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DFMOs, or ‘dance floor make-outs,’ were completely new to me until this year. I had never heard of the acronym, nor aspired to have such an interaction. Although, in the midst of the two first riveting months into my freshman year at Tufts, I can no longer say the same. Introduced to them in a spontaneous fashion, in no other place than the glorious basement of a lacrosse house, I have come to have mixed feelings about the infamous college “DFMO.”

For one, DMFOs can be fun. When both people want it, ‘a little DFMO can’t hurt nobody.’ And two, at least for me, they have never led to something serious and can be walked away from easily without too much drama. But I am fearful for the time where there is drama, as DFMOs seem to be understood to be casual and fun, not binding. This is when things can get dreadfully complicated — on one hand I recognize the simply amusing prospect of casually and spontaneously making out on the dance floor. On the other hand, however, I see the gendered power dynamics bursting through the seams of these social interactions.

It’s undeniable that dancing in a fraternity or sports house presents the opportunity for anyone to come up behind me with the ultimate goal to grind or dance with me. But, this potential of “harmless” dancing or grinding is fraught with socially constructed gendered standards that reinforce gender inequalities. Personally, I don’t mind the occasional ‘DMFO’ or social interaction as such, but it is incredibly interesting to analyze the role gender plays in these cultural scripts. At various parties I have observed how women dance with each other until men come over in hopes of dancing with one of the ladies — hence enabling men to pursue whatever they may desire. In these situations, men have the ultimate power. It’s not that DFMOs are bad by nature; it’s just simply beneficial to be able to recognize the power dynamics they can create in order to ensure your safety and comfort at various social gatherings. By knowing that the dynamic is truly gendered and filled with inequality, you can redirect some of the power back to yourself, and refute these cultural scripts.

There is an intricate line between recognizing yourself as a woman liberated from society’s expectations of submissiveness, and being reliant upon male dominance and expectations. Just because some people like DFMOs, doesn’t mean you have to. Removing yourself from gendered expectations means being liberated on both sides; it means knowing that you don’t have to kiss or dance with someone because they want to or because other women enjoy that type of interaction. Mutual consent is incredibly important and absolutely compulsory. The tension between sexual empowerment yet fitting into stereotypical standards of femininity is truly a near impossible battle for women to win. It’s all based on your personal preference and comfort level.

It is important to remember that being sexually empowered, no matter what stereotypes or cultural narratives tell you otherwise, does not conflict with what is valued as stereotypically ‘feminine.’ Be feminine in the way you choose. Be as sexually active as you desire. Whether DFMO or DFNO — you can still be empowered in your own particularly unique way.

Freshman student athlete at Tufts University
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