I have always felt very proud of how the rave community behaves towards each other, while still successfully having the time of our lives. I can never commend the scene enough. This coming summer will be my first time attending the Shambhalla festival and to be told that women can walk freely naked and that it is completely acceptable fills me with pride and joy in our community. The truth is that I have witnessed more respect and decency within this community than in many other strands of society. Especially when it comes to consent
From an outsider’s perspective women in the rave scene are scantly dressed with little or no respect for themselves. The reality is that women feel comfortable to dress as they’d like to. And yeah, it’s damn hot in most venues so women wear less. Men don’t get the same criticism for being topless as women do, even though the male nipple ban was only lifted in 1947. It should be a standard that everyone should be able to feel free and comfortable in their own skin instead of shaming a particular gender. The difference is women are sexualised. Thankfully the rave community has almost become desensitised to the scariness of naked female flesh. That said, we have to undoubtedly thank the women who came before us who fought through the gropes and the catcalls and the sleazy remarks that still surround outside the festivals and venues. If you compare the attire of attendants of raves in the 90s where most wore lost fitted clothing that showed no definition or shape. Now, in place of baggy pants we have nipple tape. In a 2013 article for BuzzFeed, Kerri Mason, a contributor of Billboard said “When you see girls at these festivals, and they’re wearing next to nothing they are owning next to nothing. They’re not doing it for the male gaze. They’re doing it because they want to — they’re super comfortable walking around like that, they’re not overly self-conscious, they’re really free. And normally [they’re] in packs of their friends that are kind of protective,” she says. “So maybe it’s just a really free space for that kind of impression.”
We still have a long way to go unfortunately. In Canada, sexual assault is the least likely violent crime to be reported to police, and 90 percent, according to Statistics Canada are never reported. Rape culture is a term that was designed to show the ways in which society blames victims of sexual assault and normalizes male sexual violence. In our society a complex set of beliefs exists that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy. Last year footage of a topless woman’s breasts being grabbed by a man at Rhythm and Vines festival in New Zealand was released. The truth of the matter is it is assault. Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual act, including any touching of a sexual nature that occurs without the true consent of both parties. While there was an outpour of support by the public for the woman, many others will say ‘she was asking for it’ or ‘it was just a joke’. In a rape culture, women perceive a continuous threat of violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching, to rape itself. Our bodies are ours, they are not for others. They are not an invitation. They are not sex objects. We are human. We are people. The internet is littered with headlines and videos regarding women being assaulted at festivals and the question remains; how can we stop this?
As a man or a woman, from the moment you agree to attend an event you can begin to take steps to protect yourself and others. Many will blame substances as a cause or an accomplice in sexual assault and this needs to stop. We alone are accountable and responsible for our actions. Stacy Forrester from The Good Night Out Campaign (an independent, international initiative dedicated to helping the nighttime economy deal with, tackle and prevent harassment) and Bass Coast Harm Reduction Coordinator suggests testing when and if you can, research about what to expect so you can better detect when something is off, learn about what risky combinations to avoid, not to use alone and to let your friends know what substances you are using. Remember that people incapacitated by drugs or alcohol cannot give consent. Stacy also suggests people research consent to understand how power and privilege plays a role in how free/ safe/ able someone is to give a yes or no.
Having a strong and stable group that looks out for one another on a night out is everything. I’d like to see this ideal reach the people who sit back and allow that one mate to continue to be the one who behaves inappropriately. Speak to them about their actions; how this not only affects the person they’re being inappropriate towards, but also how it affects you and those around you. Don’t sit around and watch someone continuously be problematic. It’s also about being mindful of people and their space. Everyone has a bubble, check in before you touch, hug or dance in someone’s personal space.
Stacy also suggests we get comfortable with bystander intervention; knowing how to interrupt both low-key and obvious harassment when you see it. This I find is often the hardest thing for people. How to know when and if you should intervene. We tend to follow the ‘I don’t know them therefore it’s nothing to do with me’ approach. We need to stretch our support to not only our own but to those around us. If you see someone who appears to be in an uncomfortable situation then politely ask if they’re ok. It doesn’t have to be something drastic. Just asking someone if they’re ok or if they need help makes sure that everyone involved knows there is support available.
Realistically these are simple steps to take. These are basic, good mannered, decent, samaritarian things to do. We as members of this community all be a role model to the rest of society. We are already much further than other parts of society. We should all encompass these tools to ensure that all of us continue to have the time of our lives.
We’ve decided to include the entire interview from Stacey below which has a plethora of information in regards to partying safe and consent. Make sure you check out Good Night Out Vancouver on Facebook
CDNEDM: How can people stay safer while taking drugs that are dissociative like Ketamine or Nitrous oxide while at a party.
