Tango is not only a fascinating dance, but also a fascinating philosophy, culture, and lifestyle. The pursuit of tango is the pursuit of connection, love, unity, beauty, harmony and humanity, i.e., an idealism that is not consistent with the dehumanizing reality of the modern world. The world divides us as individuals, but tango unites us as a people and species. In tango we are not individualists, feminists, nationalists, liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, etc., but interconnected and interdependent members of the human family. Tango calls us to tear down the walls, to build bridges, and to regain humanity through connection, cooperation, reconciliation and compromise. It is a dance that teaches the world to love.

November 21, 2013

Tango and the Relationship of the Opposite Sexes

Part One

A reader commented, "I have enjoyed reading your other thoughts so much, that I am very sad to read about your view of gender roles in tango. In my view, tango, as with any art, is a subjective and living thing. The ability to reassign roles to me is a progression. It affirms that the art can and does live and breathe in our contemporary world, which, for most of us anyway, rejects misogyny, rejects homophobia, and encourages empathy. The art will continue to be shaped by those who choose it and I agree completely that there is so much that can only be considered bastardization. But the exchanging of gender roles, the influence of LGBT, this represents the beauty of the art, not at all some kind of a decay. It shows that it lives in our time of changing gender roles and progress in human rights and understanding. And, in wonderful irony, reflects tango revisiting its roots." (See The Alienation of Tango)

I appreciate the comment and like to give a serious and sincere response to it because, in my opinion, gender roles are the single most important issue in tango dancing. Tango would not be the same if the gender roles are reversed. I do not think the transformation of gender roles and the influence of LGBT can be simply seen as a progress. Trend and progress cannot always be used synonymously. Although feminism and homosexuality are fashionable in the Western societies now, following the trend blindly may lead to unintended consequences. That tango is in conflict with the trend may be a blessing to the Western world because through tango it is easier to understand how men and women could live together in peace and harmony, at least for most people that is so. This doesn’t mean that some people may not have their own choice, and that most people should not accept them. But some people should understand that their choice must not be the choice of all people. It is simply not true to say that those who do not make the same choice as they do are all misogynic or homophobic, and that those who do not dance tango the same way as they do are all anti-progression.

The real issue in question is the purpose of sex. Those who think sex is only for pleasure believe one can have sex with anybody including members of one's own gender, which from an individualistic point of view is a matter of personal rights and freedom, and they want the society not only to recognize their rights, but also provide means for all people to embrace their view and way of living.

Those who think sex is a responsibility relating to the procreation and upbringing of the next generation, on the other hand, believe the above view and way of living is detrimental to the best interests of the society and humanity as a whole. Individualism is a cracked ideology because we are not just individual beings but also social beings. Absolute personal liberty at the expense of the interests of the society and humanity as a whole is fundamentally harmful to the individuals as well. One's tango is a part of one's lifestyle; therefore, it is not a matter of opening up and trying new things - a persuasion that drug dealers often use. It is choosing a way to dance that is consistent with one's value and way of living. (See Tango and Individualism.)

Part Two

Humans are smart, able to intervene and alter nature. But humans are shortsighted as well, unaware of the long-term consequences of their actions due to their short life span. Modern humans have no memory of what happened tens of thousands of years ago, hundreds of thousands of years ago, and thousands of thousands of years ago. Monogamy, that is, marriage of one man and one woman who are not blood-related, is the eugenic mechanism suiting the best interests of the humanity. This institution is resulted gradually from millions of years of human evolution through countless positive and negative reproductive experiences and a painstaking natural selection process. The soundness of the institution, however, has been so forgotten by modern people that alternative marriage now becomes a fashion. But, no matter how smart humans are, what is of nature is still the soundest, most proper and most fitting outcome, as it has gone through an extremely slow and gradual process of evolution, perfected little by little in the millions of years of making. Human interventions, on the other hand, are sudden and revolutionary, thus often lead to disastrous consequences.

