Sunday, November 30, 2014

All She Wants to Do is Dance

“Ban the one-night stand.”

This was the conclusion of one of my friends, half an hour into our discussion on the Rolling Stone expose on the problem of sexual assault on the University of Virginia campus, a piece so scathing and disturbing that the UVA administration is still scrambling to figure out how to properly manage the crisis. It was a piece of old school seismic journalism.

One of the haunting illustrations from the Rolling Stone
longread, "A Rape on Campus," that has left an entire
campus -- and possibly a way of college life -- reeling
for answers.
A critical mass of people (including me) have awakened to realize that whatever problem exists goes well beyond one school or a handful of colleges and most certainly cannot be dismissed as being overblown. Hell, even if the numbers are fudged and the estimates too high, the problem is still bigger than we want to believe. If the estimates are accurate… then God help us if we continue to not care.

This isn't about protecting the sanctity and #Murca-ness of Greek Life, or the right to hook up in dance clubs, or the freedom to heavily pet a relative stranger. It's the cold, shameful, enraging reality of a group of young men violating an unwilling female for shits and giggles. At best it's a Milgram experiment gone wrong. At worst it's the reminder that we continue to believe the Nazis weren't like us.

Three 40-something men, all of us the parents of daughters and sons, none of us fraternity brothers, all of us relatively (but not entirely) chaste in our college years, and the best solution we can think of to the problem of rape and sexual assaults on college campuses is to ban one night stands entirely? Is the only way to get past the problems of male sexual predators on our college campus to transport our mores back to the Victorian era?

Of course such a rule, ludicrous and unenforceable, would not eradicate the problem of rape and sexual assault on college campuses.

Interestingly, would the people who got most upset about such a ban be young men... or women?

Twice during my reunion weekend I found myself in the middle of a jam-packed dance floor, because I freakin' love to dance. I was stunned at how much more aggressive men have become on dance floors. It’s not like dudes in the ‘90s were coy or stand-offish by any means. Dudes in the ‘90s could invite themselves into direct physical contact with girls on the dance floor without hesitation. But lately the guys seem almost angrily aggressive, as if they weren’t so much interested in attracting sexual interest as they were in staking some claim. Territorial. Wolfpackish. Pissing on trees.

There I was, quietly uttering “Sorry” every time my body in any way made contact with a young woman’s, hyper-paranoid that she might take it the wrong way, while young guys, drunk off Fireballs and Red Bulls and their own immortality, would grab girls with their meat hooks and pull them forcefully backwards into their awaiting crotches. On most of these occasions, the girls would shout expletives, or shove them away, or both. Several times two or three girls would do it together. Once it turned into a minor altercation when a girl hit a guy.

The girls didn't look like they were having much fun. It looked like they were whistling past a graveyard.

Yet they kept dancing. The floor remained packed, wall to wall, with gyrating humans willing to ignore or overlook the aggression and the bad apples for the right to keep on dancin’. And trust me, everyone knows there is no dance floor without the dancing femmes.

Are there no rules or laws on a dance floor? If a woman has chosen to place her body amidst a mass of others, does that make her fair game? Is pushing your hips into a woman’s body OK so long as the beat is kickin'? Is grabbing someone and pulling her into you fine so long as you let go if she says no?

When I was in Nashville and enjoyed a Monday night at The 5 Spot, which is like walking into some excerpt from Grease Meets Swingers, what I noticed, apart from the jaw-droppingly mesmerizing dancing, was how everyone politely asked others to dance. They asked. They held out a hand and waited for a hand in return as a sign of acceptance.

The problem isn’t sex on the first (or zero’th) date. And it’s not gropers on the dance floor. It’s about attitudes, entitlement, the horny hunger for power or dominance or relevance. But isn’t it possible that removing the possibility of finding Mr. Goodbar, of manhandling someone just ‘cuz you feel like it, might be important steps toward changing those attitudes?

Isn’t it pretty to think so?

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