Club culture: Drinks, dancing & sexual assault

They’ve grabbed my bum, my breasts and even reached a hand up the front of my dress while brushing past me in a crowd. They’ve made me feel trapped, scared and miserable, and they’ve turned many a fun night out into a living nightmare. Like many women, I’m not only accustomed to ‘casual groping’ from men I don’t know in nightclubs – I actually expect it.

On none of these many occasions have I wanted, invited or been okay with being touched inappropriately without my consent. Contrary to popular belief, a low-cut top or having a drunken stumble is not an invite; it’s us having fun, appreciating ourselves and – most importantly – doing whatever the hell we want.

I consider myself to be an open and honest person, so if I wanted your attention I promise you you’d know about it because I’d have made it very clear. But instead of a simple conversation or even some good old-fashioned reasonable reading of body language, time after time my privilege of making my own decisions is taken away from me, and I’m transformed from a woman with a real personality and real emotions into nothing but a mannequin.

For almost every single visit to a club, I pack my metaphorical armour alongside my keys, phone, money and lipstick, ready and waiting to defend myself, or other women around me who might not have the ability or the courage to defend themselves. When did this unsettling scenario become the norm?

And what happens when we do react? What happens when we shout, swear or even get physical ourselves? We’re called psychopaths, bitches, sluts and much, much worse. It’s hurtful, but if one thing’s for sure it’s that I’ll never be caught apologising for standing my ground and recognising my limits – no one should.

I get it – nightclubs are minefields. They present situations that are hard to read, and sometimes impossible to navigate. They contain a diverse range of people with varying views and boundaries on what’s acceptable and what isn’t, and not everyone is as transparent as we’d like them to be. But there are general rules that are simple to follow: If you don’t know the person, if you’ve never spoken to them before and if you couldn’t even address them by their name, you’re in no situation to take matters into your own hands and out of theirs. You certainly have no right to make sexual assault a part of the night’s agenda.

To some, this so-called ‘casual groping’ will seem like a small, insignificant issue, and to others it will be an accurate portrayal of their own haunting experiences. But what’s important to remember is that this happens everywhere and all the time. It happens every single time the lights are dimmed and the volume’s raised, and it doesn’t discriminate against age, race, sexuality or anything else.

Putting it simply, just imagine your mum, your sister, your girlfriend, your best friend, or anyone you care about, fighting off a complete stranger’s wandering hands – alone, terrified and vulnerable. Imagine if this behaviour crossed the fine, fine line and went further than that.

Just how acceptable does this ‘casual’ form of sexual assault feel to you now?

Header image: Laura Lewis/Flickr.

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