Modern contraceptive technology is an example of such human interventions. Contraception changes human sexual behavior from that for procreation to that for sexual pleasure. Once this breach is made, a series of consequences follow. Contraception leads to sex freedom, which leads to homosexuality, which leads to the alienation of marriage, which leads to the disintegration of the traditional family, which leads to the decay of the family-centered moral system, which leads to the fall of civilization. One ant hole could cause the entire dyke to collapse. Since heterosexuals may have sex for pleasure, why should homosexuals not be allowed to do the same? If the ban on homosexuality is lifted, then why not that on bisexuality, transgender sexuality, pedophilia, prostitution, adultery, group sex, incest, sodomy, and every other form of pleasure-oriented sex? In many Western societies, legislations have been passed to allow same-sex marriage, which changes marriage from that between a man and a woman for reproduction to that between gays or lesbians for sexual pleasure and welfare benefits. If sexual pleasure and welfare benefits are the sound reasons for marriage, then why should marriage be limited to non-consanguineous adults? Why brother and brother, sister and sister, brother and sister, father and son, father and daughter, mother and son, mother and daughter, and other close relatives should not form a sexual relationship through marriage for the same reason? And why should marriage be limited to two adults? Why polygamy, polyandry and group marriage are not allowed? In fact, why is marriage even necessary at all if it is not for the procreation and upbringing of the next generation? As long as reproduction and children are not involved, a person choose to have sex with whom and with how many people is a personal affair because sex is a natural right of the individual, and there is no reason to limit sex to a one-to-one relationship called marriage, according to the logic of liberalism and individualism.

Marriage, however, is not a universal human right, but privilege granted to non-kin adults of the opposite sexes only, for it relates to the reproduction and upbringing of the next generation and hence the well-being of the society as a whole. Various offbeat sexual relationships are in contradiction to the best interests of the human species, and therefore are prohibited by law - first by natural law in the prehistoric period for at least tens of thousands of years if not hundreds of thousands of years, followed by written laws in the historical period for at least thousands of years in the past. Societies that did not comply with the law have long disappeared. Now, by means of contraception, humans can enjoy the pleasure of non-consequential sex, open-minded people therefore start to advocate the lift of the ban. In the US, the gay rights movement is surging. So far, sixteen states have passed same-sex marriage legislations. Homosexuality, bisexuality, adultery, sodomy and incest, which never cease to exist even when traditional marriage is the only legal form of marriage but previously are done in the closet, now start to enjoy some legitimacy and popularity thanks to these legislations. When such radical ideas become the generally accepted norm in a society, sex freedom, the alienation of marriage, the disintegration of the traditional family, the destruction of the human eugenic institution, and the decline in population quantity and quality are bound to happen. Modern men have completely forgotten about the repeated lessons in early human history that societies and civilizations withered away because of this.

Part Three

Homosexuals are human beings, too. Their human rights, including that of selecting sex partners and forming partnerships, should be recognized. However, we must also recognize that homosexuality is not a normal and natural biological function, otherwise the species would cease to exist. Marriage equality, i.e., treating homosexual relationship equally as heterosexual relationship, thus blur the distinctions between the two, is not a good idea in my opinion. It is another serious human intervention against nature. As mentioned above, marriage is a eugenic mechanism resulted from millions of years of human reproductive practice and a painstaking natural selection process. It is a privilege granted only to non-kin adults of the opposite sexes for procreation. For the best interests of the human species, this privilege must be protected by law. Failure to do so will have serious consequences.

The notion of "marriage equality" implies that marriage does not have to be between a man and a woman, that gender is irrelevant in forming a sexual relationship, that every human person is entitled to have sex with anybody regardless of gender and consanguinity, that it is moral to have a homosexual or bisexual relationship with one or more partners, that sex is only for pleasure with no social responsibilities attached, that marriage is not a eugenic institution but only a lifestyle, that procreation and upbringing of the next generation is not the function of marriage, that the healthy growth of children does not depend on the presence and joint efforts of both father and mother, that the welfare incentives intended to encourage marriage between a man and a woman for procreation should also be extended to homosexual partnerships, and that individual freedom, personal rights, self-indulgence and self-interests are the only things that matter, etc. Can you imagine how such false ideas, if sponsored by the state, enforced by law, enhanced by media propaganda, TV shows, movies, popular literature, school education, workplace regulations and dinner table conversations could influence the young minds and impact the future of the humanity?

We know that introducing alien species may endanger native species, marketing genetically modified food may result in the reduction of natural food supply, promoting tango Nuevo may inhibit traditional tango, encouraging alternative marriage may accelerate the disintegration of traditional family, taking affirmative action may cause reversed discrimination, etc. Instances of this kind are too numerous to mention. It is a human nature to be fond of the new and tired of the old. People rush to follow what is fashionable and despise what is proven reliable. Those who question the new trend are blamed down, as if what has been proven is obsolete and not good anymore, but what has not been proven is instead the cutting edge and progressive. If the distinct status of marriage were not protected and preserved, reversed discrimination, the destruction of human eugenic institution and the disintegration of the traditional family would become inevitable.

