Sexy Times at Dance Festivals: In Response to La Epoca’s “Are Dance Festivals Really Sex Festivals?”

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I’ve been thinking about how to write this response for weeks. I knew I had to respond, but it hasn’t been easy sorting out my thoughts and feelings into something I can share.

I first read about the kernel of the story on August 26th in Josue Joseph‘s initial public post to his Facebook wall. Apparently four women reached out to him about having become pregnant, three of them thanks to the same man, all at one festival in Croatia. We aren’t connected, but a friend of mine showed the post to me because she found the comments so upsetting. Many of those comments have since been deleted, but they ultimately amounted to “If you have sex without condoms, you accept the risk” or “Why are these women complaining about something they got themselves into?”

Joseph public post

Further details unfolded when Josue Joseph used his La Epoca page to publish a note that has been shared 193 times as of my writing this response. Entitled “Are Dance Festivals Really Sex Festivals?” it is mostly a defense of dance congresses. Josue revealed that the two men involved are both dance instructors, “one of whom is well-respected by many, many dancers around the world,” while the women included a studio owner, a dance instructor, and two dancers of some experience. In summary, his note concludes that individuals are responsible for their own actions, sex happens when you get a bunch of people together for any purpose, and so really no one can be blamed, particularly not the festival organizers. These two men and four women made their choices and now have to deal with the consequences. It can serve as a warning to all of us, but especially new dancers who may be naive when faced with a partner who speaks romantically about moving from the dance floor to the hotel room.

It took me a while to figure out why this note bothered me so much. After all, I agreed with many of his points. I do believe in personal responsibility and accepting the consequence of your own actions. Yes, people have sex at dance festivals, but not more so than at other hotel gatherings, and it’s nothing new. I don’t feel like it’s happening more than in the past or that it’s being actively encouraged by particular dance forms, but those are normal speculations. I do think that this can be a good warning for newbies to put the brakes on before getting swept up mistakenly in a false romance. As for those who go in with eyes wide open to the physical act, it’s a good reminder of the importance of practicing birth control.

Still. It stuck with me. I felt that this wasn’t right somehow. I was uncomfortable.

I checked around on Facebook for comments on the walls of those who had shared the note. Over and over I saw laughter at the absurdity of the situation, sighs of despair over the festival scene going downhill, defense of the awesomeness of congresses and the need for individuals to take responsibility, and innumerable comments blaming the ‘girls’ for not using birth control.

I realized at last that what troubled me most was the lack of discussion of some very problematic elements of this story. It bothered me that I didn’t see these things being discussed much in the social media storm surrounding his note.

1. The 3 women who shared a man had no idea that he was having sex with other women at the festival.

There are definitely people who have multiple relationships at any given time; a broad term for this is non-monogamy. But ethical non-monogamy always involves a disclosure of other sexual partners. If you’re going into this just for tonight – or this hour – all parties should be made aware. You don’t get questions like “Do instructors secretly have multiple families and children they collect?” from a woman who knew she was one fling among many.

We don’t usually tolerate it when people in the dance scene leave out information we might find relevant. For example, we would all be upset if we registered for a dance festival in Miami in the summertime and arrived to find there was no air-conditioning in the ballrooms. Even if the fine print never guaranteed us any AC, plenty of people would be asking for their money back. Why should this situation not call for similar disclosure?

2. The majority of negative comments on Facebook focused on the women, showing a troubling double standard.

Men are praised for getting women into bed. Women are derided for sleeping around. Men get a few shakes of the head for their trespasses on professionalism. Women are shamed for being too sexy, for being teases, for playing games, for giving it up, for doing anything but have a committed relationship with a man who defends them from other men. Men are shamed for not ‘getting it’ wherever they can, and they are taught to value situations that put them into dominance over women.

092316-for-example

Sure, hookup culture has become common and women are theoretically liberated to have sex just as much as men. However, we have a habit of putting full responsibility on the women for birth control even though both parties are fully accountable for their decisions, and it is in many case the man who is pressuring the woman not to use protection. Ask a young woman in your life if she has ever heard any remarks like these: “You’re killing the mood / I can’t feel anything with a condom on / I’ll put a rubber on in just a little while / I’m out of here if you keep bitching about some condom / Why are you worried? This is something special, I want us to really share all of this.”

