Requiem for the Slow Dance

A few years ago I attended a dance at my college. I had graduated the previous year, but was still close to many of the people I had met that year. I ended up slow dancing with a freshman, and as we danced and talked, I noticed that we were dancing to was My Immortal, by Evanescence.

Now, I think that this is a beautiful song, but is this an appropriate slow dance song? I think not. He agreed with me.

It was then that I noticed that slow dance songs, as I knew them growing up, have disappeared.

The closest ones I can think of in the past few years was Take A Bow, which has the right sound, but the lyrics are all wrong,

and A Thousand Years by Christina Perry. It’s a great song, though sadly it’s about Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 1. Terrible, another great song wasted on a shitty movie.

Permit me to wax poetic for a minute for the great slow dance songs from the 80’s and 90’s.

I’m talking about songs like this, Dreaming of You by Selena. I am convinced that I still remember the first time I heard this song on the radio. I fell in love with this song. It was true love, and true love lasts forever. This song was also the theme for Homecoming my senior year.

I also have to mention I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston. Great slow dance song by an amazing singer who is sadly no longer with us. It’s such a shame.

This song is actually not about love, but it is an amazing slow dance song. It’s Hero, by Mariah Carey.

This is just a sampling.

I have been planning on posting this for a while because I realized that it’s not simply the lack of slow dance songs that I miss. It’s this subtle, but real, shift that seems to have taken place in America. I spent some time teaching in an urban school district, and I was telling my mom that I had to discipline some boys for singing Push It and dancing in a sexually suggestive manner. (These were first graders.) I told my mom that and she was shocked and upset. I told her what bothered me was not the fact that the children were essentially hypersexualized, or at least sexually aware beyond their years. What really bothered me was the subtext in the culture that the sex was in an aggressive and even violent context. It’s not that sex is linked to violence. It’s that the sexual act is viewed and portrayed as an act of violence against women. My mom’s friend, a retired teacher, told a story of a second grader who could not choose a book from a certain shelf, because whenever she went over there, one of the boys would jump her and start feeling her up. She avoided that shelf. She had to; she was scared.

It’s easy to blame this on rap culture, but it seems more pervasive than rap. A while ago I read a post on another blog about an instructor at the University of Notre Dame who hosted a discussion in her theology class about sexism at the University of Notre Dame. The students started shouting about their experiences in the dorms, and one student told a particularly chilling anecdote in her writing.

In speaking about male dorms, Sarah writes, “A few months into my freshman year, one of my guy friends laughed as he repeated a quote said by his Resident Assistant at his first section meeting: ‘Men, this semester, I want us all to have a good time. We’re gonna get fucked up. We’re gonna slay bitches.’”

Here’s the whole post in case you’d like to read it.
On the Rage of Women WIT

I heard a similar remark on the radio back in April. A woman repeated an anecdote from Yale, where a bunch of boys walked through the campus one evening chanting, “No means yes! Yes means anal!”

I worry about kids today. I know that sounds old fashioned and silly, but I worry about kids who have grown up with this kind of attitude, especially girls. How many boys have been socialized to view women as sex as an act of violence against women, and they must victimize as many women as possible in order to become men? How many girls have been socialized to believe that, in terms of sexual relationships, they are victims, and yet they have an obligation to allow men to victimize them so that the men can become men? How many boys and girls are socialized to believe that the only possible relationship between a man and a woman is an aggressive, violent relationship where the man exploits the woman? How many of them grew up with the attitudes expressed in this song?

It’s a very different song than 2 Become 1 by the Spice Girls, which, though is also about sex, could not be more different than Shake That by Eminem and Nate Dogg. (I chose the Spice Girls song deliberately because many commentators on Youtube talk about how they listened to that song as children before they knew what it meant. But there is no violence in the song, and the women are not victimized by the relationship.)

There’s not really anything I can do to change this. It just makes me very sad, and it makes me miss the slow dance songs of my childhood and youth.

Slow dance songs may have come to the end of the road, but I can’t let them go. (End of the Road Backstreet Boys)

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