On the 4th of July, I sat in a south London pub with my family waiting for a pub quiz to begin. As we sipped our drinks, I scrolled through endless Facebooks posts about family barbecues and patriotic memes until I stumbled on a targeted ad. G-Dragon, leader of one of my favourite South Korean pop groups, BIGBANG, was embarking on a solo European tour and one of his performances would be at Wembley. My eyes got big and I nearly choked on my drink. In spite of being a K-pop fan for nearly six years, I’d yet to attend a concert as the groups very rarely performed in America, let alone Orlando, Florida. But in just a few months, he would be here, in London! I excitedly told my family about this discovery, and my husband, as I not so secretly hoped, asked me how much the tickets would cost. After clicking a few links, I found that the more affordable tickets cost £150. My family looked back at me wide eyed for a moment before my husband finally said, 'If you want to go I’ll get you a ticket as an early birthday present, but we can’t afford two, so you’ll have to go alone.' Did I want to go alone? No, but this was a very rare opportunity, so I quickly agreed to that condition.
Over this past weekend, the day of the concert finally arrived. I travelled on buses and tubes, and waited in a mile long line, but it was all worth it when the lights went low and the music started playing. For two hours, I danced and smiled and sang my heart out without a care in the world. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I left the arena with a huge grin on my face as I checked my phone to see where I should meet my husband. I followed the directions he had sent to me, passing by a group of middle aged men smoking near a parking garage. I didn’t feel scared or intimidated as I was one person amongst hundreds of others piling out of the venue. I had almost made it to the end of the road when my husband sent me a second set of directions with an accompanying text explaining he had been told by security to move.
I turned around and made my way back the way I came, again passing by the group of men. As I walked by, one of the men grabbed my arm to get me to stop and said, 'Honey, let me ask you a question.' Naively, I instantly assumed maybe they wanted directions or something, even though this still wouldn’t grant them the right to put their hands on me.
'What?' I asked, just desperately wanting to get in the car and get home.
'My friend and I here made a bet,' he began while gesturing to another man who rolled his eyes as he exhaled cigarette smoke. 'What size are you?' he asked looking down at my bust.
'What?' I asked again shocked, assuming I must have heard or understood him wrong.
'We made a bet,' he said again, 'What size are you?'
I rolled my eyes and pulled away from him as I stormed off completely fuming mad. Just moments ago, I had been elated to get in the car and tell my husband about what a beautiful night I’d had. Now, I wanted to get in and scream at the top of my lungs about the audacity of those men and ponder why they had to ruin a great evening.
Why? Why do they feel entitled to say whatever they want? Why do they feel entitled to touch you? And why do we, as women, allow it? How many times has a man said something crude to you, and like me, you’ve rolled your eyes and walked away spending the next hour thinking of all the things you should have said? But would it make a difference? No, because even when you curse them out, they relish in the fact they got a rise out of you.
It’s time that men stop saying, 'Well it’s not me. I don’t do that.' If you’re not a part of the solution, then you’re a part of the problem. The other men standing in that group could have and said something to the man that touched me and harassed me. When they were supposedly making this bet, one of the could have spoken up and said, 'Stop talking like that. She’s a person. What’s wrong with you?' But they stayed silent. Every time you laugh along with sexist jokes complacently, you’re giving misogynists the comfort of knowing there are no repercussions for their actions. Every time you see your bro grab a female without her consent, and you stay quiet because you don’t want to seem 'uncool', you're fueling a culture of sexual harassment.
The male ego is one of the most dangerous and terrifying things women will repeatedly come across in their lives. It equips men with a feeling of invincibility and if a woman dare test that invincibility with self respect and defiance, it convinces them that they are allowed to respond with aggression. I’m sick of being told, 'You did the right thing walking away. They could have hurt you.' I should be allowed to stand up for myself without the threat of violence or sexual assault looming over my head. All women should.
From now on, I’m not giving any more free passes. I’m not going to keep brushing off sexual assaults or harassments. Whether that’s by reporting it or by defending myself, I’m going to do it. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned up until this point in my life, it’s that I’m entitled to feel safe.