Is Rape Culture Growing Within Our Music Scene?

It has become far too common for sexual assaults to occur at music related events. Will there be an end to this trend of rape culture?
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Masha Lukashenko
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It has become far too common for sexual assaults to occur at music related events. Will there be an end to this trend of rape culture?

There is a serious call for concern in our current expanding music scene. Between music festivals and nightclub outings, I have been hearing tales of inappropriate contact and advances. Just last Friday; I watched a guy attempt to dance with one of my girlfriends. Not even dance but rub himself against her backside in a sexual manner. My friend had turned around and told him to stop, not once, but twice until she finally raised her voice and told the fella to back off. His response was calling her a B*tch and storming off. I know many people can relate to this incident and it's become the norm at many music events, but when did this behavior become acceptable?

A published editorial on Vice titled, “There’s a Rape Problem at Music Festivals and No One Seems to Care” brought to light a shocking amount of sexual assaults occurring at music festivals in the UK[1]. The article seemed to imply that there was an epidemic of rape culture at music festivals and received some backlash for the lack of evidence to support the fact. YourEDM came to the defense of music festivals by publishing a retaliation titled, “Rape at Festivals is Not an Epidemic, But It’s Still an Issue”. In the article, they stated that “..the number is too far generalized and distant from the situation at hand to hold much value. Judging from the small number of instances taken over the last five years, it isn’t entirely unreasonable to assert that such events are relatively safe, if we’re looking at statistics.”[2]

Lloyd may not have backed up her article very well, but she did open up a good discussion in regards to the developing rape culture amidst our music scene. Huffington Post interviewed one Dr. Chantelle Tibbals, who is a sociologist with expertise in sexuality and gender studies, about her perceptions on the term “rape culture”. She discussed that “..Rape cultures refer to how we as a society think about sexual assault. And sexual assault doesn’t just include penetrative vaginal or anal sex, per se… You can see it manifested in things like slut shaming and victim blaming but also the trivializing and denial of assault”.[3] Meaning that we have become way too desensitized to some of the behaviors occurring at our shows, which would have been deemed unacceptable in previous years.

Serious cases of sexual assault at music festivals include a sixteen-year-old girl, who was found under a van with her pants down and bruises all over her legs at the 2013 Electric Zoo Music Festival in Randall’s Island, NY. The Cornell Medical Hospital had determined that she was sexually assaulted and the case was handed over to the Specials Victims Unit.[4] In July 2014, a seventeen-year-old girl was raped at an outdoor music venue during a concert in front of other fans. CBS reported that “More than a dozen people looked on as the alleged crime was committed, some taking photos”.[5]

Another article talked about a young woman who climbed up onto speakers at a stage while dancing at Mysteryland. Once people jumped the barricades, security then ushered everyone out at which, some jackass (pardon my French) decided it would be an appropriate moment to spank this woman’s ass a few times. Then another fellow jackass flat out grabs her butt and squeezes it. Needless to say, the girl got down from her perch with nothing more than a “mild look of distaste”.[6] At the 2012 Osheaga music festival in Montreal, Nicki Varkevisser, who was 18 at the time had claimed that she was sexually assaulted three separate times: once dancing and twice while crowd surfing. She said that the reason she never reported the assaults to security was because she believed that due to the number of people, they wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it.[7]

There is an alarming statistic found in a study cited by MixMag when discussing sexual harassment at clubs. “…of 1,198 women it surveyed who were aged 18-24, nearly a third had been groped or received unwanted physical attention during a boozy night out. Sadly, only 19 percent of these women were at all surprised by what had happened.”[8] The author, Chantelle Fiddy commented on how women are made to feel like such behavior is part of a normal night out due to the level of frequent occurrences. Having your ass grabbed or to be groped in any way at any event large or small is, in fact, sexual assault and we seem to forget that.

This year at Coachella, a photo of a grinning guy donning a shirt that read, “Eat, Sleep, Rape, Repeat” was spiraling around in the EDM newsfeeds. People were outraged and were keen on labeling this guy the “biggest douche” on the Internet. Huffington Post asked, Dr. Tibbals if she believed that we are more casual about rape than other social issues and she responded, “Yes. Take racist ideology for example. If a person were to substitute “rape” with a racist statement, our reaction to it collectively as a culture would have been very differently....When we’re talking about rape culture in the context of music and entertainment, it’s not so much about limiting speech as it is about our critical assessment of messages”.[9]

Clever....

Clever....

The shirt seen at Coachella was not just one isolated incident. LA Weekly published an article with images of shirts seen at EDC Las Vegas in 2013. The shirts had messages such as, “Show Me Your Tits”, “DJ’s <3 BJs”, “Cool Story Hoe, Now Suck My D*ck” and the most disturbing of them all, “I Run Faster Horny, Than You Do !”[10]

Is anyone else worried?

