Sexual Harassment At Rock Shows – It Happens, And It Needs To Stop
A while back, M and I went to some show at Upstate Concert Hall. I forget which one. We go to a lot.
Generally speaking, when the place is packed, like it was that night, M holds our spot while I go grab beer. It’s a proven fact that women have absolutely no trouble making their way to the front of the stage, whether they’re hot or not, but men have trouble getting through even if they tell people “I’m trying to find my girl” so it makes the most sense.
While I was standing in line, I couldn’t help but hear the conversations going on around me. Everyone was yelling to be heard over everyone else.
Standing about two people away, there was an older man (Man1) from Oklahoma who I’d originally pegged as gay until he started harassing a really hot younger woman (Woman1) in her twenties. Her friend had just returned from the merch booth excited over the shirt she’d bought, and then ran to the bathroom. To avoid anything happening to her new shirt, she asked Woman1 to hold it for her. And that’s when Man1 started in on her.
“What’s your name?”
“Where are you from?”
“What do you do for a living?”
“Are you in school?”
Because I was trying not to eavesdrop, I didn’t really notice her discomfort at this point. And this is when he started to compliment her.
“You’re so beautiful.”
“Your father must have been a thief because he stole the stars and put them in your eyes.”
“You’ve got an amazing body.”
“Why don’t you go to the bathroom and put that shirt on and come out here and model it for me? I mean, just the shirt.”
And that’s when I heard the record scratch in my head.
Throughout the beginning of their “conversation”, the guys who were with Woman1 were busy with the bartender. They’d throw a glance or two her way to check on her, listen to the questions Man1 was asking, and turn back to their conversation while they waited for their drinks.
And the questions sound innocuous enough, right? I mean, the first few are all things you ask people you’re trying to get to know. Nothing to really get all up in arms about.
Except she was extremely uncomfortable. She didn’t want to talk to him. And she was looking for a way out. But none of us around her noticed until the shirt thing.
I am not a hot little 20-something. I’m cute enough, but I’m so not Man1’s type. I mean, I’m over 30! So when the guys she was with were having trouble figuring out a polite way to disengage their friend from the conversation, I stepped in and started asking Man1 questions.
“Where’s that accent from?”
“What do you do for a living?”
“Do you have a girlfriend?”
He became visibly uncomfortable, so when it was my turn to talk to the bartender, and after checking to be sure Woman1 was far enough away to be left alone, I just stopped talking to him, hoping maybe he’d get the point. I kinda wish I’d been more clear.
Later, the group of 20-somethings made their way closer to M and me while we were watching the show. They ran into a friend of theirs, and started talking about what happened a few minutes before they found their way to our spot. Woman1’s makeup was smeared because she’d been crying.
This time, though, her guy friends had redeemed themselves. When Man1 started in on her again the next time they went to the bar for a drink, her guy friends got in his face and told him to back the eff off. A bartender overheard the conversation and asked Man1 to leave, and threatened to remove him if he didn’t comply. And I felt a little better about the state of the rockin’ world today.
Basically, it’s like this. Sexual harassment isn’t just something that happens in the work place. It happens on the street, and at shopping malls, and at amusement parks, and in parking lots, and at rock shows.
And it’s not just making lewd comments. It’s trying to force a person to engage in conversation with you, repeatedly complimenting their looks, getting angry and divisive when a person makes it clear they’re not interested.
And it doesn’t just happen to women.
So in the interest of making rock shows a little more comfortable for everyone involved, let’s make two promises, right here and now. The first is that we’ll avoid sexually harassing our fellow rockers. And the second is that if we see a fellow rocker being sexually harassed, we’ll step in and let the harasser know that this behavior is not okay. There’s absolutely no reason not to. No one has the right to be a jerk.