WPGM Commentary: Musicians Finally Speak Up Against Sexual Assault At Concerts

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When one thinks of a music concert, the first images that come to mind tend to be positive. As one Cosmopolitan article puts it: “Photos at these events always flaunt carefree, sun-kissed men and women living in unity off the music and the earth, as if they have successfully created their own Millennial utopia. But even here, sexual assault can happen — because sexual assault can happen anywhere”. Not only can it happen anywhere, but it’s becoming a frequent offence at gigs.

Calling it out as “shady inappropriate behaviour” on Twitter, Foals vocalist Yannis Philippakis stresses that people are allowed to go wild at gigs but equally, people must be mindful of others, usually women, who are mixed up in unwanted behaviour. In a follow-up interview with DIY he clarifies that “[t]here’s a difference between a mosh-pit and just groping somebody. I think that goes without saying”. It does go without saying, but people are still using close proximity, potential intoxication, and the low risk of being caught for the opportunity to put their hands on others.

In October 2015, five teenage girls set up a campaign – Girls Against – to “raise awareness of, and ultimately end, sexual harassment at gigs and concerts”. The group was established after Hannah, one of the founders, experienced someone trying to force their hands down her tights at a busy gig. Harry Kossier (from Peace) retweeted her experience and stressed that if anything like that happened at one of his shows, to notify either him or security.

He also added: “If you think this is ok then please I beg you do not come”. For those of us who have never experienced sexual assault at a gig, it can be easy to dismiss as an isolated event; however, it stops being rare when there are several instances of similar behaviour, and when an actual campaign is constructed to stop it.

Unfortunately, I am aware that some people may try to blame the victims, instructing them not to bait offenders by acting in a certain way or, as Dan Chinitz said in an article about EDM culture: “It is the trend to dress in revealing clothes and that, in addition to the overwhelming sensations, is a recipe for unwanted sexual contact”.

A recipe? As if a certain mix of behaviours is to blame for sexual assault, not the assaulter themselves. A partially clothed, topless, or even a naked body is not and should not be an invitation for unsolicited touching. People are allowed to be naked without any desire for sexual contact.

Nevertheless, there is one positive thing to come from this: the musicians who flag the issue. Along with the aforementioned accounts from Philippakis and Kossier, Fred Macpherson (Spector) and Slaves have also gone out of their way to talk about it. The reason why this is particularly positive is because they have strong platforms, depending on their fame and fanbase, to make more of an impact than most of us. Hopefully their voices are worthy opponents against those who would rather focus on someone’s lack of clothing, rather than finding more constructive solutions that start with the assaulter.

Bands speaking up, stationing a female security guard in or by the crowd, and starting a campaign on the issue are excellent preventative measures but people shouldn’t solely rely on them to pick up on everything. To reiterate a point that Philippakis made, people should look out for each other and take action against things that someone in a higher position may not be aware of. Said action can take the form of physically stopping it, saying something to the perpetrator, or making security or the musicians aware where possible.

Lastly, we should clearly define what constitutes as sexual assault/rape and show what such an experience can do to someone. Many people see it as a joke, just a bit of fun, or not that bad, but it’s been proven to trigger long-term psychological effects and in worst cases, suicide. These are things which could have easily been avoided; it’s not hard to refrain from sexually assaulting someone and if you think otherwise, you should be seeking help for such damaging thoughts.

Words by Shanade McConney

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