Today I want to take a minute to address a serious topic within our community: consent.

The sociopolitical conversation is growing around consent, but it has been especially gaining awareness within the subcultures of raves and dance music events specifically. However it is also a topic of concern at any large gathering, i.e. bars, nightclubs, festivals, concerts, sporting games, etc., in every major metropolitan city, and then some. Ultimately non-consensual sexual contact results in thousands of rape, abduction, human trafficking, and sexual harassment and assault cases every year. For the purpose of this article, we will be focusing on Non-Consensual Sexual Contact and the extent of this issue within the electronic dance music (EDM) community.

What is consent?

Consent is defined as: con·sent – /kənˈsent/ – noun: compliance in or approval of what is done or proposed by another – Verb: to give assent or approval (Merriam-Webster, 2020). 

Consent is fluid and, therefore, it can be given or taken away at any time, and is up to the sole discretion of the person who is giving it. An individual’s consent is legally protected. Consent is not only pertaining to sexual contact, but also conversational and transactional situations as well. Often a necessity for sexual consent starts with conversation and/or transaction. 

The majority of the time, consent is verbal in the form of a yes or no question, and yet sometimes it may be implied through conversation or body language; this is that grey area where you may go from suitor to creeper, real quick.

For instance, you ask someone if you can buy them a drink, they give, or don’t give their consent verbally as a “yes” or “no”. Or, you’re standing at a bar and someone motions you over to dance, this would be a non-verbal implied consent to dance.

What is Non-Consensual Sexual Contact and some of the causes?

It’s pretty straightforward, but we’ll go ahead and spell it out for you readers…

NON-CONSENSUAL SEXUAL CONTACT IS UNWANTED SEXUAL CONTACT BY GROPING, KISSING, AND/OR TOUCHING ANYWHERE ON THE BODY (Palamar, Griffin, 2020).

That being said, there is much debate about what causes people to behave in such a vile way, and luckily this recent study found data to expose these main factors which contribute to a person to committing non-consensual sexual contact:

  • Alcohol & mind altering substances
    • The study found that rought 16% of attendees experience non-consensual sexual contact at EDM parties, and of that of that 16% of attendees, about half of them were consuming drugs or alcohol [no surprise there] and the majority of people experienced it more than once in one party.
  • Toxic Masculinity
    • The number of women who experience it, more than doubled the number of men who experienced it [also not a shocker], but what’s extremely telling is, 99% of women and nearly 70% of men who experienced non-consensual sexual contact at an EDM party were touched, groped, or plain violated by men.
  • Ignorance, whether willfully or not
    • The study goes on to point out that the people, mainly men, who initiated non-consensual sexual contact need to be given a lesson on manners.

Some examples of Non-Consensual Sexual Contact:

  • Touching someone’s lower back to get around them or ask them to move.
  • Grabbing or touching someone’s waist, arms, legs, hands, face, head, shoulder, or ANYWHERE on their body to get their attention
  • Kissing someone without permission.
  • Pushing up against someone without permission while they’re dancing or at the bar or standing on the wall.
  • Licking someone’s face or anywhere on their body without permission.
  • Grabbing or playing with someone’s hair without permission.  
  • Caressing someone’s face without permission. 
  • Talking really closely in someone’s face or ear while hitting on them or grabbing their arm to bring them in closer while doing this.
  • Sending someone nudes without their permission.
  • Touching an exotic dancer, gogo dancer, or any performer or dancer during their performance.
  • Putting drugs in someone’s drinks to lower their inhibitions so that you can manipulate them into having sex with you or use them or rape them, or rob them.
  • Pulling your waitress or cocktail server’s top down, touching on them while they’re waiting on you; you paid for the bottle, the experience, and the service, not for an escort or a sex worker, so you are committing sexual assault when you touch them.

The list goes on, and on, and on, but the common denominator here is non-consensual sexual contact is touching someone inappropriately without permission. And just because some of these acts come with criminal charges and others don’t, doesn’t make any of these behaviors any less inappropriate than another, and there is no excuse for any of it.

Once consent is violated, further action by the aggressor, more often than not, leads to Sexual Assault, Coercion, and Rape.

The Current Local Situation with Consent and Sexual Assault

The “Rave Scene” or “EDM Scene” in Atlanta has been thriving since the mid 1990’s, and it’s foundation was built on the principles of PLUR: Peace, Love, Unity, & Respect. But as of lately, there doesn’t seem to be too much of that going around.

As a woman, it blows my mind that I’m even having to write this article and cite scientific references to explain to a bunch of adults that they need to keep their hands to themself unless otherwise instructed, and yet here we are. 

Although the study that I reference above is convenient and shows data to support the issues within this specific niche in the music industry, I feel that it is somewhat biased. Being a professional in the music industry, specifically someone who has worked in all genres, I can personally attest to the fact that this happens EVERYWHERE… at every venue, in every music scene, in every city, at every single show or festival or concert I have worked or I have ever been to, I have personally witnessed or been a victim of non-consensual sexual contact. 

We shouldn’t be blaming the music, but rather the people and the community that condones this behavior.

