Photo: Natalie Mizzen

Tainted and troubled on a night out

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By Kiki Cekota

It seems like almost any night I go out, it becomes tainted by creepy guys trying to attach themselves to me and my friends at the club or bar. It’s annoying, but it also can be extremely invasive. The issue of struggling to stand up for myself arises because I find myself not wanting to start a fight – for some reason telling a greasy guy to get off me is easier said than done. At what point did this exchange become an expected part of a night out, and why do I and so many others feel nervous for standing up for ourselves and our personal space?

Last weekend I went to Western for St. Paddy’s Day and on my last night my friends and I went out to a club in downtown London, Ont. I was having a good time dancing with them, and about halfway through the night I had already danced with a few guys and everything was going great.

But suddenly, a guy grabbed my butt and pulled me in close. “Let me buy you a drink,” he whispered in my ear. I felt extremely uncomfortable, and I found myself freezing up and couldn’t turn around to tell him to get lost. I mumbled, “No thanks,” grabbed my friend, and tried to move to the other side of the club.

The same guy followed me around and approached me again multiple times over the next two hours, begging me to let him buy me a drink. I would just avert my eyes and shake my head in response, but I found it so difficult to look him in the eye and give him a firm, “No.”

I think I’m scared to tell guys to get off me because I don’t want to come off as a bitch, or have it escalate into a bigger and more aggressive situation. But everyone should feel comfortable when they go out and no one should ever feel like they have to be on the defensive side. If someone tried to approach me in broad daylight on the street in a way that made me feel uncomfortable, I would have no problem telling them off. But why are people so scared to stand up for themselves in a party setting?

Alana Delzotto, 21, an arts and contemporary studies student at Ryerson, said it has gotten easier over time for her to stand up for herself in clubs and bars. But that she struggled to stand up for herself when she first starting going out.

“When I was 18 and 19, I was more willing to just let it happen. I was excited when I first started going out – I didn’t want to cause any problems by telling guys to get off me.”

Delzotto said now she’s not afraid to tell a guy not to touch her, and that she’s comfortable doing so when there’s security around. Most of the time, she just physically moves their hands away and they get the hint, but sometimes she says “it’s hard to pry them off.”

The idea that anyone would ever have to put a lot of effort into prying someone’s hands off them in a club or bar is pretty upsetting. It’s a matter of respect for other people’s personal space and bodies.

Of course alcohol plays a role as well – it blurs your judgment and your ability to tell whether you’re actually OK with saying yes. It’s totally fine to dance with people at the club, hook up on the dance floor or go home with someone; if you’re sober. But this is a totally different situation if you’re drunk. Because sometimes, if you’re drunk enough, you might go along with something that feels right at the time. But you don’t realize that you don’t have full control of yourself and the situation.

First-year fashion student Blake Harris said that clubs are supposed to be a safe and fun environment for everyone, but he’s had his share of bad experiences at gay bars and clubs. Harris said he’s given out fake numbers instead of explicitly saying no.

“[Some] guys are creepy as fuck … guys think if they buy you a drink you’re theirs. People need to understand respect,” said Harris.

Everyone needs to check in with the person they’re interested in; if you’re getting vibes they’re not into something or they’re motioning to their friend to help them, or if they’re too drunk, just back off. Don’t forcefully ignore warning signs just because you or that person is intoxicated.

Gabby Skwarko, an arts and contemporary studies student, said she has experienced a lack of respect firsthand at a Toronto club.

“This 40-year-old guy started dancing up on me and grabbed my face, saying ‘You’re so beautiful.’ I was super uncomfortable, but luckily a girl I was dancing with grabbed me and said I was her girlfriend, and asked the man to leave me alone. He left me alone immediately after that.”

Skwarko said she is not afraid to stand up for herself in a club. “When I’m sober, I’m a little afraid to stand up for myself. But with alcohol, I don’t care.” She thinks that other people are afraid to because there’s “always that chance if you say no, [but] the other person might take it as a yes and then things might get forceful and dangerous.”

We have to move away from being worried about how someone will react to us demanding respect of our bodies and personal space. Everyone has the right to dress how they want and dance how they want and still be respected.

Treat people at the club in a way that keeps everybody happy and able to enjoy their hard-earned night out.

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