TW: This article contains descriptions of rape and sexual violence
I don’t usually make a habit of lauding men for exhibiting basic human decency, but upon stumbling on viral video wherein Architects frontman Sam Carter called out someone in the crowd for inappropriately touching a crowd-surfing woman at his Lowlands festival gig, I suddenly felt indebted to him. I watched the clip five, ten, thirty times in a row until I was able to cite his speech word for word. Make no mistake, not being groped at a gig is very much a basic human right, but every young woman that has ever been to a rock show will understand just how radical that speech was. I was watching a frontman call out sexual assault at a gig for the very first time in my life.
After I’d watched the clip at least another fifty times and had allowed my mind to drift back to my own teenage gig-going heydays, I couldn’t stop stop the overwhelming flow of suppressed memories of my own experience as a teenage girl at gigs.
“It was almost as if he hadn’t just penetrated the body of a fifteen year old child without any form of consent.”
When I was 15 I went to a punk show at Koko in Camden. Whilst in the thick crush of the crowd, a man discretely hitched up my skirt and put his hand between my legs. Once his hand was between my legs, he manoeuvred my underwear to the side before forcibly inserting two of his fingers into my vagina. Strands of his long dark hair clung to his sweaty face that loomed over me lustfully, as if waiting for a kiss. Seeing that I hadn’t quite collapsed into a quivering orgasmic mess and was in fact stunned to numbness, he quickly removed his fingers from inside of my body and resumed moshing. It was almost as if he hadn’t just penetrated the body of a fifteen year old child without any form of consent.
If this had happened to me now, I would have punched that man square in the face and reported him to the police. But do you know what 15-year-old me did? I walked away and left him to enjoy his night. Maybe he did the same to someone else. Maybe he did it repeatedly that night. Maybe he did this at every single gig he went to every time his favourite song come on. Maybe it made him feel powerful.
“As a woman you are conditioned to believe that by being at a gig, you are invading the male space.”
The teenage girl at the rock show is always ‘the other’. As a woman you are conditioned to believe that by being at a gig, you are invading the male space. This manifests in many forms; being physically pushed out of the way when mosh-pits are formed because you presumably wouldn’t be able to take it, listening to angry men spout graphic lyrics detailing how they would like to kill their girlfriends, or nobody in the crowd objecting when they see young women being inappropriately touched. Let’s also not forget the dire lack of women in alternative music and the even fewer number of women musicians that ever have the privilege of performing at some of our biggest festivals. Live music is very much the man’s world and as women, we are merely house guests that have a set of rules to which we must abide.
Nobody ever told me – an admittedly naive teenager – that I didn’t have to accept sexual assault at gigs. Nobody told me that having my arse grabbed was not a rite of passage. Nobody told me that being treated like a piece of meat at gigs wasn’t merely the tax I had to pay for daring to be a woman wearing a short skirt at a rock show.
The frontmen I idolised in the late 00s didn’t condemn this sort of behaviour. In fact, when I hit my late teens, it was those very same frontmen that took great pleasure in exploiting me for their own sexual gratification. At the time, travelling on tour buses, being invited back stage and being plied with alcohol by the same men I’d watch performing to thousands of adoring fans felt like a privilege. In retrospect, it was just a new phase of my sexual objectification at gigs.
“I overheard a man telling one of his roadies that he ‘could have me’ if he wanted to.”
Backstage after a festival in Newquay, I overheard a man telling one of his roadies that he “could have me” if he wanted to, because he was tired and going to bed. That man’s sophomore album went to number one three weeks later. A couple of years later, that same man became a household name. More than a decade on, I would only just begin to realise the magnitude of assault and disrespect I was subject to for simply being a woman who loved live music. Today as I write this, I am ashamed that I still cannot reveal myself or expose that man. Or the bassist ten years my senior that asked my friend and I to simultaneously felate him backstage at Reading Festival. Or the tour manager that f*cked me with his hand over my mouth so to muffle my objections to him being too rough.
“Entering a male space where my body was a commodity was exhausting. I was tired.”
I stopped going to gigs when I was around 21. It would sadly be another few years before my feminist awakening, but I had subconsciously had enough of live music. Entering a male space where my body was a commodity was exhausting. I was tired.
Sam Carter and his band shouldn’t be put on a pedestal for condemning sexual assault at their gigs. Not being assaulted at a gig is a very basic human right. However, Sam’s statement has resonated with millions of women all over the world because a powerful frontman angrily speaking out against this behaviour at gigs is radical. Now that the world has given Sam their attention, it’s his job to ensure stories like mine are heard and that his peers will follow his example. Sam Carter hasn’t done anything truly amazing yet. But he can.
Editor’s Note: The Nopebook was sent this article anonymously and would like to strongly thank the author for their contribution to this important topic.
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