FEATURE: Actions and Words: Tackling Sexual Assault and Inappropriate Behaviour in Music




Actions and Words


PHOTO CREDIT: @nickkarvounis/Unsplash  

Tackling Sexual Assault and Inappropriate Behaviour in Music


MY plea/declaration might seem a little far-fetched…

 PHOTO CREDIT: @mitchy___/Unsplash

but I have heard a couple of stories recently that has made me concerned. It is impossible to get rid of all cases of sexual assault in music but, as we see more and more women taken advantage of and abused, I do wonder whether more needs to be done to send a message out! I shall not name any artists involved but, when looking on Twitter yesterday, I saw a couple of threads; two artists sharing their experiences of men assaulting them. One involved a male fan approaching a singer and, when having a photo taken, groped her. This man, apparently, had a wife and was not intoxicated – never an excuse or a defence -; he just decided to grope this artist for no reason. One wonders what his ambition and aim was. Did he feel like she would like that or, enamoured by that sort of attention, would ask him out?! It is baffling to think what someone like that was thinking (if, indeed, one can call it thinking) and why he behaved in such a way. I think, in this case, no police action was involved and the artist, shocked by what had happened, just wanted to get away. She took to social media and was, quite rightly, appalled and angered by the situation. I got the sense that this was not the first such incident she had been on the receiving end of. Another female artist interjected and recalled the time when she was at a gig and a man lunged forward and kissed her.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @ricardonunes_fotografo/Unsplash

One might say that, when it comes to big stars and world-famous bands, young girls and woman kiss their idols and touch them at gigs: what we are discussing here is entirely different. There is a marked difference between a fevered fan hugging a Pop artist and a man/men groping/assaulting women. I bring up that distinction because, as is common with social media, you always get people playing down such cases of assault and trying to rationalise it. Over the past couple of years, there have been cases of bands splitting because one of their members has blurred the lines between what is acceptable and what is not – Hookworms is a famous example of a great band destroyed by the prurient and obnoxious behaviour of a member. These two cases I have just mentioned are not isolated or insignificant: there are countless cases where women have been touched, assaulted or abused at gigs – whether it is sexual language or out-right assault. Every case is appalling and I do think that a lot of the accusations are brushed away and not taken as seriously as they should be. The music industry is going through some tough times right now – what with venues closing and an air of instability – and it does not help when we have women feeling unsafe. It is not just artist themselves that are subjected to unwanted attention. I have heard of fans and women who work at venues being touched inappropriately ore on the receiving end of lewd and disrespectful language.


 PHOTO CREDIT: Engin Akyurt

It is bad enough when you witness this sort of behaviour at bars and pubs but, at venues and gigs, it is appalling. Female artists should not have to be worried about abuse and having that anxiety hanging over them. I understand these cases are extreme but it does not define music. For the most part, fans are well-behaved and the vast majority of men who attend gigs do not step over the line. Like sexism and cases where women are overlooked, more needs to be done to eradicate the problem and raise awareness. Social media is a great way to get people talking and highlight what is happening at some gigs. I do concede that it is hard to police gigs and have that level of surveillance but there are issues that are affecting progression. A lot of female artists and gig-goers feel like they would not be believed if they come forward. In a lot of cases, there is no C.C.T.V. at venues to prove their side of events and there doesn’t seem to be adequate punishment for men who go too far and are accused. I do think, if someone does assault or abuse a woman at a gig/venue etc., there needs to be swift and unambiguous discipline. Barring offenders from venues or having them arrested sends a much stronger message. I think venues need to get tougher regarding those who are accused and I do think there is a lack of awareness in general.

We hear of cases where a band/musician/fan has been called out and has done something horrendous but, after that, what do we do!? It is tricky to roll out definitive guidelines and laws; to make sure these cases are kept to a low minimum but I do feel there is a general apathy. It is harrowing and upsetting reading on social media accounts of sexual abuse and inappropriateness. I do think that a lot of men feel they are entitled to do what they want or feel that, perversely, the woman likes that sort of attention. In a very small number of cases, it is defining what is deemed wrong and what is being misconstrued: most incidences are clear-cut and there is no way that what happened could be misconstrued; a clear intent and desire. Artists and fans are speaking out but I do feel like there should be more action taken so that spaces like venues are safer and feel less intimidating for women. It does not only extend to touching and lewd remarks. The sort of foul language and aggression many women have to face is appalling. I guess, when we look at what work needs to be done, it seems like there needs to be a big push made. I know there are organisations that are set up for artists and fans regarding their mental-health and finances but, considering the amount of sexism and casual abuse that we see, could more be done?

 PHOTO CREDIT: @karimboubker/Unsplash

Not many artists speak out about it; very, very few men are getting involved in the debate. Many would say that this problem (sexual abuse and inappropriateness) is minor but one needs to consider the number of cases not revealed/spoken about; the number of women on social media sharing their stories that we do not see. I hate to think there are women suffering in silence when they are touched by a fan; when a female gig-goer finds herself harassed or taken advantage of. There is never any justification (for any men) to touch a woman against her will or behave in a lurid or inappropriate manner. The threads and social media feeds I have seen, sure, will help with conversation and visibility but what are the long-term problems? I know there are many cases not going reported and discussed through fear or other factors. A few promising bands and artists have paid the price when their mistakes were revealed and, the more this happens, the better. A lot of brave women are speaking out but I think the industry needs to do more; venues need to be tougher and, in 2019, there still seems to be this stigma attached regarding speaking about subjects like sexual assault and abuse. The sheer ignorance and callousness I have seen on social media when it comes to some of the responses – people attacking women who speak out – chills the blood. I think we can all agree that issues such as sexual abuse and inappropriate contact are awful and should not be tolerated and definitely have…


 PHOTO CREDIT: @letanloc1941995/Unsplash

NO place in music!