The Common Occurrence of Sexual Assault In Gay Nightlife
It seems like nowadays a majority of my social life takes place in my living room. Even my raging, preplanned Pride weekend of glitter eyeliner and Coachella tattoos lasted only a few hours. I was ready to call it quits before the sun did. I may shuck and jive a little here and there for a holiday barbecue, but I’m nowhere as excited to be a fluttering social butterfly as I once was.
Although I have a history of being in public spaces and authentically having a good time without a care or permission from fragile masculinity or social media statuses, I may need to start drinking some milk, for these bones are starting to ache. It may be age, sharing uncomfortable spaces in an extremely small community, or the “Neverland” culture that comes with being gay in a metropolitan city. But I’ve fallen off.
As the summer approached and birthdays seemed to once again become a thing, I’ve been quickly reminded of the physically aggressive encounters I used to have to deal with. Although I’ve maintained my laid back spirit, yet less carefree, believe it or not I’m not always in the mood to be picked up, manhandled, or smacked in the glutes by a complete stranger.
Recently, I saw a tweet from a friend that did not align with his typical comedic banter. He was telling a story of using the restroom at a club. While relieving himself at a urinal, a drunk man approached him, aggressively telling him he wanted to give him head. The guy even got on his knees and tried to actually perform fellatio in a public restroom, leaving my friend exposed in front of a bunch of strangers.
In true social media fashion, the general public had a lot to say. Unfortunately, I was not shocked by any of the responses. Some were insensitive, with comments like “you know you liked it,” which is just another problematic outlook that fuels rape culture.
Why does the blame of sexual assault always get misplaced on the person who is speaking their truth? Whether it be a woman wearing a mini skirt or a gay man in a bathroom stall, rape culture makes the assumption that certain unrelated circumstances warrant unwanted and disrespectful behavior from others. It will always fascinate me in all the wrong ways as to whether or not people, men in particular, feel validated and entitled to your body because of the way you dress and/or your environment. Whether you are at a sex party or the basement of a baptist church, consent is consent. Nobody owes you anything - from a hug to a hand job.
The other responses, unfortunately, did not come as a surprise, either. A number of testimonials of men spoke up about something similar happening to them. I sat there under my woven throw blanket reading the tales of adults trying to reconcile the events that occurred in their lives. It was made clear to me that sexual assault is extremely common in gay nightlife, and that no one was talking about until this tweet.
I recently attended a traffic light party. This is not a foreign theme, and during my undergrad I attended many with the appropriate attire that reflected my Facebook relationship status at the time. It was never a problem. Whether gay, straight, or somewhere in-between, typically in a straight space, I was able to navigate without anyone inappropriately touching me or being stuck in a dark corner having an unwanted conversation. My male privilege definitely attributed to my safety and lack of hesitation in these spaces. Sure, the busy, intersection-oriented party was meant to clarify who you could take home or not, but I never was the type to look for love (nor sex) at a party. But this recent party was hosted by a gay organization. And I was in no mental position to be approached nor persuaded to do anything with another man that night.
I wore black from hat to loafer. Transparency is my thing and I did not want to lie. If I was in all black, in my mind that could have been translated to the color of my soul to the outside world. They could think whatever, as long at it was not an assumption I was there to be picked up by predators.
Unfortunately, my villianesque attire did not work. We had to wear color-coded wristbands as our entry and I did not lie about my solo singleness. I barely made it all the way in the club before I was grabbed and having strangers whisper “salty nothings” in my ear. The green wristband was in the trash within minutes of my arrival. I did not care if I was going to be kicked out or limited to my whereabouts, but I was not going to subject myself to welcoming the potential unwanted interactions in the cesspool of inebriated gay men.
At the age of 30, with the full reckless decade of my 20s under my belt, I have had my share of public fun with other guys. I get it. I’ve done it. I’ve done it many times. It’s both exhilarating and a blood rush. But I have never forced myself upon someone, and I am aware of physical boundaries and personal space.
Common sense tells us that unwanted sexual advances are an obvious “no.” But, if we look at the definition of masculinity as aggressive and dominant behavior that we’ve been raised to believe since childhood, it’s no wonder sexual assault is not only common, but not talked about. That’s how we’re supposed to act. Get what you want. Plus, sexual assault is a girl thing. Only men who are “punks” get sexually assaulted.
As Drake said, you have to be nice for what? If someone is touching you and you don’t want to be touched… Say something. There’s a way to handle things, but don’t ever think you need to be considerate of someone’s feelings who wasn’t considerate of your personal space and your body. Tell them you don’t want to be touched. Unfortunately, I used to try to be “cute” about it, but it was one too many gay spaces that led me to be aggressive with expressing how I do not tolerate unwarranted behavior. No explanation. Just no!
Guess what? They stop.
I encourage you to really think about how we interact with each other in these types of spaces. Eventually you’re going to end up with a black eye and/or in jail if you’re one of the perpetrators. It’s great to be liberated and carefree, but there comes a point where your liberation cannot be at another man’s expense.
Make out. Snack his butt. Grab his bulge... just make sure he agrees first.