#722: “This is my dance space. That is your dance space.”

Dear CA,

I’m a partner dancer, namely blues. There’s a guy in the group who gets too close when he dances. I mean the blues can be very close, but it just feels different with this guy, icky, and other female follows have backed me up that he gets close in a kind of creepy way. He’s also just over-friendly, and does hugs with kisses on both cheeks. I’m not the type of person who likes to talk when there’s dancing but he tries to make awkward conversations happen. There’s social dance not just practice, (you change partners, blues is never set couples,) if I’m looking round for a lead and someone whose resting notices that he is free they often say “oh why don’t you dance with him?” And I’m left looking for anything less awkward to say than “I just don’t want to…” or “he gives me the skeevs…” These are not options, as they would make people ask what/if anything had happened. Well no, nothing concrete, it’s just vibes, we just don’t click. And also apart from a few trusted people, I’ve not told anyone in case it gets back to him. He’d be either hurt or angry, because he hasn’t done anything, he just is creepy. More often than not, because I have made clear that I do actually wish to dance with someone, I have to accept. There’s still a bit of the outdated notion that you have to accept dances when asked unless you have a concrete reason not to (the scene is trying to change that.)

I’m not sure he means it, he seems like he’s trying to be nice. Over a recent blues workshop weekend he let me borrow his flat when I put out a plea to dancers on Facebook that I had no accommodation where I usually live for that period. I accepted, 1) I couldn’t afford a hotel, 2) he wasn’t actually there that weekend and 3) I couldn’t turn down a perfectly good offer of accommodation for seemingly no reason. His offer was first and visible on Facebook, everyone saw so no one else offered. I will end up giving him a bottle of wine for that, to show some gratitude. It was an unexpected offer, this guy and I don’t know each other well. He thinks we’re friends I think, but I just don’t want to be! My main questions are, how do you politely give someone signals that they’re making you uncomfortable? And how do you avoid spending much time with someone you just don’t like when they mix in the same places as you regularly? And should I trust my gut?

Yours Sincerely

Awkward Dancer

Dear Awkward Dancer,

You can keep turning down every opportunity to dance with this fellow, and you can say “Naw, we just don’t mesh well” when someone suggests it. You can pull back from hugs and kisses and say “Oh, I’m not much of a hugger,” etc. You can also assert yourself in the moment, should you end up dancing together or should you end up directly turning down a dance. Scripts:

  • “No thank you!”
  • “I just don’t want to.” It’s the truth, let it be good enough for you enough times and it will become good enough for others. The scene is changing? Let change begin with you.
  • “Not so close, please.” + (Move your body away so there is more space)
  • “I don’t like to be so close.” + move
  • “I like a little more room, thanks.” + move
  • “That’s a little close for my taste.”+ move
  • “Thanks, but you like dancing closer than is my taste, so I’ll sit this one out.”
  • “Thanks, but I don’t like dancing so close to someone, and your style is definitely not the same as mine.”
  • “You’re a much more touchy-feely person than I am, and I like dancing with folks who leave a little more breathing room.”
  • There’s always the default thing to say to others in lieu of explaining “what happened” to make you not like this person: “It’s great to meet so many people who are into dancing! Just, he and I have danced enough that I know that we don’t really click. Thanks for not making this more awkward than it has to be.

If you keep it very factual and based on your own preferences – You like dancing closer than I do – there’s not much room for him to argue. The feelings you are responsible for managing are: “Do I want to dance with this person, yes or no?” Everyone else’s feelings, including those of bystanders, are their own garden to tend. His feelings may be hurt, but if he’s a decent dude, he’ll change up his style with you, or he’ll respectfully back off from asking you to dance. If he’s not a decent dude, he’ll try to convince you that his touchy-feely style is the Only Way It’s Supposed To Be and imply there is something wrong with you, or he’ll clock all the times you’ve danced closely with other people and rattle off a creepily accurate list, or he’ll play tricks like pretending to agree and then feeling up on you when you’re on the dance floor. I know you don’t want to rock the boat and invoke something that might be worse than the vague icky vibe you have now, but he is not getting whatever hints you are throwing out there, and I think it’s time to be more explicit. If you being blunt makes him do or say something explicitly creepy, I know you’re dreading the scene that it might cause, but think of it this way: At least you’ll stop wondering if this is all in your head?

Finally, if you are trying to fade away from being friends with him, maybe don’t take him up on his kind offers of housing. In my opinion, it’s not cool to take someone’s hospitality and then avoid them at other times. Of course accepting the favor doesn’t obligate you to dance with him in a way you don’t like or submit to unwanted touching, but if someone stays in my house for a weekend and then is like “NOPE I DON’T ACTUALLY LIKE U, Y U NO GET HINT?” I would be hurt and angry. I don’t invite people as guests unless I think we are some degree of friends. If you aren’t close enough friends to want to dance with him in that you literally shrink from his touch and find talking with him to be boring and awkward ordeal, find somewhere, anywhere else to stay.


186 thoughts on “#722: “This is my dance space. That is your dance space.”

  1. I also do partner dancing and there are a few people who come into the open dance sessions with the clear idea that they’re going to use this time to get as much torso-to-torso contact with a partner as possible. (Lindy Hop does not require our chests to touch, but they really want to dance it that way.)

    I have become a lot more confident about saying no to these people, but every once in a while I get a surprise chest-hugger and I spend the entire dance using my face, which is generally pressed up cheek to cheek with this person, to signal to the rest of the room that THIS IS NOT COOL, I AM NOT ENJOYING THIS, MAYBE WATCH OUT FOR THIS PERSON.

    1. If you greatly dislike close embrace, you are not obligated to dance in it. Except maybe in tango and some ballroom dances, I don’t know of any dance that requires it. And I used to do Lindy, I don’t recall that close embrace is even a thing in Lindy, so I’m confused as to why you said there are dancers who are doing that. I don’t recall ever dancing chest-to-chest, much less cheek-to-cheek in swing. However, in blues, if someone goes into close embrace with you, you are never obligated to just take it. You can push away with your left hand at a lead’s shoulder to get out of close embrace. And while some people are legitimately creepy, a lot of people just prefer close embrace in general. A lot of women will automatically go into close embrace with me, whether they are following or leading. Since I’m attracted to women, but too shy to initiate close embrace most of the time myself, I usually appreciate this. But when a guy does it, it’s really hit or miss…. and I think a lot of times I just don’t like it because I don’t feel the bodily chemistry with the guy on that level, and I don’t mean it as anything necessarily sexual. There are just people I like hugging, for example, and people I don’t. I have to try to separate what is simply my own discomfort from the inappropriate intentions of others. Also, I have had at least one woman inappropriately try to turn things erotic on me while we were blues dancing. It didn’t feel creepy to me, maybe because I like women, but I definitely thought it was inappropriate. What really bothers me is when I do push away at their shoulder and they don’t budge. So then I spend the rest of the dance basically trying to get them off of me and straining my arm. That’s irritating. Seriously, everyone, both lead and follow, needs to be taught some basic dance etiquette and universal signals for getting out of close embrace. And I need to be more assertive and not allow leads to force me to stay in close embrace.

      1. Yes, this. I am also a female-follow-type social dancer (mostly contra, which is generally less of a close-dance scene than blues, but still has its share of close dancers and creepers, not that those always overlap), and have had a lot of luck with the shoulder-push technique. Also just leaning back sometimes works, though it can make people think you’re a less skilled dancer if you’re not supporting your own weight.

        Another thing that worked like gangbusters for me in one specific instance was to cease all eye contact. It’s a bit of a long story, but I think it’s a good example of how you might “train” this lead in how you like to be danced with. In my case, the lead’s behavior that I didn’t like was making sort of orgasmic-sounding noises related to how great the music was. This is something many dancers are uncomfortable with, but because we’re pretty sure he’s just genuinely loving the music and not “meaning anything” but it, no one else seems to address it. I can handle those noises happening in the room where I am dancing, but I CANNOT handle the idea that I am somehow involved in them. So I stopped making eye contact with this person while dancing, ever. Not as a punishment or training technique, but because it was the only way to preserve the notion in my head that his noises had nothing to do with me. And, lo and behold, he noticed that I never looked at him. At first he thought I was zoning out and tried to move his face into my line of vision in a funny way. I looked somewhere else. And then, after maybe three or four dance events of my doing this, he abruptly stopped making noises when he encountered me in the dance. He starts up again when the dance sends him on to the next person, but he has literally never made any kind of orgasm sound toward me ever again.

        Is there a similar kind of disengaging you can do to communicate that you’re uncomfortable? If this person is a good lead, they should be able to pick up on your signals just as you do in order to follow. You definitely don’t have to do whatever they do just because they lead and you follow. If they are both a good lead AND a decent person who wants their partners to enjoy the dance, hopefully they’ll be able to adjust, maybe even without you saying anything!

      2. ***However, in blues, if someone goes into close embrace with you, you are never obligated to just take it. You can push away with your left hand at a lead’s shoulder to get out of close embrace.***

        Yes, yes yes. This applies in Basically Every Partnered Dance Ever. Contra, waltz, square, English Country, my very limited experience with swing all have showed me that if you are dancing follow, that is an effective move, especially if it’s just a neighbor you’ll dance with two or three times in the course of the dance. If it’s your partner or someone you repeatedly end up sharing lines or squares with and they don’t manage to take that hint, you have a couple of options. I’m not a fan of this one particularly, but I have a friend who will purposefully step on toes and then apologize, saying, “I don’t dance this close for a reason.” Another thing is to talk to the person, or, if you feel unsafe doing so, speak with the organizers of the event or a board member if you’re dancing in a formal group or even just a friend to get someone to intercede on your behalf. Most of these types of offenders tend to be male, most of the people getting stuck close tend to be female, and I’ve found that having a male person bring up the behavior tends to go over much better (and be more likely to be listened to, not dismissed, accepted, behavior changed) than a female person, unless it’s a female person with a big reputation/power base behind them.

        However, this is not limited to Male Leads Forcing Closeness Upon Female Follows. Regardless of gender, if you’re the lead and your follow is putting themselves closer than you’re comfortable with, you can try giving less weight and thus forcing them to back away to keep a balanced dance (I know this works for experienced contra and square dancers, whether they realize it’s A Hint or not, but I don’t do blues dancing and don’t know if giving weight is even a thing in it), putting your hand on their shoulder or hip and (like the first tip mentioned) pushing the follow away slightly, and of course talking to them or others are the approaches I’ve seen and/or used myself.

        If they respond that they saw you dance that way or do that special swing move or whatever with another person: “I know X pretty well and we have practiced that together enough for me to feel comfortable with X, but I don’t do that move with everyone because of safety.” (Some swings can lead to people being flung across the room, crashing into other dancers and causing injury, if done incorrectly or if the two people haven’t tried it before or can’t read each other’s body language or if one person doesn’t know that’s the move that’s about to be attempted. It is a legitimate safety concern that is obvious if you ever see it go wrong. Dancing too closely is no less legitimate a safety concern, just because it doesn’t result in large and obviously painful collisions. If you don’t feel safe, you can honestly cite safety as a reason. If you don’t feel safe citing safety, just leave it at “I don’t do that with everyone.” Decent people will respect that.) It’s so, so common for people to have styles that don’t mesh (I think P is an excellent dancer, but his style is so different from mine that we end up in an accidental dominance battle over style mid-swing), or moves they only do with some people (I dance close to S and R but never O or E, even though I enjoy dancing with all four of them), or moves they’re just not ready for with a certain person (I never allow dips, whether I’m dancing lead or follow, with someone I haven’t attempted dipping with off the floor with someone standing by for safety and without being sure the person understands both what dips are signaled by what signals and the limit of how far I can dip them or how far I can be dipped without pain or injury). Inexperienced dancers might require some explanation (like my dipping policy) to understand what seems to them like a rule made to let them not do the fun stuff with you. However, LW, it sounds like you have a relatively experienced dancer on your hands there, so he should get these cues or quick-dropped statements (“I’m not comfortable doing that move / dancing that closely with anyone but X.”). If not, don’t forget that SOMEONE organized this event, and THEY should be approachable for concerns.

      3. I dance Argentine tango, and when I was first learning, it was in a class with my boyfriend. Obviously me and my boyfriend would be pretty comfortable with very close embrace dancing, and because he was the only person I was dancing with I never learned any other way. But I tell you I learned a new way pretty dang quick when I started dancing with other people! I would automatically go close-embrace, and without saying anything my new partner would adjust their frame to move me back a bit. It wasn’t awkward or anything, just a nonverbal “this is how we will dance today!”

  2. One thing to add… ” 3) I couldn’t turn down a perfectly good offer of accommodation for seemingly no reason.”

    If someone gives you the creeps you are absolutely NOT obligated to give anyone anything. (This is true for anyone, but doubly true for people who skeeve you. Far too often, we’re socialized to always be nice and accommodating to everyone, sometimes to our detriment.

    1. Yeah, because it’s not a “perfectly good” offer – it’s an offer from someone who weirds you out, making it a “not good” offer. And I think maybe that’s a way to frame these offers going forward – they’re being offered as solutions (you need someone to dance with; you need a place to stay) and they’re not actually – you don’t need anyone to dance with if he is the only person to dance with; you can skip the workshop or crash on the couch of your best friend’s ex’s cousin, or whatever, if his is the only available accommodation. I think it’s really important to remember that you have choices!

      1. As an aside, I’ve had some really good luck with Couchsurfing when it comes to finding places to stay – if LW has some notice before travelling, it’s worth looking into. There’s some small risk involved with staying at a stranger’s home, but I’ve always had good experiences and my hosts have been very friendly and kind. It might be a nice way to avoid the public Facebook request, if that’s an issue.

        1. Another aside: LW’s situation with seeking accommodations reminds me of when my church needed more Sunday school teachers. The clergy wouldn’t allow us to make a public announcement to that effect because they want to avoid the awkward conversation of “Not you, you’re too creepy.” Instead, we have to ask directly people that have already proved themselves to be okay around children.

          1. I apologize for going off topic.

            “The clergy wouldn’t allow us to make a public announcement to that effect because they want to avoid the awkward conversation of “Not you, you’re too creepy.” Instead, we have to ask directly people that have already proved themselves to be okay around children”

            It makes me super happy your church acknowledges the need to screen it’s members in this way to protect its youngest members. Too many churches are unwilling do the work of balancing Christian ideals of redemption with the reality of children’s vulnerability.

          2. To continue going off-topic: a church using personal recs rather than background investigation when choose child-minders over actual investigation is NOT screening for pedophiles; I can’t imagine being pleased that a religious institution is openly judging others by appearance. Not to mention the institution would have a larger pool of volunteerrs to choose from with a public announcement. One that concludes with: ‘Our parents and guardians will be pleased to know that every volunteer will provide the necessary background information that allows us to protect our children.”

    2. The OP does have a reason, in that she doesn’t like the guy. IMO, she can (and should) turn down his hospitality for all the reasons that the Captain advised.

      In my experience, a lot of creepy folks make generous offers as a form of currency to win friends. As an example, I’m acquainted with a creepy guy who always volunteers his home for parties. No one in this particular circle likes him, but they let him hang around because party venues (with nice pools, no less) aren’t easy to come by.

