Whip It is notorious among Goldsmiths students, but perhaps not for the right reasons. Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff comments on the sexual harassment suffered at this night and beyond.
Whip It is a weekly night held at the Amersham Arms in New Cross. It is the epitome of life at Goldsmiths. No high heels, vinyl in the small room, The Smiths, Outkast and general bangers badly mixed in the main room. Red Stripe cans litter the sticky floor. The place is dark, dingy, smelly, and could generally be described as a bit of shit night out. And yet, made enjoyable by familiar faces and a decent atmosphere, it’s consistently busy. Except not always with the best kind of people.
So what is it about Whip It that attracts such predators? From that guy in the corner who wraps a sweaty, silky arm around your waist, to the blonde, shaggy-haired male who follows you around the club; uttering no words, but shuffling awkwardly, and every so often sweeping his dank hair out of his eyes to cast an appraising eye over you – gaping like a drunken fish instead of speaking comprehensible words.
Perhaps I’m imagining it worse than it actually is, but in terms of the amount of men who decide it is a good idea to attach themselves to you, Whip It seems unusually bad. Is it because the males who attend Whip It know that a horde of drunken, vulnerable female students will be at the night? Is it New Cross as an area living up to its bad reputation? Or just a fluke; a cataclysm of a problem in our society that continues to pervade – women being objectified to the point of sexual abuse? I’m inclined to believe the latter.
This is not to say that I have a problem with people attempting to pull on nights out, nor that sometimes I haven’t appreciated male attention. My problem, exemplified particularly at Whip It, is when the men you reject do not take no for answer. When you literally get a beer poured over your head after you express the attention is unwanted, when you have to stand in a protective circle around your friend because that one guy just will not leave her alone, or when you have been grabbed repeatedly by unknown hands that you cannot see, let alone prevent. All three of these occurrences have happened to me or a friend at Whip It, and although the blurring effect of alcohol means I remember them with less clarity than I perhaps should, looking back, my anger has built; pushed on by feminist principles.
But it is a problem that extends beyond the club and into the street. I cannot walk into Peckham without the company of a male friend or my boyfriend without catcalls, a car following me halfway down the road, a hand reaching out to snatch at my hand, my waist. There have been times when I’ve just been walking a few steps behind my boyfriend and calls have erupted with devastating reliability from mouths made ugly by their words. Insults that are stopped after he grabs my hand with a possession that makes me unattainable and safe, but left angry that that’s what it takes to prevent this kind of attention. It makes me, and every other girl in a similar situation, hyper-aware of our surroundings in a way that men do not have to be.
Although we are students and somewhat protected from the ‘real world’ by our university bubble, this unfortunate element of adulthood (although, of course, children do suffer abuse too) appears to be exacerbated while at university. There are certain things you can do to protect yourself, but it is completely unfair that the women who are being abused have to consider things like how short their skirts are before heading on a night out. Ultimately, I feel that this is a problem that needs to be tackled from an early stage, with increased sexual education that transcends different cultures and should help to break down the barrier between the sexes.