When Teacher realized he would be unable to attend the festival, he told the organizer that one of his students was coming alone, and asked her to look after me. Which she did; not her fault I have a gift of finding myself in awkward situations. I told Teacher: he was happy that I was making friends and having a good time but, “Be careful, Vanilla. These guys can be trouble.” Which guys – there are two dozen instructors & DJs here? Trouble? What kind of trouble? Am I at risk of being drugged and date-raped? Finding myself arrested at the border for unwittingly smuggling cocaine? Having my identity stolen? Please elaborate. “Just trouble. Stay alert. Be careful around them.”
Last day of the festival.
At the end of the night, the festival photographer wanted a group pic. I clambered on stage so that I could be seen above the crowd. A few ppl climbed up with me, including a dancer called GLTW (*). As the photographer snapped away, GLTW came and stood behind me, pressed himself up against me and grabbed my ass – two solid handfulls, with a big squeeze for good measure. Not an accident. I tried elbowing him, discreetly, not wishing to cause a scene or disrupt the happy group picture. As soon as I could, I shoved him off of me, and gave him an withering look. GLTW laughed and smirked, before sauntering off.
Now. Butts are kinda public property – they get brushed accidentally, or not so accidentally, in public transportation, crowds, clubs… it happens. GLTW’s behaviour was inappropriate, definitely, but I did not feel violated. Merely irritated by his presumptious behaviour, especially since I’d had almost no contact with the dude: I had not danced with or talked to GLTW all festival.
After-party later that (very early) morning.
Energizer and I flirted away, outrageously. I was leaning against a table, and Energizer stood between my legs and the banter was lewd and hilarious. Soon after Energizer left, GLTW walked up to me, right between my legs, in the spot Energizer had just vacated. “Hi” and grabbed my crotch. Palm up, I could feel his fingers on my vagina, separated only by the material of my panties and the jumpsuit I was wearing.
In silence, I knocked his hand away. “No, but really?!” Once again, he smirked, “what?!” and walked away.
Just like that my enjoyment of the night evaporated. I sought out FroMan, and stayed close to him for the rest of the party, trying to absorb his safe, calming energy. I pretended to watch the beautiful sunrise over Dubai, smiling to cover my mild nausea. I took a shower when I got back to the hotel.
The next day, I quietly told Energizer, Sunshiney and FroMan what had happened, so they could warn any of their female students attending any future festivals where GLTW was present. Energizer was disgusted, FroMan looked grave and silent, and Sunshiney was outraged, “Why didn’t you punch him? If I had been you I would have yelled his ears off, that cocky bastard!” Yes, but you see, I am Vanilla, a nameless beginner dancer. Had I caused a scene, he would have denied it, and with his reputation as a rising star in the dance world, this would be a tiny blip in his career, forgotten immediately, whereas I would be branded a drama queen, forever held at arm’s length in any future dance festival. Should I, could I, have punched him? Maybe, but what purpose would that have served? I just would put myself at risk of being punched back since he clearly does not abide by the gentleman’s code of conduct. No. The only alternative for a nameless female nobody, alone in a foreign country, is to be quiet. Suck it up, because the costs of speaking up are not born equally between the alleged aggressor and victim: the costs would be mine alone.
It took me days to forget the feel of his strange fingers against that most private part of my body: the part I’ve shared only with a select few people that I’ve trusted to handle that intimacy with care. It took me weeks to stop feeling guilty, wondering if I somehow demonstrated cowardice by not publicly shaming him. For the endless dialogue to stop: what was it about me that made him feel that was ok – I wasn’t drunk, I hadn’t displayed lewd behaviour on or off the dance floor. Oh wait, that’s silly, that’s the same argument as “she deserved to get raped, she was wearing a mini-skirt”. This isn’t about me, its about him. But really tho, I do wonder why me?! Am I being dramatic? Maybe this wasn’t a big deal, maybe I shouldn’t care so much. Maybe it’s me. It took me months to accept the proper term: sexual assault.
While the world reacted to Trump’s twitter fight against Mika Brzezinski, actual real news was happening. The Supreme Court upheld part of the Muslim Ban. I get it. I get that we need to prioritize and fight the most pressing issues.
I live in a world where pussy-grabbers like GLTW feel vindicated: afterall, the most powerful man in the world boasts of the same behaviour – and the WORLD REWARDS HIM. It is no wonder that, instinctively, I know there is no point in speaking up when I get assaulted. The evidence of that pointlessness has been in office for 5 months.
I feel defeated. I write this to remind myself I have a voice. Just that: a voice. When the world implies I should be silent, having a voice is a tiny act of courage.
I wrote this post about sexual assault back in October 2016. All that rage. Its burned out now, replaced by hopelessness. That is his legacy.
Today, Trump, who has been publicly accused of sexual assault by more than 15 women and was caught on tape boasting he could grab women “by the pussy” without their consent, has officially proclaimed the month of April to be National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. (📷: @dear_ivanka/Halt Action Group)⠀
(*) GLTW = Good-looking Trump Wannabe
That Dubai festival remains one of the most wonderful experiences of my life, and I will always encourage anyone to visit the city and attend that festival. Furthermore, to his credit (?) GLTW’s actions occurred after the end of the festival, and must not in any way be associated with what was a wonderful event filled with lovely, kind, generous ppl, talented instructors & DJs, and many many new friends. One bad apple does not make the whole thing rotten. Isn’t that so, America?