Have you ever been dancing in a club with your friends when you catch a horrified look on their face as they glance behind you? If you have, then your reaction would probably be to turn around and see what they’re looking at. And from my experience – and the reams of anecdotal evidence I have collected from female friends and acquaintances – the most likely explanation for their grimace is the presence of a man behind you, grinding up next to you and sporting a dribbling, sly grin. Have you ever been heckled in a smoking area, been asked to ‘suck my mate’s dick’ or had some slimy wannabe lothario grab your bum with both hands on his way to the bar?
The issue of personal safety when out drinking in nightclubs has been discussed time and time again. But still, there does not seem to have been any actual changes implemented in venues to stop these relatively minor, but frustrating and distressing acts of sexual harassment. To dance with a girl, to invade her personal space, and sometimes to even push your body against hers while she is dancing, and while she is unaware of your being there, is not okay. But this is allowed to happen because of the nature of the interior space: people are going to be pressing against each other, particularly on student nights when clubs are often full to capacity. However, I just don’t believe that young males do not know the difference between dancing near females, and non-consensually dancing so closely behind them, in the vain hope that they might just accidentally step back and press their bums into their crotches for a second.
No-one wants to spend most of the evening when they are out with their friends turning around and explaining in different ways to different levels of retaliation – ranging from silently walking away, to throwing a drink in the girl’s face – that this kind of intrusive behavior is making them uncomfortable. That they’d really prefer that the men in question turn around and face the other way.
As helpful or as honourable as some bouncers may be, they are rarely ever inclined to enter into a conversation with a young female (who may or may not have been drinking) about sexual harassment in a club. It is just not taken seriously by the majority of male bouncers whose sole concern seems to be male-on-male violence. So how about this for a solution; each venue should employ a bouncer whose only responsibility is vigilance concerning sexual-harassment. I would argue this should be a female role, and that the responsibilities would include: using discretion to police when the intoxication levels of unacquainted dancing partners are dangerously unbalanced; responding calmly and sensitively to reports of inappropriate or intimidating sexual behavior, and reprimanding those who respond violently to requests of “please – back off”.
Until such a time when women are able to dance and drink freely in a public space without being harassed, there should be someone present in nightclubs that is sympathetic to the types of behavior regularly endured on a night out by young females. I do not think that that is too much to ask.