No Freaking Way

As the holiday season comes upon us, and Catholic teenagers everywhere prepare for their high school dances — searching for the perfect gowns, tuxedos, and corsages, and pondering how, whether, and when to find a date — the subject of freak dancing will not likely come up. While some high schools have implemented policies that prohibit, or at least impede, this 21st-century dirty dance, many resist talking about it. It is, well, indelicate — a rather stark contrast to the crepe-paper decorations and twinkling lights that grace these events.

But freak dancing at Catholic high school events, both on and off property, should be talked about. Sweaty and smutty as it is, freak dancing offers a basic 101 exercise in the theology of the body. Be forewarned: The subject here is not for the faint of heart. Freak dancing is to dancing what pornography is to classic literature. The following may be graphic, and the links certainly are, but this material runs through the mainstream culture like the Ohio River runs through Cincinnati. Nothing here would remotely surprise most teenagers or their educators.

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First, a working definition of freak dancing: “Freak dancing (or grinding) is when two or more dancers rub together to music in a suggestive sexual manner. You can think of it like dry humping, where no actual intercourse takes place, but partners and groups simulate sexual acts and positions. Freak dancing has also been referred to as juking, houseing, freaking, bubbling, dirty dancing, bump and grind, and crunking (in the UK).” Male freaking can result in orgasm, while both partners can use the cover of a crowd to grasp each other’s most private body parts. Sexual movement and arousal define freak dancing, more than the music — which can be hard metal, R&B, rap… or the Beatles.

A common first reaction I receive when describing this “dance” to others is this: “Oh, yes, I’ve heard of that being done at adult dance clubs. But it’s nothing that would happen at Catholic schools.”

By way of response, I offer the following true story. Our daughter, then a sophomore at St. Ignatius — the Bay-area Jesuit high school of choice — advised us that she was attending a dance at the local Fairmont hotel that would include select girls from St. Ignatius, Convent of the Sacred Heart, and specially invited boys. We gave our permission, even as parental caution lights blinked red. We decided to drop in at the party and, with effort to overcome our disbelief, found it listed on the hotel marquee as “Hoes and CEOs.”

When we attempted to enter the room, a host said to us, “Oh you can’t go in there. The children don’t like to be interrupted while they are dancing.” My husband pushed pass this “adult” and threw open the door, while children scattered like cockroaches into the dark perimeter of the room. One young man was too preoccupied to move, grinding against the bent-over buttocks of his partner, who was cheerfully flinging her arms to the beat of the music while he kept hold of her hips. Our daughter emerged from the darkness, shoes in hand, and followed us silently back to the car.

We were able to discuss freak dancing only days later. By then, I had already heard from another mother who found tears and pulls on her daughter’s expensive silk dress after a formal event. She investigated and determined that the damage coincided with the area where the boy’s pant zipper would meet the girl’s “lovely hump.”

Is “freak dancing” prohibited at Catholic high schools?
Many have policies prohibiting the practice both on and off campus. But enforcement is another issue. And here — if you’ll forgive the pun — is the rub.

It is not enough to say, “Don’t do it.” That’s simply a rule that, while easy to announce, is impossible to enforce, as sexually anxious kids cluster and protect each other from adult eyes. Policing turns educators into agents of disdain and opposition. They cannot be realistically expected to break apart every clothed copulation on the dance floor. In off-site dance parties, without the benefit of paid personnel, parents often opt to bar the door and merely warn that “the children don’t like to be interrupted,” with the sneer of the feckless co-conspirator. Well, yeah — I don’t like to be interrupted either, thank you.
We need education within the Catholic community — for teenagers, parents, and administrators — in Theology of the Body 101. With freak dancing, young teens (and sometimes preteens) are literally practicing the objectification of the opposite sex for gratification. Parents and administrators alike must face this reality and speak openly, honestly, and directly about the problem. We have assemblies and extracurricular activities to warn about the dangers of drugs, alcohol, and driving irresponsibly; to foster tolerance based on race, sexual orientation, and religion; and to encourage social service to the poor and disadvantaged. Now, these young people — and their parents — need a lesson about sexual objectification, gender dignity, and yes, freak dancing.
Does this politically unpopular theological exercise warrant imposing demands on our Catholic high schools and diocesan education departments? I think so. I shared my concerns with a school administrator, who immediately assembled a team in his high school to address the issue. A refueled prohibition and enforcement strategy followed: This time, the school president addressed the student body frankly and directly during a school assembly before an upcoming dance to explain proper dancing, as well as the consequences if students violated boundaries.
“We need parent support like this,” the administrator told me, “so that we can deal directly with what we already know is the unacceptable use of dance to simulate sex.”
Time for the adults to step up and demand, “No freaking way.”


  • Marjorie Campbell

    Marjorie Campbell is an attorney and speaker on social issues from a Catholic perspective. She lives in San Francisco with her family and writes a regular column, “On the Way to the Kingdom,” for Catholic Womanhood at CNA.

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