More importantly, failure to protect traditional marriage would undermine the family-centered value system on which human civilization is based. The relationship between the opposite sexes, who are mutually attractive, interdependent and cooperative to each other by nature, is the foundation of all interpersonal relationships. From that relationship comes children, family, society, political state, and the consequent moral system on which human civilization is based. The relationship between the opposite sexes therefore is the foundation of all social relationships. In other words, it is through the most intimate reproductive relationship that people learn to love and get along with each other. The decline of family will have, and already had, a profound impact on the society, because it means the loosening of the natural bond between closely related people and the rising of individualism with an emphasis on personal liberty, freedom, rights, independence and self-interests while denying the interdependence and the need for cooperation and compromise among people. (See Tango and Family Values.) Feminism as a replica of individualism on gender issues opposes the interdependence of the two sexes, advocates women’s independence, encourages women to emancipate from family, to fight for their own rights, to be strong and aggressive like men, to compete with men, and not to be outdone by men, etc. Such radical propositions only exacerbate the antagonism and confrontation between the two sexes and are not conducive to social harmony. (See Femininity and Feminism in Tango (I).) The way to improve the relationship is to be respectful, friendly, loving, cooperative, yielding and accommodating to each other rather than being rejective, resentful, hostile, confrontational and uncompromising to each other. The recent government shutdown caused by refusing to make concessions serves as an alarming example of the impairment of such extremist ideologies. (See Meeting in the Middle.)

Part Four

Gay rights movement, feminism and individualism have an undeniable influence on tango. Feminism disapproves the surrender and obedience of the woman to the man in tango, advocates that the woman maintains her independence in the dance and keeps a distance from the man, that the man can only suggest or invite the woman rather than lead the woman to move, that the woman may decide how, when or whether to accept the suggestion or invitation, that the man must wait for the woman's decision at the pace of her choice and then follow her, that the woman is free to express herself, may interrupt the man’s lead and insert her own steps, and that the woman may lead the man or another woman, etc. Some authors write books to advertise this kind of ideas. Like-minded teachers also promote such ideas through their teaching, and students naively mistaking radicalism for progress blindly follow the trend, contributing to the alienation of tango and changing tango from a dance in which the two sexes collaborate intimately to achieve oneness and harmony, to a dance in which the two sexes are distant and antagonistic, focusing only on the personal performance.

I believe most people are not extremists. But, living in the contemporary world which “rejects misogyny, rejects homophobia, and encourages empathy,” few could be totally immune from such radicalization. We often see beginners stick to the attitude that they have obtained over a long period of time, thinking of oneself as an independent individual rather than in relation to others, regarding oneself not as a part of the whole, and thinking of others as rivals, etc. Most people, after going through a period of learning, will gradually overcome such self-centric mindset and adopt a cooperative attitude consistent with the values of tango. (See The Spirit of Tango.) But there are people who cannot overcome individualistic mentality even after years of learning. Students of the contemporary age need to know that learning tango is learning a new set of values completely different from the values of the world. The world is about competition and winning. Tango is about cooperation and harmony. The world believes that balance is gained through might and fight. Tango believes that balance is gained through collaboration and compromise. Tango is not about individuality, independence, personal freedom and self-display, but about achieving oneness and harmony through teamwork. (See The Freedom in Tango.) Principles in tango, such as surrender, obedience, love, yielding, collaboration, accommodation and complement, not only help the two partners to dance together in unison, but also provide universal values for people to live together in peace and harmony. (See The World Needs a Different Philosophy.)

Wherever cooperation is involved, so is the division of labor. For example, in a household, the man often does more heavy duty works that require strength, and the woman often does more light chores. Such natural division of labor is based on the physiologies of the two sexes, not at all some form of discrimination. In tango, the man leads the woman and the woman beautifies the dance, which, too, is a natural division of labor based on the physiological characteristics of the two sexes, not at all some form of gender inequality. Do you think it’s natural for the woman to lead the man and the man to beautify the dance? When you see a gal leads a guy, and the guy wriggles his body and swivels his butt, pretending to be feminine, do you think that looks pretty? You have seen couples of the same sex dancing together and in them there is only femininity and no masculinity, or only masculinity and no femininity, do you think that looks beautiful? Tango is governed by laws of nature and dance, not ideologies. I need not to repeat what has been dwelt upon in my other articles on gender roles. Please click the links to read more if you haven't already: The Gender Roles in Tango, Femininity and Feminism in Tango (I), Femininity and Feminism in Tango (II), Tango and Gender Equality, The Gender Expression in Tango. I believe those who are not driven by narrow-minded ideological extremism will not find such division of labor discriminative against women. Male chauvinists use the division of labor between the opposite sexes as an evidence of male superiority and female inferiority, which is absurd. Feminists therefore want to repeal or reverse gender roles, which is even more ridiculous.

