Does wearing a short skirt mean I’m asking for people to stare at my legs? Does having a few drinks mean that I’m willing to get frisky? Does dancing “provocatively” mean I want you to grab my waist and dance with me? If I’m alone at a club when my friends have all gone home, does that mean I’m looking for someone to take home with me? Does that mean that person is you? Does that mean I’m asking for it?
The answer to all of these questions is no. I wear short skirts because I like how my legs look in them. I like how a bit of makeup and a change of clothes can make me feel different from the library sloth I had been earlier in the day to the beautiful woman I feel now. I might have a few drinks because I’ve had a stressful week – final year never slows down – and I want to unwind with my friends. I dance in clubs because I just love to dance and sing. I’ll be that person in the club doing the cha-cha to a techno song and I’ll feel no shame. I’ll belt out Dancing Queen (or anything by ABBA) like there’s no tomorrow and I’ll have the time of my life doing so, not caring what everyone watching thinks of me. These things do not mean I’m interested or willing, and it does not mean I’m willing or interested in you.
As a young woman, I’ve had many encounters with men I’ve never met thinking they have a claim to my body just because “I was drinking”, or “I was wearing that sexy top”, or “you looked at me while you were dancing with your girls you obviously want anal sex”. Thanks, but no thanks. Putting your hands on my waist and grinding against me while I’m dancing with my friends when I can’t even see who you are is scary. And while I have been conditioned to be polite and try to turn down this individual nicely (otherwise I could be in danger), my male friends have not. And sometimes, it’s only when I’m with my male friends that I realise just how wrong our society is.
Three years ago, I was a naive freshman, only a month or two into college and I was going out a lot. I was that kid. Shy and slightly reserved in school, and then all hell breaks loose when you walk through the college arches. I was dancing with a male friend when suddenly his face turned to stone. He was slightly shaking his head at me and I had no idea what he was doing. I thought maybe he was joking and trying to make me laugh, though that would have been a terrible joke if I were correct. A few seconds later I felt two hands slide around my hips and pull them into a groin. This man was swaying in time to the music and trying to pull me along with him. I could feel the bulge get larger by the second and it was only by looking at my friend’s face that I could see how messed up this was. When I tried to turn around to tell him “thanks, but no thanks”, he moved his arms up and around my own arms trapping me into his embrace. I was terrified. I could see his face moving towards mine, going in for a kiss, and there was no way out. I didn’t want to kiss him, but I couldn’t escape.
I don’t know how I managed, but I escaped under one of his arms, doing an almost limbo to just get the hell out of there, dragging my friend along with me to the bar. I proceeded to gulp down some shots, laugh about what just happened. I wanted to hide how scared I was, make little quips about how “the men in this club really can’t take no for an answer can they?”, and then try to forget it ever happened.
This could have worked. I might have been able to forget this ever happened, but the problem is I haven’t. Things like this are not a one-time situation. This happens to me almost every time I go out with my friends; maybe not as intense or as obvious as what I just described, but a night out in Dublin wouldn’t be normal without the occasional cat-call, or the “would you like a drink? Now have sex with me”, or the “that dress looks hot, I bet it would look even hotter on my bedroom floor” line, or the lame attempts at trying to feel my body. So, I may be wearing a dress that makes your bulge large, but that doesn’t give you the right or the freedom to do what you like with it or me.
Consent is obviously the main issue that we, as UCD’s consent society, are concerned with; but what happens when our part has failed? What happens to me after I have been violated on a seemingly simple night out in Dublin with my friends? What happens to Ashley Judd the next time she’s asked to meet someone in a hotel? What happens to Christine Blasey Ford now that she has been told that her government do not believe her? What happens next? Please, I want to know.
By Consent At UCD