3. The men are dance instructors. What does that mean about our expectations?

I don’t mean that becoming an instructor automatically holds you to some kind of ethical standard. But we should acknowledge that dance teachers have more influence and power not only because of their skill but also their position in the scene. Given the double standard, we shoud think about the ways male instructors may choose to leverage that status when we evaluate their actions.

Photo by Devon Rowland

Photo by Devon Rowland

Imagine a designer who promises to create a completely unique item of clothing for you, a vendor who has an exclusive collector item, an artist who sells you a one-of-a kind work of art … only then it turns out that he was giving the same to plenty of others, including someone you know, and there’s no legal contract that says what he did was wrong. If you go into a sexual encounter feeling special and unique, even knowing that it’s not for the long-term, it’s a huge shock to realize what a deceit that really is, even without the problematic question of children on the way.

Final Thoughts

I do believe that both the women and men involved share in the responsibility for the situation described in La Epoca’s note, but I think we should ask ourselves we are ascribing a fair portion of the outcry to the role men play. We should think about what influences us to have such a different standard for sex, when we value honesty and accountability in friendships and business in the world of social dance.

Furthermore, we have the opportunity to develop a healthier, safer attitute towards sex in our communities. Let’s encourage each other to be honest, to communicate openly, and to have equal accountability in our encounters. We can reduce the stigma and risk women face in our supposedly sex-positive society, rather than encouraging machismo values. Dancers of all genders will benefit from a culture that celebrates sincerity and respect, regardless of whether you choose to have sex at your next dance congress.

Want to read more?
Check out a set of resources for creating a more respectful dance scene.
Read more stories of sexual misfortune from both women and men in the dance scene.

Special thanks to David Hendershot for his invaluable assistance in editing my language.

12 Comments

  • Francisco says:

    I’m sorry… what a load of nonsense… if you expect more than a night thing at an festival you are kind of naive… and you should not have to disclose your bedpartners.. if you want to mess around with more people.. go do it… doesn’t matter if you are male or female… only take away is: use protection.. (and on that note… the girls were not on the pill either)..

  • David Sander says:

    One of the characteristics of dance instructors is a certain level of charisma, its important to bringing them business success and happy customers. The conflict is that some handle this extra power well and some have a limited sense of ethics. So there is a ready made potential conflict here given that women tend to find attractive leadership powers and these communication skills. This is not the only way for charisma to become destructive, to be well used it has to be combined with a sense of fairness and ethics in both business and personal relationships.

    This is not to justify any of the problems listed above. Usually in local circles, people are held to appropriate behavior if they are going to be around a while and be accepted. This isn’t true of larger events where many people are essentially strangers.

  • Idiocraties says:

    “The majority of negative comments on Facebook focused on the women, showing a troubling double standard.”

    Its not a double standard if you don’t think men and women are the same.

    The core of this article seems to be that women are attracted to high status , charismatic men, and then unhappy when non commitment and non exclusivity is the result.

    This is not news

    • The double standard refers to women being judged far harsher than men for the exact same sexual behavior.

      Humans in general tend to be attracted to high status, charismatic people. But, to use your example, how do we judge a top female dancer who sleeps with three men per festival? And how do we judge those men?
      Compare that then to how we judge a top male dancer who sleeps with three women per festival – and how we judge those women.

      • idiocraties says:

        Men are attracted to youth , fertility and beauty, and a pleasant personality. Men care little for the social status of their sexual partners.

        Its not a double standard as men and women are not the same, and are judged by different standards. Women are nearly without exception are sexually drawn to high status men, this very article is a witness to that fact.

        I dont think anyone comes out smelling of roses from this incident, and most comments reflect that.