I believe tango is a good thing for the Western world. True progress is not radical, but rational, gradual, moderate and peaceful as nature is. Nature at its norm is evolutionary rather than revolutionary. It leads to coexistence, harmony, balance, peace, to the recognition of the connections of things and the abandonment of radical ideas like individualism, feminism and power politics, to communal interests rather than self-interests, integration rather than segregation, adaptation rather than antagonism, moderation rather than extremism, compromise rather than obstinacy, love rather than hatred, and peace rather than war. In other words, nature is in opposition to the extremist human tendency against nature. Tango embodies the principles of how the opposite sexes can get alone with each other by the very nature of their being: mutual attraction, collaboration, adaptation, compromise, complement and love, which is the reason of its vitality. Tango can help people to understand the harm of hostility and the benefit of cooperation. It provides useful lessons for us to live together in peace and harmony, thus is conducive to the true human progress. (See The Lessons of Tango.)


  1. Hi Paul,

    Good to see you writing again.
    The reader that commented is certainly entitled to their opinion. But I couldn’t agree more with your response. So many thoughts came to mind as I was reading it. I’ll just say this for now. When a lady completely surrenders to me when we dance, it makes me work even harder to take care of her and protect her. It makes me work harder to keep the beautify connection, communication and the embrace because I don’t want to lose it and I don’t want to let go of her at the end of the tanda.
    I’ve danced with a few that try to back lead me and the only thing I can think of is “when is this tanda going to end”. There is no connection, communication, no embrace THERE IS NO TANGO.


  2. Tango can only be danced between a man and a woman. It is the beautiful harmony and balance between man and woman, The intimacy between masculine and feminine. Any thing other than this is not Tango.
    They can call it what ever they want, dance where ever they want, play what ever music but it will never be Tango. Men dancing with men, women with women will never be Tango.

  3. I cannot agree with anonymous above on their point that "women with women will never be Tango". Tango is an expression of movement, much like any other dance is. It is also a conversation. Saying that two women cannot dance tango is akin to saying that two women cannot have a conversation and that is nonsensical. The most fun dances I've had are with women leaders because they have a different manner of interepreting music and are less hard-pressed to throw in as many moves as the men are, result in them really listening to the music and playing with basic steps which make this dance so enjoyable. That is my experience with tango with my own gender.

  4. Hi Glitter (from anonymous above) I certainly appreciate your point of view and I thank you for it. I find it interesting that a dance has stirred up so much talk on the internet.
    A little more from my point of view, first as I mentioned before, women dancing with women will never be Tango. Tango is much more than an expression of movement. It is unlike any other dance. It is the warm and gentle embrace between man and women. It is the intimacy and emotional connection that Tango ignites between a man and a woman. The man carefully leads his partner and protects her and the woman makes the dance beautiful with her elegance and femininity.
    I do agree that two women can do Tango steps together and have fun doing it but that is not Tango. Two women can have a verbal conversation, but are they intimately and emotionally connected? If you have only danced with men that are more focused on doing as many steps as possible and putting on a show for the audience and not listening to the beautiful music, then you have only danced with beginners. Base on your reply, I can only guess that you have not been Tangoed by a Miloguero.
    I hope some day you dance with a Miloguero that will rock your Tango world.

  5. I'm sorry but I found it extremely narrow-minded to state that "men dancing with men will never be tango". Historically, I'm sure you are aware that tango in Buenos Aires developed with many instances of men dancing with men. And this continues with the many same-gender pair that are brilliant examples of tango dancing - whether nuevo or traditional. Let's not restrict ourselves with artificial and un-necessary limitations. Tango is an art of dancing to the music and it is an evolving art, it is international and though it has many rules and traditions, it shouldn't be restricted to man-woman only. I've had many lovely tandas with talented women leads as well as men, so I completely disagree that those experiences aren't all tango.

  6. First they say "man with man is still tango." Then they say "I've had many lovely tandas with other men." Then they say "don't be so narrow, come on, open up!" Then they say "try it yourself, you may like it." Then they say "why don't we try something else together?"