If we are talking about the risks specifically inherent to substances, I always preface this convo by declaring that all drugs come with an element of risk. We are currently in the throws of a public health crisis related to fentanyl, which further compounds this risk. No matter which drug you are using, no matter your experience with drugs, you need to be aware that there is a chance that it could be contaminated with Fentanyl, on top of the other aspects of substance use that make it risky. So it’s important when using any drugs, but especially powder based ones, to do all you can to reduce those risks: Start small, test when / if you can, do some research about what to expect so you can better detect when something is off, learn what about risky combinations to avoid, don’t use alone, let your friends know what substances you are using.
Then there is the conversation that is going down in the EDM scene right now about the more social risks of party culture, such as getting too high and not paying great attention to people’s boundaries / personal space or being messed up and potentially a target for someone who is opportunistic and predatory. What can we do about that? To open, I want to make it clear that for too long, drugs and alcohol have been used to both blame victims for what happened to them and minimize problematic or creepy behaviour. It’s time to take that way of thinking out with the trash, and replace it with one where we are accountable to for our actions, accountable for what we do in the community and do a better job of caring for each other. So, how do we do this?
• Do some deep reading on consent. If you think its as simple as asking until you get a yes – you have much to learn. Explore how power and privilege plays a role in how free/ safe/ able some people are to give a yes or no. Unpack how you have used your power in the past to get what you want ( sex-wise and just in general). Getting consent is a skill to hone like anything else – the more you learn about it and the more you practise it, the more naturally it will come- almost like second nature. Remember consent is ideally exchanged when there is an even or close to even power dynamic at play – so one person being way more messed up than the other, or supplying the drugs to the other or older, or more “famous” or a combo of all of these requires extra care to ensure everyone is able to enthusiastically and legally consent. Remember that straight up, people incapacitated by drugs or alcohol cannot give consent. If there is any doubt, go sit together and enjoy the music and revisit the connection at a better time.
• Call on you friends to be better – if you have one friend who is kind of questionable and definitely not chill with the sexual vibes – talk to them when you are all sober. Let them know that you care about them, but they can’t act like that and talk together about different ( more consensual) ways to get their flirt on. I have noticed a trend with these high profile call outs lately where people then comment things like “I knew so and so was a creep!” It makes me sad that a community all sat around an watched someone continually be problematic and didn’t address it.
• Make your friends promise to wrangle you in when needed – Ketamine especially makes us less great at reading our own and others body language, so make a pact with each other that when they see you zone out hard in the corner, eyes landing on someone creep style, to jump in and bring you back to Earth.
CDNEDM: What are some general tips for staying safe at a party
Some general safer party skills (in addition to the things above) :
•Know the signs of overdose.
•Learn how to rescue breathe, even if it is from watching Youtube videos because you cant afford first aid right now.
•Make sure someone has naloxone training and a kit on hand.
•Get comfortable with bystander intervention – know how to interrupt both low-key and obvious harassment when you see it
•If you are worried someone has done to much – don’t put them in bed to sleep it off (ESPECIALLY if using ghb) – get them comfortable in a room where you can keep an eye on them while you socialize.
•Don’t be afraid to call 911 if you need to at a party – even if it is the most janky of rave caves. It is not illegal to be on drugs in Canada. Unfortunately it doesn’t mean that if cops show up they will be respectful, but you cant get in trouble for being high and needing help. Don’t let being under the influence stop you from getting someone medical attention.
•If you are going to an event, of any scale – post on the facebook event asking organizes what safety measures will be in place – will there be a sanctuary / chill zone? Is there a code of conduct? Are you bringing in a community harm reduction team? That way you can better make a harm reduction plan for you and your friends for the night.
CDNEDM: Where can people get a hold of drug testing kits?
I always support the Canadian company Test Kit Plus. Remember through, that these kits aren’t a catch all: they are prone to user error, we cant be confident they will detect the fentanyl and there are new analogues coming out all the time, that these kits wont pick up. They are better than not testing though for sure! Knowledge is power.
CDNEDM: Where can people go to get more information about your group
I run another project with a gang of awesome folks called Good Night Out Vancouver- we are all about safer, less creepy nights out. The best way to learn about us on our facebook page.
I am also the manage the Harm Reduction Services for a BC festival called Bass Coast. We have a great page on harm reduction found here.
Fresh off the boat, new to Calgary, with a fresh look at the Canadian EDM scene. Can often be spotted photobombing your sick pics.
She writes with an accent.