    3. Options for scripts depending on how honest you feel like being:

      * You know, I think I’d rather stay with another woman or with a couple. This feels a little sketchy. [If you want to soften it a bit: “Thanks, though!”]
      * I’ve thought about it, and I don’t think we’re close enough for me to be staying at your place.
      * I’d be so worried about something going wrong while I was there and you were gone. I’d rather stay with someone who’s also in town.
      * OK, but only if you promise to stop asking me to dance, Chestburster.

      1. Yes! I really like the first two especially.

        Also, I have a really hard time with this, but it’s important to remember that “That doesn’t work for me right now, but thanks” with no further explanation is a perfectly acceptable response to an offer you don’t want.

      2. And, if anybody gets nosy and asks why you didn’t end up staying with him, something like “oh, it just didn’t work” or “x and I arent that close, but it was a kind offer”

    4. [em] 3) I couldn’t turn down a perfectly good offer of accommodation for seemingly no reason.[/em]

      She wasn’t giving something away, though, she was asking for a favour. She could totally turn it down, but she needed a “reason” if anyone else was going to offer instead.

      This kind of stuff is genuinely hard, I think: when you’re dependent on favours and goodwill, you have to find a pleasant, acceptable and non-alienating way of turning down favours from people you find creepy or uncomfortable.

      LW, I think for dancing the “we just don’t click” line is a great one. It’s impersonal, it’s general, and you can say it with a smile and nobody can call you on it because, what are they going to do, challenge you by claiming that you do, in fact, click? If people do start trying to be arsey about it, you could also comment on the weirdness and try and turn it into a general conversation, “We just don’t click. It’s funny, that one, isn’t it? I’ve seen R dance with other people and he’s a great dancer, but I just never get the flow with him. Don’t you find the whole thing of chemistry just fascinating? Now, when you see P and Z dance together, you just know they’ve got it…” You can just keep gently pushing the idea that some people you click with, and some people you don’t, and it’s nothing personal, just don’t want to. *smile*

      The accommodation one is harder, because you do need the favour and it’s much harder to feel entitled to pick and choose favours. Could you breezily say that you feel more comfortable staying with women and/or straight or gay couples, rather than single guys? Alternatively, instead of posting publicly with a request for accommodation (which does tend to make you feel that you’re in the “take the first offer or get out” position), try doing it privately: contact a few people privately and mention that you’re coming over and ask if they know of anywhere, or check couchsurfing or the cheaper end of AirBnB.

  3. LW, I pretty much agree with this advice–don’t be afraid to use your words, don’t accept situations that bring you closer to this dude than you like–but I also wanted to offer a little been-there sympathy. Group activities that inherent involve a certain amount of touch–partner dancing, theater, etc–have the potential to create the opposite of an “opt-in” culture and it can be difficult for an individual to go against that tide. I used to meet up with a swing/blues dance group that had this sort of lax attitude toward physical boundaries: it was assumed that everyone was down for close dancing and spontaneous shoulder massages and whatnot, which placed me in the awkward position of having to opt out. “I’m sorry, I don’t like to dance this close” was met with a bewildered “but that’s how the dance is supposed to go!” Cringing from spontaneous shoulder massages was met with “wow, you really need to relax!”
    If your group is overall hug-first-ask-questions-later, the best case scenario is that an individual (particularly a newcomer) who is uncomfortable with the touchy-feely culture will eventually leave. Worst case scenario: the absence of a positive consent culture provides the ideal conditions for a missing stair. Which, unsurprisingly, turned out to be the case in the group I described.

    So, LW, I wish you luck in your boundary enforcements, but be careful out there. And next time you need a favor, send some private messages to people you trust rather than making an open call.

    1. Yeah, our scene is fairly good, no spontaneous shoulder massages (eeeurgh… *shivers*) We recently introduced a comprehensive safe spaces policy, but you know, old habits die hard. Yes definetely private messages next time.

    2. Most spontaneous massagers I’ve run into response with the even more annoying, “But you’re so tense!”
      They never seem to grasp that that’s a perfectly normal reaction to someone suddenly grabbing me from behind.

        1. I’ve tried that and the result was “Oh it only hurts because you really need the massage *more emphatic bad massage*” Really the only way to handle some brands of Creepy Massager is by being blunt and rude.

          1. I didn’t even know that was a thing. Oo
            I move in circles where it is usually assumed you are okay with hugs as a way of greeting, and some people are very much into massages, but I’ve never met a Creepy Massager, thanks goodness.

            It should be pretty obvious that a man doing this to a woman is totally inappropriate. (I give women a bit more leeway because they may not realize it could be considered something sexual/inappropriate … but men should, by the time they reach adulthood, be aware that it’s Creepy)

        2. My automatic response is to jerk violently away, which seems to do the trick.

          I really hate being touched near my neck, to the point of I can’t wear chokers or turtle necks, so I’m immune to guilt trips.

          1. I’m like you with regards to the neck stuff: I don’t think I’ve worn a turtleneck since I was 11 (16 years ago). I like massages, including neck massages, but not nonconsensual or sneaky ones. (One of the things I appreciate about massages is that I am paying a professional to do something they are well-trained in, I have consented, and there are boundaries established.) And I REALLY hate it when people sneak up on me and touch me. (I’ve had to train co-workers, boyfriends, etc to NEVER do this–speak first, then–maybe–touch. The ones who got it were the ones worth my time.)

    3. “send some private messages to people you trust rather than making an open call”

      This. Or screen him out of the post.

  4. Yo, fellow dancer here!

    There are some differences between my style of dance and yours (I’m a bellydancer, so I tend to only dance with other ladies, because men that dance in my style are very few and very far between), so I can’t quite address the skeevy factor that happens with a certain demographic of male dancer towards a certain demographic of female dancer, but having dancers you kind of dread dancing with? I has them.

    You’ve mentioned practices. Is this being led by someone, or a few someones? Senior dancers, instructors, event hosts? And are they the same someone every time? If there is some kind of oversight by an individual or a few, and if you know them, you might consider giving them a discreet word. I’ve done something similar, to kind of assuage my frustration a bit with another dancer… I messaged our mutual instructor on FB, and said, “Hey, Instructor, can we go over the cue for X combination next class? I’m having a hard time with it… sometimes Sally cues it and I don’t know what she’s doing.” Corrections were issued next class without making it a big weird deal.

    Finally… if your dance circle is working to change the whole “Ladies MUST dance when they are asked” thing, perhaps be the change you wish to see? A lot of other dancers might be too worried about looking like a robo-bitch for turning down a dance, albeit politely, and might be heartened by the fact that another lady is doing it, AND it’s not a weird big deal? And if other dancers catch on and start declining dances when they’d rather not, it might start weeding out the people that don’t play nicely, either by correction or by forcing them to move on.

    1. Fellow bellydancer hip bump! 🙂 Usually the boundaries we have to set are with audience members getting too handsy with their tips in restaurants or at events. You are so right about navigating with difficult dancers–asking the instructor to make sure everyone is on the same page and respectful is part of their job as facilitator of the class. OP, don’t be afraid to tell the instructor if this guy doesn’t respect your boundary setting, and definitely find another place to stay. If you stay there, he will probably claim confusion next time he sees you, thinking you are sending mixed signals, and pester you to ask “WHYYYY?!?” if you stay at his house and then don’t want to dance with him. Just avoid that conversation all together!

    2. YES THIS! I am a blues dancer, similar to the letter writer, and I have had those Creepy Dances with Creepy People. There are certain people in every scene that I will always turn down for a dance (smile, say brightly “no thanks!”) just because of Reasons.

      But I find it very helpful to approach event organizers/instructors when certain people get too handsy, or make inappropriate conversations, or what have you. I have found in my neck of the woods that the organizers of these things tend to take this stuff pretty seriously, and appreciate the heads up when it comes to Sketchy Folks.

      1. I totally agree with going to the organisers. Another option is talk to friends who you feel have some standing in the dance scene and see if they are willing to address this person’s behavior. I’ve definitely both requested someone do this on my behalf and done it for others.

        Even if you can’t pin it down, there’s something he’s doing since you said others are in agreement with you.

  5. About the accommodation problem: LW, you said no one else offered once he made the offer. It sounds like the long-term fix for this problem will have to involve some degree of communication between you and other people in the community about how this guy makes you feel, but in the short-term, could you post/email to the community with some variant of: “I really need a place to stay, and I’d really only feel comfortable staying with a woman. Can anyone help?”

    I don’t remember if you mentioned your gender in the letter, but if you’re a woman, I bet people will be understanding about this. I think it’s commonly accepted that women traveling alone prefer not to stay in the home of a single man, and it’s a way to get around the problem without immediately having to say that it’s this particular guy whom you find skeevy.

    I do strongly agree with the Captain that you should not under any circumstances stay in this guy’s house, for an additional reason: because I don’t think it’s wise to put yourself so much in the way of someone you don’t like to be around.

    1. Right. And that reminds me, he has said he will be out while you are staying. Do not trust on that being the case, or him not coming back unexpectedly early. A man from a social scene I used to be part of trapped me into going to his house when he & I were the only ones there, locked us in his bedroom, and…

      I don’t need to describe the awfulness of what happened, do I?

      Don’t stay in skeevy person’s house.

      1. I’m so sorry that happened to you! Thank you for being brave and sharing your experience with us to protect others from similar situations.

      2. YES, this is a really good point and one that occurred to me as well, LW. Like, will he REALLY be out of town? What if he isn’t? And in general, someone who gives you a very strong “nope” vibe is not someone whose domain you want to be stuck in.

        flashsays, what an awful, scary thing to happen to you. I’m so sorry. 😦

      3. I can really understand how difficult it is for women to just say NO to creepy men (I was molested by a man who I KNEW was creepy, but I needed the job he offered, so I went there in the hope it was a misunderstanding … never again), but yup, one should never believe a creep when he says he is going to go away, or that there will be other people around, etc.
        One really has to train oneself out of the “be polite” reflexes. It’s worth it, though.

    2. This is a really good script.

      I am in a hobby that involves a lot of travel and a lot of hosting; it’s kind of assumed that people, especially people at a certain level of leadership in the organization, will volunteer to host, and that people with certain responsibilities (=obligations to go to a lot of events, which can get expensive) benefit from that. I host people pretty regularly and stay in other people’s houses pretty regularly, and it’s known that this particular social aspect is one that I really enjoy (and I bring good hostess gifts, on the theory that even a really bonkers hostess gift is a lot cheaper than a hotel) so when I put out a request on FB, I get a lot of offers, all the time.

      The script that I use is “I am looking to stay in X city for Y event. Please PM ME if you have space/are interested in hanging out for the weekend.” And then I’m absolutely meticulous about replying to every PM, and commenting “Thanks, taken care of!” on the original post when I have something firmed up. So the people I LIKE and WANT to respond are primed to expect good guest behavior from me, and tend to respond pretty quickly.

      The beauty of it is that nobody knows how many PMs I got. I can ignore the skeevy ones, or say “I’ve already accepted an offer from someone else.” If a skeevy person posts publicly in the thread, depending on my mood/spoons/fucks, it’s “I’d prefer to keep my accomodation discussion in PM,” or “oops, I didn’t see your comment on the OP, my phone is only set to alert PMs.”

      And people (even skeevy ones) do tend to respect the Three Soft Nos rule, so if I steadfastly ignore their offers long enough, they taper off.

    3. Or, “As a woman, I worry that people would think ill of me for staying with a single man with whom I have no intent to make sex. I’m surprised you’re not worried about your reputation, yourself.”

      1. This only really works in certain social cultures though, and for people known to have certain values/worldviews. If I declined an offer based on what other people might think, everyone who knew me would laugh themselves hoarse and then ask, “no but really, why not?”

  6. Also a blues dancer! All the Captain’s advice is really great, and definitely moves toward the sorts of scenes we’re trying to build (where noone is obligated to dance, and people feel more comfortable using their words). With some concentrated effort by our teachers and a team of regular students, the culture of blues dancing in our town has changed a lot in the last year.

    Some extra blues-specific tips for creating space while dancing:
    * If someone’s pulling you in too far, move your hand from the side/back of their shoulder to the front. Use this for extra leverage to push your way out to a distance that is comfortable for you. You can do this with our without words to help.
    * (When asked to dance) “I want to stay in open today and work on my solo dancing.” Whenever they move in closer, your stated preference toward open dancing is something you can use to back yourself up if you don’t want to talk about your feelings. This is also a good indication of whether or not your dance partner can pay attention to clearly stated boundaries and/or instructions.

    If other follows also have a problem with this lead (and they’re your friends!), you might want to talk to them about the strategies and scripts you’ve learned. Be the change! If you’re on good terms with the organisers/teachers, you might also want to have a chat to them about dance ettiquite and saying “no”: In the interests of changing the scene, would they like to remind the room at each social that this is a space where people can say “no” to a dance without hard feelings? Would they like to make sure that they make this clear in their classes, so that the culture of the scene can start to change? I hope that your organisers are great people who want to support you, but even if they’re not, your friends in the scene can help you make this more of a “normal dance scene” thing instead of just a “that Awkward Dancer person” thing.

    1. Also, Letter Writer, I don’t know where you live, but I would highly recommend coming to check out the DJX Fusion weekend in Philadelphia if it is close enough for you to come and visit. I went two years ago, and I was really impressed with the organizers’ and instructors’ emphasis on constructive feedback, consent, and communication.

  7. Do you dislike him because he’s not picking up on your possibly too subtle hints about personal space? Would he be a fine dance partner if he’d ONLY back up a tad? Is he obnoxious in his words as well as his lack of distance? Is he both too close AND he treats it like a mating dance and grinds on you? I don’t think you have anything to lose by being blunt and telling him he makes you uncomfortable with his lack of distance, and you’d REALLY prefer that he pretend you aren’t such good friends and back up some… And then, as the Captain so often says, wait and see what his response is. Let him fill in the blanks…. He’s made you uncomfortable, maybe it’s time to return the favor. Discomfort can be a powerful learning tool.

  8. “These are not options, as they would make people ask what/if anything had happened. Well no, nothing concrete, it’s just vibes, we just don’t click.”

    ‘Well no, nothing concrete, it’s just vibes, we just don’t click’ sounds very fair and is a perfectly reasonable thing to say if someone asks why you don’t want to dance with him.

    And if you’re worried it’s somehow ‘rude’ to openly resist his attempts to dance closer than you want or say right out you don’t want to, please don’t be!! Besides the obvious that it’s your body and you have an absolute right to choose what you do with it, the whole point of dancing is to have fun, and of course you should say if there’s something your partner needs to do differently so you can enjoy it. Either he doesn’t care that you’re uncomfortable — in which case even being rude to him (which politely asking someone to do something differently isn’t) would be very much justified — or he does care but isn’t picking up on your discomfort and if anything, thinks you pulling away or getting physically tense just means you’re confused about his leading and he’s not leading clearly enough and he needs to be more clear — in which case he would very much want to know if his partner is uncomfortable and would welcome clear direction from you on how you’d rather dance.

    I also recommend mentioning this situation to some of the teachers or organizers — if you’re really uncomfortable about it you can even do it without saying who it is (although ideally they would know how to pull him aside and speak to him discreetly without identifying who mentioned his name). But however they choose to do it, it’s part of their mandate to try to help create a safe and comfortable dance environment, and those I’ve had experience with did take this responsibility to heart and really wanted to help avoid situations like you’re describing. For example, when teaching they should explicitly address such a ‘hypothetical’ situation and remind people of the ettiquette of close embrace and how physically to navigate it, e.g things like the lead should only suggest but then see if the person meets you half way, what it means if you put your hand on someone’s chest and push, etc. They are also often giving announcements at events and this can be another opportunity to remind people explicitly to be conscious of this. In any case, if you’re having such a problem they should be a resource you can count on to help.

