LAST WEEK, Star Observer published my monthly column in which I talked about incidences of sexual assault I had experienced in non-straight clubs.

In a nutshell, I have been groped without my consent in gay bars for years. In the column, which has since been republished on a couple of other sites, including the UK’s Attitude, I asked for men to stop it.

The first time I ever went to a gay club, was also the first time I went to any club. I was 15 and the club was the iconic 3 Faces in Melbourne.

This is important for a couple of reasons: 1. Seeing as I’m in my 30s, I’ve been regularly hitting up LGBTI venues for almost 20 years. 2. Revealing this fact means my mum is now going to find out what I got up to as a minor.

But my point is, the incident I was referring to was not a one-off because I have had years of experience in the LGBTI world, I got out a lot (maybe too much).

I knew my column would create discussion, but I did not expect the onslaught of attacks that would come my way. To no one’s surprise many comments were sexist, aggressive, victim blaming and completely missed the point. So I thought I would respond to the main ones here.

‘Eww, but vaginas are gross, why would a gay guy be interested in touching a woman down there?’

All right guys we get it, you really hate vaginas! You love the D! Women should totally be ashamed of their anatomy!

Never once did I believe when my breast was being squeezed as I walked through a bar or I had a guy grind up against me on the dance floor that it was about sexual attraction.

It always felt like a sense of entitlement over my body.

Much has been written about the reasons why people sexually assault others and it is rarely about sex and attraction.

“Rape and sexual assault are crimes of violence and control that stem from a person’s determination to exercise power over another,” the US Department of Justice wrote.

So fellas, those who have groped me didn’t do it because they hoped it would lead to fucking me, but because they wanted to remind me of my place in society.

‘#notallgaymen’

This hashtag is my play on the #notallmen internet phenomenon that saw thousands of privileged men clapping back at feminism and the startling numbers of violence against women. It detracts from discussing the issue at hand and brings attention back to the men.

Obviously I am not accusing every single gay identifying male of sexually assaulting women when they’re in the club. I simply shared my ongoing experience of what can happen to people in gay bars.

I’m not suggesting this is an epidemic of alarming proportions with gay men descending to prey on anyone who dares enter Oxford St, but just that it does happen.

Many people have reached out to me to tell me they have had the same thing happen to them, so it’s obviously something that needs to be spoken about.

But women do it to gay guys too!

I’ll agree hens’ parties that choose gay bars for their night out are the bane of everyone’s existence, especially if there’s a drag show on.

However, I was clear in my column that nobody should be touching anyone else regardless of sexuality or gender without their permission.

It’s not on under any circumstances, but it’s also not an excuse to forgive what happened to me.

This deflection of responsibility was something that kept coming up in the trolling I received on social media. But arguing that women grope men too detracts from what I’m talking about.

It’s kind of like saying ‘but what about the war in Syria!’, that is something which is terrible and should not be happening, but it’s not the issue in column. I’m talking about my experiences of sexual harassment.

If you’re so worried about how women touch you write your own column or take action to make the behaviour stop.

‘You should not have gone into men’s toilets’/ ‘You should not have been drunk, so you could take better care of yourself’/ ‘Something else about victim blaming’

Not that I need to be explaining this, but the restroom I went into didn’t have a sign on it and many places I frequent have unisex or all-gender bathrooms.

Even if I had stumbled into the men’s toilets, which is a space I would understandably not be welcome in, does not give anyone permission to touch me in my private parts.

“This “assumption of risk” wrongfully places the responsibility of the offender’s actions with the victim,” says the US DOJ.

“Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs is not an invitation for non-consensual sexual activity. A person under the influence of drugs or alcohol does not cause others to assault him/her; others choose to take advantage of the situation and sexually assault him/her because he/she is in a vulnerable position.”

There has been a lot written about victim blaming on both male and female victims, I won’t go into it here, it shouldn’t have to be explained again for the one millionth time.

‘If you don’t like what goes down in a gay club, why don’t you just leave?’

My friends and I are members of the LGBTI community, we have been going to gay bars since last century, I don’t see why I should stop going because some people want to encroach on my sense of safety.

LGBTI venues were created to provide a safe space for all members of the rainbow community, not just gay men. Every single member of that community deserves to feel safe, not just gay men.

‘How do you even know he was gay? Maybe he was straight and acting gay to hit on women?’

I don’t doubt some straight guys have tried this ruse in the past. In my experiences of assault in LGBTI bars, I know the perpetrators have been gay because they’ve told me.

They claimed their sexuality was a justification for touching me inappropriately.

‘It’s ok babe, I’m gay.’

‘I don’t believe this story at all. The author must be making it up.’

Nope.

What surprised me about the reaction to my column was how quickly the mainly white, between certain ages, male commenters were quick to get on the defensive rather than take a minute to listen to what I was saying.

For a community that faces a lot of discrimination on a daily basis and is bound to face a lot more hateful speech in the coming months ahead of a plebiscite on same-sex marriage, I would have thought they would be more sensitive to what happened.

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