Dagger Be Damned
Bringin’ da beat-down with the booty round

Shameless, lewd, controversial, absurd, violent and hypersexualized are all words used to describe the now prohibited form of dancing known as ‘daggering’.
Originating in Jamaica, where it is now banned, daggering is one part dance, one part gymnastics, and two parts dry-humping just about everything in sight. It’s that last part that has led Jamaican authorities to ban everything related to daggering, with the official reason being a dramatic increase in the number of fractured penises in Jamaican emergency rooms. Daggering has become the most controversial ‘movement’ in music since Elvis started swinging his hips on national TV in the ‘50s.
Daggering is a dance in the loosest sense of the term; it essentially depicts a man rapidly dry-humping an intoxicated woman who is a willing participant in the dancehall orgy gymnastics. It seems to be an over-the-top variety of sexual violence neatly packaged and commercialized for mass consumption in the form of everything from music videos, to colourful beach buckets, to equally colourful Daggering Brand condoms.
While the fad started in Jamaica, it’s not just Jamaicans cashing in – it has spread throughout Caribbean communities, especially on the east coast of the United States and including Toronto. While the ‘dance’ may be banned in Jamaica, it’s thriving in North America with artists such as Skrewitt Bwoy leading a dancehall revolution. Skrewitt Bwoy is the major figure in the North American daggering scene – he has been featured in cable TV shows and Jamaican music videos, most notably in the video for “pon De Floor” by the artist Major Lazer. This video, though it embodies every negative clichĂ© about daggering, speaks to just how ubiquitous this style of dance has become, as the director of the video is Eric Wareheim, a white comedian and music video director who has made videos for groups such as Ben Folds and Depeche Mode. “pon De Floor” has, in a single video, captured everything wrong with the daggering scene. The video itself borders on being overtly racist, and is definitely misogynistic without apology. Skrewitt Bwoy is featured in many videos related to daggering on YouTube, which feature such exploits as punching a woman with a bucket on her head, repeatedly, or jumping off a ladder to dry hump a woman laying on the floor, or finally, throwing a table on a girl and attempting to hump her through the table. He explains his actions in a quote from a Caribbean feminist blog called the islandista: “Gal get beat up when dem dance! I love them. They love me. But I gotta express my love physically. I only hit you because I love you girl.”
It begs the question: Why so much violence in sex? psychologist and Cap professor Leonard george weighs in: “Sex and violence are both turn-ons. In physiological terms, what’s being turned on is the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), the branch of the nervous system that causes the famous fight or flight response to perceived threat. We human beings don’t just experience ‘arousal’ – we interpret our arousal, and the interpretation defines the experience. Under certain conditions, people can be aroused by fear or anger or lust, and re-label the arousal, thus changing the experience. If you’re heart’s a-thumping because you’ve just ridden a roller coaster, you’re more likely to be attracted...” Savvy ad designers and music moguls know this fact all too well. We are easy prey to a pitch that combines the beatdown with the booty round.
Truly understanding a dance form in a culture requires examining the root causes, both culturally and psychologically, but not when those roots have been twisted in the name of making a few dollars while acting like a horny idiot with a bucket on your head. of course there is a much more robust history to daggering than simulated sex acts on the dance floor – there have been several predecessors to daggering, such as krumping and Whining, both sexualized forms of dance hailing from the Caribbean as an assertion of African heritage and a protest to British imperialism and values that pervaded in these societies.
While there is a historical connection, daggering has become a sad homage to the commercialization of the once proud symbols of resistance and unity against cultural extermination in the face of White European rule. The modern prognosis is clear: Daggering has devalued everything it touches. As a result we get music videos such as ‘pon De Floor’, which compel us to watch while the human urge for sex and violence strangles our higher sensibilities.

// Aaron Bolus, writer

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© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: editor@capilanocourier.com