  9. “These are not options, as they would make people ask what/if anything had happened. Well no, nothing concrete, it’s just vibes, we just don’t click.”

    ‘Well no, nothing concrete, it’s just vibes, we just don’t click’ sounds very fair and is a perfectly reasonable thing to say if someone asks why you don’t want to dance with him.

    And if you’re worried it’s somehow ‘rude’ to openly resist his attempts to dance closer than you want or say right out you don’t want to, please don’t be!! Besides the obvious that it’s your body and you have an absolute right to choose what you do with it, the whole point of dancing is to have fun, and of course you should say if there’s something your partner needs to do differently so you can enjoy it. Either he doesn’t care that you’re uncomfortable — in which case even being rude to him (which politely asking someone to do something differently isn’t) would be very much justified — or he does care but isn’t picking up on your discomfort and if anything, thinks you pulling away or getting physically tense just means you’re confused about his leading and he’s not leading clearly enough and he needs to be more clear — in which case he would very much want to know if his partner is uncomfortable and would welcome clear direction from you on how you’d rather dance.

    I also recommend mentioning this situation to some of the teachers or organizers — if you’re really uncomfortable about it you can even do it without saying who it is (although ideally they would know how to pull him aside and speak to him discreetly without identifying who mentioned his name). But however they choose to do it, it’s part of their mandate to try to help create a safe and comfortable dance environment, and those I’ve had experience with did take this responsibility to heart and really wanted to help avoid situations like you’re describing. For example, when teaching they should explicitly address such a ‘hypothetical’ situation and remind people of the ettiquette of close embrace and how physically to navigate it, e.g things like the lead should only suggest but then see if the person meets you half way, what it means if you put your hand on someone’s chest and push, etc. They are also often giving announcements at events and this can be another opportunity to remind people. In any case, if you’re having such a problem they should be a resource you can count on to help.

  10. There’s still a bit of the outdated notion that you have to accept dances when asked unless you have a concrete reason not to (the scene is trying to change that.

    You can totally help make this happen! Model the behavior you would want to see and that you would want new baby dancers to be picking up. In this case, it might look like turning him down gently for dances until he picks up the point that you don’t want to dance with him, or keeping a very stiff, wider frame that keeps him out of your space. It might feel awkward or not nice to him to not follow his lead in the space in your frame, but you can totally let it be awkward.

    In the scenes that I’ve taught in (tiny ones. tiiiiiny ones.) my partners and I have tried to make it as clear as possible that no one is obligated to dance with anyone else, and you don’t need to say why. In fact, I’ve started turning down dances with a simple “no, thank you.” I feel like this gives me cover in a way that a soft no like “oh, I was just going to get a drink” doesn’t. If I say I’m going to get a drink, I feel obligated to get a drink, and then not dance. If I say I’m going to sit one out, I feel obligated to sit it out, regardless of whether someone else asks me. If I don’t give a reason, the lead I’ve turned down can be as offended as they like that I don’t prefer to dance with them, but that problem is not mine.

    In short, simply not wanting to dance with someone is totally a concrete reason not to.

    1. I used to be reasonably active in a group one activity of which was dancing. (I believe it to be the same group ordinarygoddess refers to above, but may be wrong.) I was turned off the dancing side of things nearly immediately because of the outrageously pushy attitudes of the people running it, which approached coercive ordinarily and sometimes actually were coercion. I once had to wrench my wrist free from a man who was towing me into the dancing and shout “I said I didn’t want to!” A lot of other young women, unfortunately, participated because of this treatment. It was a rare situation in my local group where a lot of coercion was applied to the young men who ordinarily wouldn’t have been participating, and then they demanded female partners, hence the begging, whining, and dragging one physically into the dancing area. Of course, this was 20 years ago.

      Anything people are doing to avoid public dancing situations devolving into the one I experienced should be encouraged.

  11. Awkward sensation of something not right that you can’t pinpoint but can’t ignore?
    Sounds about the right time for the Facebook Unfriend. I know, I know, “networking” and “keeping up public appearances” and “it feels mean” but honestly, I’ve had a lot of success in the past with ignoring friend requests from or deleting people I see in real life but wish I didn’t have to quite so much. It sets a clear boundary that we are not personal friends outside of dancing. You’re looking for a way to “politely send signals that someone is making you uncomfortable”? Limit their access to information about your life.
    Bonus: less likelihood of them making publicly visible offers you feel bad turning down which discourage others from making alternative offers.

    As always, Captain’s in the moment advice is spot-on! But if you’re looking for a little more prevention, facebook unfriending might be worth a try.

    1. You can also set access to each post specifically to restrict a FB friend from seeing it, which I have done about pleasant surprises, but could also be done if the person will just make things uber awkward, but unfriending would make things even weirder for some reason. It doesn’t show up other than to show a “custom” icon in the “who is this shared with” spot. You can also set up specific lists so that “dance acquaintances” see different things than “bestest friend in teh whole world” and “Family”

      1. Facebook also has a “restricted list” now, which might be useful. You are still Facebook friends with the people on your restricted list, but they can’t see any of your friends-only posts that don’t tag them.

    2. Great idea! Or, if unfriending feels like too big of a leap, you can slow fade them into a Limited Profile group that you create who has no access to your feed! You can set it so that all posts have the permissions “Friends, Except: Limited Profile”. Added bonus: then he won’t see it the next time you send out a general request for housing/accommodations!

      I use this to “slow fade” people I am no longer super into, or just don’t want seeing any personal Facebook content. Eventually they get removed completely, but it’s a nice transition so they maybe don’t notice immediately. If they ask, you can always say, “Oh, hm, must be a weird setting somewhere… I’ll look into that”. And then, you know, never look into it. Or you can say, “Yeah, I just haven’t been using Facebook as much recently…”

      And if they actually follow up on the facts with someone else (“Hey, is LW still posting on Facebook?”), you can just be like, “Yup, creepy stalkery person just like I thought!” and skedaddle in the other direction, because that would be weird and out of bounds.

    3. I assumed reading it that they weren’t facebook friends, and the LW was posting accomodation requests on the event page for the workshop?

      1. I assumed that as well. So instead of making requests like that to the group wall, LW, you might consider being FB friends (and not just in the same group) with the dancers that you like. Then, if you need to make an accommodation or other request, you post it to your own wall instead of the group wall. If you want to keep your friend-friends and your dance-friends separate on FB, well, then that’s the time to decide on who to follow/unfollow and use custom posting lists. Granted, it’s a lot of work to set those up, but it is a one-time-only thing and then you’re set!

  12. Whoo blues! Aghh, saying no to dances is so very hard and avoiding people who make you uncomfortable is even harder.

    My go to non-answer to ‘why don’t you dance with [skeevy person/person I just don’t gel with/person who wears too much perfume/etc.]?’ is “Our dance styles don’t mesh well.” Sometimes I’m just not feeling up to saying, “I don’t like them” or “I don’t like dancing with them.”

    For turning him down directly I would so not offer a reason unless he asked multiple times why.

    For during dances, if someone doesn’t respond immediately to the push firmly on the shoulder get me out of close-embrace follow maneuver I tend to just say “I don’t want to dance in close embrace/closed right now” and if they don’t respond to that I stop moving and then thank them for the dance and walk away.

    I now need to go eat food, but will probably be back with more dance thoughts about consent culture and dealing with creepiness later.

    Also, if you have FB safety dance is a good group to check out.

  13. i haven’t been blues dancing for a while (work conflict) but when i was first getting into the scene, the instructors at all the pre-dance lessons really emphasized that both leads and follows should try to read your dance partner’s body language to move well and to read their body language for their comfort level for closeness and distance when dancing. i’m sorry this dude is both creepy and a bad lead.

  14. > There’s still a bit of the outdated notion that you have to accept dances when asked unless you have a concrete reason not to.

    As a contra dancer (who has occasionally gone to blues dances), I do hope this notion continues on its path towards death. It makes the whole notion that you are “asking” someone to dance lose meaning.

  15. Is there an official way to deal with this in partnered dancing? Because I don’t mind the activity, but the ‘YOU MUST DANCE WITH ANYONE WHO ASKS’ rule creeps me the hell out. The idea that it is ‘rude’ or ‘not allowed’ for me to decline to dance with someone seems ripe for abuse by creepazoids who would otherwise have to deal with the natural consequences of their behaviour.

    Possibly I’m a little biased, but I’m thinking of a friend in the Lindy Hop scene who got about two seconds into a dance with a nationally-famous partner before Creepy McIncompetent cut in, and she felt more-or-less obliged to dance with him instead. There are social cues that make his sort of behaviour ‘frowned upon’ in those circles, but if someone decides they just don’t give a shit about those social cues, and want to use the official rules to their advantage, what do you do? I mean, everyone thought this guy was a dick, but apparently that’s not a problem, because he got to dance with exactly the partner he wanted anyway!

    1. In partnered social dancing, I have never encountered “cutting in” *during* a song, ever, so I’m kind of O.O at that action.

      1. In a jam, cutting in is part of it. But in regular social dancing??? No, never seen that, seems totally rude!

        1. I’ve been cut in on once, when I was leading (as a feminine woman) at a a lead-heavy dance. I didn’t feel right getting the (already confused) follower into the middle of an argument on the dance floor so I just let her go, but I took it as the hostile act it was and have avoided the man who cut in ever since.

    2. I’m a lindy dancer (and blues/lindy scenes overlap A LOT), and it’s definitely a Geek Social Fallacies sort of thing. EVERYONE MUST BE INCLUDED!!!!! etc etc. So it’s considered rude to say no to someone because can’t have anyone feeling excluded, nope! Except for those women that the dude is making feel uncomfortable! Like the LW said, it’s something we’re working on, but slows be going.

  16. I agree with most of the answer – especially about the hospitality issue- but I would like to chime in on something. The script says “your behavior doesn’t work for me, so I don’t want to dance with you”. This implies that if the Creeper offers to dance differently, LW is supposed to agree to dance (because “What’s the problem now?? I’m not hugging you!”) The problem is, the real behaviors that send us warning signs about a person tend to be the small, intangible ones: a certain look, an intonation, etc. Sure, the dancing behaviors are creepy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were also just an overall VIBE that LW has picked up on that makes her uncomfortable. LW may still be uncomfortable dancing with Creeper even if he changes the way he dances, because he may also just be creepy in general. It’s not so bad to say “Can you dance differently?”, it’s much harder to say, “can you also not look at me like that or appear near me unannounced”. While I agree that Creeper may not realize there is anything wrong with what he’s doing, and perhaps he deserves a chance to change his actions, I also think it gives Creeper the opportunity to manipulate their response and force LW into dancing with them (SEE, I’M DANCING DIFFERENT NOW!”. In my eyes, LW needs some options for saying, “No, I don’t want to dance with you in. any. scenario.”

    Can we think up some additional script ideas for LW to use? Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham comes to mind. “I will not dance with you here or there, I will not dance with you anywhere!”

    1. *If* the LW wants to give Creeper another chance and it turns out he’s still all creepy-vibing, I think this is when you switch to the “thanks for trying but our dance styles clearly just really don’t click, go find another dance partner” line.

  17. I have so much commiseration for you. I have a similar situation with someone who is a regular in my hobby group and wants real hard to be friends and you are right it is really awkward. I don’t have any good advice, just commiseration.

    1. Yeah, there is a guy at my game group who clearly thinks he’s my friend and I don’t want to be straight up rude, because I see him a few times a month at game events (also I think he would probably ignore it, he’s that type), but if I never had to play a game with him again it would be just fine. And, like, someone mentioned my birthday party at a recent event, and he said “Birthday party???” and stared at me all sad-eyed, as though he was surprised he wasn’t invited. Yes. You weren’t invited, and you never will be. Some people have NO CLUE.

  18. “There’s still a bit of the outdated notion that you have to accept dances when asked unless you have a concrete reason not to (the scene is trying to change that.)”

    BE THE CHANGE, LW. Be the change. Your concrete reason is that this man makes you uncomfortable and you don’t enjoy dancing with him. If you don’t feel like just throwing that out there and observing the collateral damage from the impact crater, “We’ve just got really different musicalities, so I don’t enjoy the way he leads” is a really hard one for the folks pointing you in his direction to argue with.

    “I’m not sure he means it, he seems like he’s trying to be nice.”

    Giving this the massive side-eye here from Cranky Dancer Land, LW. Maybe I’m just grumpy this evening, but I’d frankly be willing to bet my Rosabellas from AxisTango that he knows he’s being creepy. He knows because he’s doing it deliberately. And there is no other situation in the world in which it’s likely I would refuse to give someone the benefit of the doubt like that, but we’re not talking about missed social cues or different social customs, in which there’s (limited) room for genuine misunderstandings; we’re talking about dance steps, which are freakin’ precise, yes? Someone taught him the appropriate partner holds, yes? Which he’s ignoring? NOT OKAY. Seriously, not okay. And I get your desire not to rock the boat, I really do, but LW, we have so little time to dance, and dancing is so important and precious, and you should not have to waste a single moment of it dealing with someone like this. To the Capn’s excellent scripts above I’d add not just a direction of “move” but “stop in the middle of the floor, disengage from his hold, and be sure he is clear about your expectations before re-engaging.” And if he does it again, stop dancing with the man and walk. off. the. floor. It’s going to be awkward and uncomfortable, but it sounds like you’ve a cadre of fellow followers who are going to back you up, and awkward and uncomfortable is what crappy leads who don’t respect boundaries, their partner, or the dance deserve.

    ::shakes fist at sky::

    I’ve really strong feelings on this issue, clearly. Getting off the soapbox now.

    1. And if it’s the best case scenario and he’s NOT a creep, [em] he actively doesn’t want to dance with someone who isn’t enjoying dancing with him[/em]. The test isn’t creep -> don’t have to dance with him; not a creep -> do have to dance with him. He’s a decent guy if he only wants to dance with people who are enjoying dancing with him, and if he wants you to dance with him even though you aren’t enjoying it, he’s not a decent guy. So there is zero, zero, zero reason for you to say yes against your better judgment.

      It’s not a “punishment” if he is in fact a nice guy, because if he’s a nice guy he wants your yes to be genuine.

    2. I think “I don’t enjoy the way he leads,” is a *really* good line. The thing is, LW, I think that most people you’ll talk to have an experience that falls within that description. Even if you’re talking to someone who’s never had to deal with a creepy-feeling partner, everyone has had a lead/follow that just. doesn’t. mesh. I think it’s a really relate-able description.

      As far as turning him down directly, I think that giving reasons will backfire. Like, that’s giving him room to argue with you. I think the only thing you can do that will help is to just say “no thank you.”

    3. “we have so little time to dance, and dancing is so important and precious, and you should not have to waste a single moment of it [dealing with someone like this.]”

      Can I just say that this was beautifully said, and I am officially entering it into my Wall of Quotes? Thanks 🙂

  19. LW: I think this is a really good time to trust your instincts. What if you do end up staying at his place but he comes home early? or, you know changes plans? Feeling like you don’t click is a good enough reason, even if he isn’t really creepy. And I agree on the unfriend or limited settings with this guy; this will enable you to find alternative housing without any possible pouting or feelings on his part.

