No consent. Groping. A culture of complicity.
Such descriptors may apply to Hollywood, as more and more allegations of sexual abuse against Harvey Weinstein and other power players surface.
But, according to an out columnist at USA Today, they may also apply to a gay bar — and be symptomatic of a problem in gay culture more broadly.
In an op-ed titled "How Does Harvey Weinstein Happen? Visit a Gay Bar With Me," writer Marc Ambinder ponders an environment where he has witnessed acts like those described by Weinstein's accusers — and done nothing in response.
Take a trip with me. Imagine being gay, or queer, at a club, or a bar, with the lights turned down, the fog machines blowing. It’s around midnight. People are drunk or getting there. The groping starts. Shirts come off. Hands trace down backs and starts cupping butt cheeks.
Rarely is consent obtained or given beforehand. Occasionally crotches are groped. Occasionally quite aggressively. Some people let it happen. Some welcome it. Sometimes a joke is uttered by one of the parties: “Haha, I can’t help myself.” And sometimes people pull away. Sometimes they slap hands away. Sometimes friends step in.
But almost never are there consequences for this. There are no fights. No complaints to bouncers or a security guard. I have never seen anyone get kicked out of a bar for being too handsy. The same people are there, the next week, testing boundaries, stepping up the ladder of predatory behavior.
Of course, any nightlife setting, gay or otherwise, that involves drinking and packed dance floors is a recipe for sexual assault. However, Ambinder outlines a list of excuses he's heard in gay bars that are unique to queer culture.
The LGBT rights movements is also a sexual revolution and a rebellion against heteronormativity, he noted, so attempts at policing sexual conduct can be criticized as running counter to that. As a result, Ambinder has observed that patrons of gay bars may be more willing to accept forms of sexual assault, because they believe that's "part of price they have to pay for going out and enjoying themselves."
Ambinder challenges this logic, though, and is urging other patrons of gay bars to question it as well — particularly if it is giving protection to predators like Weinstein. He also demands more introspection into the reasons queer people give to justify a double standard in norms regarding sexual abuse and complicity.
"What comes to mind is how ferociously we try to invent excuses to protect our own kind. I think I am complicit. I wonder if you are, too," he writes.
Should gay bars — and its patrons — do more to police sexual misconduct? Leave your thoughts in the comments.