pleasure of the DanceNet On The Web readers. Duplication or use in any other medium, including but not limited to print publication, another web site, or downloading to a storage medium on CD, floppy disk, hard drive, zip drive, or tape, without the written permission of the author is prohibited.

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