I was a child dancer. But I wasn’t taught to perform sex acts on stage
Children are being sexualised and it’s being dismissed as a ‘skill’
When I was four, some good eighteen years ago, I began dance lessons. I had ballet on Saturdays, country on Fridays and then contemporary on Sundays- from the age of six. Later, I learnt to waltz, do flamenco and finally salsa. It was fun. But never sexual.
For me, dance was escapism. When I danced, I wasn’t in the gym, the dance studio or the living room; I was storytelling. When I moved, it was about sadness, joy, euphoria, love, fear, loss, confusion and mystery. I was autumn, a witch in a storm, a spider in the grass: anything my limbs could contort into, I would be.
My mother would buy me battered old CDs of Satie, Pavarotti, Einaudi and Vivaldi and I would dance for hours, leaping off the sofa and running around in circles. That’s what dance was. It wasn’t about being watched. It wasn’t about getting every movement copied perfectly. It wasn’t about being sexy. It was about exploring emotion through your body.
Now, that seems to have changed. Dance after dance, music video after music video, the movements are explicitly sexual. Dance is about men watching you, the male gaze, how you’d look naked, how your legs would move in sex, how your muscles hold up while humping the floor. I’m not a prude: even that has it’s place. Like any other human experience, sex can be part of dance. But it seems to have exploded into the only way of dancing. And now, it’s creeping into children’s dancing.
I won’t post the video as I consider it child pornography, but I’m sure you’ve seen this:
(Warning: a description of the video follows, and it is graphic)
A young boy twerks in tiny daisy dukes, holding his thighs and shaking his buttocks to imitate an adult female erotic dancer. He than bends lower, imitating being penetrated. Adult men watch on gleefully, intrigued, cheering him on. A man stands in front of him, baring his crotch by his head. He then gets down on the floor and begins humping it. I don’t know what happens after that, I turned it off. I already felt too sick to watch.
As a gay woman, I know what ‘gay culture’ is. Yeah, some of it is a bit sexy at times, but it isn’t this. It isn’t children performing graphic sexual dance. It isn’t teaching kids to imitate sex acts while adults watch. There’s nothing gay in that. That’s just pedophilia. I would never as an adult allow my children to ‘dance’ like that. And I’m sure my parents wouldn’t have let me do it, either, with good reason.
This boy has been taught to dance like this. This isn’t happily bouncing around on the sofa pretending you are Britney Spears. Someone, an adult, has taught and told this boy to dress in hot pants, shake his buttocks, bend down like he is having sex, and then grind against the floor. That disturbs me deeply. Where has he learnt that from? An abusive parent? Being neglected and left around clubs from a young age? An abusive dance-teacher? Even if it wasn’t taught by someone wishing to teach him sex acts, say, out of some totally misplaced amusement, it is still horrifying.
To be honest, the fact that no one is stopping him disturbs me even more. This isn’t a matter of ‘“interpreting this in a sexual way” this is a child- I’m guessing around eight years old- who has been taught to carefully imitate erotic club dancers.
No one should feel comfortable with watching this, either in a video or in real life. Someone, anyone should have said to him “Honey, I don’t think that’s a good thing to do out in front of people, bad people might see” and quietly ask him where he learnt that from. Maybe slip him a ChildLine number. Anything is better than cheering him on.
But it goes deeper than that, or just this video, for me.
I think this is indicative of a culture that increasingly sexualises children. I’ve written about this before, as you know, but the amount of sex and sexual material children are exposed to alarms me deeply. Children should not be wearing daisy dukes, crop tops, t-shirts saying ‘hung like my daddy’ or twerking on stage.
Yes, of course children develop differently and I’m never going to be one to shame a child for experiencing sexual development. I definitely exhibited sexual feelings before I was 16, and yes, I expressed them behind closed doors. But my parents would never have filmed me dancing, put me on stage in a bikini, or encouraged me to mimic sex acts in public. And if a dance teacher had been teaching me to do thrusting or twerking in hot pants, I’m pretty sure they would have called the police.
Remember: there are adults out there who enjoy seeing your child humping the floor. There are adults who enjoy seeing your little girl in a bikini. There are adults who get off to seeing your baby boy shaking his bottom. Denying that is not only ignorant: it is dangerous. If your kid wants to dress up or dance around at home, cool, but please, protect your children.
Talk about what is okay to do on camera, or outside in the street. Talk about the bad people out there who might have bad feelings about them. Talk about what online safety is and why it is important to tell a parent or teacher when they are encouraged to do something ‘sexy’. A child, no matter how apparently enthusiastic, cannot consent and cannot fully understand the consequences of a sexual activity.
Don’t put your child at risk for your own amusement.
If you are a child or minor who is facing any kind of abuse or grooming, please call ChildLine on: 0800 1111.
If you are a parent or guardian who is worried about a child being abused or groomed by a dancing teacher or adult, please call the NSPCC on: 0808 800500.
If it is an emergency, please do not hesitate to call the police.