Tour Diary - Day 20
Travel day. Beautiful drive, but not much else to report. The long drive gave me lots of time to think and reflect.
On three different occasions during this tour so far, I was sexually assaulted.
I have a policy. After every show I play, I walk off the stage and into the audience to make myself available to anyone who wants to say hello, ask a question, have a photo taken, whatever. I’ve been doing this for years.
Now, the set I play most nights has some sexy moments, I guess you could say. I have a few songs that are somewhat sexual in nature. These songs are either about sex or use sex as a metaphor for other ideas. The language can be a bit strong. I dance a lot and admittedly, some of my moves are rather sleazy. But none of that is intended to give anyone permission to touch me in a sexual way when I come off stage at the end of the night.
I’ve been groped three times in the last few weeks. It’s happened on three different continents. Each time, I was talking to someone from the audience when they grabbed my crotch. Of course, it’s a shocking surprise when something like that happens. In the moment, with the darkness of the room, the loud music, the adrenaline and the excitement, it’s almost impossible to react in a measured way. I’ve just jumped back and said, “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” It must seem like an extension of my on-stage performance because my reaction is always met with laughs.
I’m not flattered or turned on when these things happen. It’s a violation. It’s upsetting. It makes me very uncomfortable, to say the least.
Performing on stage is an extroverted exercise. But in truth, I’m a very introverted person. I often wish I wasn’t so sensitive. One of the songs I perform every night is called “The Centaur”. People often hear it as a sex song. But a careful listen will reveal this introvert/extrovert dichotomy and the common misunderstanding around it. I can’t help but wonder if the song - about a character who laments his anatomy being a distraction from his sensitive heart - has inspired some of the groping. That would be a pretty cruel irony.
It’s not uncommon for hugs or kisses on the cheek to be exchanged during these post-show mingles. People ask for a hug and I give them one. No problem there. The key is permission. But I would never give a stranger permission to grab my crotch.
I guess the question is: do people think it’s okay because I’m a dude? Because I really don’t think it’s okay to do that to anyone, male or female. Does my performance make it okay? Does the language in my songs? The answer is no.
A big scandal broke in Canada a few weeks ago and since then, there’s been a lot of important discussion around the topic of a woman’s sexual consent. That story is about a situation much more extreme than this one. I haven’t been hurt physically. But I don’t think my consent is any less significant. I really don’t think it matters who the person is - you don’t touch someone sexually without their consent. Am I wrong? Is this just me being too sensitive?
I’m not going to stop performing songs with sexual language. I’m not going to stop dancing. And I’m not going to stop walking into the audience after my shows. I’m happy to sign autographs and take pictures. If you want a hug or a handshake or a kiss, just ask. It’s almost always okay. I don’t mind a pat on the back. But nothing below the belt, okay?
I hope to see you at a show soon.