Quotes from the survey I conducted;
“I can’t even think of individual situations, it is pretty much constant on a night out and you go out prepared for what you are walking into. Harassment should never be a given, but it is.”
“Someone following you after you’ve turned them down. Men closing in on a small group of girls to dance with them or chat. Continuing to this when you’ve shown discomfort.”
“I’ve been catcalled or had inappropriate comments made about my body or looks on many occasions.”
“Mainly just comments about what me and my friends might be wearing. It’s weird because even on occasions when we feel like we’ve ‘covered up’, men will stay make comments.”
“A bouncer said I wasn’t allowed in because I wasn’t 21 but he ‘let me in anyway’, during patdown he groped me. He did it because he knew he had the power in the situation.”
“I think it depends where we are going, but as a woman who likes to dress provocatively I experience comment on the street and then inappropriate comment and touching once inside. It’s sad but I have adapted the way I look to the space I go for this reason. I dress completely differently depending on the crowd that will be there.”
“he somehow feels entitled to something because of the few pounds he put in a rose. I go home crying.”
“Constantly having to swap places with your friends to avoid the random guys grinding on you, it’s like being on constant look out for you and your friends.”
“Grinding and groping/ spanking are of the norm”
“when I first started going to clubs and festivals and gigs I thought groping etc was normal and you just had to deal with it”
“When I tell them that I’m not looking for any of that attention I have had a least on two occasions been pushed up against a wall and told that because I dress so loud I’m asking for attention and that I should expect it.”
“Homophobia - every single time”
Whilst we are enduring a global pandemic, there is time to pause and reflect. The idea of normal no longer has to be tolerated, and this is an incredible opportunity to start thinking about the changes we would like to see when society does return.
I, like many others, am missing going out and listening to live music, dancing and generally getting trollied! Unfortunately there are some aspects that we don’t miss. We share countless experiences of sexual harassment, catcalling, groping, abuse, following, spiked drinks - the lot. I wanted to use this opportunity to explore issued faced by many on nights out, and begin to devise some solutions to ultimately help make nightlife safer.
I conducted a survey that asked students of all genders across the country about their experiences of sexual harassment whilst out. I received 68 responses, and was blown away by the brutal honesty and depth. This gave a clear insight into the lived experiences that students endure whilst clubbing, at bars or travelling to and fro. Above, you can see some examples of the stories people shared.
I also asked if recipients had any other thoughts, and many suggested ways in which they alter their behaviours to remain safe. Things like changing the way they dress, avoiding certain bars and clubs, making sure to go out in large numbers, carrying pepper spray/rape alarms with them and ultimately removing themselves if situations arise.
This didn’t sit right with me, especially as it seems abusers don’t have to go to the same lengths to go out and have a nice time. It seems unfair that we have to miss out or waste money and time on what should be a fun experience just to protect ourselves.
I DON’T WANT TO GIVE VICTIMS MORE THINGS TO DO, I WANT TO GIVE RESPONSIBILTY TO POTENTIAL ABUSERS TO SEE THE IMPACT OF THEIR ACTIONS AND HOW THEY CAN CHANGE THEIR BEHAVIOURS FOR THE BETTER.
This got me asking, where is the responsibility on abusers to change their abhorrent behaviours? Most of the experiences documented through my survey were perpetrated by men, so I have decided to use male pronouns throughout the comic. This does not mean that all men are abusers or that all abusers are men, but the large identification of men with this kind of behaviour informed this decision. I decided to focus in on why men may behave in this way and how they could start to work on their behaviours to ultimately keep everyone safer. This was a big task as there is nothing that can justify sexual harassment, but no large scale change can be made until both parties are on board.
I decided to design a comic book that wasn’t gender specific. This was to keep the information as accessible as possible to a wide range of audiences. The hope is by keeping it super simple it won’t deter those who don’t vibe with typically feminist lingo, whilst simultaneously showing how simple positive behaviour on a night out should be.
The issues highlighted by my survey and comic are reflective of issues within society as a whole. The oppression of female, trans and non-binary people is blatant and lots needs to be done to work towards a society where we really are all equal.This comic only scratches the surface of a deep-rooted issue of oppression within our society. A society where the sexualising and objectifying of people is normalised. Where people are frightened to go out at night to enjoy music. Where most people will have stories of sexual harassment, homophobic abuse or rape. This isn’t something that happens to a select few, this is a large social issue that needs to be recognised and dealt with.
But with my work, alongside the work of @Girls.Against, #Askforangela and other incredible charities and campaigns, we can move towards solving these problems by figuring out creative ways to regain freedom. The freedom to enjoy music, dance like the queens we are and make cherished memories with our friends.
I hope that when we come out of lockdown, there is a shift in priorities. I think that everyone will realise how connected we all really are, and that what should always remain a priority is the health and safety of people!
Stay home, keep ravin’ and wash your hands!
Text and Comic by Jade Pughe