Women, Terror and Tango

Just when you thought it might be safe as a woman to go back out on the street ...

... the #metoo movement was beginning to lose a little of its headline punch, a federal inquiry had been launched into the 2,000 plus missing or murdered aboriginal women, the esteemed president of the US had managed to avoid uttering anything grossly sexist in the past few weeks ...

... we get this drive-through murder in downtown Toronto. 23 people, (10 dead, 13 injured), mostly women, mowed down by a lonely, frustrated young man who couldn’t get laid and wanted to make random women (some men) pay.


Where do these crazy people come from?

It’s out there.

Living and working in the inner city, I see violence against women all the time. Women, prostitutes, working the streets in the most appalling of conditions, strung out on drugs, used and abused by pimps and Johns alike.  For better or worse, my wife and I chose to live in a neighbourhood where we can’t pretend that women are not regularly treated as sex objects or chattel.

It does wear one down to not be able to ignore this depraved reality, day in and day out.


My antidote is Tango.

“What?” you are quick to quip. “Tango is the most sexually exploitative dance out there!”

That is staged performances, not social dancing. Often deeply offensive, agreed. The differences between social and stage tango, although they may be subtle or not immediately apparent, run deep.

This is my point, (not necessarily anyone else’s). As a male in this overly sexualized society I need a place to practice other-sex engagement in a safe, social, non-sexualized context.


Tango is play-acting.

It is practicing real-life relational skills in a pretend environment: a light level of emotional and physical connection simulated within the social constructs of the dance. There are no risks or hangovers of getting seriously up close and personal.  

This all gets played out on the dance floor. It begins with a close embrace which is comforting, supportive, and - not to lie - sometimes titillating. But consider this: If you spent three minutes in someone’s arms in any other context it would lead to serious consequences. Not here. We get to experience that whole dynamic of what it feels like to be supported, respected, listened to, attended to, and then dust it off and walk away to get a coffee.

As a man, I get to practice what it feels like to lead without being a bully, what is means to invite a response rather than force compliance, when sensuality does not mean sex, what consent feels like in my body and my partner’s, and how to be mindful of the shared dynamic of co-creating a dance rather than of any personal agenda.

All vital socializing skills in a society that often opts for pornography as a substitute for consensual sex, accepts violence as a valid form of social engagement, and abhors the vulnerability and mutuality that is essential for deep intimacy.


If more people danced, I am convinced it would soon be safe to go back on the streets again.