Isn’t it ironic how Junior High physical education courses taught us such inconsistent lessons about autonomy over the physical self? Their lessons taught us how to defend our bodies against unwanted contact. Self defense class. They taught us how to protect ourselves, and how to use physical power to emit strength and courage. And yet, in the same course, they also taught us that one must slow dance with every member of the opposite gender in their class. One must dance, and one must not say ‘no’ to any individual, even if they provoke feelings of discomfort or fear. Regardless of your feelings as a small pre-pubescent child who knows very little about their own body, this body will now be grabbed, shifted, and tousled around by every young boy or girl that you’ve encountered in school. They taught us not to say ‘no’ to another individual, for the sake of equality. And I wonder if these two lessons, the one in autonomy and protection and the one in equality and fairness, can actually coexist in the same course?
I literally can’t fucking believe that in junior high P.E my teachers would spend an entire month teaching me self defense; how to prevent unwanted contact, how to fight off people who I don’t want near me, and how to protect my body from being abused or grabbed. And then the very next fucking day they’d say to me “Okay new lesson! Now you have to slow dance with every single boy in your class, and no matter how badly you might want to, you can’t say no! Now dance little puppets, Dance!” Okay, that last bit about the puppets might be exaggerated slightly, but the sentiment still stands. What the fuck guys?! I was eleven years old, and you had the audacity to teach me how to jab somebody’s throat and then force me to slow dance with the boy who throws gum in my hair all in the same week?
And the best part is that they’d tell us girls that we can’t say ‘no’ to the boys, because that would be mean. Oh I’m sorry, suddenly “Timmy sneezed in my eye and tried to put his hand on my butt at yesterday’s assembly, so I’d prefer to sit this one out” isn’t a valid excuse? We don’t want to be mean little girls, do we? Oh yes we fucking do. I would go back and be the biggest meanie in my class if it meant that I could avoid being conditioned to believe that saying “yes” to boys was the nice thing to do. And this stupid dance rule doesn’t just suck for the girls, it was probably hell for the boys too! Because damn, I can only imagine all of the unexpected boners that must’ve popped up during Junior High partner dancing class. What a traumatizing place to have a (maybe even first ever) public boner. Little Billy probably didn’t even want to dance with Kelly, because she’s been bullying him since the fourth grade, but he was forced to walk his crusty little Proactiv face up to her and ask her to dance, endure her very visible eye-roll, and on top of everything pop a boner that he has absolutely no control over. Fuck that.
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