  20. Please, trust your gut.

    Just say ‘no, thanks’. I’m trying (ok, mostly just by example, but I am trying) to stamp out the meme that if you refuse a dance when asked, you must then sit that dance out. Poppycock. It’s a human right to refuse any dance with anyone, for any reason or no reason. There’s no obligation to explain, nor does it follow that you must accept or refuse that person or any other, for that dance or any other dance. If anyone is so rude as to press for a reason, “we just don’t click” is plenty. Life is short, let’s dance with people we enjoy.

    Given that he has consistently felt creepy with you, maybe say a word to the dance organizers. Assuming they’re reasonable, they aren’t likely to take strong action unless he does something more substantive, but they need to know who among the regulars bears watching. He might be creeping out a lot of people just a little, as a tactic to single out the ones who don’t find it easy to push back. People do that.

    And yes, best to unfriend him. You’re not friends, he might as well find out now as later, the world will wag on somehow. It’ll counteract the mixed message of staying at his apartment (please don’t do that again?). My own favorite reason is “Yes, I’ve been cutting my friends list way back, I’m refocusing on the important things in life”. Nobody can argue real hard that Facebook, or talking about Facebook, is one of those.

  21. The Captain’s scripts are great for how to talk to him in the future.

    I read it as LW has already stayed in his house after accepting the invitation and wants that to not be a foundation for further friendship, which is trickier. If that’s the case, my suggestion would be to make an effort to be cordial when you see him, along with the boundary setting, and after a little while of more social interaction slowly cut back to as minimal as you’d actually like. It’s manipulative and won’t be fun but it’ll save face for everyone involved. Make it look like you tried out being friends like he wants to be and then it just didn’t work out (and you can tell him/others that!), and accepting the house invitation fits with that framework so it doesn’t look like you took advantage.

    That said, in your shoes I wouldn’t worry about his feelings and would say no when he asks me to dance, and if anyone asked why I’d shrug and tell them I don’t like how he doesn’t respect personal space. It’s a perfectly legitimate reason, and it’s a behaviour he could choose to change, you’re not passing along malicious gossip. It’s amazing how brutally honest you can be without offending people if you smile while you say it and don’t rant. Plus, there’s an argument to be made that it’s kinder to let him know so he can fix it (IF he’s a decent person) than to let him be confused as to why a bunch of potential partners shy away.

    1. Yeah, I think your solution might actually be best. I do feel mean, I only accepted the offer out of a seeming complete lack of other choice, and I was panicked, because I’d paid for the transport and the workshop and if I had nowhere to stay I would have wasted a shit-tonne of money. I was informed I had no hosting, and travel lodge cost like £40 a night, a lot in terms of what I generally spend. The main lesson I’ve learned is apply for your blues weekends early and make sure you get the hosting they set up with registered people going to the weekend, that way, you can avoid being unitentionally mean to people who you find a bit creepy.

      1. I don’t think it’s ‘mean’ to be polite and distant to him at all. They ran out of hosts, at the last minute another host stepped up unofficially and hosted someone. Doesn’t mean you’re engaged now :).

      2. That all makes sense to me. And, what if you gave him some kind of physical gift to explicitly say “thank you for hosting me for that weekend” and then taper things off from there?
        It seems like you feel some obligation to be friends with him because he did this favor for you (that you weren’t totally comfortable with anyway). I can totally relate to that. So, what if you brought any related obligation out of the implicit/vague category into the explicit, concrete Oh Look I Did Something Nice To Thank You category?

        A few possible ideas what that thing might be – maybe a gift certificate for a blues venue in your area, or a blues CD or whatever would reinforce the “We have this one thing in common but we’re not buds” vibe.

        1. Personally, I’m kind of a fan of things like wine or chocolate in such a situation, because they’re such traditional host guests. To me it’s hard to misinterpret a bottle of wine from someone who stayed at your house, since it’s such a standard social response to staying at someone’s house.

      3. It’s a shame you didn’t purchase, wrap and deliver the host gift before you left his home; now you need to fulfill your obligation, and there’s no way to avoid the personal interaction of an apology for the late acknowledgment. He’s a rude dancer, but without having so much as left a token of appreciation at the appropriate time, you became a rude guest.

  22. I am a blues dancer, and I have Thoughts!

    Wait, other people are seeing you looking around, noticing him nearby not dancing, and telling you in words to go ask him to dance? That… is not a thing that happens in my scene. That would weird me right out, and make me paranoid that Everyone is either trying to find this dude dance partners in general (because he mopes about people not dancing with him and they’d rather coerce followers than convince him to change his style?) or trying specifically to force you to be his friend. If this is normal at your dances, disregard all of this, but it is very not normal in my area.

    OK, let’s assume this is normal where you dance. You might want to suggest that people stop that as they try to change the culture from requiring everyone to dance with anyone who asks. But in the meantime, you need a response to these people. I have used “Eh, our styles really don’t mesh” or “His natural dance style is just so different from mine that I find him hard to follow,* even though I know he’s really good” to explain why I very rarely dance with a few dancers. This strikes me as both accurate and inoffensive in this situation. (It could also apply, for example, to someone who likes large, flashy movements while dancing when you prefer movement so subtle that outsiders can’t see, or vice versa.)

    *I’m assuming you follow from context clues, but I think everything here applies if you would be leading him.

    1. Yeah I follow, I refer to “other female follows” somewhere near the beginning, regarding myself as one, probably should’ve made my gender and role more explicitly clear though. I like that most of the people on here are not assuming actually.

    2. Could also be a case of “none of us individually want to be mean, break unspoken rules and take on the awkward task of fixing this, so PLEASE somebody else dance with this guy!”

      I’ve seen this happen in groups with this dynamic before where people play hot potato with the creepy person the entire time.

  23. there are several dances like blues which fall under that “it’s more relaxed and versatile” umbrella which seem to be a spawning ground for the passive-aggressive type of guy who uses death by kindness as a cover for their social awkwardness and behavior of which you can bet they are fully aware. he put his offer of a place out in the open intentionally to call dibs and forestall othwr offers. did you ask “if you have a room, pm me”? did he accidentally overlook that part? lesson learned. I would bet money that he knows his overtures are repugnant, and continues to suck up as a cover, instead of reschooling himself to BE a decent person. if you don’t put a stop to his behavior, you are enabling him to creep out other women… and THEY could stand to stick up for each other, too. guys can pick up vibes, even if they can’t always interpret them. If you sit together and act as if you’re having a great time, then abruptly chill…but still smiling, at least up as far as the eyes, he will notice the temp drop. if you all ever so politely decline him twice, he will get the hint. of course, when women do this, they inherit many nasty labels, but at least you aren’t getting feel-smashed. There is usually just The One Creeper. don’t feed him, and he won’t hang around. you won’t believe how much lighter the mood of your whole scene will be when he starts bait-dangling other fishing holes.

    1. All of this is decent advise, but…

      “if you don’t put a stop to his behavior, you are enabling him to creep out other women…”

      The LW is not obligated to deal with Creepy McCreeperson on behalf of the other women there. LW isn’t enabling the bad behavior, Creepy is behaving badly and it’s making other people uncomfortable. The obligation is on Creepy to cut it out, not on the LW to rein him in.

      1. +1
        That read very victim-blamey to me. No one is responsible for the actions of other people.

        1. This. I understand the hope that the first victim will alert others to the creep, but in reality, a creep’s victims are those least able to do something about his behaviour. It would be nice if (male) bystanders noticed and took action against the creep.

        2. Oh, well, then, he shouldn’t be held responsible for how the OP feels about his creepiness. There’s victim-blaming, and then there’s taking responsibility. There’s also helping out your fellow dancers. If you knew someone was nasty and you didn’t tell someone who asked you, then you’re part of the problem. I’m really tired of people pulling this “don’t blame the victim” crap. Did we not read that she thought he was creepy, but still borrowed his flat? Are you the same people who see no problem with Fifty Shades? If you keep letting someone run over you, you either have to stop complaining about it and accept it, or do something about it. You can’t have both.

          1. “I’m really tired of people pulling this “don’t blame the victim” crap.”

            Nope. Bye forever.

            It’s good to warn other people in a scene if you know someone is dangerous and if they ask you (no one is disputing that except you in a straw-man fashion), but a victim is not responsible for what predators do to others and the LW is not responsible for refusing dances in exactly the “right” way so that the dude doesn’t cause some sort of stink or cotton that something is up.

  24. Blues dancer number… Not sure what, but hey, it’s awesome to see so many here! I’m really sorry, LW, that this is happening in your scene, and I do suggest talking to an organiser about it. Many scenes have people to run tactful intervention I.e. an organiser or instructor will go dance with dude, and say “hey, I notice you are dancing really too close to me, can I refresh you on the holds?” Also, it should not be OK in any dance scene to assume that the social contract of “would you like to dance?” “Yes please” extends to any kind of post-dance affectionate touching. Perhaps you can help your scene set up this kind of support for other people who feel they can’t speak up?
    I know this is a preference thing, but learning to lead as well as follow could help you here: it will give you more options of dance partner, and when you do need to speak to a lead you can do it with more confidence – “when I lead, I do this as an alternative to what you are doing, could you try it?”
    For unwelcome invitations and people trying to dance-match, a cold “no thank you,” without explanation works wonders for me: if you LIKE someone but just don’t want to dance, you explain, so not offering that demonstrates that the ask was unwelcome. If you get push back “no thank you. Excuse me.” And go to the water stand/somewhere else.

  25. I would say, always trust your gut. There’s so many other situations where this can happen — you’re in a bar and some guy starts chatting and offers a drink, and you think there’s lots of people around and he seems sort of OK and really he is, isn’t he? ONLY YOUR GUT IS GOING CLANG CLANG CLANG. What’s happened is that part of your brain is picking up on lots of little tiny signals which are too subtle for the top layer. (Yes, I’m not a scientist. Or doctor.) Trust that hidden part of your mind. It knows what it’s doing — trying to protect you.

    1. Yup. The best definition I’ve heard of “intuition” is when your brain is analyzing data so quickly that you can’t see the math.

  26. I don’t dance, but I have been in the awkward situation of trying to crowdsource accommodation via a Facebook status and a historically creepy acquaintance popping up (almost immediately) to be like “You can stay with me! ;)”

    If this happens, even in a very public forum, it’s totally acceptable say “Thanks for the offer but I got it sorted!” No further justifications or explanations required. I agree with the Captain that you should avoid accepting any future favours from this guy, no matter how tempting or convenient.

  27. I am a male dancer (in the latin scene) and the rules are the same there: men ask, women usually say yes. We try and do our best to help out women when they are being creeped on. I usually put it like this: “Men ask, and women say yes or no. Everyone is free to ask, but if one does not graciously accept a ‘no’ they are not asking”. It is succinct and gets the point across.

    1. In the blues circles I’ve been in, I’ve never seen a ‘men ask/women say yes or no’ culture. Women ask at least as often as men, sometimes more since the situation of having a few fewer men is more common than the other way around.

      And for all that people don’t tend to say ‘no’ much, it’s reasonably common to see people pretending not to notice someone walking towards them and themselves walking away suddenly to another part of the room. If someone does this once or twice many people will assume it was random (and if you think someone may have accidentally gotten that impression you can always go ask them to dance later), but if you do it consistently with someone there becomes an unspoken understanding that you aren’t going to be dancing with each other. So there are systems… They just count on people paying attention and actively trying to avoid asking out people who don’t seem to want to dance with them, so in that sense they may occasionally not work.

  28. Thanks for your advice everyone, I’m not gonna lie I was worried what responses I’d get. From what i’ve seen of the rest of the internets people’s reaction to these things is ussually “What’re you talking about? He’s done nothing!” and irrate cis-het men talking about how everything they do is considered creepy these days. And I thought a lot of people would basically go, “well tough shit, you stayed in his house, deal with it.” God knows that’s what part of me was saying, I was pretty unsure if staying in his house in a pinch might not have just made it all my fault and kind of deserved. I felt like I should’ve tried much harder to find alternative accomodation. But now I feel like I have the appropriate scripts to deal with the situation and the tactic of phasing him out of my life rather than letting him down hard seems like a good one. I had no idea you could do that on Facebook too! I’ll have to investigate my settings. I’ve done stuff wrong here, which has been a bit unfair to the guy, but ultimately I now realise it’s no good taking no action about the creepiness/annoying vibe, it will make things awkward for both of us, because I’m sure he will pick up on tacit I don’t really like you vibes. I intend to excercise my right to say no for the sake of no. And now I think about it all partner dancers have got one or two people who their style just doesn’t mesh with, I’ve heard people talk of it before. I’ll thank him the next time I see him, how’s this for a script?
    “Thanks for letting me borrow the flat while you were gone, hope this is an adequate thank you, although I don’t know much about wine” probable reply “Oh thank you! you’re welcome to stay any time” reponses include “oh no, no, shouldn’t be necessary, I’ve learned my lesson, sign up for your blues weekends early and get the official hosting, thanks for helping us out though, I was in a right panic for a minute.” or “Well you know, I only really accepted because I knew you were away and I wouldn’t be getting under your feet.” Because there is an age gap and I study and he works ” Well you know, you’re a working adult, you probably don’t want your weekend’s worth of rest disturbed by me struggling to open your door at three in the morning, (did happen,)” “If I need a place to crash for another blues weekend I’ll nag more of my studenty friends, they don’t sleep anyway.” and also an accurate description of the situation “I’ve actually still got the flat when the next *specific blues weekend that it was* is on, I’ll probably be hosting people actually, that’ll be fun!” appropriate junction to change subject to me not being where I am now in third year of uni and that I’ll be moving abroad for a year for my course. What is basically “I’m only going to be round here for another year you know” is probably enough to put him off getting to invested in a “friendship”. I reckon those should handle it.

    1. Your scripts are good but I feel a bit TMI/Need to make an excuse. If he offers to let you stay again (a sort of pro forma thing to a guest), just say thank you and never accept an offer again (not that he will know you need a place to stay because filters). Your scripts give him too much of a conversational opening and give him too much information about you. Makes them seem friendlier than you want to be.

      1. Yeah true that, maybe I should just stick to “thanks but no need, I’ll have a flat next year so it’s fine.” “I’ll book early enough to get hosting” is also a good one, but I won’t tell him anything about the year abroad, you’re right, he will probably take that as a conversational avenue, might even say he’ll come and visit! eek! And yeah, he did keep insisting everything was not an inconvenience so saying I don’t want to get under your feet will probably turn into one of those polite arguments about how oh no you most defineltely didn’t, honestly it’s fine, no but I really wouldn’t like to impose etc…

          1. Seconding the idea of just responding with “Thanks”. I’ve found that “Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind,” is a good response both to offers you intend to take up and offers you wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.

        1. Way too much information. You don’t want this guy around you, so don’t give him details of your life. You already know there’s something just not right about him. Trust that.

        2. I’d also add that you should let the organizers know you’d rather not stay with him when signing up for hosting, because it’s entirely possible he’d sign up to be a host and make subtle hints that you guys know each other…..

