I went out on Saturday night, braving the mean streets of Leeds to find a space of solace in which I could dance like my mother and nobody would judge me. Something happened on Saturday that I would like to tell you about. Let me paint you a picture. I am at the Vox Warehouse with my housemates plus some spares, there’s eight of us in all, a group of guys and girls, dancing, laughing, generally being carefree and young. We pause briefly to head to the bar to grab a casual Becks as students on a night out are wont to do. As we make our way across the dance floor, a guy I have never met grabs my arse. Now this does not shock me. It pisses me off, but I’m not shocked. It has happened to me before and it will happen again. Over my many years of encountering arseholes like this in clubs I have honed my technique for dealing with them. Ignoring it offends my feminist sensibilities, but hitting them in the face has led to some dubious results. My logic is if you think it’s ok to slap my arse I reserve the right to slap you back in the body area of my choice. Unfortunately, most people I’ve tried this on don’t really see my point of view so recently I’ve been opting for something nice and simple, direct, clear, that gets my point across without having to physically assault anyone. I turned around, looked him straight in the eye and said “don’t fucking touch me”.
The gentleman in question, although I use that term extremely loosely, was hugely offended by this. His response was to scream in my face that I was rude and say I should have asked nicely and said please when I asked him to stop sexually assaulting me. Resisting the urge to just mash my face into the keyboard until someone puts me in a padded room, I’m going to just run through the implications of this for anyone who hasn’t already decided that this is a hugely douche-baggy thing to do. By saying that I should have said please when asking him to stop touching me, he implied that not touching me was the equivalent of him doing me a massive favour. That, far from me being completely within my rights for being annoyed that someone that I had no interest in ever even speaking to, let alone having sex with, that I had never met, grabbing me in a sexually aggressive manner, I should probably have promptly fainted at the excitement of the huge compliment he had just paid me, before recomposing myself, batting my eyelashes a bit and gone home with him to forever be his personal concubine. By saying I should have “asked nicely” when telling him not to completely violate my physical autonomy, he is basically suggesting that all men should, and do, have free access rights to my body.
Well you can go fuck yourself for starters Mr. Grabby. I mean seriously. I don’t even really know how I’m meant to respond to this sort of behaviour. If somebody walked up to you in the street and punched you in the face, yelling at them to stop would be a fairly appropriate response by most people’s standards. If the person who had just punched you in the face then demanded that you say please, you would probably think you had a) walked into a scene from the poorly written barrage of literary faeces that is 50 Shades of Grey, and b) want to leave immediately. What it all comes down to, is that there are plenty of people out there who think that simply by leaving her house, a woman is consenting to all kinds of shit. By entering the public arena she is asking to be harassed, assaulted and generally dicked about.
Serious question, what are you getting out of this arse grab? Is it a serious attempt to initiate some sort of sexual liaison? If it is, you need to brush up on your flirting sonny boy. If it isn’t then the option we are left with is, you saw an arse you liked, and you grabbed it. You just stole a bit of sexual gratification from me! If you had asked me, I would have said no, but you didn’t ask, you just went ahead and violated me in that small but emphatic way that seems to have got through so many people’s social filters. Do you know what this is starting to sound like? Yeah, it’s starting to sound a tiny little bit like rape isn’t it? Now, I’m not saying that an arse-grab in any way amounts to the emotional and physical trauma of rape. After about five minutes of screaming at my housemates about why we still need feminism and all of them nodding and looking sympathetic and hoping I would stop, I went back to dancing and the night turned out rather well. But the logic that goes into a thought process that concludes “I don’t know that girl but I should probably touch her in a fairly intimate way because I can” is fairly similar to the logic that says “I don’t know that girl but she is wearing a skirt so I should probably rape her because I can”. It is the same logic that doesn’t think about a woman’s input into the decision making process, that doesn’t care that she is a human being with thoughts and feelings and not just a body that walks around waiting to fulfil male sexual needs. It is the logic that disregards a woman’s right to choose. This can also be applied to guys being sexually harassed, which is justified with different, but equally shitty logic, that because he is a guy all he is thinking about right now is sex anyway so he won’t care if I sexually assault him. In general, let’s just agree not to touch strangers inappropriately.
Not all guys do this, nor do all girls. There is a small minority, walking around fucking it up for the rest of us. This has happened to me a handful of times, I know it has happened to a lot of my female friends. It’s a shitty thing but I don’t know how to stop it from happening. Short of changing the way that I dress, and I think we all know from Slutwalk, what a bad idea it is to ask a feminist to do that to avoid sexual harassment/abuse, I don’t know what it is that I can do to stop men from assuming that they have a right to my body and that I don’t have a say in the matter. I don’t know how to stop guys from assuming that because I went out to a club in a skirt, I am open for business for anyone and everyone. I can’t change societal attitudes because I am just one person. But I like to think that together we can do something about this. Let’s assume that the average arse-slapper/breast-grabber/dick-on-butt-grinder is a repeat offender. Imagine how quickly he’ll get bored of doing this is every time he does, he gets an angry feminist rant in the face. Imagine if every time he crosses that line of personal space, he gets a girl yelling about rape-culture and feminist theory and why Germaine Greer was right about the societal construction of women as passive sexual beings. I like to think that even your most committed dickhead is going to start thinking twice about pinching people’s arses when he thinks he’s going to get an earful from an angry feminist.
Let’s use our words.
By Meg Hogg, author on Consider the Seahorse: considertheseahorse