“All Night Long”
by Britt Julious
“I feel so stupid,” a friend began a couple of weeks ago. “This is not as bad as what you’ve gone through.”
Something happened and so we were discussing nightclubs, their safety (or lack thereof) and whether or not our reactions are justified. Her comment was not the first I heard of its kind. I had said a variation of it myself a few times. I began to rationalize the experience. Not only could the situation be worse, but the situation was not a situation at all. The situation was nothing. The situation was everything as it had always been.
I remember a conversation I had with my roommate from my sophomore year of college and a then-close friend.
“Well,” my roommate began, “Girls are kind of putting themselves in those situations by going out anyway.” I was confused how a woman of all people could say something like this. She was not joking. “What’s the issue?” she asked. Our friendship never recovered.
Last December, the music blog Little White Earbuds wrote a post titled “How Not to Treat Women in Nightclubs.” I read it after a night out at Primary for Sovereign, an eclectic monthly event featuring future bass, post-dubstep, and progressive techno. During the evening, I was cornered on the dance floor, forced to dance with a man I did not know. Earlier that year, rather than say “Hello,” a man came up to me and grabbed my bottom, hard. It was so pronounced a gesture, so aggressive, so callous, that I could not let it go. I yelled to make my presence known not just to him but to the other people in the room.
I thought about this in relation to a post by Alesia, a Tumblr user. She mentioned the disparity between female performers and the experiences of women in hyper-aggressive electronic shows. If you are a fan of this genre of music, eventually you experience this aggression, this sense of not belonging for to belong is to not notice the aggression at all. It is just a symptom of place and not, as I’ve come to understand it now, the perpetuation of exclusivity, violence, and misogyny that runs through various other facets of contemporary culture.
The dance floor is a place where you can be alone in public. It is anonymous as most anonymous experiences fuel a freedom of disappearance. There is a freedom to the dance floor, but that freedom comes and goes. It is not permanence, especially if you are a woman. Eventually, something will pull you out of the reverie and joy.
Music is our most relatable art form because it translates so easily to our everyday lives. Music is rhythm. It is the heartbeat, the breathing in and out, the movements of life over death. That there are so many genres of music only speaks to its importance. We find in it a voice. The dance floor then is the amalgamation of our tastes and secret desires. It is anonymity, freedom, and music. What we lose in these physical violations – what I have lost in these physical violations – is this perfect storm of place and aural pleasure and circumstance.
What does it mean to be safe, to feel safe? I ask myself this again and again. I am not used to this question. I’ve spent years out and about. Nightlife culture is not new to me. These sort of interactions are not new. There is a break in a young woman’s adolescence. Eventually, she learns that her arms and breasts and legs are not her own, but rather the world’s to digest and manipulate and touch and criticize.
Who gets to own themselves? Not women, not even on the dance floor. Assault on the dance floor says that certain spaces are for certain people. To insert yourself into this world is to seek out whatever might come of it for not truly belonging. We normalize aggressiveness. Our eyes are unseeing receptacles of the dance floor. With age comes understanding and with understanding comes dominance. I have better connected with myself. What I seek now is to take back what is rightfully mine, my body. What I seek is to dominate a world that has dominated me.