I am a woman in my mid-twenties. Last weekend, I went out to a bar with a couple of friends. Because there was going to be a concert, the cover charge was $10. We sat in a booth and ordered drinks, waiting for the group to begin. One of my friends told us that the bouncer at the door, who had patted us all down and taken our cover money, had groped her.
We began to debate if we should leave in protest, though the friend kept saying it was “not a big deal.” I was caught between wondering if leaving would make her feel more ostracized or if we were doing a disservice to her by staying. When she said that he pinched her cheeks, I wasn’t sure if she meant her face or her butt. As we were trying to sort it all out, the music group came onto the stage and began performing. So we stayed.
Did I do the right thing?
Friend of the Pinched and Prodded
You’ve broached a difficult topic because notions of “doing the right thing” depend entirely on how your friend feels in the situation, and there are a couple of reasons why she might not be upfront with you about this.
In a vacuum, the right thing in my mind would be hightailing it out of that bar as quickly as possible, stopping only to curse out the bouncer and report him to a manager.
That would be a very clear way to show your friend that you stand by her 100 percent, as well as do all you can to prevent the bouncer from groping again. The primary concern is making sure your friend feels as secure as possible.
However, that kind of clarity eluded you for a couple of reasons. The first of those is that confusion clouded the entire situation. You weren’t even sure what exactly took place between the bouncer and your friend. While no one should get any of their cheeks pinched without consent, I think we can agree that a butt cheek squeeze is a much more significant violation than a facial cheek squeeze. Knowing for sure that a butt cheek squeeze occurred might have jolted you into quicker action.
Another complication that could prevent the ur-solution I presented above is whether your friend wanted to report the bouncer’s actions. While it makes some victims of groping (and other forms of violation) feel better to alert a higher-up, perhaps your friend preferred to brush the incident aside. That’s entirely her decision to make, and your only job is to be supportive of whatever she chooses. Meaning, if she wanted to speak with the manager, you should have gone with her, but if she didn’t, you should not attempt to pressure her.
When your friend said that what took place “wasn’t a big deal,” it was probably tough for you to determine whether or not she meant it. After all, you had all paid a $10 cover, and perhaps she didn’t want to force you to lose that investment, or she didn’t want to make everyone regroup. Alternatively, maybe *she* didn’t want to lose her $10 investment or have that cheek squeeze prevent her from seeing that concert. The only way to determine whether she felt closer to the first or second option (and frankly, she probably felt something in-between the two poles) is to emphasize, again and again, that you and the entire group support whatever she chooses. And then, when she makes a choice, go with it; don’t question her.
Women (and some men, but largely women) have to deal with these quandaries far too often. Ideally, one can show the people who cause these situations that their behavior is unacceptable. However, the prime concern should always be securing your safety. You and your friend have no obligation to curse out an a-hole who objectifies you if it puts you in danger.
It’s not just women who can show that this behavior has no place in our society. Men can help avoid these situations, too. If you’re out with a group of women and one of them tells you that a bouncer (or whoever) groped her, don’t drag your feet about leaving or diminish the experience as “not a big deal.” You have just as much of an obligation to be supportive, even if you can’t empathize to the same degree.
Finally, if you have a friend who engages in this behavior, make it clear, in no uncertain terms, how repugnant it is.
Rachel Kurzius revels in giving advice, and has provided counsel both as a columnist and a friend. She lives in Washington DC, where she works as a news producer. Real Talk with Rachel is published on All Life is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv, www.cleveland-park.com, on Wednesdays. Need advice? You can write to Rachel via http://bit.ly/realtalkwithrachel.