I seem to have the attention of quite a few people who do youth work right now, so I thought this would be a good place to ask.
What is your opinion of "Foofing?"
I don't know that it is a Nationwide con practice, though it is big at youth cons in our area.
Basically, it is fairly benign hazing done on youth attending their first con. The foofee lays on the floor (sometimes is held down.) The foofers put a bunch of whipped cream on their stomachs and then put their faces in the whipped cream, blowing on it and making a Bronx cheer noise.
It is a bone of some contention in our youth group as our youth group is run by an (elected) group of very extroverted girls with very close to perfect bodies. They see foofing as this sacred ritual of bonding.
Of course, Frat Boys probably see some of their appalling little rituals of drinking and violence much the same way.
I imagine my chubby self as I was when I was 16 or so. Far less chubby, actually, than I am now but far more insecure. Would I have felt like the biggest girl at the youth con? If so, would I have agreed to be foofed, knowing the whole room was seeing my belly, but too afraid of not being accepted to say "no?" Would the popular kids have even thought to foof me, our would they have looked at my insecure self and known I wouldn't want that, thus excluding me and insuring I knew my discomfort was obvious?
Recalling young CC as I do, I suspect I would have publically declared "Foofing is SO lame" and gone off someplace with a book for awhile. Then I would have later noticed that I just didn't fit in and wondered why.
Being a YRUU leader is hard, y'all. When the issue came up for us, we were really torn. We want to give the youth leadership power. But the leaders they choose often really don't seem to notice or care about the power balance within the youth. Perhaps it is hard to see from where they sit, all though when we point out that foofing might make some people really uncomfortable, the standard response is:
"Well, we will just convince them to do it as a bonding thing. They'll be ok with it if we talk them into it. They might seem shy at first, but they really want to. Everyone loves foofing!"
Never was peer-pressuring the less powerful youth into doing something they really don't want to couched in so lovely a term. What's next? Telling unhappy foofees to close their eyes and think of England? (More seriously, with the bodily contact and the whipped cream, the activity does have a very sexual feel, making the power dynamics of the popular kids pressuring the less popular still creepier.)
One of the other leaders eventually came up with a "foofing compromise" detailing that foofing would be the second night, people would have to consent to being foofed the day before, there would be no pressuring and that alternate activities would be available.
The first night of the con, we caught the group playing strip poker, so foofing was cancelled.
(Neither the foofing compromise nor the decision to cancel was my decision, but I did basically agree with both. Actually, I didn't love that foofing was going to happen at all.)
We've had similar issues with other things, another example being whether we could show Rocky Horror Picture Show at an overnight. (Full disclosure: I'd probably seen the rated-R Rocky Horror a dozen times before I was eighteen. And I honestly think it didn't do me any harm. But I had a fake ID and parents that didn't give a damn.) The prevailing opinion among the youth leaders seemed to be that if some people couldn't get their parents to sign a permission slip to see a rated-R movie, that wasn't the youth leaders' problem.
What is a youth-positive way to handle these issues when we have parents to answer to as well? (As well as our own concerns that even if the popular group is ready for this somewhat heady stuff, the other kids are not.)