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Fabric reopens: I spent five hours on my own in the nightclub and was amazed that I wasn't harassed

It shouldn't be a pleasant surprise when you come away from a club without being groped, argues Kashmira Gander 

Kashmira Gander
Tuesday 10 January 2017 12:00 GMT
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Fabric nightclub recently re-opened following two drug-related deaths in 2016
Fabric nightclub recently re-opened following two drug-related deaths in 2016 (wundervisuals/iStock)

On Friday night I spent four hours completely alone at Fabric nightclub in London and not a single stranger touched me inappropriately.

I imagine this is entirely unremarkable information to half of the population. Why the hell would a stranger touch you without your permission? But I can bet that women reading this will know why my experience is shocking. Possibly even a world record.

No one groped me while I was ordering a drink and whispered in my ear that I loved it. No one thrust their crotch into my face while I was tying my shoe. No one followed for hours me even when I told them, sorry, I’m with my friends. But those, and countless others, are all encounters that I have had at mainstream clubs.

And that’s when I learned that underground clubs like Fabric, where people flock to dance to sets by world-class and lesser known DJs, and the #saveourculture to protect it from closure was so important in the face of London’s dying nightlife.

No, I’m not humble-bragging about the attention I got, or ungratefully rejecting compliments. I was happy to chat to guys who approached me as if I were actually another human being. Because those other sorts of advances aren’t really about attraction at all, and my experiences are widespread. Recent research by Drinkaware showed that a third of women aged between 18 to 24-years-old had been groped or received unwanted attention during a night out. As a 25-year-old woman I, give or take a few months, unfortunately fit into this category.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had many wonderfully blurry nights in mainstream clubs with my friends, dancing to Beyoncé and screaming along to our favourite songs. And I’m certainly not arguing that women have never felt harassed at more underground clubs, either. But the culture seems different somehow. Something is seriously wrong when almost every mainstream pop night you have visited for seven years is punctuated by someone groping you or making you feel like a worthless prop. Over the years, my friends and I created a subtle language of non-verbal cues, from nods and eye movements, to warn each other against incoming creeps.

During my visit to Fabric to review its re-opening for The Independent, I chatted to a 26-year-old woman in the queue called Lauren. She had been visiting the 2,500 capacity superclub since she was 18. Unprompted, she spoke of it as a space where she feels safe and free. “As a woman, it’s great to come to a place where you don’t feel harassed,” she told me.

In the smoking area, I spoke to Chris Bond, a 34-year-old who works in insurance. He had also visited the club regularly since he was 18. He chimed that he could imagine women feeling more comfortable at clubs more orientated around music.

“I don't think anyone has ever had a bad night in Fabric. You just chat to his guy you can talk and ppl come here because of the world class DJs and to have a good time.

“Blokes don't go to Fabric on the pull, they go for the music and the DJs and the atmosphere.”

Another friend from Bristol describes a similar vibe at nights in the West Country. “You could literally talk to anyone and just make random friends. It's not like everyone there is out to get laid, they just want to have fun.” I've had similar experiences in clubs like Corsica Studios in South East London.

Compare this to a conversation with an old school friend about our experiences with clubs in my home-city of Brighton in our late teens and early twenties. She recalls a guy coming up behind her outside one of our old, cheesy haunts.

“I felt this hand on my bum and thought ‘oh here we go.’ But he wasn’t just grabbing my bum, he pulled up my whole skirt in front of everyone. The bouncer ignored me and the police were just like ‘are you sure?’ I was so angry. His only response was ‘well I’m sorry love but you’re fit, you’d get it.”

Luckily, things have changed since we were 18 – namely fourth wave feminism – and venues more venues are pledging to make women feel safe. In 2014, Southwark council in London announced it was cracking down on sexual harassment, while a bar in St Petersburg, Florida, was recently praised for telling women to ask for Angela at the bar if they felt uncomfortable. Unfortunately, when I first started going out I didn’t even know that being groped was something you could complain about without being labelled a prude.

I’m yet to pinpoint what exactly make people act differently in these spaces. I can’t blame lad culture, because dance music certainly has its fair share of that. But I do know that as long as these are places where everyone can dance and let their hair down without being bothered, I hope they long continue to exist.

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