When Alec Trebek, the elder statesman of TV quiz shows, throws up his hands in befuddlement, you know you are into “double jeopardy” territory. He commented to his staff: “When the #MeToo movement started, ... I said My gosh, this has got to be a scary time for men.”
To be fair to Alec, he was referring to the dating habits of hormonally-charged young men and who understands that? The focus of #metoo is not primarily on what goes on between teenagers in the back seat of cars. It is the sexual bullying by adult men in boardrooms and back offices.
Now women are pushing back and men are scared. And not just TV celebrities and Movie Moguls and politicians; normal, decent guys (my friends) have seemingly gone into freeze mode around women. Comments surface around coffee breaks: “I just keep my distance,” or “I don’t know how to act around women now,” or ‘If I give someone a hug will I get sued?”
Let’s clear through some of this paranoia. There are three elements when taken together, which would identify conduct as sexual assault or harassment.
Physical contact with sexual intent.
Lack of consent.
Imbalance of power.
Obviously there is not issue with adults engaged in consensual sexual activity, but there is when consent is lacking or is compromised by a power imbalance.
Tango and #MeToo
Allow me to shift my attention to the dance floor, (as I always do), as I have found Tango to be an excellent laboratory for exploring relational dynamics of many stripes.
To begin, I am not suggesting that the dance floor is an appropriate place for any type of sexual expression, (although this is the image presented in much Tango stage dancing). I am suggesting that it is a venue by which we can explore relational dynamics in a manner that allows us to unlearn anti-social or abusive habits and scripting, and replace them with behaviours that support healthy non-sexualized connection.
Let’s begin by relating the identifiers of sexual harassment mentioned above (sexualized physical contact, absence of consent and imbalance of power) to the salient qualities of the Tango, namely:
close physical contact without sexual intent.
consent as a prerequisite for every move/ step/ positioning.
Every one of these attributes of Tango have been a channel of depth learning for me. I will explore this process in more detail in the blogs to come. Keep in touch.