*Trigger Warning: This post discusses sexual harassment and assault.*
[Edited 12/11/15–see addendum at the end]
On behalf of the swing community, let me first say that we’re so glad you’re here! I hope you have such a good time that you come back every single week. You make our dance community richer.
You’re going to learn a few basic steps, enough to get you out on the floor and moving to the music. Your teachers will get started in a few minutes, but first I wanted to talk about what to expect in this social situation, and remind you of your rights as a person.
Your instructors will probably encourage you to accept (enthusiastically, even) every offer to dance, especially if the offer comes from one of your fellow classmates. If you feel this enthusiasm, by all means, accept! Dance! Have fun! Make mistakes! Laugh at them! Try not to step on anyone! Apologize if you do! Just be your awesome self!
Addendum: Several swing dancers have rightly pointed out that predatory behavior is not found solely among older men. The older-man/younger-woman dynamic is the most visible example of predatory behavior, and that is why I focused on it. But this power dynamic is by no means the only context within which abuse can occur. Unfortunately, people of all ages have been known to violate others’ boundaries.
There are many other things that must be done to make social dancing a safer space, chief among them educating men about appropriate behavior early and often. The point of this particular letter was to empower dancers who identify as female to trust themselves and refuse to engage with people who make them uncomfortable. I’m hoping that more dancers will feel comfortable paying attention to, respecting, and maintaining their comfort level. This includes enlisting the support of fellow dancers and venue organizers when their boundaries are not respected — whoever the offender might be. The burden is on all of us to make this an easier thing to do.
Cross-posted to Medium.