Men – stop touching me in bars
Steph Slack writes about a recent awful experience of harassment in a bar, and why men need to understand how much women have to cope with such things constantly. Important piece to read.
It’s Saturday night, I’m making my way through a crowded, loud Shoreditch bar to get myself a drink. This bar plays music, it’s 9pm and everyone is already pretty smashed and dancing like their life depends on it. Anyone who has been in a place like that knows how difficult it is to make your way to the bar. There’s lots of side sliding through the crowds and gently nudging someone’s arm to get them to move over a bit. You have to get close to people but you try your hardest not to get too close. Or at least I do.
I’m halfway to the front when I slide past a guy with my back to him and I feel something wet on my bare shoulder. My first thought is: ‘that guy just licked me’. But it’s 2019 and surely that shit doesn’t happen in bars anymore. No, it must have just been a pint glass or something.
My best friend from uni is behind me. I turn around once I’ve passed the guy and I’m about to shout out: “I think that guy just licked my shoulder”. Except she gets there first: “That guy just licked your shoulder – I saw him!” she yells.
WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?
How does anyone think this is acceptable behaviour? Did #MeToo teach some men nothing? Let’s be clear – this guy was a complete stranger, I had not seen or spoken to him previously in the bar and he did not attempt to speak to me. He simply felt he was entitled to lean in and lick my bare shoulder as I walked past him, uninvited.
Now I do not care how drunk you are, there’s really no excuse for this. At best it’s disgusting and at worst it’s sexual harassment.
I thought we’d left this kind of behaviour behind. It’s the kind of thing I’ve experienced in the past at 18 at uni and as a 23 year old in the City. Where men felt it was okay to grab your arse as you walked past them in a dark club. This has never been okay but in 2019 it just seems so much more shocking in the wake of #MeToo and all our efforts to shift gender stereotypes, toxic masculinity and to empower women.
I just don’t understand what makes some men think they are entitled to behave this way. I realise women can do equally questionable things in clubs to men but that wasn’t my experience on Saturday night. This was. And as I said, it’s not the first tine something like that has happened to me and I have no doubt it won’t be the last. But why is this my continued experience? Why do women repeatedly have to deal with situations like this?
Why do some men think it’s okay to violate a women’s body in this way? Why does there seem to be an entitlement that loud, dark bar + tight crowd = putting your hands or tongues wherever you like? Newsflash: it isn’t.
What angers me even more than the fact this guy actually licked my fricking shoulder is the fact I didn’t say anything. 18-year-old uni me used to turn around and tell the guys grabbing my arse where they could stick their hands. And let me tell you, it wasn’t anywhere near my body.
What happened to her? To that feisty woman who wouldn’t let guys get away with this disgusting behaviour. Who would tell them exactly what she thought of them?
She got ground down. By the fact this happens ALL the time. Over and over again. And most of the time I spoke up, I was met with laughter, mockery or a repeated attempt to touch me. Whereas the guy was met with high fives and praise form his mates. So somewhere along the line, I think I learned to bite my tongue, ignore it and not give a reaction in the hope that if guys like this were met with silence, they’d get bored and stop their seedy arse grabs.
Here’s the thing. That anger deserves a voice. And it’s right to be directed at the people who think it’s okay to touch my body without my permission. So Saturday night was the last time I bite my tongue. I’m speaking up because women should not be subject to this kind of uninvited violation of their bodies or their personal space. I’m writing this article because we cannot forget that this is a battle women fight every day. And next time some guy thinks it’s okay to touch me without my say so, you can be sure I’ll be telling them exactly what I think of them and reporting their behaviour to the venue.
That’s a start but to make any sort of change, we all need to keep speaking up, as exhausting as it is. More than that, guys: how about you keep your hands and tongues to yourselves when it comes to strangers. And if you’re not the kind of guy who does this, FANTASTIC. But how about you call your mates out if you see them doing something like that. Don’t accept it, don’t indulge it and don’t let them get away with it.
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