Just this past weekend, I was personally groped or grabbed or touched 3 times and one event, and 2 times at another (while I was working, mind you); every single time I grabbed the man’s hand and proceeded to say as loudly as I could so that people around would turn and look, “You do not have permission to touch me, do you understand?” 

How embarrassing, right? I mean, I have to publicly display myself being assaulted in order to shame a man into keeping his hands to himself. If that’s not bad enough, 3 out of 5 times I had to listen to them then mansplain how “iTs JusT InNOcEnT FLirTiNG” or “i DIdNt kNoWe”, instead of just apologizing. Even worse, 2 of those 3 incidents, their friend(s) piped up saying “hE diDnT KnOw cHilL OuT” & “itS nOT thAt BIg A DeAL.” And I dare someone to tell me I was asking for it by the way I was dressed. Absolutely infuriating and degrading. 

The amount of women, and men, I have spoken to about their experiences is overwhelming, and it ranges in severity. It seems like there’s some new scum bag each week that’s being dragged on social media or blacklisted from events. It’s a nightmare to think about how often and consistently people are being violated.

Generally, our community has done a great job of coming together to protect people, confront abusers and pervs, and I’ve never had a security guard anywhere not kick a dude out of the event for committing these heinous acts. In some nightclubs in Atlanta, there are signs near the bathrooms and bars that offer advice on safe practices while at an event. However, the study I mentioned previously put the severity of the real life situation within our community into perspective…

If there’s 1000 people at an event, the data says about 116 people will be assaulted, and actually say something about it; so there is still an infinite amount of people who are too afraid or embarrassed, or conditioned to not report anything that happened to them. If one person is removed for acting inappropriately, there are potentially 115 more people that could be violating and/or sexually assaulting other people at this event.

That means, this behavior is so normalized that it’s constantly happening, and not enough people are stepping up to stop it. Unfortunately, the majority of the nightclubs in Atlanta don’t discourage this type of behavior; they pretty much let any playboy or business man act like a horny frat boy on GGW if they buy a section, and only really do something in 2-3 people make a big deal about it to security. However, now it’s even as far as professional women in the roles of bottle girls, gogo dancers, waitresses, and performers, here within our community, are all being told that if they “can’t tolerate it,” (sexual harassment from patrons) then they “need to find another job, because that’s just how it is.”

Our community is being raped and assaulted. Are we just going to stand by and watch this happen?

Fighting Sexual Assault and Establishing Consent

Consent is SEXY. You don’t have to be aggressive or inappropriate to get someone’s attention or express your interest in them. Ever heard the phrase, you catch more flies with honey than you do vinegar? It takes literally no effort to say, “excuse me,” or “can I touch your butt”, and you’re way more likely to get the response you’re looking for by taking the ½ second to ask permission for anything.

A question for anyone who thinks there is nothing wrong with this sort of behavior or claims they didn’t know it was inappropriate:
Would you want some guy grabbing on your mom, sister, brother, or anyone you care about, if they didn’t want them to, whether they know them or not?

If you answered NO, then you do know, you just think that the rules don’t apply to you, and that is a big deal. Nothing, absolutely nothing gives you the right to violate someone’s space or body, ever. And taking drugs or drinking alcohol at a music event doesn’t excuse that behavior either.

Here are some ways to not commit non-consensual sexual contact and assault, establish consent, and some things to remember when engaging romantically with someone:

  • Ask permission to touch someone.
  • Ask permission to kiss someone.
  • Say excuse me when walking through a crowd, with your hands raised above your head or up, so that you don’t accidentally touch someone’s privates, boobs, lower back, or butt.
  • If you cannot verbally get someone’s attention and they’re in your way, you can lightly tap them on the top of their shoulder, but should avoid touching them at all costs.
  • Don’t put drugs in someone’s drink without their permission or knowledge.
  • Think someone’s hair is pretty? Tell them, don’t touch them.
  • If someone expresses clearly that they’re not interested in you, let it go with dignity; don’t make a scene or try to push them to talk to you, because that can very quickly become harassment or coercion.
  • Don’t grind on someone on the dance floor unless explicitly given permission. 
  • If the person you are with, or you are engaging sexually or hitting on, is heavily under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they legally cannot consent. Pursuing sexual contact at that point becomes sexual assault.
  • Not saying no does not equal saying yes; if you are unsure, if you have consent or not, simply ask.
  • You do not have the legal or moral right to touch anyone without permission.
  • No one owes you anything, and they do not have to talk to you or put up with you touching them.
  • You could be arrested for assaulting someone.
  • If your mom would not approve of you doing it, you probably shouldn’t do it.
  • Know your limits and take it slow; be careful not to overindulge in alcohol or mind altering substances; remember, you can always take more, but you can never take less.
  • Consent can be withdrawn at any time.
  • Consent is SEXY.

