Being a young woman these days comes with a lot of body policing and varied opinions on how women should behave. It’s fair to say that when looking at a young woman in the space for dancing, there are certain “things” that she might do which might entice young men towards her, for example, whine. A classic scenario of this: a young woman is dancing or whining to dancehall, (a type of music genre that permits whining to happen) and a young man, who believes that he is entitled to come and grind against her, does so, often without any consent.
Before I launch into the issue at hand, there are a few things that must be broken down so you can fully understand what this issue is. The term “whining” refers to a provocative dance that usually involves a woman gyrating and grinding with/without a man to a dancehall music. This dance often occurs in clubs in Afro-Caribbean community across the African diaspora around the world. As a provocative dance, it can provide a space to be free with your own sexuality in terms of how you dance and what you might wear. However, this sexual freedom is marred by the experience of young men feel a sense of entitlement to dance with you without consent and this is concerning.
Now, there are two ways that this can pan out: the young woman consents by equally grinding against him or pushes him off. In both scenarios, the young man still feels a sense of entitlement and here’s where the problem arises. We always talk about how we can educate women on how to dress and behave in spaces such as clubs and parties, effectively trying to police the way women need to behave and dress by society’s standards. However, we tend to neglect the fact that we also need to educate men on self-control and respect for women when it comes to dancing.
Looking back at the scenario I presented, lets say that the young woman chooses to accept the young man’s invitation to dance provocatively, and after they have finished dancing, the young man might assume that the young woman is interested in sex, but she’s not and she tells him that they were just dancing to the songs. This might lead to the young man becoming furious and responding by calling her a “bitch” for “leading him on” and making out that they could have sex later. Equally, if the young woman makes it clear that she doesn’t want to dance with him, the same outburst of calling her a “bitch” might occur as well.
Self-control is an issue that seems to pertain mostly to women as they grow up, with lines such as: “don’t wear that, men will get the wrong idea,” “dancing like that will send the wrong message” and yet men will only be told that “boys will be boys.” Educating men on how to control themselves sexually is important and necessary not just for women, but themselves as well. My dad mentioned something that struck me the other day: “Men don’t think with their head, they think with down there.” It struck me because it was sadly true for some men, but it wasn’t unsurprising. What is also necessary is consent and how it must be applied heavily in this type of situations. Consent is needed to set a boundary on whether you allow or disallow them to dance with you. Also consent is flexible, so if you feel uncomfortable, you can change your mind.
Don’t get me wrong, whining and a varied amount of dancehall music carry sexual connotations. I have whined to the songs like lots of girls and it was fun. The issue that is problematic is the fact that some men believe that this form of dancing, is an invitation for sex and not just a form of dancing. Although, I know that some young women absolutely use it for that reason, it is essential that there is consent.
I know that not all men behave in this manner when it comes to whining, and it can be exciting to dance like that with a man who understands the boundaries. The point that I want to make is that any girl should be able to whine without having to deal with an insecure guy who feels entitled to her because of the way she dances. Also, some men need more self-control when around women. What’s important is that women have the ability to have fun in dance spaces safely, without any fear and discomfort.
Written by Tamara Mensah