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Sexual Harassment at Concerts and Festivals: It Ends NOW, and Here’s How YOU Can Be the Change

Thank You MixMag, for your most recent article entitled, “We Need to Talk About Sexual Harassment in Nightclubs”, which has shed a much-needed spotlight on a serious ongoing issue afflicting our music/dance community.  I saw a lot of male artists particularly sharing the piece on social media almost immediately, which was surprisingly refreshing (i.e. Flufftronix, et al).  Unwanted groping/touching, sexual harassment, & sexual assault have been an unfortunately unspoken and unchallenged problem at concerts, shows, festivals, nightclubs, and anything of the sort for a long while now.  But why is someone groping you in a crowd considered an anticipated, acceptable concert experience? The dark lighting, the eclectic attire, the “party-favors”, the loud music, the lack of personal space, all are not invitations to invade someone else’s body.  Yes, pushing, shoving, jostling, and maybe a spilled drink here or there is to be expected, but rape and sexual harassment should not be, and here is what WE ALL can do as a community to be the change NOW:

  • “I see this happen all the time.” vs. “I helped stop this from happening.”
The Bystander Effect

    A lot of responses to and comments on the aforementioned Mixmag article were that concert-goers “see this happen all the time”.  Or even worse, the droves of women (and men) who commented sharing their experience (or many experiences) with unwanted touching or behavior at music events.  It is no one’s responsibility but security’s to police the crowd, so by no means is that what this is suggesting. However, in addition to bystander intervention, aka stepping in or speaking up against sexist discussion and/or sexually violent behavior, we can avoid intervention situations if we’re keen to predatory behavior. If you notice a man scouring the crowd for girls who may have gotten separated from their friends, etc., report this fellow to security. Now this leads me to our next problem…

  • Security guards in nightclubs and at festivals need to be trained on bystander intervention, as well as spotting predatory behavior.

   We typically think of security as people to fear and not to trust. They are trained to confiscate drugs and spot clouds of smoke. Another unfortunate reality, all-too-often, it’s when you’re entering the concert or nightclub that you experience unwanted touching…on behalf of security! Webster Hall in New York City is notorious for its sleazy male and female security guards using pat-downs as an excuse to cop a feel. I have personally had many unpleasant experiences at this venue.  One night, while in line to get my I.D. and bag checked, a female security guard grabbed and squeezed both of my breasts during a “routine” pat down search.  I do not wear padded bras, so she was touching my literal body. A patron at any venue deserves the right to be searched in such a way that safety is prioritized, while still respecting that guest’s body.  Once we are able to establish this trust with security, and once they are appropriately trained in all issues affecting nightclub patrons, perhaps we will feel more comfortable reporting suspicious and/or unwanted behavior to them.

  • “EDM/Rave” attire is NOT an invite to be touched OR photographed (Even if she’s wearing pasties, she’s not asking for “it”).

Ever since the days of Woodstock in the 1960’s, music festivals/gatherings have grown to be closely associated with nudity and experimentation with mind-altering substances. When the riots, sexual harassment, and sexual assaults occurred at the fiasco that was Woodstock 1999, society blamed the “party atmosphere”, not the rapists, for the crimes. Luckily, even 15 years ago, some artists spoke out against the despicable behavior they saw in the crowd.  Bassist, Flea, of The Red Hot Chilli Peppers said on stage, “Hey, you know, just because a girl out there wants to feel free and take her shirt off doesn’t mean a bunch of ya have to go grabbin’ her t*ts and stuff. They’re her t*ts and not yours. You gotta leave those t*ts alone…those t*ts are a girl’s private property and they’re a beautiful thing, so you’ve gotta respect ‘em.” Flea performed nude, and felt the women in the crowd should have the same rights he did.  Way to go Flea!


Read more here in this article from MTV News dated July 27, 1999. No matter if a girl is wearing pasties on her breasts, or an over-sized drug rug, she is NOT asking to be touched, nonetheless groped, grabbed, or worse.

Another musician I must make mention of is Adam Horovitz, of The Beastie Boys, who used his 1999 MTV VMA‘s speech to speak out against the sexual assaults that occurred at Woodstock 1999.  Not only was he bringing awareness to this issue, it was a call to action for all musicians and promoters to work with security at events to improve sexual assault training. It’s sad that 15 years later, this speech is still relevant, because not much has changed in the way of sexual safety at festivals and concerts. I’m going to take a wild guess and say this speech likely did not get the attention it deserved due to Lil Kim’s infamous sequin mermaid outfit that night, and of course when it comes to award shows, fashion trumps politics. Skip to 3:40 for Adam’s speech:

Recent instances of sexual violence at music festivals and concerts:

  • Music and EDM/rave culture should respect both genders, not objectify one over  the other.

When scumbags like Borgore write songs called “Act Like a Ho” or “Nympho”, which have lyrics like, “Hey kids it’s Borgore, Do you know whats hardcore? Me shoving an elephant up your sister’s back door, She wants foreplay, I don’t wanna play what for”, it sends an unequivocal message of mysogyny.  Furthermore, the second verse ,”She wants foreplay…” is a clear denial of female pleasure, as is to say sex is merely to please the male.  Unfortunately, he is far from the only culprit;  who can forget the infamous Ludacris line, “Face down ass up, that’s the way she likes to fuck.” Plus, there’s no denying many of Borgore’s fans are indeed female.  At least I can give Borgore a little credit for not singing about raping anyone (yet). When Eminem rapped a violent rape threat to Iggy Azalea in one of his new songs, he quickly felt the backlash.  No stranger for writing violent lyrics, this seemed more like a cheap shot at a current successful rapper who just so happens to be female.  When males are threatened by women in positions of power, threats of rape (or the actual act) function as ways to try to re-establish their according-to-them-deserved authority.

It’s not funny to joke about raping women, because it’s not funny to rape a woman. When a man was recently photographed sporting a disgusting “Eat, Sleep, Rape, Repeat” to Coachella, said photo went viral, said guy was made a temporary internet douche, and said t-shirt will hopefully cease from being produced.

T-shirts like this are products of the normalization of rape culture (and so are the douches who wear them).

In summation:

   Be a good Samaritan; apply bystander intervention when you go out to concerts, and especially festivals. Use the buddy system. Stay alert for predatory behavior, and don’t be afraid to advise security of potential creepers/sketchballs.  Personally, I think in addition to medical tents and EMTs at music festivals, there should also be S.A.R.T. (or Sexual Assault Response Team) tents, to help expedite the evidence collection process for sexual assaults that occur on festival grounds, far from hospitals (which may or may not have Sexual Assault Examiners or S.A.N.E. nurses).  Know the available resources at the festival, just in case of emergency, for your sake or the sake of a stranger.

~Alexandra Miller is a graduate student in Spanish  & Spanish American Literature and Film at the University of Colorado, Denver, as well as a human rights activist, gender studies writer, and bilingual sexual assault crisis hotline volunteer~



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