It’s a reality that most women, and some men, have to live with every single day; every single day, I think to myself, today I may be assaulted, I have to constantly think about how to be safe at every moment in public, and prepare myself mentally and emotionally for in case I am, then what I would do

Unfortunately, there’s not much one can do to protect themselves from becoming a victim of sexual assault, because we unfortunately live in a patriarchal society that pushes the ideal that if you want something, you have to take it. If someone decides to commit an assault, there’s really no way of preventing it, and not many ways to stop it outside of fighting, stabbing, or shooting the aggressor, or someone stepping in to stop it. The real difference is made by educating the people and preventing them from committing acts, but it is important one knows how to protect themself regardless.

Here are preventative measures one can take to protect themselves from being sexually assaulted and establishing clear consent in a public place or private event:

  • Always cover your drink with a napkin or your hand. Do not leave it out, do not hand it to someone while you are in the bathroom, keep it close to you and only you. 
  • Know where security is and be aware of the exits when you enter a venue or event.
  • Travel in pairs, use the buddy system when going to the bathroom or wandering off at big events.
  • Know your limits and take it slow; be careful not to overindulge in alcohol or mind altering substances; remember, you can always take more, but you can never take less.
  • Be loud and clear when you are rejecting or denying consent to someone.
  • Look for Dance Safe: they pass out and sell testing kits and straws that change colors when detect GHB in a drink (the date rape drug).
  • Carry your keys in your hands, with the keys pointing out between your fingers, to be used as a weapon just in case.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • If you feel like someone slipped something in your drink, immediately go to security, and try to throw up whatever you’ve consumed.
  • Your consent can be withdrawn at any time, so if you start to feel uncomfortable, walk away, find a friend, or find security.
  • If you see someone harassing or assaulting someone else, say something to them or security.

If you become a victim of sexual assault, remember these things:

  • If you are in a nightclub, concert, venue, festival, etc., immediately report what happened to security, and if you want, call the police.
  • You can call the person out, yell loudly for everyone to hear and yell for security.
  • If you are raped, DO NOT SHOWER, DO NOT WASH YOUR CLOTHES… bag any and all items you can, go to your local police station or hospital and ask to speak with someone.
  • There is no time limit on reporting sexual assault.
  • QuikTrips, Police Stations, and ER’s are all considered “Safe Places”  They will get you blankets, water, and call the authorities while keeping you in a safe area away from people.
  • There are resources and people who can help you, like the Geogia Network to End Sexual Assault 
  • You do not deserve what has happened to you.
  • You are not alone.

It takes a village to change and evolve a social construct for the betterment of humankind. As a community, we should not stand for any sort of inappropriate and non-consensual sexual behavior and contact, no matter the severity. We need to step up as a whole, to protect, support, and guide our fellow people to not only stop these tragedies from occurring, but prevent future generations from perpetuating the filth.  

Here are some ways the community can cooperate to stop and prevent assaults:

  • Stand up for the victims, be an ally for those who need it the most.
  • If you see something, say something; you could save someone’s life, literally, by letting them know something was put in their drink, or that the person they’re talking to has assaulted people in the past, or if you have someone removed who could potentially escalate behavior to violence.
  • Stand up to the abusers, call them out, call security, make a scene until the abuser is removed or leaves or is in custody of the police (situation depending on severity of course, use your best judgement and respect the victim’s wishes).
  • Hold people responsible for their actions, and don’t take excuses; even if the offender or abuser is your friend, explain to them why their behavior is wrong and why you can’t support it.
  • Forgive people who acknowledge their mistakes and work to change for the better.
  • Venues & promoters can establish proper venue rules of conducts and safety protocols for recognizing these behaiviors, preventing incedents from happening, and how to handle the situation thourougly, including how to deal with victims of sexual assault. These can be implemented into their employee training and security briefings, be posted on their website, bios, and near bathrooms, bars, and other signage. 
  • Educating people, especially KIDS, about consent, sexual assault, and non-consensual sexual contact.
  • Stop normalizing the stigma that “if they’re mean to you, that means they like you”
  • Sharing this article.

Consent is sexy, because it shows that you respect the person you are interested in, and nothing is sexier than a partner who respects your wishes and desires… plus, it’s just plain nice. 

It’s nice to feel safe, and happy, and respected in an adult environment where there is nice music and nice, beautiful, happy people, and fun things like lights and lasers and confetti. 

That’s where the whole movement of electronic dance music started anyhow, to create a safe place to experiment with music, art, creativity, and community; raves were meant to experience true peace, love, unity, respect, and responsibility within a music and art driven culture. I know it pains a lot of us to think that our community is plagued with rape, drugs, abuse, and worse, but that’s the reality of most of the world right now. Our community is growing, and we’re not the only ones plagued with this dilemma either. 

I realize that we can’t force a person to change into a decent human being, but I know we can build a community that doesn’t tolerate this type of behavior and thinking. All we have to do is set the standard and lead by example. 

I challenge everyone reading this article to go one whole day, asking permission and seeking consent for everything they do that involves another human, in public, in private, or at the next event or party they attend. Just be a polite person for a day (it’s not that hard). I could bet money that the majority of people will experience nicer, more genuine responses and connections from the people they interact with… Isn’t genuine connections with people what we’re all searching for anyways? 

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