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Yesterday’s discussion about groping at concerts has unearthed in my memory a groping incident that I had previously blocked out of my mind. The experience was a perfect storm of denial, designed to be buried in my subconscious and never unearthed again. I was groped. At a Sugar Ray concert.

The place is Phoenix, Ariz. I don’t remember the year, but I’m pretty sure it was around the time that Sugar Ray’s third album, 14:59, was released. That places us in 1999, which would make me about 14 years old. Too old, you say, to admit to willingly attend a Sugar Ray concert? Whatever. My friend’s mom bought us all tickets for her birthday.

So: my two female friends and I got there early and made sure to secure a spot up front near the stage, as you do at a Sugar Ray concert in 1999. When the concert began, the crowd began pushing up against our backs, everyone struggling to get a closer look at Sugar Ray frontman / Candies model Mark Mcgrath, and also mellowly swing their arms to the sounds of “Fly.”

Soon, three older ladies had sidled up close behind us—-really close. To 14-year-old me, they looked about middle-aged, which means they were probably actually about 30. And then the butt-grabbing began, one lady to each teen. Grab! Grab! Grab!

The three of us just looked at one another—-first confused, then scandalized, then annoyed, then amused, and then, when the grabbing didn’t stop, just embarrassed. We looked back at these women, shot them “what the FUCK?” looks, said something totally ineffective like ” . . . hey!” And then we just put up with it. The venue was too packed for us to budge.

So over and over again, these three older ladies grabbed, slapped, and rubbed all of our butts, timing their gropes with the movements of the crowd in order to disguise their touches as happy accidents. Yes: Not only did I arrive early to hear Sugar Ray perform a nonsensical song about condoms, I got groped through the whole thing.

Later, when that fucking Sugar Ray concert was finally over, we assumed that these three strange women just got their jollies out of sexually harassing young women. It was weird, totally inappropriate, and mildly disturbing, but at least it was something we could understand. We assumed that they liked our butts.

But perhaps we were naive. Sexist commenter justhipper has a more intriguing theory on concert groping:

As a woman who goes to a lot of gigs (and has been groped at a few of them) I can’t believe it’s ever entirely for a cheap thrill—-on a number of occasions the culprit has openly admitted that grabbing my chest or placing his hand between my legs (or a friend’s) was simply done to annoy us enough so we’d move and he could get closer to the front.

. . . There does appear to be an unwritten rule of the gig-–-do whatever you have to to get nearer to the stage, even if you have to hurt somebody to do it-–-including sexual assault-–-and frankly I’m angry about it.Th

The thing is: had we known that these strange women simply wanted us to move our asses, we probably would have done so. After all, we were too scared to tell some women to stop touching our butts, so we were probably too scared to fight off some women who instructed us step the fuck away from Sugar Ray. So if groping is your way of getting what you want out of people: (1) go fuck yourself; and (2) at least be polite enough to ask first.

Photo © Glenn Francis, via Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike License 3.0.