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Editor's Letter: Grinding and sexual freedom

Caroline Feeney

March 13, 2014 | 12:00 a.m. CST

You could have seen it on a dance floor somewhere in Columbia last night. It will be repeated again tonight, not just in our town but also across the nation in clubs, bars and even middle school dances. Grinding — a dance form that’s become so ingrained in party culture that most don’t give it a second thought. Two people come together, maybe for just the evening or maybe for just one song, as their heartbeats sync with a thumping bass, and the curves of their bodies intertwine.

In this week’s cover story, Elise Schmelzer unspools a compelling first-person narrative about grinding. Through observation and research, Elise dismantles the illusion of grinding as a sexually liberating dream world driven by cloudy inhibitions. She strips away the flashing lights and the cheap cologne to reflect grinding in its truest form: a simulation of sex, driven by a primitive instinct with complicated undertones. She reveals how a dance that represents sexual freedom is governed by unspoken rules.

Throughout the piece, the writer’s voice carries authority without judgment, and she brings in the perspective of an NYU researcher who has examined the nonverbal communication this dance entails. But ultimately, this is Elise’s story. It is an exploration of grinding in the heterosexual world, a journey from the point of view of a woman who doesn’t see grinding as threatening. There are other stories that Vox could tell about grinding. This one emphasizes the age-old gender roles found between men and women on the modern dance floor.

Paired with intimate photos selected from Kevin Cook’s project on college partying, this piece will challenge current perceptions of grinding. At times, readers might squirm in their chairs with discomfort as they understand its implications in the sobering light of day.

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