I recently got a gig at a private swim club go-go dancing. Dressed up as half-mermaid, half Malibu Barbie, I was attempting to be as natural as one can be when wearing spiked heels by a large body of water, when someone decided to slap my ass.
I turned to face this stranger, shocked that someone not only had the balls to sexually harass me surrounded by other people in daylight, but that as I looked at him, tears forming in my eyes, all he had to say for himself was “She made me do it,” laughing and pointing at a friend.
Listen: I get it -– I’m dancing in an itty bitty outfit, putting my sexuality out there, and this doosh clearly hasn’t been in reaching distance to an ass in quite some time (and I do take pride in my amazing booty), but I’m sorry, being a go-go dancer does not mean my body is up for grabs.
Oh, no. I have booty, and I’m not covering it. Clearly that means I want your hands groping it.
And it wasn’t just that the situation made me feel uncomfortable, violated and embarrassed; I no longer felt I could safely do my job. I wouldn’t walk into your office and make a crude sexual comment toward you, so stay the hell away from my stage, or platform or whatever I happen to be dancing on.
The worst part was that other than informing of security of the incident in a complete rage, demanding he be thrown out (which I’m still not sure happened) and complaining to my boss, there really wasn’t much I could do other than get over it and keep dancing or call it quits and leave halfway through my shift.
“It happened to me before,” another dancer said, sympathizing with me as each girl shared her own horror stories. The ultimate consensus among the group was that I should have punched him in the face or taken his crutches (yep, despite that he had crutches, he still took the time to assault me) and thrown him into the pool.
But why should I have to resort to violence in order to get my point across? Why isn’t there a general understanding that you shouldn’t put your hands on someone else, no matter what they’re wearing or what their profession is?
It’s not like this is the first time something like this has happened to me. Working in Atlantic City, I had a woman smack my ass, giggling to her boyfriend as if she was being playful and fun. Um, attention all females: Just because you have a vagina does not mean touching another female without her consent is OK.
Another night a man told me that the things he was thinking about me should be “illegal.” Another tried to “buy me” for a grand to dance in his hotel room where he claimed the mayor was waiting for me. When trying to make my way from a stage or platform at a club to the dressing room, I usually have to make a run for it to avoid random drunk guys grabbing at me and pulling me in different directions.
My sequin-encrusted bra is not an invitation for a man to grab my tits. Sure, part of being a go-go dancer is to get a crowd’s attention and be sexy and sensual, but being sexually harassed is not part of my job description. If it were, I would be getting paid a hell of a lot more.
For the past four years, I’ve put up with the bullshit, allowing others to use my sexuality as an excuse for their offensive, disgusting behavior. But the more aware I become of my numbness and apathy regarding blatant sexual harassment, the more I understand that it’s not OK.
Too many people are blindly watching men threaten women and making them feel uncomfortable in their bodies, and I no longer can afford to be one of them.
I’m not saying my experience with being sexually harassed is solely due to my work as a go-go dancer; although, I’m sure it increases the frequency. Being cat-called on the street, putting up with inappropriate comments when we go out to a club, party or even a fucking grocery store is all too regular for women. And what are we expected to do? Ignore it. Blame it on society. Excuse it as part of man’s nature.
I say fuck all of that. I should be allowed to comfortably go to work without fearing that another dickwad is going to grab a cheek. I should be able to walk around my city without worrying that the guy who constantly comments on my looks will one day act on his words and try to touch me or rape me or hurt me. I should be able to be as sexual as I want to be without someone mistaking it for a plea for male attention.
I cherish the moments the crowd is too far away to touch/grab/slap me.
From now on, rather than walking away from these situations embarrassed or angry, and instead of poking one of these dude’s eyes out with a heel or blinding him with glitter, I am going to simply inform the next perpetrator that he is sexually harassing me, and that I will not tolerate it. Maybe society will eventually gets the hint, one pissed off go-go dancer at a time.
Fellas, I know it must be hard to control yourself around spandex booty shorts and cleavage, but you’re going to have to use that level-headedness and rationality that you’re always bragging about. Let me do my job in peace. Thanks in advance.