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November 10, 2004


La Lubu

You know, if you had gone in there like gangbusters, declaring war on 'freaking', setting up strict 'no contact' rules, your youth group would have been in an uproar, been very defensive, and possibly there would have been fewer teens at the next dance. But by talking, and letting them take the lead, you got results. Hey, since they're listening to rap anyway, maybe you ought to encourage more breakdancing....y'know, old school breaking and poplocking and stuff.

By the way, how the hell does one dance to "Wheel in the Sky"?!!?!! Interpretive dance?


Hugo, we danced like that when I was in high school, and we aren't so far apart in age. *snicker* We even had a version called the sandwich. Hip hop was in ascendance when I was a teenager, though. Personally, I hated dancing like that because I'm no good at it. I was grateful when rave culture finally went mainstream and you could dance like a space cadet instead.

Remember, the waltz was once considered daringly sexual because dancers actually touched each other.


Having witnessed the same thing at public school dances, it worries me too. You will even see girls freak with each other to get the attention of the guys. I have to admit, that one time I just cracked up, when I saw a little papi being freaked from both sides by girls both a foot taller than he...

I think you're right about the social pressure. That is the way to dance now...It's great that you got the kids to talk about it.


At my high-school graduation party, which was about a year after the movie Dirty Dancing came out, the actually hired a couple to come and give us a lesson in it. I guess that's a measure of how liberal my high school was. But generally at school dances we didn't touch except for slow dances. I don't know if it was actually forbidden, or if it just hadn't caught on yet.


I understand that what is "indecent" is a moving target. I also am reluctant to embrace the conservative's "slippery slope" argument, that says that if this sort of thing continues, our kids will be fornicating on the floor next. What I am concerned about is mostly the vaguely coercive aspect of the whole thing -- you need to permit others to touch you (or try and touch others) in order to be cool; that can leave more than a few young folks feeling overwhelmed -- and possibly violated.

One of the purposes of dancing is to take erotic excitement and sublimate it into something lighthearted, pleasurable, and safe. Freaking may be all of those things for some kids -- but not for others.

And I can't remember how I danced to "Wheel in the Sky." Probably, the way I danced to everything -- moving my arms about in an approximation of a middle-distance runner, while alternately shifting my weight from right to left foot and periodically bringing my feet together.
I was no doubt painful to watch.

But I also remember dancing to "Stairway to Heaven" -- which was played at every dance I EVER went to. Of course, it has "fast" parts and "slow" parts, and you would alternately glom on to your partner and bounce vigorously in their general proximity. Even now, when I hear it on the radio, I can visualize which parts are for hugging and rocking and which parts are for gyrating.


i have a big problem with "freaking" too...in fact, i've always had a problem with it, and i'm 19! so, i can completely understand why you would be appalled to see something like that. it is the main reason why i enjoyed NONE of my high school dances, why i HATED senior prom, and why i don't go clubbing. having some guy feel on you while dancing is just so distasteful. i think dancing has gotten way, way too sexual.


It is a shame that it's coercive, but I don't really see a way out of that. Teenagers exert pressure on each other all the time for everything. The kids that are fine with the freaking might not be fine with something else, but since that something else isn't sexualized you may never find out about it in order to counsel them.

I found boring old slow dancing, where your partner could smell your neck, much more erotic as a teenager. It makes me blush now to think about it.


Oh heavens, Amanda, that brought back memories. My first slow dance! 1980. I don't remember her name, she was a brunette with feathered hair -- and her hair smelled terrific. I can remember the scent.

Oh, the song? "Babe" by Styx. I think it had just come out. I still adore that song too.


The hyperaggressiveness of freaking, or at least people who want to freak while you're just trying to dance, is a reason I don't go to dance clubs anymore unless I go to gay clubs.

I'm fine with freaking with gay men because I know they're not going to be getting ideas about my dancing with them being a permission slip for aggressive sexual behavior. In that context, it's fun. But I had one too many encounters with straight guys who thought they could feel me up and kiss me and follow me to the bathroom just because we're dancing together. I even left my coat in a club once because I had an opportunity to bolt out the back door to ditch one guy. These were invariably guys quite a bit younger than I.


Hugo, I would pay good money to see you dance to "wheel in the sky" ;P

As for freaking, with all that bumping and grinding, you'd think the boys (being teenagers and all) would get, erm...excited. Which in my school dance days, would have been mortifying. Perhaps times have changed...


La Lubu, I don't care much for most forms of 80's nostalgia, but a breakdancing revival would be glorious.

This discussion of freakdancing makes me realize just how far removed from youth culture I am. I'm on the younger side of 30 and I've never seen or heard anything of it. And yes, it does cause some stirrings in the deep slumber of my inner conservative (in addition, it seems really unpleasant and uncomfortable to have to watch, especially as an adult. Ugh.)


I think that the problem with the 'freaking' norm isn't that it's any more coercive than any other norm, but that the norms are being set by the most sexually aggressive teenagers. I think it's perfectly fine for Hugo to step in a create a more 'grown up' norm. If the adults don't take charge then the kids are left under the petty dictators of the social cliques.


I had one too many encounters with straight guys who thought they could feel me up and kiss me and follow me to the bathroom just because we're dancing together.

Thank you Zuzu. This weekend after refusing to go clubbing with a friend for that reason, we went to this guy's house where exactly that ended up happening. I'm with you on saving freak dancing for gay clubs.


Gosh, Amy and zuzu, I think I need to post about my days going to gay clubs... ;-)

Kelly: If required for a fundraiser of some sort, I'd do it in the PCC quad.


Well, Hugo, unless you were going to dyke bars, the experience would be a weeeee bit different. ;)


Wow, Hugo, nicely handled.

And as somebody who's done 'freaking' (as an adult, with a consenting partner), the kids who tell you it's not sexual are, well, lying. It's dry-humping to music. That's why we did it.

John Sloas

A fun read, Hugo. I haven't worked with teenagers in over two years. I don't miss being in charge of a "youth group" but I do miss the kids. It keeps you young and bewildered all at the same time. Having the "code" come from the kids...brilliant. Keep up the good and honorable work.


Agreed that those suggesting it's not sexual are lying - I remember slow dancing (especially my first slow dance) as been a hugely sensual experience, and most of that was in the imagination. Thinking back into the mind of the pre-teen and early-teen me, and imagining someone grinding into me in that way, it would have been perceived pretty much the same as having actual sex!

If the boys are somehow managing to convince the girls to do it on the pretext that it's 'just dancing' then there's definitely coercion going on and your way of dealing with it was sublime - Way better than I'd have managed in my days as a church youth worker!


You know, I wouldn't be caught "freakin" in public even with my husband, with whom, obviously, I am sexually intimate. There is no doubt that it is sexual -- but it's almost like listening to adolescents cursing it's not the same as when adults do it -- is it intended to shock, to intimidate, to actually pressure girls into having sex -- or as a vicarious sexual release? I don't know, but it makes me want to send them all to an Arthur Murray class, where you actually have to know some steps to be presentable on the dance floor. Anyone can f*ck.


"Stairway to Heaven" was the standard last slow song at United Synagogue Youth dances when I was in high school--and I'm 23! Clearly we weren't very hip, either, although freaking may have made it into USY circles by now I suppose.

A sort-of related question: do church youth groups serve the same dating function as synagogue-related social organizations for teenagers? Even as teenagers, there was always a sense that one of the de facto purposes of youth group was to introduce us to nice Jewish potential dates from other schools or cities.


When I was a teenager, I never felt pressured to take "freaking" to any other level--I would dance with various guy friends, not just boyfriends, that way.

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