Freedom and 'the freak'

Posted: Feb 21, 2001 12:00 AM
How do I say this without sounding like an old fuddy-duddy? The "freak" is downright obscene. For those of you without kids or MTV, it's the most popular form of dirty dancing these days with the under-30 crowd. No written description can really do the freak (also known as the "nasty") justice. You've got to see it to believe it. Teen-age and pre-teen girls on their hands and knees, sandwiched between gyrating boys positioned at their backs and faces. Boys behind girls, girls on top of girls. We're not just talking Elvis-type bumping or Lambada-style grinding. We're talking hard-core, pelvis-to-pelvis contact and X-rated, front-to-back thrusting. The freak is simply simulated intercourse without even the pretense of dance. This cultural phenomenon has been making headlines across the country, pitting school administrators in an age-old battle against crusading youngsters who fashion themselves heroes for free expression and personal liberty: -- In Puyallup, Wa., last week, teens held a renegade dance event to protest their high school's ban on freaking. Students complained about being pulled apart by chaperones or kicked out of the gym for dancing too close and too provocatively. Puyallup High School had designed guidelines last year for appropriate behavior at official dances. But the policy wasn't imposed by authoritarian jack-boots. It was passed with student input and approval. The completely reasonable rules included: no simulated sex acts; no inappropriate groping; and no grabbing your own ankles while dancing. "It becomes inappropriate when you bend down more than 45 degrees and there's someone dancing behind you," student body president Josh Folk told the Tacoma News Tribune. Fellow student Doug Guinn objected, and organized a private dance party at the Liberty Theater that drew 300 students away from his school's fund-raising Valentine's Day dance. The Liberty's TV screens projected "Footloose," the 1980s dance movie. National news media descended on the event. "I'm having a lot of fun from getting all this attention," Guinn told the News Tribune. -- "The teachers say that we're too close, (but) it's just dancing," high school senior Tequia Lee told Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch youth correspondent Sarah Gintout last week in a report on freaking. "We're not harming anyone at all." Becky Whitlock, a freshman at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va., also was non-plussed. "It happens," she said. It's "not a big, earth-shattering deal." -- And in Anchorage, Alaska, a clampdown on freaking inflamed debate among local high school students. Freshmen Kathryn Petros and Emily Parker-Gasper complained to the Anchorage Daily News: "Freak dancing is not a problem, and we think detractors are just overreacting. To us, this form of dancing is just a way of expressing yourself and letting loose energy that you have to keep to yourself most of the time. Freak dancing is like a natural high, a pure adrenaline rush that you get when doing something you enjoy." Russell Moore, a high school senior, explained that "anonymity" on the dance floor "encourages students to enjoy themselves without fear of judgment ... What freak dancing provides is an opportunity for young people to get used to the fact that they are sexual beings." Tara Gaudin, a junior assigned to photograph freakers at a local dance said "they looked horrible. They slammed their bodies together in over-exaggerated pelvic thrusts and groped each other in a way that is apparently supposed to be erotic. Not only was I disgusted at this, but I also feared for my safety because they had a habit of attaching themselves to anyone passing by and would then 'dance' with them, no matter the unsuspecting victim's gender." It's a short trip from freaking to wilding, from sex-driven "dancing" to anonymous group groping like the kind that resulted in violence at New York's Central Park last summer. Kids need to be taught that liberty without self-restraint is corrosive. License and licentiousness are not the same thing. Not all impulses are meant to be indulged -- at least, not on the dance floor between 12-year-olds. Saying no is prudish. Public decorum is unhip. Modesty is old-fashioned. But it's time more parents got tuned in and freaked out about our vulgar culture's effects on the young.