Is anyone else worried?

How delightful..!

How delightful..!

The true epidemic here is the developing culture surrounding rape and sexual harassment at these music events. What may seem as a dumb joke on T-shirt is, in fact, an example of the type of mindset that can be found aggregating the high levels of sexual assault happening at these shows. Indecency and experimentation with mind-altering substances have always been associated with music festivals, as far back as the original Woodstock in 1960. Society collectively blamed the party "atmosphere" as the root of the rise in deviant behaviors. [11]

Some of you reading this may think, “Well, you should know better than to go out wearing clothes like that or behaving the way you do…” It is a common and very misguided reaction of people to consider things that the victim(s) could have done differently. Why should I anticipate being grabbed or groped at a festival where I paid good money to go dance and have fun? Gwen Washington is the founder of the Leila Grace Foundation, which provides prevention programs on colleges campuses, and she commented, “When I was raped a long time ago, in college, I was wearing a knee long skirt and a turtleneck and it was summer. It’s not a question of ‘Oh if she hadn’t been wearing that, that wouldn’t have happened – the question is, why did that man feel it was OK to attack her?”[12]

Edmonton, CA Campaign

Edmonton, CA Campaign

Being sexually assaulted isn’t exclusive to women at music events. It can happen to males and females by both males and females. It is an emotionally and physically destructive experience that leaves the victims with this notion of having done something to have caused this. In 2010, a campaign was launched in Edmonton, Canada, which changed the way rape was addressed. No longer was the question, “what should rape victims do to keep from being raped?” Instead, the campaign targeted its message at potential rapists, not victims. The campaign was called; “Don’t Be That Guy” and they had viral ads placed with messages such as, “Just Because She’s Drinking, Doesn’t Mean She Wants Sex” or my favourite, “Just Because You Help Her Home, Doesn’t Mean You Get To Help Yourself”.[13]

Edmonton, CA Campaign

Edmonton, CA Campaign

As someone who identifies herself as a “Techno or House – Head”, I would like to think that people who come to the same shows as I do are of like mind. All I ever want to do is dance and have a good time with my friends and fellow music lovers. Festivals and nightclubs are the most commonly used examples because they’re reported on a larger scale. However, I attend very small local and underground shows, where many people consider to be a part of an “enlightened” group of listeners. This can create a false sense of safety and many let their guard down. These events come with little or no security and are generally populated by very close-knit groups. Being a part of a crowd with similar taste in music doesn’t guarantee that there aren’t predators.

As a community, we need to be aware of our fellow peers and also discourage such behavior. Don't let the aggressor believe that he or she will be tolerated as such. If someone inappropriate touches you or even if they simply make you uncomfortable, you need to make it clear. Do not provoke them, but be straightforward with your concerns and if that doesn’t work, move over to another spot.

Flirting and dancing are part of having fun when you're out enjoying your night. However, that only works if personal boundaries are respected. No one goes out, looking to spend the night feeling uncomfortable or unsafe.

Do yourself and all of us a favor and don’t be THAT guy! (or girl)

[1] https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/theres-a-rape-epidemic-at-music-festivals-and-nobody-seems-to-care
[2] http://www.youredm.com/2015/08/12/rape-at-festivals-is-not-an-epidemic-but-its-still-an-issue/
[3] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/16/rape-culture-coachella_n_7072836.html
[4] http://awalkintheparknyc.blogspot.com/2013/09/electric-zoo-teen-sexually-assaulted-2.html
[5] http://globalnews.ca/news/1949815/problems-plaguing-music-festivals-drug-expert-and-sex-assault-victim-weigh-in/
[6] http://gothamist.com/2014/06/05/music_fest_sexual_assault.php
[7] http://globalnews.ca/news/1949815/problems-plaguing-music-festivals-drug-expert-and-sex-assault-victim-weigh-in/
[8] https://thump.vice.com/en_us/article/what-the-eat-sleep-rape-repeat-shirt-at-coachella-says-about-rape-culture-at-music-festivals
[9] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/16/rape-culture-coachella_n_7072836.html
[10] http://www.laweekly.com/music/ten-questionable-t-shirts-seen-at-electric-daisy-carnival-4170602
[11] http://composeyourselfmag.com/2015/04/sexual-harassment-at-concerts-and-festivals-it-ends-now-and-heres-how-you-can-be-the-change/
[12] http://gothamist.com/2014/06/05/music_fest_sexual_assault.php
[13] http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2013/01/08/rape-prevention-aimed-at-rapists-does-work/