Last weekend it was my birthday… In the immortal words of the song “she’s flirty, turned thirty, about the age a girl gets really dirty”. (What? It’s from “She’s So Lovely” by Scouting for Girls. Ok, it’s not one of the all-time classics.) Anyway, thanks for asking, I had a fantastic time – I managed to start the celebrations two weeks before my actual birthday, and still have some partying left to do. Unfortunately last weekend also marked another milestone, as it was the first time I’ve been groped by a stranger two nights in a row.
Now, I’ll start by saying that the groping was pretty mild – someone giving my arse a quick squeeze. (That’s ass, for our American readers). Though actually even as I’m typing, I’m getting a little pissed off at myself for diminishing what happened in this way. Let’s make no bones about it, my personal space was invaded without my consent. It sort of says something rather chilling about how perhaps I’ve been socially conditioned to see a little light groping by a stranger as acceptable, or that maybe I should be grateful they only squeezed my arse.
Anyway, on the Friday night I’d gone to a gig with a good friend of mine because his fiancée was on nights and so he had a spare ticket. We found ourselves a prime spot between the bar and the sound desk, and generally had a really good time. I find it impossible not to move to music I’m enjoying, and had been employing the full range of motion from the gentle sway to the full-on pogo. As is the way of these things, you bump against your fellow gig-goers from time to time, no harm, no foul. But at one point, there was an unmistakeable hand groping my arse – not just an accidental brush against, but actual fingertips gripping in to the flesh. I slapped the hand away and turned and glared at the man standing behind me, who was responsible. Imagine my surprise when a couple of songs later the same thing happened again. So, how did I respond? I asked my mate to switch places with me. And a moment later the groping man (Homus Gropus?) sloped off, never to be seen again.
One down, one to go. On the Saturday night a few friends came round to drink cocktails and eat cupcakes, and then some of us went into town to drink more cocktails and have a bit of a boogie. All was going very well on a packed dancefloor, until one of my mates pointed out that the man dancing behind her had just groped her arse. So, I switched places with her. Apparently I have a magical belief that switching places improves any uninvited groping situation. How wrong I was that night. It will, I’m sure, surprise no-one when I say that a few moments later he gave my arse a good squeeze too. At which point I employed the tried and tested barge-backwards-firmly-while-stamping-down-hard-with-your-stiletto-heel manoeuvre. Sadly, I missed his foot but he seemed to get the message and didn’t trouble us again.
I have lots of thoughts about these two events, but in both cases I feel slightly sad and a little angry that I didn’t make a big deal out of it. Why didn’t I shout out at the guy at the gig? Why didn’t I tell my mate why I wanted to switch places? Given that I had been assaulted, why didn’t I tell security or report it to the police? Why did my friend and I, who were both felt up by the same man within minutes of each other make jokes about him nearly being a contender for some sort of synchronised groping event at the London 2012 Olympics? I kind of accepted this behaviour as an inevitable part of a night out. Of course, sadly it probably is an inevitable part of a night out. I expect if I asked my female friends, we would have an enormous list of similar experiences. I’m not so sure how my male friends would answer, but I’d be willing to put money on it being much less common.
I’m also sort of interested in a way, in Homus Gropus. What makes him tick? Why does he do the things he does? Were these the random acts of men who’d had too much to drink, and live in a world where women are so constantly presented to them merely as sexual objects they can’t control their most basic urges? Was this some clumsy and misguided mating ritual, or was the groping an end in itself? (Innuendo intended.) Is a quick squeeze of an arse on a dancefloor the limits of their non-consensual sexual activity, or is it just the tip of the iceberg? Not all men do this, and presumably some women do – but why? What’s it all about?