      2. I agree with LabLizard, Awkward Dancer 🙂 Good on you for coming up with alternatives!

        Some suggestions:
        -Wine: “Here, as a thank you for putting me up last time. I really appreciated it!”
        Adapt as necessary to your culture (UK’s politeness is more explicit than my country’s, I think?), but keep it short and sweet. The longest it goes on, the more the chance he latches on something and starts making conversation. Ex: “Here. It’s not much, but I’d like to thank you for last time.”
        -Housing: what gmg said.
        Seriously, the “Thanks, I’ll consider it (for about 0.2 seconds, but you don’t need to know that part)” route is gold.
        -Dancing: as other commenters wisely said, “No, thank you” is a perfectly good answer. Also, I really like “Our styles don’t mesh well”. I’d go with those, but if you’d like something more polite to say…
        To him: “Not right now, thank you” + pleasant smile (the “and never ever” is silent). “Oh, actually I’m waiting for a chance to dance with [person who is not him], thank you.” + pleasant smile
        To others: “Oh, thank you, but I’d like to dance with other people tonight.” + pleasant smile “No, thank you, I’d like to do something different tonight” + pleasant smile

        In my experience, when you are read as “woman” + “cute”/”sweet”, the “thank you + pleasant smile” part is guaranteed to make people* smile back and leave you alone.

        *Provided they’re not assholes. If they are, let the “pleasant” turn to “cold” and say something like “I already said ‘no’, thank you.” If they insist, you have full permission to be freezing, cutting or just leave the conversation**.

        **You actually have full permission to leave any conversation whenever, but if you’d rather keep the appearance of politeness, that’s when you can leave a conversation without seeming rude, I believe. Of course, assholes will always think you’re being rude, but there’s no winning the games they play.

    2. Hey LW — I wouldn’t beat yourself up about the housing issue now, just know that you got good advice for the future. And re the thank-you script, this seems like as good a spot as any for keeping it simple and not needing to go down the rabbit hole. Noncommittal politeness can be a great tool for all of us boundary seekers out there … When you give him the wine (no need to say you don’t know much about wine, either!) and he says “You’re welcome to stay anytime!” you can just reply “Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind” or “Thanks, I appreciate that,” but you have NO obligation to take him up on it in future. If he specifically offers again, same script applies. If he asks afterward “Why did you stay with so-and-so/in a hotel/in a tent instead of with me?” THEN you can say “Oh, thanks again for the offer, other friend/hotel/tent was just a better fit for my plans” or similar. No need to give a single more detail than a polite response requires.

    3. “and irrate cis-het men talking about how everything they do is considered creepy these days”

      The Captain does an *amazing* job of filtering out that kind of BS here. It either doesn’t make it into the comments or the particular comment thread gets shut down pretty quickly. This is one of the safest commenting communities I have ever seen or been a part of.

        1. I got a few comments in and my BACK AWAY NOW DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT instincts took over. Fear leads to entitlement; entitlement leads to the Dark Side.

        2. Oh wow, that piece. I am feeling it. Not every single statement, but probably 90% of it.

  29. I do not like to hug most people. If you are not my boyfriend I pretty much do not want to touch you. I am not a toucher.

    I have, however, become a fist bumper. If someone goes in for a hug and I’m like, dude no, I intercept with the fist bump. I will even announce “fist bump!” for clueless people, and then blow it up Big Hero 6 style (bloodleoodleoop!). It, uh, works shockingly well and I recommend it if you do not want a hug.

    1. I tend to offer a handshake if someone I’m not very close to is coming for a hug.

    2. This is awesome!! I am a hugger (though I have learned to ask first, thanks CA!) and for the record, I would be so tickled if someone deflected my hug this way.

  30. Another fellow dancer here, with strong opinions on the subject.

    In my experience there are almost always at least one creep in every scene, especially in blues dancing. They are not there for the dancing, but for a socially acceptable way to get physically close to people. Since blues dancing can be very sensual, it has a higher risk of attracting the creepy crowd, which makes it super important that organizers and dancers in general are proactive about it as well as deal with the situations that arise.

    I’ll join the “be the change” choir and add a story. I, like most, have had a hard time declining dances, even with creepy or dangerous dancers. A combination of dance culture and being raised as a woman makes it extra hard. After being fed up with all the creeps and the tedious process of trying to avoid them I read something about just saying a polite “no thanks”, without further explanation, and decided to try it. The first time I tried it was with a lead who wasn’t creepy, but who was dangerous. He would lead flashy moves like sudden low neck dips, which are dangerous on a social floor even with an advanced lead. He wasn’t, but behaved like he thought he was. I once had the unfortune of dancing with him. I tried using my words to tell him his moves weren’t suitable for the social floor, but it didn’t work. The custom in my scene is to dance two dances, but I really wish I had excused myself after the first. Like someone else here wrote, I communicated with my face to rest of the room that I was not at all comfortable with his violent leading. When he asked me this other time I politely declined with a “no thanks”. He was flabbergasted. It had probably never happened to him before. He thought he was hot shit with all his fancy moves. Internally I was chuckling a bit. It felt great to put up that boundary and the awkwardness was all his.

    Now, this was comparatively easy. This was someone I had never spoken to, only danced with once, so not a lot of social expectations, and the dangerous dancing was easier to deal with than creepiness. The success still made me feel braver, like “yeah, I can do this!” Maybe you also want to start small when practicing your boundary setting.

    This particular situation is much stickier and I’ve been in similar ones. It’s crappy and disturbs the joy of dancing. Sometimes enough to quit, which is so unfortunate and unfair.

    I gotta dash now, but I’ll be following this thread and writing more for sure. Good luck LW!

    1. I call that “dancing with unearned style,” and I dislike it intensely, possibly even more than creepy guys because it can cause injuries. I don’t do blues dancing, but I would imagine that it’s much the same in that respect. When I’m dancing with someone who does that, I will sometimes just refuse to follow the lead for a given move, either by interrupting mid-cue with a head shake or by just flat not doing it. Has the potential to be awkward as hell, but better than getting hurt.

      My general tactic for avoiding both the unearned style and the creepy guys is much the same as mehting’s below: no eye contact. At all. An additional maneuver I sometimes use depends on the dance style, your level of comfort with it, and how ok your dance community is with a bit of genderbending: do you have any interest in learning to lead? It can be a great way to avoid somebody but still get to dance, plus it’s kind of fun and interesting to try things out from the other side.

      1. Oh yeah, my scene is totally accepting of female leads and fairly good with male follows too! Female leads a neccesity really, not enough guys to have only guy leads. I am going to start learning to lead soon, just because I feel I have ideas that I would like to express in some other way than just doing things on the end of moves.

      2. Dancing with unearned style! Yes! As a petite follower in swing dancing circles… YES. this is a major problem, and a scary one. Yeah, you *can* toss me around like a sack of potatoes. But… A. It doesn’t look as cool as you think it does, because in order for it to be effective I have to *know* what you’re doing and keep my own form B. It’s scary and dangerous to me and to everyone else. And when I have a partner i trust and can work with ahead of time, I like doing complicated stuff. But, don’t just knock me onto the floor or pick me up off my feet with no warning….

        1. I love “dancing with unearned style.” We have a person in our group who does this, and it’s extra weird because it’s supposed to be an early intermediate group and he keeps pulling out moves he learned in a more advanced class. There are also a couple of guys who have taken the class sequence before (beginner to early advanced) and decided to repeat the whole sequence again—which means they mansplain dancing to their follows because they’re already familiar with all of the material. YAY.

          1. Ugh, the dancesplainers are why I quit the last time I was taking a dance class. Dude, it’s my third class and I’m trying to listen to what the instructor is saying, STFU about some arm movement we’re not doing here.

            I need to find a different style of class.

      3. Oh god yes, the unearned style thing is dangerous and stupid. I had to take a week of FMLA to let my sprained wrist heal back when I was first learning contra dance. The asshole I was dancing with decided to do a complicated flourish with me with no warning after I had already told him I was new, didn’t know any flourishes, and wanted to stick to just the basic steps. Good leads adjust their style to the skill and comfort level of their follower.

      4. In a lot of blues scenes, women learning to lead (or men learning to follow) is not “genderbending”. We do our best to break the link between gender roles and choice of dance roles, you don’t have to become masculine in any way to lead.

        1. I’m mostly a follow, who can lead some basic stuff but feels uncomfortable leading anything particularly advanced, so. Some of my favorite leads are people who have spent a lot of time following, because they know exactly how mush they need to “give” (hint: less than you think starting out!) and how to make their follows more comfortable. I wish all leads were required to learn to follow a little bit!

        2. I teach dancing (modern jive) and at class last night, in beginner extension, I got the comment from one of the newer ladies that she’d taken a moment to catch on to the jargon of “leads and follows” (as compared to “ladies and gentlemen”) but now she understood. Since I was leading her at the time, I took the opportunity to explain that although its traditional to have gender-specific roles, I’d rather not exclude myself with my own language 🙂

      5. Seconded. Just don’t follow.

        I dance social salsa (and sometimes blues too) occasionally, and I’m a pretty okay dancer but not very flashy. Some leads seem to think it’s their responsibility to make me “loosen up” and find my “sexy side”. I have been known to not follow + shake my head, but if someone keeps trying, I will also walk away from the dance. Not worth it! On the other hand, I am such an occasional participant in such a massive scene that I don’t know any of these people, so it’s pretty easy for me.

        Also a note that if you’re up for it, social salsa at a bar on a Friday night is a really effective way to learn to keep leaders out of your space and to deflect unwanted touching. The “sexy” is such a major part of salsa that these people are (mostly) not creepy, they just have expectations that don’t match up with mine.

    2. AACCCK NO! I HATE being dipped, and I know it’s a key part of a lot of swing, but it feels like I’m about to be flipped/thrown and I hate it.

      For me, I’d just flat out STOP when a partner led me into one, but that’s not always an option. Fortunately, we had a good group of people and it just became a thing the regulars knew and that I could tell a new partner as we started: “I don’t dip.”

      I’m also realizing just how lucky I was with my group, because it genuinely never occurred to me until now that the “would you like to dance?” “yes.” expectation was a problem. No creepy folks that I knew of in my set. I can imagine it being much, much worse if that isn’t the case.

    3. Hehe, we call that “fling dancing” or “swing wrestling” where I’m from. It sent me to physical therapy once! (protip – during a swingout you catch your follow with your hand on her back, not your fingers hooked in her spine.)

  31. I have also been blues dancing for many years (I love it!), and I have thought about this a lot. For context, I am a woman; I mostly follow, but sometimes lead.

    To my mind, the “always say yes unless you have a concrete reason” rule has its roots in trying to make sure that people aren’t just hanging around waiting to dance with the most advanced partners in the room and turning down anyone they don’t already know. I’m a big fan of scenes encouraging experienced dancers to accept and even actively seek out dances with newer members of the scene. So, the line I’ve wound up drawing for myself is: if this person is totally new to me, they should get that automatic-yes-unless-I-have-a-specific-reason, because who knows, it could be awesome! HOWEVER, if I have danced with them even once before, then I have information to work with that will absolutely affect how I feel about dancing with them, and I get to respect those feelings. For me, personally, a person who simply isn’t very skilled yet is someone I will try to say yes to unless I’m in a particularly exhausted/unhappy frame of mind and need to be dancing with a good friend; a person who makes me uncomfortable, though, can get a simple, “No, thank you,” every time. If I want to soften that, I can add, “But thank you for asking!” or, “Have fun!” If anyone else gives you grief (and, sadly, I can imagine that there are instructors / influential members of the scene who might, though it’s a slim chance), I think the above is an entirely reasonable explanation: I obey the spirit of the rule, but use my own judgment.

    I agree with the Captain’s and commenters’ suggestions that something like, “Our styles don’t mesh well,” is perfectly fine as something to say to third parties when you don’t want to get into it. “Yes, but I’d like to dance in open,” would be a great way of giving this particular leader one more chance. One additional thought, in case he is somewhat new to blues: There is always that subset of people who come to blues thinking it’s a fast route to hooking up; I think they usually find out otherwise within a few months, and either adapt because they really like the dancing, or leave. These people may not get the subtle physical cues, because they’re new and not able to read all the intricacies of the dance yet; someone in this situation may respond better to a clear verbal statement. If he reacts enthusiastically to a dance in open embrace, then he may well adapt and stop hitting on everyone, because that’s a sign he actually enjoys the dancing for itself. If he sulks, or tries to revert to closed so he can touch you more, then in my mind that should be his last chance with you and he will hopefully leave the scene before too long. But you don’t have to give him one more chance! Definitely, set your own boundaries around this. (And, if he’s not fairly new to the dance, then I say screw giving him another chance because he knows how this is supposed to work by now.)

    And, finally, housing: I completely agree about turning down offers from people you’re not comfortable with in future, and always remember that even if people can see that he offered on social media, a) they are not keeping track of where you stay, and b) neither he nor they have any idea what other offers you may have received privately. So, next time, you could just tell him, “Thanks, X, I’ve actually got it covered now!” even if “covered” here means, “I have made my peace with the idea that I will stay at a hotel or not go if nothing else comes up.” I’ve done this.

    1. Excellent comment and a great way to take to good part of the saying-yes culture while still maintaining boundaries.

  32. I don’t do blues, so I don’t know the tenor of your dance culture, but in ones I go to, being on the other side of the room from creepy and avoiding eye contact with them go a long ways to keeping them away. Not perfect, but helpful. The best thing I found if I did get stuck dancing with them (we change partners sometimes as part of a dance) was to avoid eye contact while dancing. I got very dizzy, but it made them less eager to dance with me, and sent a cue that too close was Not What I Wanted. I don’t know if that works in blues, but it was helpful to me.

    When I had someone creeping on me outside of dance as well as in it, I talked to the organizers, who kept an eye on things, so that my no was not a thing, and let me do more errands for the dance in between sets so I’d have a good reason to avoid conversation. Organizers may not always notice things, but usually they don’t want creepers and when alerted can have quiet conversations, or just cut in to protect people from them. I also found that when I was motivated, I managed to avoid the no by asking people in advance for the next dance, or finishing up and moving quickly toward partners I did like and hadn’t yet danced with so I could ask them before they were taken. I would not have been brave enough to do that at an event that I didn’t know people, but it worked great at my home dance.

  33. I prefer ballroom dancing and have never blues danced (to my knowledge), so I looked it up and found a blues dance group in my area (DC). They actually have a safe space policy about what is being discussed above: http://capitalblues.org/safe-space-policy/

    LW, you might bring this to the attention of the organizers of your events.

  34. What, you don’t *like* the metadance of dashing around the room trying to avoid being noticed by That Guy and forced into physical contact with him? Who doesn’t like it? It’s like a game of chess where your fellow pawns are hoping to subtly sacrifice you to the Rook of Inappropriateness. Fun times to be had by all, right? Keeps you on your toes and gives you a challenge between songs.

    Oh wait, the only people who like this one are the That Guys who have found a place where consent has no meaning whatsoever. I’m afraid I have no support, only sympathy. The metadance drove me away from swing (some guys made even simple holds feel like the grossest thing, other guys looked at my petite frame as an opportunity to do moves I’d rather only be done with practice.) The scene culture (don’t say no) was part of it, but so was the fact that swing was popular enough that we always had new people coming in, who didn’t know the other rules (like, don’t just do lifts, even if your follower is tiny) and A. you could never tell what these guys would do and B. at the same time you wanted to be welcoming and understanding to newbies, so you didn’t just want to avoid all new faces entirely.

