Katelyn’s Human Ethology Assignment

General Notes

  • Place- Cowbell’s Bar, Starkville, Mississippi
  • Time- arrived at approximately 12 a.m. and left around 2 a.m.
  • Atmosphere- dimly lit with loud music that can be heard from the outside. Slightly smoky. There is a lot of drinking going on, even by minors who are some how sneaking it by the bouncers. There is a large dance floor that quickly gets crowded.
  • People- The bar is right off the campus of Mississippi State University, so there are a lot of college kids. However, there are a good number of thirty-something adults who probably live in the area. Ride range of people from true blue cowboys to Eminem look-alikes, to scantily clad sorority girls and decked out fraternity guys.

 Focal Sampling Summary

Subject is a male, who is probably either 19 or 20 years old. He cannot be 21 or older because he does not have the wristband that would enable him to buy drinks from the bar. He is sitting at a booth with a group of friends he arrived with, many of whom are female. Even though he is not currently drinking, his open and somewhat forward behavior towards his female friends, and their receptivity, suggests that there might have been drinking beforehand.

After only a few minutes after arriving his entire table begins to dance. He and the only other male in the group dance with two of the girls, which leaves the rest of the females to dance together with a group. His dancing is very provocative, with him gyrating his hips while he is pressed behind the girl he is dancing with.  He is dressed in a button down plaid shirt, with blue jeans. After a few minutes of dancing, he begins unbuttoning his shirt making his state of dress more provocative.

When the girl who he is dancing with begins to dance with another male in the crowd, he quickly moves on to find another dance partner. When he does find another girl, he dances just as provocatively with her as he did with the first girl. However, within the same song he is back dancing with the original girl. I take his dancing with another girl to be a technique to show off his prowess on the dance floor in order to win back his original partner. He and this girl continue to “grind” for the remaining time of my observation period.

Scan Sampling Summary

First Scan- A crowd of people sit at the bar, and it’s mostly the older crowd. Younger adults are sitting further away, some of them probably in an attempt to not have their age questioned. There is one couple on the dance floor dancing to the country song that is playing. Most people are sitting at tables talking with friends, drinking, and looking around the room.

Second Scan- The music has changed to a rap song with a heavy bass beat, and most of younger adults in the bar have piled onto the dance floor. Men and women have coupled up, but there are always groups of females dancing with each other. Sometimes a single man will approach these female groups in order to find a dance partner. Some of them are happy to comply, while others turn him down and keep dancing by themselves.

Third scan- The dance floor has thinned out a little, but it is still populated by college kids. The rest of the bar crowd has gone back to sitting and drinking, but now there is more interaction between people from different groups. The bar gets smokier as more people pull out cigarettes while they drink. More men have started offering to buy women drinks after they come off the dance floor.

Fourth Scan- A popular song is being played and the majority of the people are back on the dance floor. “The Cupid Shuffle” does not require a dance partner, yet the pairing of men and women is still observable. Females who do not have a male partner are improvising within the proscribed dance steps in order to attract attention. Most of the males who do not have a partner for this dance sit at tables and look at the female dancers.

 Note Analysis

In my focal sampling, I definitely observed the steps of touch and total body synchrony. The male and his original dance partner seem to have already been friends, and so the first three stages were skipped. As they danced, touch was definitely involved and body synchrony evolved the more they danced with each other.

In my scan sampling, the different stages were apparent in different coupling situations throughout the bar. Attention getting was apparent in females dancing in order to attract a male. Recognition happened when a man noticed a particular woman and then engaged her in dancing. The talking stage was observable when a couple stepped off the dance floor, but then sat down together and began conversing. From that point whether or not touch and body synchrony followed, was hit or miss.

Fifteen minutes was not long enough to observe all five stages in an individual couple. The stages take time to accomplish individually, as well as the transition from one to another. It may take quite awhile to get from one simple touch to total body synchrony, if it happens at all. The only trouble I had in my observations is that it is hard to continually take notes for 15 minutes. I could not pretend to talk on the phone in a place that was so loud, and it is hard to go 15 minutes without someone talking to you in such a populated place. If given this assignment again, I would probably aim for a place that is a little less loud and crowded.

Author: Johnna Dominguez

Johnna Dominguez earned her BA in Interdisciplinary Studies: Cultural Studies and Body Politics from the University of Alabama's New College in May 2011. In her senior thesis, Johnna explored the embodiment of identity through sexuality and sports by observing and studying Alabama football fans and participants in the local burlesque troupe, the Pink Box Burlesque. In her Master's thesis, she is investigating the psychological and physical stresses associated with southern women who get tattoos. After completing her Master's in Anthropology, she hopes to return to school for a Master's in Public Health.

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