Several years ago, following a discussion with the What Is Your Activism group at The Boileroom, I wrote about sexual abuse at gigs. I’d forgotten about the piece, stumbled on it, re-read it and, still standing by every word, thought I would post it here.
On 16 November 2006 I saw Rancid at Brixton Academy. I fucking love Rancid. I did then and I still do now. They played 28 songs that night. On the fifth, ‘Black & Blue’, they stopped playing halfway through. As the the song came to an abrupt end with bass and cymbal ringing, the crowd cheered.
“Yo, check it out – move the fuck back.
Move the fuck back.
You: Move back.
Cymbals count back in and the bass leads as Lars says: “Let’s have a good time”.
I couldn’t detail other times I’ve seen bands emphasise keeping one another safe. I know it’s happened. (Lots) But that’s the only time I’ve seen a set interrupted.
So when I read about Girls Against, I’m pissed off.
As a small person I used to crowdsurf all the time. At 26 I’m still the same hyperactive, uncontainably excited teenager at gigs now as I was then; and back then I never worried about being groped as I floated along a sea of anonymous hands. But I’m pretty sure I can recall seeing girls groped. Randomly. Opportunistically. Just because a skirt’s floating by. And I definitely thought that it must be something they worried about. I think I’ve only ever been groped three times in my life: in a club or bar, and at a gig (twice) – and as much as machismo culture tells me that I’d like it; I hated it. Simply put, it was a peculiar sense of violation and surprise. In fact, the surprise was almost worse, because it brought on a nauseating realisation that this is what girls have to put up with all the time.
So I wonder now, years down the line, after reading about the inspirational – and, in the abysmal and humiliating culture we’re currently enduring: bloody brave – Girls Against; what the fuck it must’ve been – and still is – like for (primarily) girls at gigs. How fucking humiliating it is that this is still an issue for us in our 21st century to behold. We should be blinded by our collective blush.
I’ve never experienced a gig interrupted to call out sexual abuse. I don’t know whether that’s to do with the crowd, the band, or the success of opportunistic creepy scumfucks who happened to get away with it. I do know that when the girls of Girls Against acknowledge a ‘rape culture’ in our society, they’re bang on, and we should all work to stamp it out. When I go to gigs I’m in another world, a constant buzz, and I never walk out unhappy or unsatisfied. Live music is a beautiful experience. Others shouldn’t have that experience – whatever it means to them – ruined because some perverts can’t keep themselves to themselves.
Call it out. Stamp it out.
– 25th November 2015