You Gotta Fight For Your Right to Party

Sick of the sexual harassment rife within the club and music scene, Isabelle Comber decided to speak out. She has since written an article, developed a hashtag and started an imminent movement demanding the right to party in peace.

Last Thursday, my editor from music blog Stoney Roads sent me an article from the UK about sexual assault in nightclubs, suggesting I write something similar. After sitting in quiet contemplation for a few minutes, I decided I had better crack a beer. After calling on friends to share their experiences with me, I had to crack a few more.

What emerged (apart from a nasty VB hangover) was an opinion piece and the hashtag #freetomove. The need to speak was born out of a love for gigs and clubs in conjunction with a simple disbelief at the lack of dignity partygoers’ show for each other. For every time I had been yelled at, grabbed, groped, intimidated, offended, humiliated, violated—and seen others experience the same thing at clubs, festivals or gigs—enough was well and truly enough.

The story I shared to kick-start my article is a strangely common experience. As a sprightly 18-year-old working at a Kings Cross nightclub, I had a male patron put his hands directly into my pants whilst I was walking across the packed dance floor. With one arm around my shoulders, and the other painfully violating me, he roughly whispered threats into my ear. He let me go and I served him for the rest of the night, scared fucking shitless. He walked out of the club smiling from ear to ear.

Such is the reality for way too many individuals participating in the music scene, and it has been given far too little attention. I expected to get a hundred likes and a few shares on my article—after five hours it had over a thousand. I had people contacting me from all over the country, their stories sickeningly familiar. “Some guy rubbed his cock on me at a festival”, “Guys will press their whole body weight on me in the club”, “I no longer go out, it’s not worth it”, “I tense up any time I have to walk across a club” and on and on. The violence isn’t just common; it’s an expected part of the culture.

It may have been this that struck a nerve with the writer from who tweeted at me for an interview. He had been talking to his girlfriend about it and was saddened by what I had been describing. The story must have resonated with the editors because it made the front page of the website—and soon spread to NewsCorp publications in the other Australian cities.

With such big press, it was only a matter of time before the trolls descended. I wonder if they will start to pick apart who I am as a character. Almost too stereotypical to function, I easily fit the bill of blonde/chesty/gender-studyin’/music lovin’/bisexual/goon-drinkin’/short-shorts wearing lefty. Thus far, however, I’ve simply received discouraging (and sometimes aggressive) comments toting “this is a non-issue” or “if girls stopped dressing like sluts it wouldn’t matter”. It’s heartening to see so many people step in and talk back on behalf of the cause. It’s also heartening to see that in general, the people protesting the cause appear to be massive psychopaths! It’s hard to take anything they’re saying seriously.

Even though it is being described as such, I don’t know if the campaign is a ‘movement’ yet. I would definitely like it to be. The generally positive response has made me and my editors at Stoney Roads feel like we have the power to take it further. The next step is getting bars and clubs involved, and openly proclaiming themselves as zero-tolerance venues against sexual harassment. It’s my vision to see a ‘freetomove’ sticker on the door of every club and music event in Australia.

But it’s not just about venues. The point I wanted to get across is that we all have the power to say something. This is not just an appeal to the cis men who engage with the party scene. I genuinely believe that if people of all genders intervened in sexual harassment scenarios, it would make a serious difference.

There’s power in numbers and we have the ability to defend each other. If you see someone who looks like they are being harassed—or who seems to be upset or distressed—you can call out the perpetrator or ask the individual involved if they need assistance. It’s about solidarity and working together. There should be no price to pay for enjoying a good fucking party jam; it’s about time we were all free to move.

For more information, check out the #freetomove Facebook page.

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