By Zoë Turner
Halloween is always an occasion that’s eagerly awaited by many; for students, the last night of October likely meant a big night out, complete with dressing up, drinking and dancing. My friends and I were no exception to the abundance of celebrators of the dead and set out to the Northern Quarter of Manchester, face paint and plastic guns abound. But, just like prior to any other night in a club, the inevitable fun was followed by another slightly gloomier expectation.
On Saturday, for me and undoubtedly several others, these expectations were unfortunately met. Again. The people responsible for fulfilling these are the men who seem to think they have a right to a woman’s body, or vice versa, in this sort of environment. Maybe it’s just the idea that they can get away with such behaviour in a dark, loud and busy room. Either way, this conduct is fundamentally wrong.
I have absolutely no problem with friendly conversation with people I don’t yet know, but when they start to grab my waist whilst they engage with me, I am going to respond negatively. What was interesting to observe this Halloween, was when I did pull away from such an act and gave the guy no further attention, he was desperate to apologise and explain to me that he was “actually a nice person”. I wasn’t about to assume the problem was in his entire self, but the point is that you can’t assume people feel comfortable being touched, because not every girl will feel able to walk away like I did. To feel the need to try and justify your actions probably speaks volumes, too.
That was a particularly mild and unusually remorseful example of the experiences I’ve had, but every time I just get less surprised and more upset. I have started to feel nervous and wary when in crowded clubs or at gigs. We left Mint Lounge that night for a man to tell my friend “you’ve got gorgeous legs” in the most stomach-turning manner possible; we got on the bus home and as I was falling asleep, the man sat next to me decided to grab my leg. This kind of harassment is starting to look impossible to avoid.
When a man started putting his hands on me in a club and I told him to stop, he poured a drink on my head, as if I had wronged him. The same night, my friend and I were cat called, and when I shouted at them to leave us alone, they started to verbally abuse me, as if I had wronged them. Someone ran their hand up between my legs in a club and by the time I’d turned around I couldn’t see who it was. I’ve had strangers up my skirts a few times at concerts, taking advantage of the multitude of people.
It is not exclusive to night life either, as people driving past you often think they can beep or call from the safety of their cars in broad daylight, because what can you do, really? I’ve even known people to shout things on the street, and passers-by hardly bat an eyelid.
I wanted to write about this because people need to realise the raw impacts of something that has become a regularity. Whilst someone may find it flattering, it could damage another’s sense of self-worth or confidence, make them feel trapped or vulnerable. It is not normal, it is not okay. If things like this are allowed to happen, we are not so far from turning our heads from rape culture. People should feel safe enough to go out and enjoy themselves without these risks. Not everyone will feel able speak up, and some people will even accept it.
If you are ever guilty of such behaviour, you need to think about the effects you might have and stop. If you have ever been a victim, please don’t shrug it off. There are a group of girls on twitter at the moment campaigning against this kind of harassment who you can find at @girlsagainst and they’ve already got some bands on their side for gig specific groping. Fight against it.
Zoë is a second year English student with a passion for music, film, literature and art. You can find her on twitter at @zoelizs.