I love to dance. I dance at my desk at work, I dance when I’m walking to the bathroom, I dance on the elliptical at the gym, I pick up my cats and dance with them (unrelated: I’m covered in scratches), there are simply very few moments in my life where dancing seems inappropriate.
So a little over a month ago, when a friend asked if I wanted to go out dancing for her sister’s birthday, of course my answer was yes. The answer to that question is always yes. (The other question in my life that always gets a yes is, “Do you want to get ice cream?” in case you were wondering.)
We went to a club called Revolutions, which claims to play 80s music, but really mixes in classic dance songs with current dance hits. Fine by me. If it has a beat, you can dance to it. I went with a group of five ladies, ready to hit the floor and dance all night long.
Since I stopped drinking a little over two years ago, I have been dancing many times. However, those experiences have been mostly limited to weddings, parties with friends, watching bands in bars, and Funkytown, which if you don’t know the place, you can trust me. It’s about the least sexual dancing you can imagine. Those are all great dance opportunities and each fun in their own way, but dancing in those situations is nothing like dancing in a club.
In a club, everyone is there to get drunk, dance, and hook up. I remember the scene fondly from college. You’re crammed onto a dance floor with three hundred of your closest friends. Everyone is sweating and shiny and happy, and there’s nowhere to go except into each other. It sounds kind of sweet, a little sexy, and like loads of fun. And it is. Particularly when you have a buzz, even more so when you’re closer to drunk than sober, it can be a thrilling experience. I reached my threshold of lifetime club attendance by the time I was twenty-two, and I think that distance made the memories fonder than they actually were. I stopped going for a reason, right? However, when we first arrived at Revolutions and started dancing, it was hard to remember what that reason was. I was pumped. Music, people, dancing…yes, yes, yes!
There’s a reason why all the songs about being in a club make it very clear that a prerequisite of club attendance is copious amounts of alcohol. It took about twenty minutes before I realized I was the only sober person there. By a long shot, too. Half the people there were having trouble staying on their own feet. That in itself would have been enough to make the entire evening surreal, but then came the dancing. Well, thrusting. Then came the thrusting.
An unexpected side effect of being sober that I was not anticipating: while dancing, I am very aware of what parts of my body are mine and what I would like not to be touched. Boobs: mine. Ass: mine. Stomach: get the fuck away from me, I will end your life. Hair: public domain. I can’t deny the world my hair, I’m not a monster.
It never bothered me before, the gratuitous touching. I used to like getting groped and grinded without being asked for permission first. It was exciting, it made you feel desirable, and it was half of what you went to the club to do. Being felt up in a way that usually takes a guy at least three legitimate dates to achieve was normal, expected, and welcome when I was drunk. I would have been insulted if that hadn’t happened.
Yet sober, I felt…violated. How dare a man come up behind me, put his arm across my chest, grab my breast, and press his penis against the small of my back? How can that happen multiple times and be okay? That’s assault, right? I wanted out of there immediately, but I was the driver, and there was no getting those girls out of there, so I sucked it up and kept dancing. I stopped making eye contact with anyone, and whenever I felt anyone getting too close, I would cut a swath through the floor to reposition myself and hope not to be noticed. I still managed to have fun, but it was through sheer force of will.
This loss, the realization that going to places like Revolutions is something I simply no longer want to do sober, is strangely crushing. It’s not like I was a club frequenter before that night. It made me wonder if I am that prickly in other situations, if for some reason I’m now hyper-sensitive to normal human contact. I hope not. I’m a bit of a hugger, after all.
I still love to dance. I dance every day. It’s just now something I know I need to do with people I trust who aren’t going to take less than seven seconds to go straight for a vagina grab.