Have you ever thought about what exactly a dance floor make out (DFMO) is? Well, I hadn’t until a few weeks ago, because every time I thought about it sober in the light of day, it made me feel yucky. But now I have thought about it, beautiful readers, and I hope you’ll stick with me. I think the DFMO is a microcosm of a traditional marriage narrative, and thus, embedded in patriarchy.

Let’s be anthropological about this. The DFMO develops in six discrete steps:

1. A circle of women dance.

2. A man (“guy”) approaches one of the women from behind.

3. Depending on his civility and level of intoxication, he will either get her attention and ask her to dance or grab her hips without verbal communication. They will “grind” (dancing which involves rubbing the woman’s butt against the man’s crotch to the rhythm of the music).

4. In the latter case, the woman is often unsure who her partner is, as it is dark, loud, she is drunk and she has her back to him. If this happens, she will consult her friends, whom she is facing and who can see the face of her partner. She communicates with them either by raising an inquisitive eyebrow or signaling thumbs up/thumbs down. If the friends disapprove of the partner, they will give her a thumbs down or simply pull her away. If they approve, they’ll give a thumbs up or a permissive shrug.

5. The crucial moment comes after several minutes of peer-sanctioned grinding. The male, still holding his partner’s hips, will twist her toward him (requiring her to literally turn her back to her friends) and they will proceed to make out.

6. At the end of the song the couple will likely part, or they may leave the party together for the privacy of one their bedrooms.

Two things about this ritual stand out: its deep heteronormativity and the fact that it's so overtly public.

With the possible exception of parties hosted by and for the queer community, DFMOs are dominated by straight couples, with each member performing a clearly prescribed gender role. Men are in the apparently active role, controlling the progression at every stage—selecting a partner, issuing the invitation to dance, deciding when to transition from dancing to making out and suggesting to leave the party together.

This does not mean women are mere pawns. They exert agency, albeit within the confines of a patriarchal system. Women can signify interest in a dance floor partner by making repeated eye contact with him or accidently-on-purpose brushing against him. These actions are small enough to go unnoticed by a casual observer, but significant enough that they could precipitate a DFMO where one might not otherwise happen.

DFMOs follow an intuitive social script even for the uninitiated because they resemble a stale though undeniably appealing narrative: the heterosexual romance.

It is the marriage arc. Man sees woman, initiates contact, contact is reciprocated, acquaintance is made and both participants renounce their other non-romantic relationships and elevate the romantic one. You can see this when the woman turns her back on her friends, with whom she came to the party, to make out with a man whose name she may not even know. However, the friends do not see this as a betrayal. They helped her get to this capitulation by signaling thumbs up or slightly shifting their arrangement so that the woman could be near enough to her future partner to accidentally-on-purpose brush against him. It is not unlike the many pre-wedding bridal celebrations—the bachelorette party, the wedding shower—they are all about women celebrating one of their number moving from their ranks to romantic bliss.

The heterosexual romantic narrative is distilled, perhaps, in its purest form in children’s stories. Recall the scene at the end of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” in which Ariel weds Prince Eric on the ship and sails away from every other meaningful relationship in her life—her father, her sisters, Sebastian the crab guardian, Flounder her fish friend. It is not that different from leaving a party full of close friends and admired acquaintances to fumble with the buttons on a barely known lover’s shirt.

The obvious difference between the DFMO and the traditional heterosexual marriage arc is that the DFMO is quick and nonbinding while marriage is long-term and tightly binding. The DFMO heterosexual romance happens on a micro-scale because of the liberating forces of darkness, alcohol, contraception and alleged sexual emancipation (though the extreme heteronormativity seems less than emancipated).

So let’s just remember, patriarchy is bad for everyone. Dance floor make outs are embedded in patriarchy. Might as well just go to Super Snack.