What I need is an armor-plated bra.
June 13, 2012 9:40 PM   Subscribe

You are a woman. You frequently go to concerts alone. You like rap and/or metal. What do you wear and what do you do at rap/metal shows to minimize molestation?

I like to go to concerts at least once a month if money allows. Going with another person is almost never an option, and if I waited until I had accompaniment to go to a show, I'd maybe go to two a year. I mention this because it's the primary response my friends and family have for my predicament.

When I go to shows, I am regularly elbowed in the breasts by a guy. It is never a girl. Sometimes it will happen multiple times a night (different guys). It's very painful, and my father is convinced that it is not accidental. The only show I've been to where I had to agree that the elbowing was more than accidental was a Deftones show I attended where it was so packed that I spent the entire set behind a guy who was constantly elbowing me in the chest and would sometimes apologize and sometimes leer at his friend standing next to him after doing it. I spent the night half-bent over a garbage can and there was literally nowhere else to stand without blocking a walk way or having to literally shove someone aside, move to an obstructed view space, or leave the venue entirely.

My admittedly limited experience has taught me that these things are more likely to happen and more frequently at shows where more aggressive music is being played, but whether the men at these shows feel bold enough to make contact or because people are just moving around that much more, simply staying out of the mosh pit or the crush at the head of the stage doesn't prevent this from happening. Getting away from rowdy people or crowds is impossible in a small, packed venue, and I don't think it's fair that I can't stand where ever I please (excepting the mosh pit) without being hurt.

I have just such a show coming up soon, and while I'm excited to experience the music, I really don't want to have to deal with being elbowed. I dress simply (t-shirt/jeans or skirt to the knee) and while my chest is relatively big, I am a big girl, so it's proportional to everything else. Snapping at every guy who does it doesn't have an appeal to me because I can't prove that it wasn't just an accident. So, how do I protect myself? What can I wear or do to minimize the chances of this happening and still enjoy myself? Do I have to stand with my arms folded at all times? Do I have to accept this as a part of concert-going?

Thank you in advance.
posted by koucha to Media & Arts (33 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
It might not work practically unless you're pretty crafty and make yourself some padding (or wear a really solid bra?), but it'd be pretty badass to rig up a shirt with a chestplate of spikes like these.
posted by verbyournouns at 9:49 PM on June 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

Carry something spiky -- a wristband, a bag, an old-style hatpin -- and jab back. And dress in a way that minimizes and protects the girls (a leather vest or a jacket may help).
posted by jrochest at 9:56 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've had this experience attending hip hop shows koucha, and it sucks. My preferred method is usually arms folded.

I have had success with gentle pushes in the upper back of people who seem to be doing it without realising - in a sort of 'hey, I'm here, just letting you know' way. I've also employed elbows at times. When the dude turns around I'm fiddling with my earring or running my hand through my hair, looking innocent.

In terms of clothes, for me it's jeans and a tshirt, and if necessary, a scowl. When you used to be able to smoke in venues, I always had a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Didn't smoke, but did value the bubble having those two things created around me. No one wants to get burnt or wet. Another technique that works (but can attract dweebs) is carrying a notebook and pen. I 'reviewed' many a show back in the day - props like that can sometimes give you more leeway, at least in my experience (I'm in Australia).

To be honest though, these days I tend to stand further up the back or somewhere a little less packed. The mental and emotional exhaustion of trying to keep a bit of a perimeter in a crowded space wears me out. Hope you enjoy the show!
posted by gerls at 10:02 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think I would try to minimize the bust and look intentionally somewhat androgynous. A sports bra does a better job of downplaying the bustline than most other types of bras.
posted by Michele in California at 10:04 PM on June 13, 2012

I wore a leather jacket year-round for just this reason. It didn't necessarily stop it, but it did reduce my responsiveness to it and their ability to get any real thrill out of it.

