When I was a first-year teacher, I directed a group of high schoolers in a play and included a scene in which two of the characters got hot and heavy on the couch. It was all strictly first-base, and it was mostly staged, so I was quite surprised that several people on the staff felt the scene was inappropriate.
Looking back, the scene itself was not inappropriate. Had it been a scene that the two high schoolers had developed to perform, I think it would have fallen 100% under the heading of “Freedom of Artistic Expression.” However, I was a teacher and I was the director. I should have been a bit more sensitive to the discomfort those teens might have felt being asked to suck face in front of an audience.
At the time, I figured kids were doing a lot more, so it was not a big deal. Now, I understand the distinction. Teens are absolutely sexual creatures and they express that in their way. But I was having them express not their sexuality but rather their characters’ sexuality. It was done at my direction, and it was not an artistic rendition of their sexuality.
No one was scarred for life, and in the scheme of things, it was pretty damned benign. Nonetheless, it was inappropriate, and if I had it to do over, I’d be more sensitive in how I staged the scene.
Assuming you are not in a coma, you’ve probably heard the controversy around then video of eight- and nine-year-old girls doing a dance routine to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.” If, however, you are in a coma or have been preoccupied with administering standardized tests to kindergarteners, allow me to enlighten you:
OK, people. I do think children are sexual creatures. I have changed quite a number of diapers in my day, and I can tell you that kids are universally delighted when they discover that delightful little treasure that is contained within their diapers. However, that kind of exploration – along with playing doctor, masturbation, and any number of other activities – is a personal expression of sexuality. It comes from the kids, and it is childhood sexuality.
The problem with little girls bumping and grinding is that they are expressing adult sexuality, and they are doing at the direction of their parents or choreographer.
There is a world of difference. It’s a distinction I did not understand as a director fifteen years ago, but I do understand it now.
Kids should be kids. They should dress like kids and play like kids and – hell, yes – dance like kids. Don’t tell me they love what they’re doing. That’s fantastic. Let ‘em love dance, just don’t teach them to dance like they are strippers. Don’t act all outraged that people are not focusing on how much fun they are having – you made the damned dance inappropriate, so you took the focus off of the kids.
Don’t tell me the costumes are about movement and lines. Um, ever heard of a leotard? And, please, honey, don’t talk to me about rhinestones and ruffles. Don’t insult my intelligence. Because the issue with those costumes has nothing to do with rhinestones and ruffles.
Finally, don’t sit there and tell me that’s just what kids do in dance. Because, if your kid is in an activity that requires her to dress like a two-bit hooker and shake her money-maker at an audience, maybe you oughta find her a new activity.
I’m just sayin’.