don't touch me: a reflection on patriarchal spaces

I'm having a full blown panic attack while driving down I­-575 because I can’t stop thinking about the asshole in the pink polo from last night. I can't stop thinking about how many times I had to swing my full body weight to push him away from me, away from the woman whose face he grabbed with two hands as she tried to push away his disgusting pursed lips. I can't stop thinking about all the other women who have fell victim to his gropes and grabs. I can't stop thinking about my fellow women of color who have been sexualized and fetishized and assaulted on their girls' night out. I can't stop thinking about how many transwomen of color have been murdered in the past year.

This asshole* walks free; he is guiltless in his own mind, and in his wake there are traumatized women who never want to dance in public again, be touched by their lovers, or wear that dress that makes them feel sexy.

I see him everywhere. Every. Single. Time. I can't remember the last time I went dancing and no one tried to grab me or hold me as they drunkenly whispered in my ear how sexy I am. When no one wrote it off as “just a drunk guy.” When my friends and I weren't constantly vigilant of the next creep trying to wedge himself between our bodies. When we knew that the bar owners wouldn't throw him out but it was only a matter of time before he found a vulnerable woman to take advantage of. Probably when Grace and I were the only ones dancing at Mother on a Wednesday.

The worst part is this happened in specifically queer spaces. I wouldn't dare go to a straight club because I know, with 100% certainty, that I am going to be accosted by someone. The last three times I have gone out this has happened multiple times, from multiple men, with the high being five. I have been dressed from scantily clad to completely covered up to my collar bone. I have proclaimed loudly that I am gay, and attempted to make it clear that I am here “with” my female friend. I have laughed them off as a joke and yelled at them to go away, all to no avail.

I imagine that going to straight club would mean signing a contract that says I asked for this, that drinking would be irresponsible as opposed to fun for my male counterparts, that I obviously came here to hook up, and that my nice ass is for grabbing, grinding, and slapping. Signed everyone running the event.

I can't help but notice every time I go out (with the exception of some really great events I know femme people were involved in creating) that all of the performers (?!), or more than 80%, are white cis males, that the owners of the venue are males, that everyone involved in making executive decisions is a male, that the majority of the crowd is male, that the majority of the networking heavy hitters I need to suck up to as an Atlantan artist are males. . . the list goes on.

Commonly viewed as a celebration of victory, this photo depicts a sailor, probably drunk, who was celebrating by “running along the street grabbing any and every girl in sight”

Commonly viewed as a celebration of victory, this photo depicts a sailor, probably drunk, who was celebrating by “running along the street grabbing any and every girl in sight”

I don't think this is a coincidence. I don't think there are men scheming in a room about how to stop females from performing, but I also don't think there are (commonly) men in a room discussing how to bring more female talent to their venue. I sure as hell don't think there is a group of all white cishet men sitting in a room discussing how to bring non­binary folks of color to their venue and make sure it complies with ADA guidelines. Now, maybe I'm wrong, and that would be great, but I'll have to see it to believe it. And not only at a select group of radical venues and collectives but everywhere and every. single. time.

This isn't a reasonable idea though. The goal surely is, but not the means. I have fully realized that in order for change to occur on this level, more women and non­binary folk need to be involved at a higher level. Maybe it just never crosses your average dude's mind that booking solely male acts when the population of Atlanta is 50% female is absolutely ridiculous. There needs to be someone making these decisions from the get go. Safe spaces can't be run by cishet white males because they don't understand what an unsafe space is, what makes it so. They may read a lot but until there is direct consultation and leadership by women and other marginalized peoples occurring nothing will change.

That said, I call upon the dancing, radical queers of this city to come together in support of one another on specified dates with the intention of creating space for each other to dance and be merry in. It seems that if twenty of a bar’s customers say they want a guy a kicked out and will leave if he does not, they may be more inclined to side with us. Plus, I feel like it would be really fun. Find me on facebook and shoot a PM to be added to the group!

Love to all my queer folks in Atlanta; these nights would mean absolutely nothing if it weren’t for the love, light, and joy I simultaneously experience. Special shout out to Ladyfest, HBIC, Panty Drop, Murmur, Cherub’s Den, Charis, Honeycomb Haven, The Homostead, Bleux Stockings Society, and many, many more, and an extra special shout out to the amazing folks in Savannah killin’ it at Quolab.

*I am now using asshole to refer to similar assholes collectively.

Lee Heikkila is a radical queer, musician, activist, and aspiring neuroscientist. Lee also greatly enjoys the ecstatic joy that comes from moving their body to music and is optimistic that safe spaces will become commonplace in no time!