Last weekend, thousands of people flooded the bars — and streets — of Manhattan in the name of Santacon, an annual event that involves bar hopping from the early onset of the day while wearing a Santa suit or other holiday-appropriate attire. (It’s a good thing Megyn Kelly wasn’t there; she may have gone into shock because of all the Santa imitators walking around New York who weren’t white. But I digress.)
I decided not to participate in New York City’s Santacon, and not just because I preferred not to spend my Saturday afternoon dressed up in a Santa suit and drinking into oblivion. What it all really boiled down to is the fact that I didn’t feel like being groped or even sexually assaulted by hoards of drunk, uncontrollable men who are iffy on consent definitions.
Unfortunately this is something I have to frequently consider. As a young woman, I often dictate my behavior and plans according to the likelihood that I’ll be sexually assaulted, and that’s not okay. In fact, it sucks, and it prevents me from living my life the way I would like to. It shouldn’t have to be this way, and other young women shouldn’t have to make decisions about where they go and what they do based on the possible violence that might transpire.
I didn’t feel safe enough to attend Santacon because I generally don’t feel safe in other similar environments. If society has taught me anything about being a 23-year-old woman in the United States, it’s that I’m at a high risk of being assaulted when I’m surrounded by large groups of drunk and disorderly men.
I didn’t worry for one second about the possibility of myself drinking too much that it would “cloud my judgment”, considering rape doesn’t happen to women because of how much alcohol they consume. I was hyper aware of the fact that men often use alcohol as a tool to target victims, and they also use it as a scapegoat for their own behavior.
This doesn’t mean I’m unable to be raped by someone when there isn’t alcohol present. I have no control over any kind of assault that happens to me because of the actions and decisions of someone else. Not to mention, it’s statistically proven that I’m more likely to be assaulted by someone I know than a random stranger, and alcohol is involved in about half of the reported rape and assaults against women, not all of them. I am more afraid of all the potential perpetrators than I am the alcohol because men are the ones who initiate rape and sexual assault, alcohol only plays a role in aiding this violence. But I’m still hesitant to engage in situations where I know I’ll be outnumbered by a surplus of drunk men.
Before the day of the event, the Santacon Twitter account advised a warning: “Dirty ol’ Santa or Ho Ho Ho, just remember No means No.”
It’s important they didn’t ignore the issue altogether and took a proactive approach, but that doesn’t make it any less sad that because of the fucked up ways violence against women occurs, they were obligated to do so. It was unsettling to me that Santacon had to tweet a reminder about what consent is, and didn’t exactly encourage me to attend. Call me crazy, but hanging out with a bunch of people who need to be reminded not to rape each other doesn’t sound like a fun time.
I’d love to live in a world where I feel safe enough to drink my face off and disregard the underlying chance that the men around me wouldn’t take that as an opportunity to take advantage of my body. But thanks to the astronomical numbers of women who are raped and violated every year — especially when they’re around drunk dudes who refuse to take responsibility for their actions — and the ways in which rape culture gets perpetuated on a regular basis, I’m pretty sure I’ll hang back when it comes to events like Santacon.