On Friday, November 23rd, I got to go out and have a blast at SACHA’s United Way FUNdraiser, Dance Dance Feminist Revolution!
It was lovely. I worked at the door during Dawn and Marra and Unfinished Business, and boogied on the dance floor to the tunes of Fortuna. One of my favorite parts about the evening was the atmosphere during this event, which was fun and encouraging. Part of what made it so, while not explicitly stated during the show as a norm, was what seemed to be an understanding that we were all there to have a good time. For me, this translates to being able to do some carefree dancing without having to physically protect myself against unwanted touching, or dancing with at least one eye open to look out for the safety of my fellow movers and shakers. Now that’s my idea of a good time! You know, not having to be in flight or fight mode while I shake my butt.
Later on in the evening, when my desire to continue dancing took me to another venue in the city, I was reminded that the ability to dance in peace was not something that I could expect everywhere I went. As a sweet bunch of Dance Dance Feminist Revolutionaries took up the dance floor, I immediately found myself the target of an individual who took it upon themselves to get all up in my face, touching me in ways that were not previously discussed and that I definitely did not consent to.
Whoa. Bubble burst.
After moving away and going “nu-uh” I proceeded to dance with a watchful eye as this person approached dancer after dancer, unconsensually touched them, and then got rejected in one way or another, often after many attempts at getting rid of him. His lack of consent when initiating contact and then his willful ignorance of any kind of verbal or not verbal feedback of discomfort or disinterest was creeping me right out and I was starting to get darned pissed.
I looked around, wondering, is anyone else seeing this? Does anyone know this guy? Has someone talked to him already? Is this a place where this kind of shit is generally ignored/accepted?
At this point, I decided to approach this person to say “You really need to ask people before you touch them like that”. For the first time in, I don’t know, ten years, I was given a “talk to the hand” and an eye roll as they walked away from me. Yeah, I see you. Unbeknownst to me at the time, one of the people I had arrived with had simultaneously checked in with one of the woman he had just tried to ‘dance’ with, asking her if she was okay and if she wanted a buddy. This was an encouraging part to a somewhat discouraging dance party part two. I’m glad that people were aware of the dynamics that were happening and were invested in addressing them.
Unwanted sexual touching is a form of sexual violence. When it happens out in the open on the dance floor, it’s no different, and it’s definitely not sexy. It can also feel really shitty and isolating when people see that it’s happening but don’t say anything. I also want to say, it’s not anyone’s job to be vigilant and on the defense in order to stay safe and have fun when they go out. Talk about a mood-buster. That person touching people without asking? It’s their responsibility.
Those who dance together, stick together! Everyone deserves to have fun on the dance floor. If you see someone looking really uncomfortable, ask them if they’re okay. If you see someone who is making people uncomfortable, touching people without asking, not stopping when asked, etc, talk to them! Tell them that what they’re doing isn’t okay, and that it’s not okay with you.