    1. But I do love swing, and the majority of leads on my scene are fine, there’s only a few who are probelmatic. Wow, most people are good if you say you’re uncomfortable with something on my scene, and we just put together a load of safe space rules as well which are reiterated every now and then. After all that abuse scandal from some teacher on the Lindy scene people are really trying to make changes. I’m so sorry you got driven away from Swing! I couldn’t be without it!

      1. I’m still able to swing dance, just only at places like family weddings (my entire family is a huge fan of that particular style and everyone makes sure there will be dancing). I just had to take a break from the scene in town. Hope springs eternal, I keep an eye on the group’s facebook page, in case there’s signs of a major shift in attitudes!

    2. As the smallest teacher in my particular style (modern jive) in my city – and the third smallest in the whole of Australia – I like to go through the things one can do as a follow to refuse a move gracefully, every time I teach a move where I might want to.

      I mean, when I have tummy cramps, I cannot hold my core properly to support some things, so one week out of four, I will want to disengage from such a move. Dips and drops are awesome, unless you’ve just demonstrated until your legs and core are protesting, and then I’m going to sit instead out of self-preservation.

      I’ve found that getting follows to practice graceful move refusal (do the dance of nope!) means that leads are also practicing hearing that refusal. Overall, this tends to make for more considerate leads and more assertive follows, and happier dancing where everyone is confident that it’s fun and they’re doing the right thing.

      1. Thank you for this! I would love to hear this in more classes. I occasionally hear teacher explaining how followers can defend themselves against unsafe moves, but I’ve never heard it framed as “here’s how to gracefully decline to do this move if you don’t want to.”

  35. I’ll “second” (or whatever number we’re up to now) the suggestion that you NOT stay at this guy’s house. Either find someone else to stay with or don’t go. Just because there’s no comment on FB about another housing offer doesn’t mean it’s not happening. And not to be argumentative, but it seems a bit rude or hypocritical to me to accept the hospitality of someone you dislike so much. Of course he’ll think you are friends, especially after that. Then how do you avoid him at dances?

    I’ll also second+ the suggestion that we END this outlandish notion that you must dance with anyone who asks. I used to enjoy partner dancing until I found there were a few people who really gave me the creeps and ruined it for me. Because *I* was the one with the problem, the one who didn’t want to dance with them. Or something. So I don’t participate at all now! From what I have heard since (years later), there are a lot of people like me who just leave the scene altogether because of these creeps who seem to be taking advantage of an environment that enables them.

    I never said anything because I was afraid it was me, my problem. I would wonder why I felt so uncomfortable dancing with certain people while everyone else seemed just fine. Oh! and what if someone felt obligated to dance with me? This nonsense really needs to stop. “No, thank you,” should be enough. You shouldn’t have to sit out a dance just because someone gross asked you to dance.

  36. “There’s a guy in the group who gets too close when he dances. I mean the blues can be very close, but it just feels different with this guy, icky, and other female follows have backed me up that he gets close in a kind of creepy way. He’s also just over-friendly, and does hugs with kisses on both cheeks. I’m not the type of person who likes to talk when there’s dancing but he tries to make awkward conversations happen”

    All of the other advice is great! but LW, These are all concrete things this person has done. He made it awkward already, and you are under no obligation to make it less awkward for HIM. I suspect he has done other concrete things that are hard to articulate but that definitely read as someone who does not follow the social contract.

    Given your description, I am comfortable saying that you have already given him signals and that he is using your unwillingness to make a scene to pressure you into going along. This dude IGNORES your signals and continues to make you uncomfortable. He is testing your boundaries and will most likely continue to do so until he gets what he wants, whatever that may be.

    Good luck.

  37. I don’t like dancing at all. It’s a weird thing with me but I just cannot loosen up. I’ve never had a problem turning down a dance by just politely saying, “No thanks I’m just not a dancer.” Now, if the guy seems decent enough I’ll say, “No thanks but if you’d like to sit one out you’re welcome to join me” The 1% of guys that agreed to sit with me a bit were the ones that truly just wanted a minute or two of my time to get to know me.

    The other 99% of them got all pissy and beligerant. Clearly their desire to dance was just a means to feel me up, check out my body, or whatever. I feel no regrets about honestly, but politely, saying no thank you to an offer to dance. I’ve found it separates the truly nice guys from the pigs.

    LW – go for it. Gently give a no thank you to this guy and see what kind of reaction you get. It’ll show you a lot about his true intentions with all this close dancing business.

  38. I didn’t read all the comments, so I don’t know if someone else has already said this, but I have a suggestion about Facebook. You see, I have had a similar problem in the past, where I put out a request for something or a question of some sort and the first and only person to respond is the one person I hoped wouldn’t. Therefore, what I do now is utilize the custom privacy settings. Facebook allows you to set individual posts so they are hidden from certain people. So, hypothetically, if you’re looking for housing in the same area again, here’s what you do:
    1. Make the post. Hide it from him.
    2. Wait. If someone you actually like offers housing, accept, and he’ll never know. If he finds out from someone else, you can either fess up, or you can blame the Newsfeed algorithm and then immediately get on your computer and unhide him so when he goes to your profile looking for the post, he’ll see it.
    3. If no one you like offers, and you’re running out of time, and you want a place to stay more than you want that place to not be his, then you can unhide the post from him and hope he offers, or you can make a new post that isn’t hidden from him and hope he offers. Otherwise, if no one offers and you want to avoid staying with him more than anything else, then you know you have to start thinking of other options.

  39. Given how often going to dance workshops means bunking with total strangers, I think it’s totally reasonable NOT to assume taking up someone’s offer for housing (or carpooling, etc) means ‘we’re friends now’. Acquaintances, sure, and sometimes you do make friends, but I’ve both driven and stayed with people I never even kept in touch with after, or only nod briefly at (oh, right, we drove six hours together that time, I remember you). Even though this wasn’t part of the ‘official’ housing, it was an answer to an appeal you made after housing ran out. I would treat it as a pleasant gesture someone made at a crowded, busy event, not a step towards friendship, and act like you’re just taking for granted that he sees it the same way. Since you found it awkward I probably wouldn’t accept more such offers from him, but neither should anyone expect you to feel like you have to apologize for not being any more than normally pleasant now.

    1. Not that you should ever feel the need to apologize for not being closer to someone, for that matter! But this is something that I think should be reasonably easily handled without a lot of questions. If someone does ask ‘He hosted me once at an event, but no, I don’t know him super well besides that’.

  40. I couldn’t turn down a perfectly good offer of accommodation for seemingly no reason.

    Uh … anyone can turn down any offer for any reason.  “I just don’t want to” is a perfectly acceptable answer under any circumstances at any time.

  41. I just want to say I’m so happy to see so many dancers agreeing with “be the change!” LW, we all want a polite “no thanks” to become acceptable, so let’s start there. It’s really hard, but I’m going to work on it too. No more obligation to dance with people that you really don’t want to dance with.

    (tataner above made really good points about the usefulness of this idea though–great to give new people a chance, and not only come to a dance looking for specific partners! Not great to force people to dance with others who make them uncomfortable!)

  42. Don’t have time to read all previous comments so apologies if repeating. As a dancer who has had a lot of discussions with other follows, organizers, and done a lot of reading of discussions on safety, consent, gender dynamics and changing norms in dance communities, a couple things. There is a group called “Safety Dance” on Facebook which i highly recommend to you. Folks active in Blues, Fusion, Lindy/Swing and Contra communities participate and discuss things like venue/scene policies for safe spaces, what’s appropriate and not, how to protect yourself and others from unwanted experiences while keeping dancing as fun and inclusive as possible…. tremendous resources there. (In fact it’s where i first heard of the Captain!)

    The old idea that you ‘have to dance with someone who asks or sit that one out’ is basically outdated, though not every last person knows that yet. Particularly in Blues/Fusion, maybe because of the intimate nature of the dance, _consent culture_ is becoming mainstream normative. Posts, comment threads and too-numerous-to-list great policy statements from around the country and the world are on/linked to from the Safety Dance FB group. A question of this nature posted to that group will get a lot of very dance-scene specific info and support.

    Also, anyone who feels creepy to you _inevitably_ feels creepy to a number of other follows (and possibly leads as well). The organizers where this person frequents have probably already had complaints, and if not they should. Even if there isn’t a specific behavior you can articulate, it’s ok (should be ok – you know the organizers in your scene and i do not, so use your instincts) and important if you are able, to go to or write to an organizer and say “Hey, i am finding this person creepy and also having trouble effectively and comfortably avoiding dancing with them and i do not want them to touch me. Have you had other feedback about this person? Please log this in case you hear from other folks about this person too. Can you help me deal with this situation?” A good organizer/teacher who’s up to date and aware may already be keeping an eye on this person, and more reports help them be able to intervene; and should be able to help describe norms for appropriate, boundary-respectful dancing that might help you identify (and so self-validate and be able to tell someone to stop) the specific behaviors/actions, however subtle, that feel creepy to you.

    You are entitled – everyone is – to practice consent culture personally, whether or not your scene or others around you do. You don’t have to be polite to anyone or spare the feelings of anyone who is being impolite to you/not sparing your feelings by being creepy, encroaching on your boundaries, trying to make it awkward for you to say no to anything at any time.

    And yeah, set your FB posts so people you distrust can’t see them. If you’re posting in an open group and can’t hide it from someone creepy who sees it and replies? You can delete their reply.

    Lastly. Getting all the boundary-setting-is-really-ok permission in the world still requires you to be willing to say ‘no thanks’ to things you don’t want to do. With history and acculturation it can be scary and hard to start, but it really is up to you. As the Captain often says, remember that if maintaining a boundary is made awkward and uncomfortable, let it be awkward and uncomfortable for the person trying to violate it, _they_ are the ones making it so by pushing, not you by saying no.

    1. It isn’t always dancing closer than you want or sexual behaviour, either. More common, in my experience, is things like the self-appointed teacher who single-handedly decides their partner wants a lesson from them, or the person who has a lot of muscle tension and little physical sensitivity and acts like their partners are made of rubber and violently spins them or flings them around or yanks their shoulder hard (this one is often a well-meaning beginner and often amenable to re-education). Or, my absolute least favourite of all dance partners, the lead who actually physically _grabs their partner’s wrist_ to lead a move (I have never actually walked off the dance floor yet, but that move has come closer than any other experience to inspiring me to stop mid-dance).

      1. Many of these people are decent people who just haven’t figured out how everything works yet, and many of them are worth dancing with and just being a little more blunt with them about what is OK with you. I’m not suggesting they should all be shunned or anything. And it’s often really helpful for relatively more advanced dancers or just more confident dancers to dance with them and help them learn, or for teachers to talk about these behaviours in classes. Some of these people will eventually grow into nice partners with a bit of help, and it’s great if people who do feel comfortable doing so help them learn, by dancing with them or by talking with them.

        But that doesn’t mean you’re actually obligated to dance witht them! It’s OK to say ‘no, thanks’ for other reasons than ‘creepiness’.

      2. OH GOD the muscle tension people. I have been dancing long enough that I sometimes do lessons for friends for weddings &etc. and the first thing I go over when dancing with newer dancers (if they are open to hearing constructive feedback) is how little force is required to do turns and things. Mostly because I have had leads stress my shoulders and wrists in the past.

      3. GRAB the WRIST? Not. Cool. I’ve had all of the others, especially in beginners, to the extent where I think the muscle tension is the price of dancing with beginner leads, but NEVER had someone take away my ability to let go!

  43. Yeah, I think the idea of being willing to dance with everyone comes from a good place – a desire to create a dance scene that is very welcoming to beginners and to strangers, and to avoid one where people mainly dance with their own friends or where advanced people only dance with advanced people and new people spend years standing at the sidelines before they’re ‘good enough’ or know people well enough to get to fully participate. I have talked to people from styles of dancing where such things were totally the norm!

    Those are really good goals, and I’m glad they’re valued, and I want to keep those values. But I think it’s possible to tweak the system so we still support those things, without making anyone feel like they have to dance with someone they really don’t want to dance with.

    1. And of course, when trying to keep both of these goals in mind, there are going to be places for miscommunication or misunderstanding around the edges and that’s just going to be part of it. However, erring on the side of “nobody has the right to touch my body without my express consent” is definitely the way to go.

      I will say that being involved in swing helped me develop my empathy for what women have to experience in social settings. I was occasionally asked by women to assist in rescuing a friend from “Creepy Dude,” when I would probably have been oblivious to the signs that she was uncomfortable.

  44. Oof, that’s a tricky one. I mean, firstly it’s dancing, and secondly it’s blues dancing. I don’t know about y’all, but when we learned back at my old Swing club, the folks teaching put a piece of paper between the dancers torsos and told us not to let it drop. The leads would lead with their hands (pressed on our backs), and sometimes the thigh. It was INCREDIBLY close, and I can’t even IMAGINE doing Blues dancing with someone I was not 100% comfortable with. I think Blues Dancing was the only time that it was okay to break the first rule of dance etiquette (at our club, anyway): Never turn someone down.

    I don’t know if your club has that one. I know we did to prevent, y’know, cliquing off and to encourage newbies who might otherwise be intimidated to dance with the really good veterans. Fortunately, I don’t think we ever suffered a case of Kinda Creepy Person, but I can see how, even if that rule’s never been laid out, the unspoken expectation of it can make it tricky to navigate where you’re at. (Also, AFAIK, it never applied to someone else suggesting that you should go dance with a person, but if that person hears the suggestion, then yay, awkward).

    But yeah, you shouldn’t have to dance with this guy if you don’t want to.

    Does your group have…a leader, I guess? Like, we had a president, the guy who founded the club, and he was a pretty approachable person. He’d start a lot of sessions by showing up new moves or giving a quick refresher Maybe if you and a couple of the girls who are also getting an unpleasant vibe from this guy went to whoever’s in charge that there’s a guy who doesn’t read his partner’s signals very well and dances too close. You can name names if you want, or not. But if nothing else, maybe your leader could start a session with a “not-exactly-pointed-at-anyone-in-particular-Mr.-Close-Dancer” about the importance of leads reading their follows comfort levels, especially given the nature of Blues dancing, and a reminder that it’s okay to leave room for the Holy Ghost, as it were.

    1. Yeah, my swing club decided to learn blues one night and … I didn’t go, mostly due to discomfort about just how close I had heard you needed to be.

      1. That’s just the thing. You don’t “need” to be. I don’t go to dance meetups anymore but when I lived in New Orleans some years ago I used to work nights (tour guide) and go out dancing after. To actual blues in the actual Delta, okay? And not everyone danced close. Sometimes folks did, especially but not always if something more than dancing was on the table. Lots of people danced alone. Most of the time when I danced with a partner, we started at a respectable distance apart. Sometimes there were hands on hips and shoulders and sometimes not. Everything was negotiated (usually through body language) so the intimacy of the dance depended on what me and my partner felt like doing at that time.

        So if I walk up into a recreational dance meetup and the leaders tell me that blues dancing has to be close because that’s how it’s done for historical accuracy or whatever, I’m going to walk right back out, because what you’ve got is not a blues dance club, it’s a groping fantasy club.

        1. All the this. In my scene (before I moved away, sigh) close blues was a privilege reserved for people you knew well and were comfortable with, and open was the default. Anybody who wasn’t down with that got taught the hell otherwise, and fast.

