‘Grinding’ helps young women learn how to set limits

I’d like to bring a different perspective to the issue of dancing styles at Vashon High School. I graduated in June and am now at the University of Washington, living on-campus in Seattle. I’ve been following the debate about grinding whenever I’m home.

As a Vashon High student, I attended freshman Homecoming, senior prom and the many dances in between. I can say with confidence that my dancing at these events was not harmful to me on any level. Further, I believe the various dancing styles, including grinding, helped me become a more confident, assertive and responsible person, rather than the reverse.

I fully empathize with freshmen girls’ initial reaction of shock on attending their first high school dance, because I felt the same way. But having attended a party at a fraternity my second week at UW, I can assure you the situation only escalates after kids leave Vashon High School (VHS). Moreover, a party in college is a group of strangers, rather than lifelong friends, and has no parental supervision. I knowingly put myself in that situation, acted responsibly and returned safely, and I believe my experiences at VHS dances enabled me to do so.

I agree that grinding, by definition, puts the boy in a position of power, and I understand why parents have a problem with this being imposed upon their teenage daughters. However, like it or not, that power relationship re-occurs in many other situations, and it’s something I believe girls should know how to handle. It’s as simple as moving a guy’s hand when it feels uncomfortable, which I’ve done during high school dances. The ability to set my own boundaries allows me to feel safe in situations like a frat party, because I know I can protect myself if I need to.

But if your kids aren’t going to college parties, it’s not an issue, right? Well, many times I’ve been walking down University Way, a man has made a comment to me that falls under the category of unwanted sexual attention. Again, he is the one being aggressive toward me, yet I’m the one who has to deal with it. Those same boundary-setting skills help me feel less uncomfortable, think clearly and respond appropriately in these situations.

The majority of the time, grinding with my peers was a lot of fun. We respected each other and ourselves, and used the time as an opportunity to socialize the way we chose to. I don’t think that it should be taken lightly that most VHS students surveyed by Eli Hoyt said that grinding does not feel overly sexual to them. We should trust that high school students have enough self-knowledge to know what their comfort level is and report it honestly when asked. Personally, my best memories from dances are of dancing with my best friends. Whether or not it looked sexual to an observer, I can assure you it wasn’t.

However, when a guy does cross the line, firmly moving his hand is more than enough. Education doesn’t stop after fifth period, and while grinding may not be parents’ preferred means of education, learning how to react to situations that push boundaries while in a safe environment is (in my opinion) worth more than an A on a calculus test.

— Emma Strong plans to major in foreign languages at the University of Washington.

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