Earlier this month, High Tension‘s Karina Utomo commendably called out an instance of sexual assault at her band’s recent gig, wherein a member of the audience decided to grope another punter. Her frustration at the incident, which she addressed via the band’s Facebook page, is palpable and all-too-familiar:
“A member of the audience was groped by another member of the audience during High Tension’s set. We are appalled that this gross behaviour still continues at shows. This behaviour will never, ever be tolerated.
This gross behaviour oppresses not only the persons being violated but also oppresses other metal fans. How are we meant to feel safe and respected when attending shows when we are constantly fearful of putting ourselves at risk of being violated? By continuing oppression of others you are stunting the growth of the metal community, you are breeding fear and affirming the bad experiences of other metal fans that are more vulnerable. Do you ever wonder as to why the attendance of women and members of the LGBTIA community at metal shows is almost always a mere percentage? Even though a love for metal / aggressive music is NOT exclusive to men?”
This follows on from the display of thick-necked bravado that became dangerous, violent behaviour at a Camp Cope gig we attended recently.
Seriously? Not this shit AGAIN.
I can’t say I’m surprised. My lived experiences tell me that there’s at least one asshole at every single gig, club, party, festival, or event who thinks it’s funny, cool, or even remotely okay to touch a strangers’ body without being invited to. At these events, I’ve been grabbed, groped, kicked, thrust at, and more by men who I didn’t know and who I definitely did not want to know. I’d be very surprised if there was a woman alive who has attended gigs or clubs and never once experienced this. The fact is, it just doesn’t matter how you act, what you wear or what you say, simply leaving the house and heading to a public space like a concert or club can pose a risk.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – no, not every man behaves like this (and some women are capable of violence and sexual assault too). Many wonderful guys actively call out and decry this behaviour. The men in my life are all absolutely disgusted by anyone who dares to violate someone’s right to bodily autonomy, because they’re decent human beings.
These reprehensible incidents are the actions of individuals, but you’d have to be living in a fantasy world to not notice that how often it happens, and in how many areas. It’s symptomatic of a much larger, more insidious problem, one that has led to a harrowing misconceptions about public behaviour, expectations and ingrained misogyny, unfortunately still so prevalent in 2016. I’m no sociologist, I don’t have all the answers: my only qualification to speak about these matters is the fact that I’ve lived through them for ~24 years.
Men: it is vital you become active in this conversation, if you’re not already. Unfortunately, the kind of person who thinks it’s alright to grope a strange woman at a gig is more often than not also the kind who values a man’s words above a woman’s. Women, as well as members of the LGBTQIA+ community: I know it’s genuinely anxiety-inducing to make your voices heard in what can be a hostile environment, so look out for each other and yourselves.
Everything I’ve said here has been said a million times over, and I imagine it will be said a million times again. I’m writing this because I think the conversation is important. Maybe having it as incessantly and bluntly as possible is the path to change. Maybe the more people refuse to accept behaviour like this, the more they challenge the perpetrators to look deep within themselves for reason and compassion, the less stuff like this will happen. For that reason, I will keep talking about it until women & members of the LGBTQIA+ community can attend gigs peacefully and without fear.
Things are slowly changing, but it’s not fast enough. Aren’t we all exhausted? I’m tired. I’m bored of this. It’s so simple and so straightforward. Just be better people.