  45. I am so happy there is a thread on this topic. I used to do salsa and swing, and I stopped going frankly because of all the bogus creepy crap that you can’t quite figure out how to name, but it’s totally there. It was extra awkward at the time for me because when I was doing salsa several days a week I was the youngest woman/follow and person there (I danced between ages 17 and 19 mainly; now at 23 I have basically quit) and the average age and status of the men/leads were 40’s and divorced/dating. Suuuuper awkward as a tall young woman to “have” to accept creepily flirtatious dance offers from much older men and then pointedly say how old I was to deflect flirting/creeping and deal with the “oh but you’re just such a BAAAAABY” comments. Blegh. Now at 23 I don’t even have the “deflection” of my age, so these scripts will be useful if I go back.

    I’ve recently discovered contact improv, which I think is a nice alternative to the gender-normative, opting-out-is-impolite partner dance scenes. Partner improv tends to involve MUCH more physical touch; however, the rules of contact are: “Take care of yourself–make your dance the one you want, and if it isn’t a dance you want, leave. Do not accept dances you don’t want. If you are dancing with someone, you know that they want to dance with you. Refusing a dance is not personal; it’s how we all take care of ourselves and our desires.” This is AWESOME and I want to bring it into other dancing communities.

    It really is just such a shitty feeling. I am definitely planning on going out to try salsa again after this thread. It’s weird–I would always get stuck with the really creepy guys who also tended to be shitty dancers and fling me around and think they were fancy and tell me that when we made a mistake it was because *I* wasn’t following correctly–guys who were creepy because who knows why, but it just felt awkward to be around them–and now I realize I don’t have to accept that.

    I used to feel bad about it, too–like maybe I was being unreasonable or unfair if I felt embarrassed or creeped out dancing with a certain man, like maybe I was judging him on his looks or something. But now I realize it had nothing to do with looks or my being unfair, but rather with my sense of safety and joy. Why should I dance with anybody who doesn’t make dancing feel like the joy that it is?

    If you think about it that way, LW, that might also be a script to start bringing around the blues community: “Why don’t you want to dance with him?” “Ah, well, we’ve danced before and I just don’t feel that blend of safety and joy that I want from my dance partners. It’s nothing personal, but his style doesn’t click with mine.” If nothing else, those ideas–safety and joy–could serve as reassurance for yourself if you ever experience self-doubt about re-establishing your boundaries.

    1. I tried to do swing class, because I did a little swing back in college and it was a lot of fun. But it turns out I can’t handle those group classes where you have to switch partners every couple of minutes and get pawed at* by every stranger who doesn’t know what the hell they’re doing. I tried. I could barely relax enough to find the beat, much less figure out how to follow or learn the steps. Out of the dozen or so men, there was only one who I was actually comfortable having that near me. In the end it actually made me MORE wary of being touched by strangers.

      *To be fair, nothing actually inappropriate happened. But god, I seriously hate strangers touching me, anywhere. Handshakes are about my limit. Holding hands with strangers? Having them tough my shoulders, sides, hips, everywhere they had to touch for dance? Awful. If I ever go back to dance classes – which I would like to, dance itself is a lot of fun – it’ll have to be with a partner.

      1. Perhaps try a dance style that is not partnered? There are so many, and they are lots of fun! (I say this as a partner dance teacher – I’ve had students in my classes who hate being touched, and I felt so bad for them! I just wanted to kindly drop them off in the next door ballet classes, so they wouldn’t be so unhappy)

        1. I did belly dance for a while, and that was fun, but I LIKE swing. It’s not like you can really just swap out one type of dance for another. I like the music and the style and I like partner dancing – I just need a partner I trust.

          1. I’d recommend solo charleston, if you can find it and don’t have a dance partner at the moment – it falls under the swing umbrella of dances 🙂

          2. You are totally allowed to only dance with people you trust. Some places teach partners as pairs. Others (most of them) teach with the rotating partners, but you can keep out of the rotation and hold onto your trusted partner. That’s a thing that happens – some people do it for comfort, others because they’re competition partners and want to stay in the groove, others for whatever other reason makes sense to them.

            A few jerks might say something, but screw them. For the most part I’ve found Lindy hoppers to be a really laid-back group of people.

            Also seconding solo Charleston. And there are some fun routines, like the Shim Sham and the Big Apple that are done as a group, unpartnered.

          3. Neuroturtle – I would’ve liked to hold onto my trusted partner, but he wasn’t actually someone I knew or anything, he was just the one guy there who I was comfortable with (probably in part because he was nearer my age and a lot better than most of the other leaders). If I went with my own partner, a friend or boyfriend or something, that would be a different story.

            I would love to try solo Charleston, but I can’t find anywhere nearby that offers it!

  46. Granted, I don’t really dance much these days, but I feel like there are three kinds of “creeps” in the dance scene, and they all involve slightly different approaches.

    Creep #1 is the lonely, usually older, man. He isn’t very good, and his body language/conversation is often awkward, but he doesn’t mean to be creepy and he is, to the best of his ability, able to change his behavior to be as un-creepy as possible. He is the type that people say, “oh, why don’t you go dance with him?” about, because they have determined that he is not dangerous, just lonely and awkward. This doesn’t mean you can’t refuse to dance with him – you absolutely can. Or, you can explicitly ask him to change his behavior, and he (maybe after first getting huffy about it, because he is confused and hurt) will. Or, you can refuse to dance with him but actively go out of your way to *talk* to him, so that he is able to recognize that you don’t like dancing with him, but you don’t hate him as a person. You have options, but you should probably try to be kind. (Before you rebutt me, see Creep #3 below.)

    Creep #2 is the unintentionally creepy beginner. One of these stayed at my house (I was hosting), and I got really freaked out because *several* people approached me to tell me that he was creepy. I talked to him about it, and it became immediately clear that he was new, super into dancing, and had only learned one closed position hold (it was his first workshop). We talked about it extensively, and over the last five or six years, he has gone on to become quite a well known regional dancer. He CHANGED his behavior. This guy needs you to point out that double-kisses are weird, that he really needs to change his shirt, and that triple spins are not fun. (P.S., this guy may never talk to you again after you tell him to please change his shirt… but he will still change his behavior toward others.)

    Neither of these guys are bad people, but they both involve you being active about stating your own needs and preferences and giving them room to change their behavior. And you may need to do it more than once. I know a lot of people may disagree with me, but I think these interactions are on you. You need to be explicit about what you are and are not comfortable with. Decent people can have creepy behavior, but decent people will change their behavior when it’s pointed out to them.

    Creep #3 is intentionally pushing boundaries, does not change his behavior when asked, and it is not your job to deal with him. It is your job to go to the management. If Creeps #1 and #2 do not change their behavior when explicitly asked, you may want to re-categorize them as Creep #3. If management tells you that you are being over sensitive, know that it’s not okay. If you are managing a dance, you need to have skills to deal with all three types. *No one* goes to management just to cause problems. They really don’t. In fact, usually when people should go to management, they don’t. Management cannot fix what they don’t know about.

    Also worth noting: all three of these creeps can be women.

    1. Hear! Hear! Management cannot fix what they don’t know about. We do not have ESP.

  47. I practice a martial art, rather than a partnered dance. But my style involves partner work. And oh I feel this so much!

    All of that leads into – yes, skeevy people (mostly cis het men) smelly people (mostly cis men) people I hate training with (all genders and sexes)

    When I first started it was all more difficult, but even then I found that the unadorned “no thank you” worked best. If I had to I’d add “we don’t work well together”. In your case “our styles don’t blend/mix” might also work.

    I’d look out for the people who indicate that not blending means dance MORE together. Argh!

    Meanwhile, Jedi hugs if you want them.

  48. I am very sorry you have had to deal with this. Excellent advice has been given here (I read all the way through the comments). My only addition would be to take a deep breath, hold it for several seconds, and slowly breathe out. Repeat until the stress leaves. Then forgive yourself and stop beating yourself up for not handling the situation perfectly. Learn from it and move on.

    I have many other thoughts on the subject.

    As a contra dance organizer I am very interested in this topic. My co-organizers and I hear lots of complaints of vauge creepiness that is hard to articulate. We take notes and keep them, including names, dates, details, and we pay attention to the subject of the complaints. We confront, as gently as we can, the subjects of the complaints when we witness inappropriate behavior. We assure them that we notice their behavior.

    I am sure, though, that for every complaint we get, there are at least ten that go unreported. People tell us they don’t want to rock the boat, or get someone in trouble, so they don’t want to go on record with their complaint. We try to impress on them that we need specifics in order to follow up with the offender, even though we don’t tell him (it’s almost always a him) the name of the complainant. Much of our frustration as oganizers comes from this unwillingness of the offended to speak up.

    In contra dancing one can choose a partner, but one cannot choose one’s neighbors, who change every 30 seconds during each dance. This can make for awkward and very uncomfortable situations. One cannot always avoid the creepers, even by saying “No.”

    It’s almost always young, relatively new dancers who complain. Surprised? Yeah, no. They get creeped out and then don’t come back. If this isn’t addressed in a proactive way, the dance withers and eventually folds.

    We recently had to ban someone from our dance. There was a multitude of complaints about him. We had talked with him twice and finally given him a set of rules to follow. He broke one of them at his first opportunity, so we banned him for 3 months from attending our dance. It was SUPER uncomfortable, but we want our dance to be a safe, comfortable, fun place. If, after the three months, he returns he has the same set of rules to follow. If he breaks one he is uninvited permanently. We will contact the police if there is a problem.

    Now we are develping a set of signs to put up in the dance hall, in the restrooms, on our web page, our Facebook page, and in our weekly email announcements about the dance. These signs will be changed regularly, swapped out, so the message doesn’t get stale.

    The rough draft of these signs is:
    Saying “No” is okay
    No explanation is needed when saying “No”
    If someone offends you on the dance floor (or harrasses you off it, during the dance) you should tell them in the moment
    If one has a complaint one should contact the organizers, especially if one doesn’t feel safe
    We organizers will follow up (with them accompanying us, if they feel safe enough) with the offender
    If someone tells you “No” don’t take it personally, don’t demand a reason
    If someone repeatedly says “No” stop asking
    If someone asks you to stop doing something, STOP DOING IT IMMEDIATELY, even if you think you’re doing it “right”
    Be gentle: you never know if someone has a hidden injury

    We are also going to encourage dance callers/teachers to bring up this subject, both during the beginners’ sessions and during the actual dance, so everyone has the opportunity to hear the message.

    We hope these measures will weed out the problem dancers, and our community will have the reputation of a safe place where inappropriate behavior is not tolerated.

    1. “If someone offends you on the dance floor (or harrasses you off it, during the dance) you should tell them in the moment”

      This is the only thing on the otherwise excellent list I thought might need a wee bit of tweaking. And that is only because I know from experience how shocking someone breaking the social contract or being offensive out of the blue can be, and it sometimes takes the recipient of the offense a while to regain their bearings. Jerks are aware of this and some have an intentional habit of the “strafe and run” kind of offensive comment that pushes boundaries but is said just as they leave a room and getting up to go confront them would be difficult in some way, or they are masters of the comment said within earshot that the offended party could possibly tell themselves they heard wrong, and so on.

      Here’s an example (not from dancing but from my workplace): A man past retirement age lingers on in the office and stays active doing legal stuff. I suspect he is mostly harmless, but he was supposed to have retired a year ago, and has no official support staff person anymore. The woman he normally asks for work favors was out sick so as he wandered through the office looking for someone else, he latched onto me, the newbie. I bring chocolate in to share with everyone and have it in a glass jar on my desk. I have also recently gained weight and am sensitive about it, and do not often actually eat the chocolates myself (I am pretty indifferent to American-style chocolate, truthfully, as it tastes waxy to me). So he interrupts me during my lunch hour to do him a work favor, and as I am in the middle of doing it, he asks me if all I do all day is sit on my fat ass eating bonbons. He was only slightly less offensive, though he did compound his rudeness by offering me a health and diet tip about the lack of nutritive value of candy. And, Dear Readers, I was utterly gobsmacked that anyone would be so patently rude, especially when I was doing them a solid by taking on an extra task that I, technically, was not supposed to be messing with. My bosses give me more than enough to do.

      Point of anecdote: I’m pretty good (not perfect, but improving) about confronting jerks. But because I was new, and startled, I didn’t say anything at all. And, frankly, rude people who like to tease inappropriately or (less charitably) like to get a rise out of people to determine if they are pushovers or not, sometimes they count on you being too frozen with shock to call them out on the spot.

      I’d downplay any directive that confrontation for offensive comments or behavior MUST be “in the moment” for this reason, but I am not you or the boss of you. You know your crew better than I ever will.

  49. This is not really on topic but the number of people doing the “You don’t specify your gender but based on context clues I will guess and respond accordingly?” dance make me want to say this: I have a fantasy in which someday anyone of any gender can ask anyone else of any gender to dance, and the lead/follow depends on who did the asking, not who has what genitals. I can both lead and follow in swing dance (and waltz, for that matter) and I’d REALLY LOVE to swing with people of different genders/sexes as both lead and follow, but I always end up in one of two positions: I’m either following a dude, or leading a lady. (Why other ladies never want to lead is beyond me, and also I only get to dance with ladies when there are no other dudes to dance with, which sucks.)

    I have a special place in my heart for this “I ask = I lead, you ask = you lead; who the eff cares about genders here” fantasy.

    1. Ha, I wouldn’t like that! I’m perfectly happy with the system I’m used to where anyone can ask another person, regardless of gender, but I’d hate to then be constrained to a particular role in the dance just because I felt like asking someone… I often ask people to dance, but that doesn’t actually mean I necessarily want to practice leading that day!

    2. Well, LW says “other female follows have backed me up”, which grammatically speaking if you’re a pedant about such things does mean she’s a female follow herself, although there is the possibility that it was worded slightly awkwardly or a comma was left out by accident, which would be easy to do and I guess is why people are not assuming just in case.

    3. I agree with you, that it is nice having people of all genders leading and following but! I prefer to follow most of the time, but I also really like asking people to dance. In my scene, it’s pretty normative for people to explicitly ask about leading and following before the start of a dance. It’s something that I hope will catch on in more scenes, along with more lady leads and more male follows.

    4. Enh. I ask frequently because there are usually specific dancers I want to dance with, but I much prefer following. Maybe “We agree to dance together and then we decide on roles that would be mutually enjoyable.”

    5. I do a social dance form which can be pretty heteronormative in its assumptions (depending on the group — it’s slowly changing), but which tends to have a really uneven gender balance. It does the ‘it’s rude to say no if you’re asked unless you’re sitting this dance out or already have a partner’ thing (which I have mixed feelings about; tataner upthread sums the good sides up well, but the bad sides are excellently illustrated in this whole post), but there’s no kind of rule about who should ask whom.

      What I do if I’m dancing with someone else who’s willing to dance either role — or who might be, if I don’t know them very well — is say, as we’re walking onto the dance floor, “Do you have a preference of role for this one? I’m fine with either.” Sometimes they do have a preference! Sometimes it’s a consistent preference, and sometimes it’s “enh, I was a man for the last dance, I’ll mix it up,” and sometimes it’s “yeah, today I’ll do this.” Sometimes they don’t, and we shuffle around awkwardly for a moment and then arbitrarily pick something, or go with height logistics. Admittedly,

      Because of the aforementioned heteronormative assumptions of a lot of the community, mostly I do this if I’m dancing with another (presumed) non-man, but I’ll say it to men too if I have an indication that dancing the ‘woman’s’ role is something they’d be up for. Plenty are, especially of younger folk or advanced dancers.

