Football, Tango and Domestic Violence

Congratulations to the CFL, sort of. Sure, they are part of the problem. But at least, on the eve of the Grey Cup, they are acknowledging the correlation between football, alcohol and domestic violence. Rolly Lumbala of the B.C. Lions is quoted in the Edmonton Journal, Nov 24: “Men need to teach our men how to behave and call out demeaning and sexist locker-room talk and to talk about consent.”  

Stats from Britain score the increase in domestic violence related to  football (soccer) matches between 25 to 50%, depending on whether your team wins or loses. Some of the blame goes to booze of course, which lowers inhibitions and dulls moral judgement. But the principal contributor is the violent nature of sports and the dysfunctional relational patterns that it reinforces.


The combative nature of football, i.e., beating on each other in a fight for domination, is a throwback to the most primal psychological states of survival. These are great attitudes when staring down a 300 pound offensive lineman (our modern version of hunting down a woolly mammoth) but not particularly suitable for cultivating an intimate, sensitive relationship at home.  

In sports there are winners and whiners and no one likes a whiner. Contact sports originated long before win-win solutions were conceived; one is victorious and the other defeated, one dominant the other submissive. There is  no room for more subtle, sophisticated appreciation of the esthetics of human interaction and cooperative and creative effort.

For many men, contact sports often provides the dominant model for interaction and physical contact with either sex. Men are taught to square off, lock their hips, be insensitive to pain, and show no consideration to the physical state of the “opposition,” (unless they are in fact trying to injure).

Carry this model to the bedroom.  When sex and intimacy follow the combat model the pleasure principle doesn’t stand a chance.

Which brings us to tango.

I believe that dance generally and tango specifically, is an effective corrective to the oppositional, polarized, sexualized nature of our society, and by extension to domestic violence. It teaches an entirely different model of relating, one which affirms cooperative and complementary effort. Both parties should leave the dance floor with a smile.

How so? Consider these points.

  1. No alcohol. OK a little, but too much dulls the senses and ruins the dance.

  2. Tango invokes the most complex relational dynamics, such as active listening. One must be as attentive to one’s partner’s moods and motions as one’s own.

  3. Tango is danced in supportive manner, rather than dominant manner, (Despite the caricature often reflected in performance dance). Slow is good. Slower is better.

  4. We learn to unlock our hips, soften into a gentle embrace and listen for the subtle nuances of how our partner is shifting weight or expressing responsiveness.

  5. There is no agenda other than engagement. It encourages the development of all the  attitudes such as vulnerability, sensitivity, respect, trust, attunement - essential to a healthy relationship.

  6. Esthetics is everything. There is no winning, no successful outcome, there is only process. We develop appreciation for beauty rather than power. It is a cooperative co-creative venture.

  7. There is no ego gratification, at least not much. No cup to take home, no money, no marauding fans, no honking horns or sirens or fireworks after you just finished a milonga.

These skills are so not going to win us the Grey Cup but they are quite likely to win us the affection of our significant other. You chose. While you are reflecting, maybe consider putting the beer bottle down and polishing off your dance shoes.