Nightmare on Prom Street

Should the high school prom be renamed the high school porno? They call it “grinding” or “freak dancing” when students grind their pelvises into each other to the beat of sexually explicit music, sometimes in chains of three or four or more. This kind of dancing is so commonplace with high school students that some parents and cultural writers are suggesting all attempts at school dancing decorum should be abandoned.

In The Washington Post, reporter Laura Sessions Stepp recently tried to talk herself and her readership into finding a different war to fight, since dancing regulations only spur a debate with students that “we” are losing. Stepp bizarrely tried to suggest there was really “no evidence” that simulating sex on the dance floor for hours leads to sexual activity eventually. Is this woman serious?

Unfortunately yes, and she wasn't done. Stepp went further, mocking the high-school dances of her generation, when dancing was so individualistic, girls loved to dance, but boys hung out on the sidelines for fear of embarrassment. She theorized “At least grinding attracts both sexes onto the dance floor.” She then quoted a young male: “Men like to dance, and women like to have sex. But neither are [sic] supposed to show it. Grinding allows them to do what they like in a socially acceptable way.”

One principal in West Virginia professed amazement with this entire conversation: “Who would disagree with a principal asking kids not to simulate anal sex on the dance floor?”

The freak-dancing wars are a symptom of a larger disease. In too many schools, parents and principals and chaperones are letting the inmates run the asylum. What should be a strict, clean, carefully observed behavior code is being challenged and ultimately rejected by students – spoiled punks – emboldened enough to defy and intimidate the adults who would enforce those codes. What's left is a tacky event where teenagers dress in expensive tuxedoes and gowns and dance like they weren't wearing any clothes at all.

On the Web site Slate a few years ago, twentysomething author David Amsden attended a prom in Rockville, Maryland as a journalist to observe the modern customs. It wasn't pretty. “Most, however, are dancing in a style you could call Rap Video Imitation Gone Wrong: the girls back into the boys, who proceed to lift up the girls' dresses in a way they apparently think is subtle, but in reality is anything but. Then they try, and fail, to move to the beat.” One girl's dress was hiked up so far the author could see her bellybutton ring.

In many schools, the administration has required students attending the prom (and often their parents) to sign a contract agreeing to refrain from grinding, bumping, humping and other forms of high-contact sex dancing. Imagine being a parent reviewing forms which insist on “space between the sexual organs...Whether it is pelvis-to-pelvis dancing or butt-to-pelvis dancing or sandwiching or a grinding chain.”

Stop the world. I want to get off. A contract? A contract is a legal understanding negotiated by equals. Since when does this formula apply in the teacher-student, or parent-child relationship? And while the good principal from West Virginia cited above was understandably and correctly shocked, his response betrays an astonishing weakness. Since when do principals ask their students not to simulate anal sex in public dances?

I simply refuse to believe that a school principal cannot issue a mandate – yes, a mandate – declaring that any student participating in this kind of behavior would summarily be dismissed from school. Period. Ah, but you can hear the Wobble-Knees already. What, specifically, is this kind of behavior? How do we distinguish between sexy dancing and sexual dancing? How do we know it's indecent, never mind obscene? Are there regulations banning it? In not, who are we to impose our morality on others? The hand-wringing would be endless – embarrassingly, nauseatingly endless.

And you parents out there who condone this activity: You disgust me. If I were chaperoning one of these dances and a boy attempted to perform this kind of lewd activity on my teen-aged daughter, I'd have a solution. I wouldn't ask him please not to simulate anal sex on her. I wouldn't refer him to the contract he signed at school. I'd beat the stuffing out of him.

Fuddy-duddy me.

L. Brent Bozell III is President of the Media Research Center.