  • Person says:

    Ya this is ridiculous. We’re not talking about women who were sexually assaulted right? So you’re condemning the men for having sex but not the women? I’m so confused on how “adults having relations” is an issue

  • Dancing Irishman says:

    LMAO all your articles have to do with boy girl stuff…

    Starting to wonder..Look….all women are hoes when you get down to it…If you go around “idealizing” them and supplicating you finish last as a guy..

    Painful for some to hear but true….If you act toward women how your Mom taught you, you will be unfullfilled and lonely and wonder why jerks and ugly dudes get women…. Wake up man… Women use signs of fertility to attract high status males….Men use status to attract fertile females…hasn’t changed since the beginning of civilization…Women are leveraging a depreciating asset (Signs of fertility) else why lip stick , fake boobs, foundation , nails and hair color at 30.. ? While men can always increase status…….

    So really stop with all the candy coated boy girl dynamics ……disguised as romance….dress up all you want, wear tight leggings, show a bunch of cleavage….you’re really bartgering with an opening in your body…no thanks,,,I’m not buying in to it…Id rather jerk off….

    Bash me all you want community but its true….

    • I just want to clarify that the comment above, written by “Dancing Irishman” was NOT written by me, Richie Kirwan of “The Dancing Irishman”.
      I’ve been a contributor on LDC since it began and any comments I make on this site are marked with my name, as in this comment.
      Rachel, I want you especially, as a fellow contributor on this site, to be aware that the comment above was not made by me. I think the content and writing style make that pretty obvious anyway.

  • Rachel,

    There is a podcast that I found very enlightening about hook-up culture today. It’s an interview with Lisa Wade, author of “American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus.” While the setting may be different, the similarities abound. I’ll leave you with a quote from the interview:

    “It used to be that men would have the power to put women into one of two categories: ‘the good girl’ and ‘the bad girl’…Today man still have this power…They put basically all women into the bad girl group—all women they are hooking-up with, anyway—and have the power at some point to decide, ‘Oh, I’ve been hooking up for a while. Now I’m going to decide that I like you, and now I’m going to treat you with respect and as an equal. If a woman wants a relationship where at some point she will be treated with respect and as an equal, then she has to go through this period where she is not those things. So women’s options are: either op out of hook-up culture altogether, and expose herself to this period where she’s treated disrespectfully in the hopes that it translates into something better at the end.” (http://www.npr.org/2017/02/14/514578429/hookup-culture-the-unspoken-rules-of-sex-on-college-campuses)

    In other words, if women want to do a hookup—or hookups—society dictates that it’s okay to treat them disrespectfully, to think less of them. To blame them more than the men. The very way that people are responding to this topic aligns with this idea.

    Personally, I have come to expect nothing else from any dance scene in regards to how people respond to situations like this one. I’ve found the dance scene to be quite the gender normative place, with unspoken-but-widely-accepted “rules” as to which gender is the one that asks for a dance, which gender “follows,” which gender gets to be the lead instructor, which gender makes up most of the bands that plays the music we dance. In fact, it’s the last place I’d go for a conversation, or to create sensible dialogue, on gender and social issues.

    • Thanks for the comment, Daybert. I had also heard that report and other similar ones. I don’t think we should lack in respect to anyone, but it’s especially unfortunate that women have to suffer more from these attitude.
      While I agree that the Latin dance scene is very gender normative, I am not ready to give up on the hope of creating dialogue about gender and other social issues. I am in other dance scenes (like the blues community) where this is a common topic, and I think it contributes to the blues scene being one of the most inclusive of any I’ve yet been a part of.

  • Papichulo says:

    Francisco and Dancing Irishman hit nail onvthe head.

    From what I read on La Epoca.it was not clear if these girls were complaining in general about their misfortune or looking to blame the men- very common among women who don’t want to take equal responsibility. Unless we hear the full/men’s side of the story no point in speculating and blaming the men for their use of charisma etc…really? We are all adults. Unless the women were drugged, they knew what they were doing from start to finish.!

  • Papichulo says:

    This article paints women as weak and impressionable who find it easier to blame men instead of responsible adults who can set boundaries.

    How would disclosing that the men are having sex with others change anything since women are actually turned on by the fact that a guy is in demand?!!

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