Dear Men Who Attend Concerts,
Earlier this year, I had the gall to leave my apartment and attend Temples’ show at Great American Music Hall — all while inhabiting a female body. While I understand the risks associated with being a non-dude in public, my desire to see a band whose music I’ve enjoyed since 2014 outweighed the safety and boredom of staying home.
Since I’ve been told my clothing choices are terribly important information when discussing sexual harassment, let’s get this out of the way now: I was wearing jeans, my Doc Martens, and a loose, long sleeve T-shirt. Happy?
Onwards. It started out the way it always does: A hand on the waist from a total stranger. I pushed his hand away, thinking he would get the message. Except his hand returned, squeezing my shoulder, pulling me by my waist towards him, sliding down my back. No amount of pushing him off worked.
It was his persistence — and you really have to hand it to the guy: a woman repeatedly rejecting his “romantic” advances by physically removing his hands from her body didn’t discourage him one bit — that sent me into panic mode. I was terrified he might try to follow me out, and since we were standing on the edge of the crowd, I knew I would be easy to trail. I was stuck.
In my fantasy, I turned into Wonder Woman and ripped his balls off with my bare hands. In reality, I was frozen. I didn’t want to cause a scene that would anger him. Men aren’t the best at taking rejection. As in, they turn horrifically violent to the women who reject them. Sometimes they even kill those women.
I certainly didn’t think I was going to be murdered amidst the crowd at a Temples show, but I also didn’t know what this guy would do. I decided to endure his grimy hands until the band finished, then slipped away as fast as I could in the commotion of the departing crowd. It worked. I went home. Safely.
The next morning, I felt my anger redirect itself away from my harasser (though he can absolutely still go straight to hell) and towards every guy who was in close proximity to me. What about the guys who could see I was uncomfortable — or better yet, see I was being groped? What about all of them? Why did none of them step in?
This letter is to the men who don’t step in. The men who love St. Vincent, talk a big game about how riot grrrl bands changed their whole perspective, and still don’t step in. The men who abhor rape culture on Twitter, identify as feminists, chant “Pussy grabs back!” while protesting Donald Trump, and still don’t step in. This letter is for the men who fancy themselves to be halfway decent human beings — but don’t actually do anything when the time comes.
I would direct it to my harasser and his ilk, but I know one open letter will do little to convince those stinking piles of misogynist garbage (and their President-elect!) that women’s bodies do not exist to satisfy their sexual appetites. So I’m left with the men who won’t cop a feel for themselves, but are happy to let their fellow concertgoer have his fun.
I’m left with those of you who value some unspoken bro code over my right to not be groped.
I’m left with my harasser’s friends, who value maintaining the chill night-out vibe over my right not to be groped.
I’m left with those of you who are complicit in making concert spaces hostile to women, even if they’re not the ones doing the groping.
I’m left with you, my dear men, the ones who do nothing — and accept, affirm, and normalize my harasser’s actions in the process.
I’m not asking for male savior heroics — unless that’s your thing, then, by all means, go for it (within reason, obviously). But I am asking for a certain level of vigilance. Consider taking a moment to ask the girl beside you if she is alright, given how uncomfortable she looks each time that random guy pulls her into his chest. Maybe find a venue staff member if you don’t want to get into it. But don’t do nothing.
It’s odd to be asking you to be vigilant in this way. Before the 2015 mass shooting at the Bataclan in Paris, it never occurred to most (straight, cis) men that a concert space was anything besides safe. Now you are vigilant about the threat of gun violence within venues, but you remain oblivious to the smaller, quieter, non-lethal acts of violence that have rendered venues unsafe for women since, well, always. You’re vigilant to the violence that could end your life, the kind of violence that comes from the outside in. But the violence that happens in the fray of the crowd? The violence that you will likely never personally encounter, even as it happens all around you? It might as well not exist.
Do better, men.
I’m so tired of asking you to do better.
And I’m tired of hearing from my female friends that it happened to one of them (again). I’m all too used to feeling the mixture of exhaustion and outrage and resignation every time I hear from a friend that she was harassed during a show.
And never once has the harasser in question been a woman. That’s why this is on you, men. Put your bro code on hold and do the right thing. Because I shouldn’t be going into fight-or-flight mode while watching a goddamn concert.