By Kirsten O’Neill

[TW:  sexual  abuse and rape}

“PM for Guestlist.”  
A familiar phrase to those with a social media account in the last decade. In Belfast, and the rest of the UK, many begin clubbing at 15 - some younger, some older. You graduate from drinking a barrick in a field to messaging someone you barely know, who vaguely looks like you for a lend of their ID for the weekend. In the UK and Ireland, underage drinking is the norm, a rite of passage some might say. But over the years I feel it has got even younger. With the expeditious development of social media, the teenage need to be perceived as older burgeoned. Society is evolving faster than it ever has. Too fast, I believe, for the correct adjustments to be made to law, social norms and how we perceive the young girls who work for night clubs.  

Naturally, local clubs and nights compete for attendance; music, aesthetic and who attends makes each night its own and different from the next. People like different music, vibes and aesthetics and will flock in abundance to whatever one tickles their fancy. Teenage girls appear to be the most active participants in social media. As a matter of course, underage girls are scouted out on the internet based on who they are 'friends' with on social media, but more crucially, what they look like.  Essentially, clubs prey on young girls who have a substantial online following that is their target audience, and who have beautiful/ edgy/ classy or sexy pictures that benefit their brand and desired image. It is crucial this image is maintained to be more successful than their competitors. 

Greed is what breeds a competitive market. Using underage girls as bait to get men to attend in hopes that ‘birds' as great as HER will be there is for sure a brilliant system for brand owners and predators alike. What we must understand is that when advertising and constructing a business model such as this, you are going to gain the attention of predators and creeps, as attendees or even as workers. Predators are usually smart and very sly. This strain of PR work is a social media facade, where young vulnerable girls technically advertise themselves and their underage friends as 'whips' who will be in attendance. This is nothing short of vulgar. 

Young girls are undeniably and famously the most vulnerable and impressionable group of people on this planet, making them the ideal target demographic for a successful business or brand.

The beauty industry is a thriving, multi-billion-dollar commercial enterprise wholly because of this fact. They abuse female vulnerability, contriving an unattainable standard of beauty, causing traumatic after-effects and crippling self-consciousness to run rampant amongst the most insecure and impressionable people in society. Making this the unquestionable norm shifts the blame onto the young girls it aims to destroy. This is a sure-fire way to a capitalist dream and a feminist nightmare. 

What nightclubs and the hospitality industry has done is not at all different. Greed comes before everything. Money and notoriety are the two biggest drivers of power we humans have ever known. Teenagers are by nature insecure, rebellious, and naive. They cling to whatever they need to for a sense of security, belonging, confidence or approval. Being seen as cool, popular, and more mature is their ultimate priority - throw in the incentive to make some money and a club PR job is the teenagers one way ticket to self-satisfaction.  Sucked in by the illusion of clout. Rebellion. Maturity. Coolness. They are young and wide-eyed and should categorically be protected, not preyed upon and used as bait for hungry clubs to benefit from in clout, image, and money. Not only is this an immoral abuse of power, the type of misogynistic, vile party culture it creates upholds and protects predators, creeps, abusers, and rapists. This environment is a dream come true to them. Not only are young girls running rampant, drunk with their guard down - nobody cares if you take advantage of them. 

This theme park of vulnerable underage girls is horrifying enough before I even mention the role drugs has to play in it. Most recreational drugs are illegal because of their potential danger. No-doy. But they have always and will always be a part of our society. The drugs add another layer of disorientation, confusion, and trust to an already doomed group of young women in a vicinity where they are not adequately protected. It is not uncommon for drugs to exist in nightclubs, usually prompted by the musical or social aspect of clubbing. But it can also be an escapism, that some take too far. Or even worse, used to spike people. Under 18’s are not legally allowed in clubs for this (and MANY other) reasons. So why on earth are they being scouted to work there?

It is not only under 18’s who suffer in this environment. A man will feed a woman gear all night under the guise of having a good time. He waits until near the end to make his move, after hours of drinking and taking gear. To him, she should be expecting it. She says no and outrage ensues. She leaves because his friends tell her to, shouting, “Aye but you’ll sit here and take his gear off him all night”. This is nothing but a more vulgar, modernised, version of, “but I paid for your dinner, you owe me”. Sex should be had because both participants want it, not because one feels the other owes them it. Understatement of the eon.

Women of all ages are let down in the hospitality sector. Misogyny, slut-shaming, blackmail, coercion, flashing, assault or having to flirt for tips. The double standards are endless and fucking unfair. Sexism has always been around but now is the time to eradicate it. 

If you create a brand that specifically claims to be inclusive and a ‘safe space’, predators will take advantage of it.

They will take advantage of the fact that people, in particular young women will have their guard down. If you are not equipped to handle this, you directly help perpetuate a culture that enables creeps, predators, and rapists. Whether the clubs are themselves involved or not is hard for me to say, but they certainly turn a blind eye for their own benefit and profit. Our own justice system fails victims all the time. We desperately need justice reform, and many have been fighting for that for years. The law is very hard to fix, so it’s important we make change where we can.

We definitely do need a ‘safe space’ to club and party, but if all you are doing is promoting your brand as creep-fighting feminists online, with no safeguard training done (which is freely available here)) and underage girls galore, you’re less revolutionary feminist and more wolf in sheep’s clothing. How can you set people at ease like this while abusers run rampant around the club or even work there themselves? What kind of environment is that? Most clubs don’t brand themselves as feminist icons and rightly so. Nightclubs and bars are a cesspool for predators, sexual assault and rape as there are drunk, vulnerable people everywhere. A no tolerance policy doesn’t exist just because you state loudly on Instagram that you have a no-tolerance policy. You have to actually tolerate none of it.

You shouldn’t be afraid to say what you feel is right. If you end up being wrong at least you know your intentions were pure, and if you’re right you’re making a difference. Silence helps no one but predators and abusers. Some seem more concerned with a man’s reputation than the violation of a woman’s mind, body and soul. But if innocent, a reputation should be easy enough to rebuild, it is not as easy to rebuild yourself after rape or sexual assault. People forget, but the body doesn’t. Trauma is very fucking real and effects people for the rest of their lives. If you are quick to defence, maybe ask yourself why. Is it because you genuinely disagree with me or because your ego is hurt? Look inward. Or around you.  


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