I'm sorry this is part of show-going for women :(
posted by batmonkey at 10:14 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just yell ow really loud and scowl at them. Works a treat.
posted by fshgrl at 10:14 PM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Could you try doing a meet-up or checkign on a listserv for company?
posted by spunweb at 10:16 PM on June 13, 2012

If you are literally looking for breast armor, female fencers wear a rigid breastplate underneath their jackets. It's a very utilitarian piece of plastic that costs about $25 and is easily available online. This won't discourage anyone from elbowing you in the first place, but it will eliminate your physical discomfort, and probably also give your assailant a bit of a surprise.
posted by d. z. wang at 10:23 PM on June 13, 2012 [13 favorites]

Leather jacket with a few of the snaps replaced with spikes, particularly around chest area, and two spikes on each shoulder. Works like a charm. Or did five years ago. This advice may be out of date.
posted by corb at 10:29 PM on June 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

This sucks and I'm really sorry. I don't think it's possible to completely dull the ache of being whacked in the breasts: that stuff really hurts and that's why it's an asshole thing to do! Overall I suggest what makes you feel comfortable and normal for standing long periods of time, with the possible addition of: 1)the most menacing (but comfortable) stompy boots you have for purposes of not-so-accidentally stepping on feet, 2)a large dangly necklace hung with spiky things, 3)a chest guard like those worn by female athletes (random Googled example). Even a camera bag (hung with spiky bits) hanging from your neck or a thick vest could help block elbows. You're considering dressing down already, so you need not worry about hurting your personal cool by wearing a puffy hunting vest or a bulky lifejacket. Hang some punk paperclips from it or something.

You may feel more secure if you arrive early to scope out the security/bouncer situation at the venue and get a feel for whether you'll be able to catch their attention if you need help ("hey MIKE! this asshole keeps groping me!") or whether you shouldn't even bother.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:32 PM on June 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

I wear whatever I want -- plus flats -- carry a beer, and I totally push people back if they get too much into my grill. Are you going to "accidentally" touch my breasts? Whoops! I'm going to "accidentally" shove your ass out of my personal space and then affect a super innocent face. No one gets mad about being "accidentally" pushed aside when they know they're "accidentally" groping you.

I also tend to stand in the back now, though. I am too old to want to spend my whole time agitating for space around the assholes at the front of a show -- male and female. But a gentle and possibly unintentional shove back, plus an innocent face, has worked wonders for me.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 11:22 PM on June 13, 2012 [8 favorites]

I used to wear a sports bra, basic black leotard, jeans, and steel-toe combat boots. No jewelry.

If someone was being an intentional, deliberately aggressive asshole, I will admit that I had a last-resort strategy of biting or pinching on occasion. Seriously last resort.
posted by desuetude at 12:38 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I fence. I'm busty. I go to a lot of shows. I am not ever going to wear a chest protector anywhere but the fencing strip.

I wear the same thing I wear everywhere: t-shirt, jeans, and hoodie. Arms crossed over chest if I feel people are getting too close. Stern words if they don't figure out how personal space works. Push back during crowd surges.
posted by loriginedumonde at 1:44 AM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Honestly, if it is intentional (and it is) you may be able to wear clothes to minimize the physical pain when it occurs, but the harassment you're receiving is a psychological power trip for these meathead douchebags and it doesn't matter what you're wearing to them, only that they get to do it. I know it feels unnatural, but a spikey piece of jewelry to push back with or actually saying something is really the only thing that may have an effect if the person is repeating the behavior. I enjoy yelling the phrase, "You wanna try and touch me again there motherfucker?!" really loudly so everyone around them can hear. And do not feel bad if it was an accident; you're at the disadvantaged position of not being able to tell, and honestly even though accidents happen being ignorant of the space of others in a public place is also a scold-able behavior.

The only possible deterrent is carrying a drink cup al la Countess above, because the idiot groping rush might seem less fun if your going to be covered in beer/soda.
posted by itsonreserve at 5:11 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing the above advice to just yell something to the effect of "GET YOUR HANDS OFF MY BREASTS MOTHERFUCKER" loud enough so that others around you can hear and then affect your meanest looking scowl face. Chances are that even if these guys are class-A douchenozzles and were doing it on purpose, they'll feel a bit sheepish about being called out in front of their peers and will slink off somewhere else. If they weren't doing it on purpose, you'll get a sincere apology and a wide berth for the rest of the show.

nicebookrack also had a good tip - get there early and make friends with bouncers/security. Tell them you're there alone and have had trouble with this sort of thing in the past. If it happens, give the guy a bit of a shove back to get his attention and walk straight up to security and point the guy out. I would hope, and I think in most cases they would take appropriate action.

