The murky social contract of the DFMO


Sex PantherFor those of you who are not familiar, DFMO stands for “Dance Floor Make-Out”— which, whether we like it or not, is a time-honored tradition at Middlebury College. On Sunday mornings, DFMOs form a classic, confusing topic of discussion at tables in Proctor or Ross. The perplexing nature of the DFMO lies in both the complicated set of circumstances which lead to two often very sweaty people swapping saliva; the particular nature of the DFMO; and the DFMO’s implications, or aftermath.

By nature, DFMOs vary. Variations hinge on whether or not the making out was limited to the dance floor; whether or not both parties parted ways immediately afterwards; if the making out (and possibly more!) continued in one of the two parties’ dorm rooms; if numbers were exchanged; and, lastly, whether there continues to be mutual interest in making out, whether it be on dance floors, in dorm rooms or even on Battell Beach (not a bad option, if you don’t mind the mosquitos).

Arguably, the most confusing part of the DFMO is what turns the singular DMFO into the plural. During the course of my research, it became clear to me that the quality DFMO itself is not what guarantees that fateful next-morning-text, or else the inevitable — and interminable — awkward encounters in line at the dining hall. Instead, it is the circumstances surrounding the DFMO which have the potential to keep it to a single, one-time thing, or else bring about future, plural DFMOs. My in-depth research has indicated that there are three distinct categories of DFMO in particular: the random DFMO, the blind DFMO and the icky DFMO.

The random DFMO is, of course, completely random. There is generally a complete lack of expectations from either party about a shared future and so, as a result, this particular form of the DFMO rarely leads to relationships … unless the random makeout session becomes a pattern, and names and are eventually exchanged. (Or if the pair happens to meet somewhere civilized, like the library, and decide they like each other’s faces in daylight or voices when they aren’t screaming over the thumping bass of “Mr. Brightside”). 

The blind DFMO is one in which both parties simply need a forum to hook up — one that isn’t a formal “date.” Middlebury isn’t exactly a place where people get asked out on dates without casually hooking up over the course of a semester and then forcefully asking themselves almost a year later, “wait, uh … are we dating?” This kind of DFMO, in which both parties have expressed a prior interest and the Atwater dance floor simply acts as a social lubricant, seems to be the most successful model for creating a relationship. The essential nature of both the random and blind DFMO is that they should be fun, flirty, and (so long as the DFMO is not premeditated) all expectations ought to be left behind, like PBR cans on the sticky Atwater floor. 

Now that I’ve defined what the DFMO should be, it is easier to talk about what it shouldn’t be. Above all else, the DFMO should not be something born out of intimidation or obligation. We have all probably seen — or, for many of us, experienced — a situation that felt or looked wrong. I can remember one of my first DFMO experiences freshman year and the subsequent “dish” session that occurred in Ross the next morning. What happened is not that important; what is important is that I was left feeling unsettled and uneasy about what had transpired. For one thing, my understanding going into the DFMO was completely different than his. I had not yet learned the expressive tools to communicate what I wanted, and waking up the next morning, I knew I had gone further with the DFMO than I wanted to. I didn’t even get a text the next day. This is a prime example of the icky DFMO; “icky,” because that is the most accurate way to describe how I felt about myself and my body the next day. As in my experience, the icky DFMO is bred from unequal expectations, high levels of intoxication and imbalances in power (with “power” usually meaning social capital). 

My advice to you, Middlebury students, is to know what you want, to set your boundaries and understand that the DFMO is definitely not the only way to find love or connection here at this confusing institution. First and foremost, please know that you don’t need to do anything that you are not comfortable with, whether it be a DFMO or beyond. I hope that now, as certified DFMO experts, primed and ready to identify the best possible set-up for a successful DFMO, your Sunday morning conversations will not be cause for ickiness or alarm, but for fun and sex-positivity.