In a dimly lit Music Hall of Williamsburg, I felt my stomach turning as Tigers Jaw set up to play. I hadn’t seen them since before their recent year-long hiatus and I was understandably amped. As the first chords of “The Sun” started playing, I danced, I swayed, I bopped my head, waiting to hear the first harmony of Ben Walsh and Brianna Collins fill the hall. Instead, as fans climbed over the edge of the stage and ran towards the mic, her part of the harmony was cut off, as a guy attempted to grab her and kiss her.
She finished the song (and the rest of the set) understandably upset. Ben came to the mic with a disappointed look on his face. “To the fucking asshole that just tried to kiss Brianna,” he started, “I think you’d better leave.” The crowd erupted, starting a chant of “Asshole, asshole!” as security dealt with the situation. “Just because I’m up here and I’m a girl,” Brianna hissed into the microphone stand that sat in front of her keyboard, “doesn’t give you permission to come into my personal space like that.” The crowd erupted again. She forced a smile.
The problem with this kind of incident is that it isn’t isolated. Britty Drake of Pity Sex played right before Tigers Jaw and had the same exact thing happen to her, though security didn’t get to the kid quick enough. (I was not in the crowd when this happened, like I was for Tigers Jaw, but saw it on the TV that streamed the show in the bar downstairs.) In December of 2013, Parker Cannon from The Story So Far was “assaulted” by a female showgoer who jumped on stage attempting to kiss him. Rapper Danny Brown had a female fan jump on stage, pull his pants down, and perform oral sex on him, unwarranted. Iggy Azalea has candidly spoken about how she has to wear multiple pairs of underwear and tights to keep people from attempting to assault her when she crowd surfs.
For some reason, people in crowds think that performing on stage also means giving consent to whatever happens, and that’s just fucking ridiculous. It’s not okay to run up to someone on the street trying to kiss them. When that happens, it’s called assault. So why do people think it’s okay to do it to performers on stage? Forcing yourself onto someone is never okay, regardless of the situation. Just like wearing a short skirt or being a sex worker doesn’t mean that you are giving permission for random people to grope you. The same goes for people on stage. Just don’t fucking do it. Do not objectify people based on their career choice or wardrobe or whatever lame excuse you’ve cooked up in your head that you think excuses you from the liability of real life assault. It’s common sense, really.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, has boundaries and feelings about personal space. This doesn’t all of a sudden disappear when someone straps on a guitar, stands in front of a keyboard, or takes hold of a microphone. Part of performance is being an extrovert, but it’s important to remember that it always remains a performance. Friends and tour-mates of Tigers Jaw took to Twitter to express their feelings.
Im just gonna say, nobody deserves to have their personal space violated ever. EVERYONE is human and has feelings and boundaries.
— Elliot Babin (@ElliotBabin) June 19, 2014
How ignorant is it to go see a performer you love and then make them feel so small and imposed upon by touching them inappropriately — PETAL (@petal_pa) June 19, 2014
We all have the capacity to be better and smarter and when the message is sent that women are objects you make humans seem so so dumb.
— PETAL (@petal_pa) June 19, 2014
The @tigersjaw kids are as thoughtful & cool as their band is good.
— Kevin Devine (@KevinDevineTwit) June 19, 2014
And it sucks even more, because I’ve totally been there. I’ve had someone try to kiss me when I never expected or consented to it. You feel awkward and strange and helpless. The difference is that it was in a private setting — it wasn’t in front of hundreds of people while you’re trying to do your job as a performer. And that makes it so much worse.
All performers are nervous before taking the stage for any number of reasons, and rightfully so. But the possibility of being sexually assaulted shouldn’t be one of them.
Brianna Collins of Tigers Jaw released a statement on the band’s Tumblr regarding the incident:
Last night at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, someone came on stage and very forcibly tried to kiss me, and actually did kiss Britty while she was playing. Another person from the tour was kissed while taking a photo… This tour is the first time something like this has happened to me, and I want to directly address it.
IT IS NEVER OKAY TO TOUCH SOMEONE WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT. Ever. I felt so upset and violated, as did the others who this happened to.. Touching someone without their consent is not only upsetting for that person, but is also a crime. We all need to respect each other’s space — whether it’s someone in the band or someone crowd surfing. I just want to play music with my friends and I shouldn’t have to be worried whether or not every person stage diving is going to do something like that. I don’t want it to come down to having to say that there’s no stage diving allowed at our shows, but if stuff like this keeps happening and I feel unsafe and uncomfortable when we play, I don’t know any other solution.
So please – DO NOT EVER touch/kiss/grab someone that has not given you consent to do so. You are not entitled to that no matter what the situation is. Be a decent human being and keep your hands to yourself.