Don't be afraid to be mean!
posted by Gonestarfishing at 5:39 AM on June 14, 2012 [6 favorites]

My girlfriend's daughter was in a club not too long ago and some douchebag grabed her cooch. WHO DOES THAT??? So, she did the only logical thing, she hauled off and punched the guy twice in the face. Laid him completely out and left him to his amazed and impressed friends.

Personally, I think that's the correct response.

I'm with the others who say shove back and call him out on it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:46 AM on June 14, 2012 [12 favorites]

I'm too small to shove back, but in general, I have no problem telling a guy off, or landing my elbow solidly in his diaphragm. People *behind* me are a lot worse because I can't avoid them or see them coming, in my experience. (Also, I know that it's punk music, but it's ACOUSTIC PUNK, and I honestly do not understand the moshing? Whatever.)
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:05 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Get there early enough to be at the front. Choose the front edge of the stage (left or right), not center which has the potential to be a mosh. Get yourself up against the stage or the barrier protecting the stage. Your breats are not out of range for any poking. Your ass might get touched, but your front is now protected.
posted by hworth at 6:17 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd just wear my red chucks, jeans and a t-shirt or tank top. And, like many have said above, push back, elbow back, or a swift kick to the shin will help. If you are near a bouncer, tell him and he can keep an eye on the creeper and move him away or kick him out if needed.
posted by jillithd at 6:23 AM on June 14, 2012

Roller derby girls wear silicone hardshell breast cups that tuck inside your bra/sportsbra. They're great and just the thing for taking unwanted hits.
posted by iamkimiam at 6:23 AM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I usually don't bother shouting at gig-gropers since it's so easy for the guy to respond by pretending it was an accident/pretending not to hear you/treating it as an excuse to escalate hostilities/treating it as a win because your attention is now on him and not the band.

There was an episode of either Angel or Buffy The Vampire Slayer back in the day which had Eliza Dushku doing this dance that segued into a fight sequence. Me and my friends christened it The Elbow Dance and have been successfully using it for the past decade or so when we need to establish a defensive perimeter at concerts or in clubs. I assume the dance moves are massively out of dated by now, but it keeps people out of my personal space so I don't care. The key aspects are stompy feet and unpredictable arm movements that extend your personal space to the front and sides, while intermittantly crossing your chest so it's harder for anybody to land a direct hit to the girls.

And as others have already said, carrying a beer works as a deterrent and allows you to take revenge with plausible deniability if necessary.
posted by the latin mouse at 6:25 AM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

So, she did the only logical thing, she hauled off and punched the guy twice in the face. Laid him completely out and left him to his amazed and impressed friends.

I'm assuming the OP already knows, but this is a bad idea in the first place (especially if you're not used to throwing punches) and worse still at a concert for anything other than classical music. I think your best bet, as others have suggested, is to embarrass the other party by reacting loudly.

Long-term, maybe look for a Meetup group or similar for fans of the genres so you have people to go with? Just having someone else as a witness is helpful to discourage the activity. And I'm sorry this keeps happening.
posted by yerfatma at 6:52 AM on June 14, 2012

Mmm, the worst. It's hard when there's not at least a subset of women and gays. Like, at L7 shows back in the day, it was easy, because we'd just gang up on dudes and group-shove them out of the pit. It's very hard to do this alone!

If you're comfortable making a scene—and most people aren't—it can go a long way, and you can maybe find some allies in the crowd when you're shouting "GET YOUR HANDS OFF MY BREASTS FREAK." But that can also go really wrong. What happens when you get in a shoving match with a dude and you're screaming bloody murder and then someone punches you in the face? I'll personally take a few licks to be "right" but I don't ever want it to get beyond that, and, in general, "being right" can also get you "put in the hospital." (Other consequences include: dudes stalking you after the show, medical bills, and also feeling totally excluded and unsafe. All of which suck.)

I too have a hard time finding actual friends who'll go to shows I like with me. I really feel like we need a girl-gang (or mixed gang) of acquaintances. These are people you wouldn't ordinarily hang out with, but will be your show-buddy. It's Minneapolis: you are surely not the only lady and/or gay with excellent musical taste and a love of being unmolested.

The good news about the El-P and Killer Mike show is that these dudes won't stand for it for a second if they hear you going crazy on someone. They'd stop the show in a hot second. So that's a good spot to try out your new vocal skills, at least.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:55 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

If someone pushes at you, you can push back... if someone in front of you elbows you, a sharp elbow to the ribs may teach him a lesson. Unlikely though.

