I’ve seen many posts in kizomba and other dances closer to the culture of origin of a particular social dance proclaiming their dance as “not sexual dances but family dances”. I feel these type of posts overlook the natural, beautiful, normal, respectful, and consensual expressions of the human experience in regards to attraction and sexuality. I also don't feel these posts add any value to the future of the social dance scene, or target the actual problem these posts are trying to address and fix.
There was a post I saw that stated, “Kizomba Fact: If you can’t dance it with your daughter or grandmother, it’s NOT Kizomba.” The fact that the post used the words daughter and grandmother logically means that sex was involved in the situation. The grandmother was once a single woman who had sex and then had a child, and in order to become a grandmother, her daughter had to have sex and have another child. HUMAN FACT: You cannot create a biological family as a homo sapiens without having sex.
I feel it’s also interesting to point out that the inverse of this language isn’t talked about with the gender reversed. We don’t see posts that say “If you can’t dance this dance with your son or grandfather, it’s not X dance.” Why? I feel a bit of old school patriarchal thinking in this language because it paints the picture that someone’s grandmother or daughter can’t be or is wrong to be sexually active. Patriarchy shames the sexuality of women.
A grandmother can have a close-framed dance with her teenage nephew and there’s nothing sexual about it. The same grandmother can dance a close-framed dance with her husband of 20+ years and there can also be nothing sexual about this dance. Since it can be assumed that she is sexually active with her husband, the connection, intention, and frame of mind are completely different in this scenario.
A father can have a daughter who is 12 and share a close-framed dance that is not sexual. A father can also share a dance with his daughter who is 30 years old and there is also nothing sexual. However, his 30 year old daughter is now of an age to be sexually active and maybe has a boyfriend with whom she can have a completely non-sexual dance OR a more sensual dance with that boyfriend, depending on the situation.
It is perfectly OK, normal, and possible to share a respectful, classy, elegant, and connected dance with another human being you are mutually attracted to and/or in a romantic relationship with that looks nothing like dry humping, yet is COMPLETELY different from a dance you would have with your grandmother or daughter. Both are realities, both can be valid forms of dancing kizomba or any close-framed social dance, and both are part of the human experience, in my opinion.
I think the intent of the post is attempting to communicate that kizomba is not inherently a sexy dance, however sex is inherently a part of most adult humans' lives and it's how we have amassed 8+ billion people on this planet, all through sex, pregnancies, and births!
So to use female family roles and the idea of a family to nullify the sexiness of a dance doesn’t exactly address the actual problem, and I also feel it implies shame towards sex which is a natural part of the human experience. A touch, a hug, being in a close frame for an extended period of time, are all expressions that should not be inherently sexual. Even nudity shouldn’t be inherently sexualized (the “danger” of civilization as we know it coming to a screeching halt over the exposed female nipple continues to violate community guidelines on our social media platforms today). I feel this is where we get closer to the core problem that exists.
I feel the core problem that “this is not a sexy dance, this a family dance” type posts are trying to address is the misperception that the hyper-sexualization of these dances creates. I mentioned earlier that patriarchy shames the sexuality of women, but capitalism sells and profits off of the sexuality of women. This is where the lived experience of women can be extremely frustrating being forced to navigate embracing their sexuality, slut shaming, menstruation, sexism, unwanted sexual attention and advances, rape, unrealistic beauty standards, ageism, and the list continues.
I feel men are also having a tough time learning about seeking proper consent, coercion, sexual misconduct, and male privilege while also navigating the fear of unintentionally being mislabeled as a creep, pedophile, or sexual predator. We live in a society where men are also victims of patriarchy in that their touch is immediately sexualized as potentially homosexual if they touch another man or as potentially predatory/harrassment if it’s a woman. Most men do not have healthy outlets of platonic touch outside the context of a romantic relationship, which leads to the sad statistic of men dying by suicide 3.53x more often than women. (I wrote a blog and recorded a podcast adjacent to this topic.)
Since touch and maintaining a close embrace is unfortunately sexualized and also marketed as such, in combination with a lack of general maturity around touch, connection, sensuality, sexuality, and consent; the result is lots of misperceptions that kizomba or close-framed dances are inherently sexy dances. This manifests with mostly men who have the wrong idea about these dances engaging in inappropriate behaviour on the dance floor that includes but is not limited to: groping on the dance floor, putting hands in inappropriate places without consent, making unwanted sexual comments and advances, even forcing a woman to dance in close-frame while grinding non-consensually with a full erection.
I do want to take a moment here and make two points before I continue. Firstly, there is nothing inherently inappropriate about actions I listed above, what makes them inappropriate is the non-consensual breach of boundaries and unwanted sexualization. If two people are mutually attracted to one another, have shared sexual reciprocity, and both consent and are fine expressing that connection on the dance floor publicly or in a video on social media, then by all means enjoy your life! But this does not define the essence of the dance or the culture where these dances come from. Secondly, it is 100% possible for a woman to behave inappropriately and breach consent and give unwanted sexual energy towards another woman or man.
I can definitely understand the annoyance and frustration of having to be subjected to misinformed people bringing unwanted sexual energy into a dance, as well as those who are culturally invested in a social dance having to witness misinformed individuals using sex to market and promote a dance they grew up dancing with their families and loved ones. It is an unfortunate reality we are facing.
How can we educate newcomers (and even those of us who’ve been around a while) into these close-framed dances about the nuances of consent and the richness of the cultural histories without shaming human connection, touch, attraction, sensuality, or sexuality? That is a difficult question to answer. I hope this blog is a step in the direction of answering that question.
If I shared anything that was inaccurate, missed an important point, or you know of another resource that would fit it well with this discussion, please reach out to me directly and we will discuss it and I’ll update this blog if need be. I will also share some related content I have created and other useful resources below.
I appreciate you taking the time to read this blog. Hopefully this will help in navigating and shaping our social dance communities globally to be safer and more inclusive, while also honoring the cultural histories these dances came from.
I am very passionate about creating intellectual dance content in general around various topics in our dance community, here are some pieces of content I’ve created adjacent to this topic as well as other resources:
- Is this the sexiest dance ever? - BBC Africa
- Amazing kids dancing semba in Angola
- Explore Angola: Kizomba music helps renew Angola's cultural identity
- Example of Kizomba & Tarraxinha by Oncle Kani & Black Cherry
- 009: Interview with Kwenda Lima
- 040: How Dance Challenges Our Ideas Of Male Platonic Touch In Our Society?
- 054: Interview with Lucia Nogueira
- 056: Interview with Ricardo & Paola of Afro-Latin Connection
- 068: Creating Safer Spaces in Our Dance Community with Kate Meier
- 071: Consent Basics For Dancers with Caitlin Ferguson
- 073: History of Women in Kizomba | Women in Kizomba Series: Part 1 | Featured Guest: Julz Tremblay
- 087: What Do The Origins Of Our Most Popular Partner Dances In The World Have In Common?
- 099: Discussing Patriarchy | Women in Kizomba Series: Part 2 | Featured Guest: Julz Tremblay
- 103: Traveling To Dance Kizomba In Angola with Carolyn McPherson
- From Touch Scarcity to Touch Abundance by Charles Ogar
- Thoughts On The “This Is Not A Sexy Dance, This Is A Family Dance” Argument