      The idea of tying asking to leading is one I have no interest in, because — ugh, what if I want to dance with someone specific but I want to be follow? Do I have to hang around sort of looking hopeful at them like we’re dating in the 1950s? But the idea of assuming that everyone is potentially up for any role and we should ask instead of making assumptions based on gender presentation is one I’m all in favor of.

  50. I think the Captain Awkward missed her point entirely. This is not about the space bubble, it’s really about the creep-factor.

    As a female it is often more the question of “IS THIS GUY CREEPY/UNSAFE?” rather than “Does this person have a dance style that meshes well with mine?” when we are trying to decide to dance with someone or not. And I think that’s what the ‘awkward dancer’ is feeling, even though she’s been socially conditioned to stay quiet and accept dances from him. She says so herself; “he just is creepy.” “over-friendly”, “likes to talk when dancing” , “He thinks we’re friends I think, but I just don’t want to be!”

    Well, Darlin’, then stop hanging out/talking/dancing with him!!! Don’t go to his flat and give him alcohol if he creeps you out!! WTF woman????!!?? Do you really want to wait to see if he can give you a “solid reason” like “This person advanced on me inappropriately” for other people to hear? F*** what other people might think, and protect yourself from feeling unsafe, powerless, and vulnerable!

    Also, Captain Awkward’s answers make a fallacy of assumption that the ‘awkward dancer’ doesn’t like dancing close, PERIOD. She never said that. She says Yes Blues dancing is close but this particular guy gets in close “in a different, icky, creepy way”. So I would think that maybe she actually does enjoy dancing close with other handsome young blokes who don’t creep her out!
    She can chose to be touchy-feely with someone and chose not to be as touchy-feely with another, it’s a free country.

    So, the following dialogues as proposed by CA would only create unnecessary hurt feelings on the Creepy Man in Question’s side if he turns around and sees the ‘awkward dancer’ happily hugging and dancing closely with other members of the scene who are closer to her.

    “Oh, I’m not much of a hugger,”
    “I don’t like to be so close.” + move
    “That’s a little close for my taste.”+ move
    “Thanks, but you like dancing closer than is my taste, so I’ll sit this one out.”
    “Thanks, but I don’t like dancing so close to someone, and your style is definitely not the same as mine”
    “You’re a much more touchy-feely person than I am, and I like dancing with folks who leave a little more breathing room.”

    Unless the ‘awkward dancer’ REALLY is a proper lady who doesn’t like hugging humans and closed-position dancing these are just gonna sound like excuses.
    And MUST she be obligated to tell him the reason for not wanting to dance with him?? Hell no! (And trust me, NO ONE wants to hear the truth- which is, “You creep me out”)
    My thoughts on Telling him not to dance so close would depend on the degree of which the ‘awkward dancer’ finds in creepness scale from the Creepy Man in Question. If she would actually like to dance with him and talk and be friends as long as he maintains his dancing space bubble, by all means, she should ask. But if any interactions with him just straight out gives you heebie-jeebies? I wouldn’t bother telling him because, you will be pressured to dance with him afterwards (now that he ‘fixed’ his distance), and eventually he will figure out it’s not just the distance thing. And that’s more dishonest and hurtful.

    If I were to give ‘awkward dancer’ an advice, I would say just stop interacting with him, beginning with finding another place to stay. Send him a very short message saying “Thank you for your offer, but I found a place to stay at a friend’s”
    And every time he asks you to dance a simple “No thank you!” with a polite smile and walking away should perfectly be adequate every single time, and if he asks why (usually they don’t.. but some men do this in a passive aggressive way) “I just don’t think we mesh well” again with more polite smile.
    Same thing for other people who like to choose your dance partners for you. Alternatively, you could tell them “No thanks, Why don’t YOU dance with him?”

    1. I noticed that the Captain explicitly said the only feelings LW has to manage are LW’s own, and Creepy’s feelings are Creepy’s to manage.

      Telling someone you don’t want to dance so close in a dance doesn’t mean you’re responsible for their feelings when you are comfortable dancing close with someone else, anymore than telling someone no to a dance makes you responsible for their feelings when you say yes to someone else. LW isn’t obligated to set the same boundaries for everyone or manage the feelings of other people when they see different boundaries.

    2. “Well, Darlin’, then stop hanging out/talking/dancing with him!!! Don’t go to his flat and give him alcohol if he creeps you out!! WTF woman????!!??”
      For the record, yelling at people who ask for your advice is not conductive to them taking your advice.

  51. I know there are issues with Gavin de Becker’s book ‘The Gift of Fear,’ but he does a few things really well. One of them was provide the term ‘Loan Sharking.’

    Loan Sharking is the creepy thing not-good guys do when they secure obligation under the guise of friendly assistance. Nothing is done from a place of real friendship, everything comes with a price. It’s frequently done in such a way that saying no to the ‘assistance’ comes with a price. Such as the price of turning him down publicly on FB, or being asked by others why you didn’t take his offer. Or maybe just the fear of that price. This manipulates conscientious, socially aware, good girls and women into positions they don’t want to be in. And the not-good guy takes advantage of that. Sometimes they play a slow game over time, sometimes its a short con. Either way, it’s loan sharking.

    I don’t know you, him, or the situation well enough to know if loan sharing was under his behavior in offering his place. But. I know enough to trust another woman’s instincts. And if your instincts were ‘ewwww’ at the offer, and ‘oh god, how do I get out of this without making it weird.’ And are now dread at the follow up you feel obligated to make, I give that credence.

    Please don’t buy him wine. Or you might be asked when you’ll be in town next so you can drink it together. Ugh. Please don’t provide him an object from you. No matter how ‘grateful’ you feel like you ‘should’ be. Try this. Send him a curt, breezy, factual Facebook messenger note thanking him for the free space, and drop it. If the offer was made from a place of genuine friendship, that will be enough. If it wasn’t, you will find out.

    There are two reasons for this: the invitation was made through Facebook. Thank him through Facebook. That’s appropriate and you can write off any guilt about whether you’re doing it right or doing enough. Second, FB messenger saves the complete string of messages between you and another person forevah. It feels light and informal, but retains everything, and is discoverable in court. If he gets creepster in the message string, just know it’s being retained. Be assertive in the message string, and you know evidence of that is being retained. If, god forbid, you ever have to get a restraining order against this guy or something, you have the full chain of correspondence.

    I know, I know. I’m going all FUBAR worst-case-scenario catastrophsizing here. Easy to do on the internet! Just be proactive, trust your gut (and the guts of the other women in your scene who also have funny feelings about him) that there is something not-right about him, and act accordingly. Not how you feel you ‘should’ act or whatever rational way you think you’re supposed to behave based on how things will ‘look.’ Trust yourself, trust the women in your crew, and act accordingly.

  52. Wow. This… brought up quite a bit for me. I was big into swing dancing when I went to my first college. It’s the only athletic thing I enjoy doing and I’m a natural follow. I loved it. I went out with friends to a Swing Night every week, danced in the campus club every week, and took a dance class every week, so I was getting something like 20+ hours of dancing every week. So I got good fast. In my first year, the second semester, there was this one guy, Seth Myers, who was kind of weird in my dance class. He kept inserting himself awkwardly into conversations with me and my friends in that class. He was very socially awkward. I’m autistic and have always been socially awkward myself to some degree, so I’ve always had more empathy for others who are awkward. But I didn’t really like this guy and I couldn’t figure out why at first. I later figured out it’s because he wasn’t socially awkward, he was a creep and my intuition was trying to warn me. He only asked me to dance once or twice at the beginning of the semester. The dances were awkward but fine. It wasn’t until halfway through the semester, right before spring break, that something happened. He asked me to dance and, while we were dancing, he tried to say something about how his frame had improved as we got into the closed dance position for the waltz or something. It took me two days to let myself realize that he’d tried to touch my breast. I instinctually moved out of the way, his thumb caught on the wire in my bra for a minute. He acted like nothing happened but he knew exactly what he’d tried to do. I completely shut down, the first indication that there are times I actually do become non-verbal as an autistic. (My special interest is literally talking, so me being silent is basically a really bad sign.) I finished dancing with him. I had a boyfriend at the time who’d had to go back to his state and it was when, two nights later, I was texting him, asking if I could talk to him about something, I thought this guy had maybe tried to hit on me. He said he didn’t have time because he was on his way to work and it was then that I realized I needed to talk about it. I had to wait a week and a half to do anything about it because my teacher, a wonderful woman, was an adjunct and I had no way to contact her. When class came back, I asked to talk to her and she believed me completely, said she’d noticed he’d fixated on me because of how I’m nicer to socially awkward people than most people are. She made sure to never pair him with me and helped me file stuff with the school. I had one friend in that class who walked me to and from class every day, asked me to dance first every day to make sure Seth wouldn’t first. Seth would sometimes try to talk to me on the way to class. My friend fielded it all for me, fortunately. Once he tried to follow us after class. I didn’t realize this was stalking. Every time I saw him, I went silent and couldn’t stop shaking even after he’d left my sight for at least half an hour. He even showed up at my work a couple times, I’m almost positive by coincidence (this was a really small town and basically the grocery store everyone shopped at, plus he was with what looked to be his mom and siblings). Everyone believed and supported me except this one asshole in my dance circle who asked me if I wasn’t overreacting; he’s the one who’s going to be a cop. The school agreed that Seth had assaulted me, but only banned him from dorms and from speaking to me. I had to see him every week.

    I still have issues wrapped up with this. It was the only time I’ve been assaulted, the first of two times I’ve been stalked, and one of the first noticable instances of harassment. I still occasionally get nightmares.

    Because of all this, it’s hard for me to be objective. I have baggage with this. But I wanna say, LW, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE turn him down for dances. You are not required to. Don’t put yourself through the stress of having to worry about how many times you’ll have to dance with him and if it’ll escalate. Don’t force yourself. The first time you turn him down is going to be full of anxiety for you, but after it happens, I bet you’ll have a feeling of freedom like “I don’t have to try to avoid him all night anymore, I can just say no, wow!” And if the folks you dance with try to pressure you, I’d reply with, “if you’re all so invested in him being on the dance floor, why don’t YOU don’t with him right now?”

    And my brain just screamed no when I read you’d be using his place for anything. I know he won’t be there, but DON’T IT SOUNDS LIKE A BAD IDEA. If you need an out, just say, “I’m sorry, I’m going to have to cancel. I realized I don’t totally feel comfortable with using the place of someone I don’t know well. Thanks for the offer!”

  53. I am a male ballroom dancer. I have never posted here before, but felt it is very important to state

    1. You NEVER have to dance with someone if you don’t want to. “no thank you” is a perfectly acceptable answer. For that matter, you NEVER have to do anything with your body that you don’t want to do.

    2. Your ‘creepy’ radar is always right. It doesn’t matter if he is nice, friendly, sweet, or whatever. It doesn’t matter if you can’t figure out why he seems creepy. If he seems creepy then he is creepy.

    3. Never put yourself in a compromising situation with someone who is creepy. Just because they offer you free accommodations, or free whatever, that’s not a good enough reason. Your safety and sanity are far more important than your ability to get something non-life-essential for free.

  54. Oh how I could have used this info a few years back when I was big into swing dancing. I ended up stopping going dancing even though it was something I REALLY enjoyed. It was the combo of a few creepy people, hardly anyone I WANTED to dance with wanted to dance with me (and on the few occasions that they did –usually them coming and asking me– they did bare minimum of touching which when they’re trying to teach you something isn’t very good when they preach the opposite and making me feel like a dirty dish rag they wanted to throw out), and there was an overall toxic atmosphere of “if you don’t do minimum of x amount of dancing regardless of your mental status or financial status you’re just not as committed as we are and we can’t bother to take time out of our lives to help or dance with you.” Basically very cliqueish. I spent more time sitting there and staring wistfully at the dance floor than actually dancing so I stopped going. It wasn’t worth the $15 (including gas because the studio was $5) every week to do. I miss it like crazy but unless I want to drive an hour and a half and spend $20 on gas plus another $10-50 for the venue I have no choice to avoid these toxic people and dance with people who genuinely just want to dance.

    But if someone is making you uncomfortable LW, don’t hesitate to avoid them. I’ve learned through trial and error that your gut instinct is almost always right.

    1. I’m sorry you had that experience, but it makes me feel slightly better to know it’s not just my anxiety about trying new things that is giving me that vibe as a beginner swing dancer who is there for fun and not putting in All Teh Hours. It’s been quite a switch trying swing from contra where (at least at the dances I’ve been do) everyone keeps an eye out for beginners and makes a point to ask them to dance. Maybe because in contra a beginner without a decent partner can mess with the whole line, not just their partner like in swing.

      1. possibly. And it happened I’m more or less over it. Best of luck with swing. It’s insanely fun, we just have a toxic community where I live and LA and San Diego are too far for me to reasonably go weekly (also I have a severe dislike of LA and half the community out here regularly goes to LA swing dancing events so I’m left with SD)

  55. Oh, LW, I feel you so hard! I used to dance Argentine tango – yeah, talk about close dances… – and we had a guy like this in our community, and, I just want to say I feel you so hard, yeeaaaaaargh ew ick hulk smash etc. I was originally going to write a long rant about the guy’s awfulness and all the awful gross creepy, and Gift of Fear warnign bells setting off behaviours he did, and how he got away with it because of his social connections and all the gaslighting and icky stuff that gets used to excuse men’s bad behaviour. My story doesn’t really have a conclusion, because I busted my knee and was never able to dance again, so I just stopped going. Just wanted to say you’re not alone.

  56. As somebody very big on both consent and dance – there are people responsible for sorting this stuff. Especially in blues (and I don’t know where you are, but the US is especially involved in this), most dance communities have safe space policies, classes about consent and dance, and general rules for how to be not-creepy. If your dance spaces don’t have that, perhaps you can talk to organisers about getting a safer spaces and consent policy for social dances? There are many great examples online.

    Also, if you feel like it, learn to lead. It has really helped me be less forgiving to creeps: if I can lead with enough distance and read people’s body language, so can they! Plus, as many people have said, just saying what you want is great: “I need more space” in a dance, and “No thanks!” + a smile if you want to decline a dance. Worst case scenario is that he dislikes you and doesn’t ask you to dance anymore, which is a great outcome 🙂

    (with regards to staying at his place, my script would be: “Thank you for the offer! I really don’t feel we know each other well enough for me to stay in your place alone for a weekend, but i appreciate the offer.”

  57. This is a timely question for me – I’m heading off to my annual folk dance camp in a week and a half, and turning down partners I’m not comfortable with has always been difficult for me there because it’s a family-friendly camp that I’ve been attending for my entire life, so most of the people I have these issues with are long-time friends and the potential for “drama” and hurt feelings is much higher. So it’ll be good to have some not-awkward or less awkward responses up my sleeve.

    1. This. I’m thinking, in the triumph of hope over experience, of getting back into the science fiction/ fantasy convention scene. One of my favorite parts of a con is the dance, but I’m sort-of conventionally attractive for a cisfemale, and I always get that one guy who decides I’m purdy and not visibly partnered, and wants to DANCE EVERY DANCE with me. At what point is it ever okay to say, “Hey, cool dancing with you and all, but I like to mix it up”? Especially given that I’m a lesbian, and this type of guy immediately defaults to, “You have been socially and sexually rejected by this woman, and she’s probably lying about being a lesbian. Step up your game! Be more manipulative, chicks love that!”

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