Let's Talk About Sexual Assault in the LGBT Community
Updated: Sep 8, 2018
It's far too common and it needs to stop.
I’m here to tell you about the time when, about a month ago, I was at a gay bar and two grown men came up to me and started feeling my body, discussing amongst themselves whether or not I was their type. I’m here to tell you about the time when, two weeks ago, I was at a gay bar and I walked by a stranger who grabbed my ass and gave it a tight squeeze. I’m here to tell you about a time when, two nights ago, I was at a gay bar and someone purposefully rubbed their entire body against mine and held it there.
I’m not actually here to tell you about any of those experiences, specifically, or about any of the countless other times things like that have happened to me and to other members of the LGBT community. I’m here to tell you that it should stop.
There seems to be a common misconception in the gay community that casual sexual assault is okay. There even seems to be a belief that it should be encouraged, because it’s “complementary” and “we’re all gay here.” It isn’t okay - it’s gross.
Gay bars are fantastic for many reasons. They’re fun, they’re imbued with upbeat energy, they instill a sense of belonging and possibility in the hearts and minds of people who often feel adrift in the world - but they also reek of sexual entitlement and predatory behavior. Gay bars often feel like a hunting ground, where all of us are somehow both the predator and the prey.
Why is that? I think it boils down mostly to one thing, which is the fact that the LGBT community is forced to suppress our sexualities in most spaces outside of gay bars. When you really think about it, gay bars are the only places set aside specifically for LGBT people. There aren’t gay coffee shops, or gay stores, or gay libraries. We go to gay bars to feel fully accepted and feel fully at home. And sometimes, when people feel too comfortable, their uglier side shows.
There’s no excusing some of the behavior I have both witnessed and experienced at gay bars. Just because we are repressed in the outside world, we do not have the right to take ownership over each other’s bodies in a place where we are supposed to feel safe. We cannot make gay bars feel like yet another dangerous landscape for us to navigate like a minefield.
I think, in some respects, certain gay men feel entitled to sexually assault other gay men. In some sick way, some men view it as an expression of their sexuality. I don’t think most of these people view it as assault - as I mentioned previously, I think many of them see it as giving a compliment. But there’s nothing complimentary about treating someone like a piece of meat. The LGBT community is much more open about our sexualities than the straight community, but we should be able to be open about sex without it turning into opening ourselves up for sexual assault.
I’ve personally experienced more of this from older men than I have from younger men. That’s not to say that younger men aren’t also committing sexual assault - because they most certainly are - but it seems like older men are the ones who tend to feel more entitled to do so, especially toward younger men. Most of the predatory stares and physical assaults targeted toward me have come from men over the age of 40, who seem to think that young gays are toys to play with. It’s like they think they’ve earned it.
I am by no means accepting blame for any of this, but to this point I have tended to let it slide when it happens, rather than defend myself. It’s common in these situations to either clam up while it’s happening - as some sort of defense mechanism - or brush it off and keep things moving, just so that you “don’t make a big deal out of it.” But I think we, as a community, need to start sticking up for ourselves. The more we speak up, the more likely it is to stop.
In some situations, we may not feel safe to defend ourselves. But when we feel it is safe to do so, I think we should feel empowered to tell people who have violated us that their actions were not okay, that we do not see it as a compliment, and that they should never do it again. It is only through action that we will see change.
It sucks that the burden of change falls on the victim rather than the perpetrator, but I find it hard to see a world in which the people who are committing these “minor” acts of sexual assault will see the error in their ways without people telling them to stop. The only way we can get them to see that it isn’t “playful” is to tell them.
This is my personal first step toward doing just that.
I wish I could go back and tell all of the people who have done this to me to stop. But all I can do - all any of us can do - is use the past to fuel our futures, and hopefully create change in the process. Gay bars have so much potential to be even more beautiful places than they are right now - yes, even the grungiest of gay bars are beautiful - but we have to spark a change to make that happen.
Let’s create a world in which LGBT people can go to gay bars and not get groped. That shouldn’t be too difficult, should it?
Today’s post is brought to you by Copycat by Billie Eilish, because it’s scathing and raw and angry and it sums up the emotions of this post, despite the fact that it isn’t specifically about sexual assault. It’s been added to my blog playlist, which you can download on Spotify and Apple Music.
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