Everyone knows that when it comes to nightlife, St Andrews doesn’t have the best reputation. There are basically three “good” venues (four, with the recent semi-comeback of Ma Bells), and needless to say, these are quickly exhausted. However, this lack of activity concerning nightlife isn’t what I’m here to talk about. Quite the opposite, in fact. There is something which I think needs to be addressed, especially in the wake of the seemingly endless allegations of sexual assault against high-profile men:
Can we please do something about the creepy men in The Vic?
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with non-students enjoying the St Andrews nightlife, old or young, but it becomes a problem when it starts affecting other people’s nights. This has not been a one time thing, nor has it affected only me – I have heard many people talk about this issue. Almost every female I have asked has recalled a time when they were made to feel uncomfortable in this venue. I’m not saying that it is the same offenders each time this happens, but it is certainly the same demographic: 25-45 (ish) year old men.
Before anyone tries to refute me by saying “it’s just a coincidence that this has happened to people you asked,” or “maybe girls lead them on by getting a drink from them,” or even “they’re only creepy if you’re not interested” – which are all arguments I have heard, by the way – stop. To deal with the first argument: It’s not a coincidence. Trust me on this one. I am convinced that I did not just happen upon the only group of people in this University that have had such experiences. This is a known problem in St Andrews. If you mention it to someone, chances are they will have at least heard about someone affected (6 degrees of separation and all).
In relation to the second question, yes, maybe sometimes accepting a drink from someone will give them ideas, but it is never okay to assume anything of anyone from just one small action such as this. I think, as a collective, we’ve had enough talks on consent to finally be aware of this concept, but it obviously hasn’t quite sunk in with some people just yet.
With regards to the latter argument, “It’s only creepy if you’re not interested,” it is clear that these people who have told me about their experiences have been unequivocally disinterested. I have nothing against a person trying to show interest in another on a night out, but it is the pure incessancy and relentless efforts that make the behaviour of these men completely inappropriate and, for lack of a better word, creepy. People have been shadowed, groped, and shouted at. One person had to notify one of the bouncers on behalf of a girl because of what was going on. This is something that one would hope St Andrews is devoid of, yet it is clear that even in such a safe town, some things can slip through the cracks.
As much as I would hope it unnecessary, I feel like I should say that, as a disclaimer, my aim with writing this is not at all to condemn the actors, but the actions. I mainly want to draw attention to the issue. Already, people will look out for their friends when out, but if more people are aware, hopefully we can start to look out for people we don’t know as well, to protect them from the aggressions of such creepy individuals.
It is this kind of thing that makes movements such as Reclaim the Night so important. Obviously, I really was behind the curve on this article, as their march was on the 21st November, but the mentality of this movement must be sustained all year round. The Vic can’t ban people from entering if there was, in their eyes, no empirical reason to, and I am certainly not asking for them to do this. I simply hope that anyone reading will keep this in the back of their minds. Maybe if these men are called out for their actions enough times, they will realise that they are acting inappropriately, and we can go back to being a town infamous for nothing out of the ordinary ever happening.