Minority Report: I am more than a butt: why I hate grinding

I hate grinding. But this is not because I am opposed to the expression of sexuality, public displays of affection or enjoyment. Dancing is fine. Making out is fine. Having sex is fine (though I would prefer if it stayed out of Harris for public health and safety purposes). Grinding, however, is inherently problematic.

Before you burn me at the stake of sex-positivity, allow me to explain: the form of grinding allows for one person’s control over and use of another person. The typical “grinding position” involves one person, who is receiving pleasure (who we will call the grindee), behind another person, who is giving pleasure (who we will call the grinder). Typically, the grindee is a guy and the grinder is a girl. In such a situation, grinding becomes an instrument of male domination and misogyny. “But wait!” you cry indignantly. “It can’t be misogynistic if the girl is enjoying it!” I respond with my patented “oh please” look and proceed to respectfully remind you that we as a student body engage do, in fact, engage in activities that are “enjoyable” but not socially responsible—like grinding.

Because the grindee exercises control over the grinder, often wrapping hir arms around the grinder to direct hir movements, the grinder becomes an instrument of the grindee’s pleasure. Since the grindee is usually a girl, working to please the often-male grinder, grinding is androcentric (male-focused). This structure also provides for the objectification and sexualization of women: dancing with a girl does not involve appreciating her as a human being, but using her body for pleasure. The typical grinding scenario also reinforces the stereotype of men as dominant and women as submissive, which is by extension an affirmation of inaccurate gender roles. This isn’t about who’s enjoying what, it’s about a convoluted power dynamic in which one person is using the other, whether or not that is apparent or even conscious. This power issue also applies to situations in which the grinder and grindee are both guys or both girls (or any combination of gender identities, for that matter). While I recognize that grinding is by no means standardized, I maintain that the average grinding interaction is misogynistic in nature.

Okay, so you didn’t agree with my first argument? I understand. But maybe you’ll agree with this one: grinding poses a consent problem. It’s very easy to initiate without consent because one person can approach another from behind and begin grinding without the other person’s agreement or even—at first—realization. Once a guy attempted to start grinding with me without the intention to ask for my permission, and another touched me before he asked. Neither of these things is acceptable. The true fault in such situations lies with the individual, but the concept of grinding is not completely innocent: consent should be obtained without exception, and situations that make it incredibly easy for people to take any type of sexual action without consent should be reevaluated. Everyone should be able to dance freely, no matter where, without worrying about being grabbed from behind.

“Excuse me,” you say rather impolitely. “Most of the grinding that happens here is consensual.” I agree with you completely, my dear friend. But that doesn’t make the issue of dubious consent unimportant, nor does it refute my final point: although grinding is probably the primary way people show interest in each other at parties, it is a rather impersonal interaction that is a poor basis for any sort of relationship. The position of grinding is not at all conducive to making conversation, and it doesn’t even allow the two people involved to look each other in the eyes—in fact, people can grind for hours without even exchanging names. Awkward, non-communicative grinding situations are both a symptom and a cause of relational problems that reach far beyond Harris. Grinding is arguably less social than ordering a burger at McDonald’s, and it’s ultimately a cop-out. Why can’t people get to know each other face-to-face instead of genitals-to-butt? Is that too… intimate?

Think about grinding. I’m not asking you to agree with me; I’m simply asking you to think. And if you realize that you share my opinion, join me. I’ll be the one dancing like crazy with only myself to please.

-Isabel Cooke ’16