Dating coach: “Social dancing can be an intervention for sexual harassment”

By Jennifer B. Rhodes

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Jennifer Rhodes

 

I started ballroom dancing at the age of 17. I was anticipating my graduation from high school and I really wanted to give it a try. I remember I walked into the dance studio scared out of my mind but ended up being completely motivated simply because my instructor was gorgeous and supremely supportive.

Within six months I won an amateur dance competition and fell in love with dancing. I quickly learned, however, ballroom dancing is an expensive hobby.

My grandfather, who I was close to, did not think it was worth the money and asking me why I needed more lessons. Rather than advocating for myself or questioning his opinion, I simply forgot about it and headed to college. I didn’t dance again for almost 13 years. I now dance bachata, kizomba, and Argentine tango.

Dancing serves as my self-care and keeps me balanced.

It has made me a more patient relationship expert and one who can help her clients think outside the box to help them create a life worth living. Social dancing has made me a far better woman than any other activity I’ve ever participated in. I have become a better date, a better sister, a better cousin and an overall better-rounded, healthier person because of social dancing.

Social dancing has made me a far better woman than any other activity I’ve ever participated in.

Today, you hear stories about sexual harassment, men being aggressive towards women, or ongoing stories of sexual assault. I could write a “me too” story because the reality is every woman has dealt with sexual harassment in some way. Many women avoid dancing because they believe those “types” of men are on the dance floor but we are now learning that those “types” are everywhere. I believe strongly that social dancing is an intervention for sexual harassment for everyone.

Social dancing gives you a space to practice your personal boundaries, assert your preferences, and teach men how you would like to be treated.

It gives you a place to learn to feel what is like to be safe in the company of a man. It is common for new female dancers to think that you are simply at the mercy of every man who asks you to dance or that you will be sexually harassed everywhere you go.

You will be faced with the decision to stay quiet and compliant versus being bold. With time and an increase in confidence you realize that you as the follower have more power in your simple decision to say “yes” or “no” to the request to dance.

This past weekend alone, I said no to any man who grabbed my arm, thought he could teach me to dance, or was in any way sexually inappropriate. Those men watched as I said yes to the gentlemen who treated me with the care and respect I deserve. I know it feels like men have all the power but the reality is that they know we as women do – and it scares them.

Social dancing has reminded me of my value as a woman beyond my attractiveness. It has supported me in my current work as a relationship expert and in the development of a new entrepreneurship and leadership program for artists called Visual Arts Reimagined.

When I feel like I am being brought down, I return to the dance floor and remind myself that I get to choose who to let into my life. There is nothing more powerful than a woman who has a space that gives her the constant reminder that she chooses with her boundaries who has access to her energy, body and soul.

Jennifer B. Rhodes, PsyD is a licensed psychologist, dating coach, image consultant and founder of Rapport, A Boutique Relationships Agency. She can be reached at  Jennifer@RapportRelationships.com. Or you can follow her on Twitter

 

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