My 10 year high school reunion was this weekend. I didn’t go because Ryan’s 10 year high school reunion was coincidentally the same day and we went to his instead.
I’m bummed I didn’t get to go to my Class of 2003 reunion for several reasons, one of which is because I missed The Thong Song. Yes, The Thong Song.
Here’s the story:
It was March 2000, I was 14 years old and a freshman at Upper Darby High School. The Class of 2003 was HUGE (I believe we had 1,100 students that year- just in the freshman class. There was over 4,000 in the whole school), and we were in the high school gym for the Frosh Dance. The Thong Song came on at one point, and we danced with extra gusto, because it was the hot new song. The end.
But a few days later, an upper class student published the following in the school newspaper, and all hell broke loose:
(Transcribed beneath the photo)
2003: The Class That Needs Some Class!
By Kelly McFadden
Due to the appalling behavior of the class of 2003 at the Freshman Dance on March 18th, the administration from all of the classes at Upper Darby High School are currently meeting to discuss songs that will no longer be allowed at our dances due to the reaction these songs seemed to have on the students attending the dance. Some of the songs that will possibly be ommitted are:
The Thong Song
Baby Got Back
Back That Thing Up
Mr Wolk feels that the inappropriate dancing may or may not have had something to do with the music, “It’s not my place to say that”. When I asked a member of the freshman class whether or not the music had anything to do with the way the class danced she said, “No, they can put on B101 [that’s the local adult contemporary radio station] and we’ll still spice it up!” Well, I will say she is right. It has absolutely nothing to do with the music. It has everything to do with the young mentality of the dancers.
Are you so uncultured and immature that you feel you have to engage in what could very accurately be described as foreplay at a high school dance? Wait, you must not have surveyed your surroundings yet, yes, you are in high school.
So kiddies, I (along with my comrades at the Acorn) will be the welcoming committee and pass along a little piece of knowledge that should have been instilled in all of you from the very first sixth grade welcome dance. Horizontal grinding, underwear throwing, group orgies, and full body partner gyrating is UNACCEPTABLE. It is offensive to the adults that have to watch little 14 and 15 year olds participating in these activities and it also offends the upperclassmen that will no longer hear these songs at their dances.
If you feel you have to act out all the activities described in these songs, do it in private. Unfortunately, because you couldn’t handle a few lyrics and behave accordingly the rest of the school will now have songs cut from their dances. Grow up, 2003.
Kelly McFadden had 1,100 14 year olds VERY pissed off at her. At the time, I would have described her article as obnoxious and condescending. Now, as an adult and a sexologist, I have a new lens through which I view this experience and I have come to realize: Class of 2003, we were slut-shamed.
The “kiddie” and “children” remarks, the idea that sexual expression and class are mutually exclusive (because you’re either classy, or sexual, but can’t be both), blaming our dancing for the songs being banned instead of blaming sex-phobic censor-happy administrators, is all classic slut-shaming.
We tried to reclaim pride around our highly criticized dancing by making “2003: The Class that Needs Some Class” our class motto to be printed on our class t-shirts, but alas, administration wouldn’t let us.
At the reunion this weekend, The Thong Song was played. I missed it, but I hope it was as delicious as an “up yours” 13 years in the making should be :)
Now, I don’t want to be too hard on Kelly McFadden. She was 16 years old, and I’m sure I said some shit when I was 16 that I’m glad isn’t in print and still being discussed today. But I think her article is a great case study of how insidious slut-shaming is, how sex-negativity sneaks into so many facets of life, and how young it starts that sexual expression is used as a way to insult, belittle, and pull rank.
Not to mention, can we talk about the dancing for a minute? I have photos from that night. This is the “group orgies” and “full partner body gyrating”.
Oh no! People in a grind line barely touching each other. And look- there is some thigh showing. Scandalous!
Teenage dancing has always been criticized. Every generation thinks THIS generation’s dancing is perverted and the downfall of society. But then those teens grow up, have children of their own, and freak out that “kids these days” dance like pervs and are the downfall of society, and so on and so on. Here’s news: society is not going to end because people move their bodies to music, so can we get off it? We’ve seriously been having this conversation for the last 100 years.
In 1921, people were freaked about how jazz music made teenagers dance. “America is facing a most serious situation regarding its popular music. Welfare workers tell us that never in the history of our land have there been such immoral conditions among our young people, and in the surveys made by many organizations regarding these conditions, the blame is laid on jazz music … Never before have such outrageous dances been permitted in private as well as public ballrooms, and never has there been used for the accompaniment of the dance such a strange combination of tone and rhythm as that produced by the dance orchestras of today. (Ladies Home Journal)
In 1956, people were so upset about how teens danced to rock n’ roll, the city of Santa Cruz banned the playing of that music at public gatherings. The police Lieutenant called rock n’ roll “detrimental to both the health and morals of our youth and community” and went on a racist rant, describing seeing over 200 white teenagers “engaged in suggestive, stimulating and tantalizing motions induced by the provocative rhythms of an all-negro band.”
The same happened with Disco, 70s hard rock, 80s hair bands, hip hop, and 90s rap.
In 2000, it was The Thong Song.
I think we in the UDHS class of 2003 get a good laugh out of it today. But as a sex-positivist, my hope is that when my classmates’ children become teenagers, they remember. Although if history has shown us anything, they probably won’t.