I thought it was normal. You’re a girl. You go to a show, especially a big show, like Coachella or Burning Man, Lollapalooza or Bonnaroo, Pitchfork or Vans Warped Tour. You get caught into the crush of people near the stage because you want to see your favorite band. Sometimes you start dancing. Sometimes you’re forced to sway with the crowd because the crowd is swaying and by this point you’ve become one mass of human motion.
Except for the dude behind you. Who is grinding on your butt. You know he’s grinding on your butt. But you ignore him, other than to maybe aim a kick in his direction. And if you crowdsurf, well, God help you, because every man in the audience will take it as a chance to grab whatever he wants to grab.
This is aside from the leering, the cheesy pickup lines, the up-and-down appraisals, the invitations — sometimes from the artists themselves — to head somewhere more private.
I was 18. I just thought this happened to women at shows.
Now I’m in my thirties, and I know this behavior is emphatically not okay. Women are not objects, and do not become unconsenting objects simply because they bought a ticket to see their favorite band.
[Check out our full list of Security Tips For Music Festivals.]
By all reports, sexual assault is a widespread problem at concerts and music festivals. In late March, the Chicago Tribune reported that a survey by the Chicago-based advocacy group MyBodyMyMusic found that more than 90 percent of female concertgoers interviewed experienced sexual harassment. 9 in 10.
There aren’t a lot of hard numbers out there, Scott Berkowitz, the president of RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), told NBC. “It’s just something that happens fairly regularly,” Berkowitz said.
It won’t take you long to find horror stories with a simple web search. It’s been a problem for years. And performers aren’t immune, either.
So how to avoid this type of behavior? In some cases, you can’t — men may take creepy pictures of you. They may come up and hit on you and not stop. But there are ways you can take precautions.
Bring a male friend, or several female friends, who aren’t afraid to get in people’s faces. If someone from your group is attacked, the whole pack goes on the offensive. Someone snapping creepy pics? Everyone swarms him. Someone won’t stop hitting on one of you? Several people shouting that it’s not okay will get him to slink off. Do not leave this group of friends.
Report all groping or touching to security, and make a loud, big deal out of it with all of your friends. This disempowers the man who thinks he can do whatever he wants to a woman’s body, and threatens him with some pretty big trouble — removal from the concert, at the very least.
Dress to make harassment difficult. This is not to victim blame those who choose to wear what they want. Women have the right to walk stark-naked through a concert and remain unmolested. However, there are ways to dress that make it harder for men to say, grind against your butt (this is not to blame women who were wearing something else and say that they deserved it; it’s a recommendation for women who have a rational fear of being touched inappropriately, or who might possibly be an abuse victim and feel the need for extra security). Wear a backpack. Wear pants, not a skirt — especially if you plan to crowdsurf. Keep to midriff shirts to a minimum.
Men who harass women in concert situations, The Lala notes, do so because of a mob mentality: there’s a big crowd, which means the perps can remain anonymous and get lost quickly without victims being able to ID them. Then the bystander effect means people don’t offer help or report what happens, because they think someone else will do something.