I'm sorry for your dilemma but I don't think anyone's doing this intentionally, at least not at the metal shows. I always get myself hurt at metal shows... on one hand I'm lucky to be taller than everyone (6'5") but I regularly wake up the next day with bruises on my ribcage / kidney area, feet stomped to mush, ankles kicked/stepped on, cigarette burns in my shirts from other people walking into me, etc. At a big outdoor show where I got to the front, my shoulders and back were all scratched up from people trying to climb to the front over me. My one friend gets involved in mosh pits and would regularly leave shows bleeding from the face. I have no practical advise, given your dilemma.... any girls I see bring their giant male metal friends to kind of protect the zone around them. Holding a cigarette and burning anyone who backs into you is one strategy, I'd avoid the beer cuz you're just gonna get covered in beer.

Oh, spiked bracelets! No one will throw an elbow or back into you if they hit a spiked bracelet. I hate people at shows who wear spikes, honestly I feel like its asking for injuries, but it may help you out.
posted by el_yucateco at 7:17 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can get travel bras with pockets in for keeping money and the like in, I'd get one and line it with something solid. Or some sort of sport protective device.

I know some Lane Bryant bras (and I am sure there are other brands) come with such a thick layer of foam in them to prevent nipples showing that my husband has several times now had what he thought was a great time coping a feel and I hadn't even realized.

Also if you can find a cluster of other females at the gig and stand near them , guys like that tend to pick on loners. Or find a friendly looking large burly man there alone, try for someone a little older looking and go, hey that dickhead is groping me can I stand near you so he'll leave me alone. Most guys are pretty good, despite what the gropers might make you think, and hey you might make a new friend.
posted by wwax at 7:59 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

The way I generally deal with being groped by strange men in any context is to look the man straight in the eye and growl, "Touch me again and I'll cut your balls off." And I make sure to look like I mean it. This has worked for me at concerts. Also parties, parking lots, parks, sidewalks, laundromats . . .

Then again I grew up in some scruffy and dangerous neighborhoods where just walking to school meant walking a gauntlet of leers, and being outside alone at all as a girl / woman was a dangerous proposition. So I developed this strategy at a time when I didn't really feel like I was adding danger to my situation by getting aggressive with people -- and I've had a lot of practice making my small blonde feminine person seem suddenly way too threatening to bother with. YMMV. But I imagine a concert of the type you describe would be the perfect place for a woman to pull off going alpha bitch on some grabby jerks.

(In the stopping-gropes-before-they-start clothing department, for me it seems to help, for some reason, to wear tall boots. Of the dominatrix, these Sexy Sexy Boots Were Made for Walking All Over Your Dumb Ass variety. But maybe they just make me feel more confident; who knows.)
posted by BlueJae at 8:20 AM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

In the armor department, the Alpinestars Stella Bionic 2 pressure suit might be what you want. I've been in mosh pits, and I've worn a Bionic 2, but as of now I haven't done both at once. If you're interested in throwing some elbows yourself, the Bionic 2 would pack some punch. It would also deter the casual gropers because they'd get a handful of hard plastic.

Before you try that, though, I'd try out some solid boots (stepping on toes and high-stepping so you scrape your boot down the shin as you stomp can be very effective) and definitely some elbows.
posted by workerant at 9:10 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Every metal show I've been to has been greatly improved by big fucking boots and big fucking spikes, and an absence of reluctance to use them.
posted by Jilder at 9:25 AM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

As a small (5'2") person who enjoys shows with moshpits, you have my empathy. I usually like punk and there is plenty of "accidental" boob contact, but the (relatively few) metal shows I've gone to have far surpassed any punk show in this regard.

Keep your arms up in front of you any time you are remotely near the pit. If the crowd is packed, I usually opt for crossed arms, inside of forearms facing out (extra distance between other people and your boobs, also easier elbow-usage.) Be ready to push back full-force. I fully recognize that this looks goofy, but I end up with fewer bruises this way - YMMV.

If you can stand a large (and probably heavy) bib necklace made of something hard and or/pointy (maybe chainmail?), that might serve as somewhat of a deterrent. The roller derby boob protectors seem like a good idea - it'd certainly surprise the (probably) dude when (most likely) his elbow hits hard plastic.

I resent that I think and do this, let alone say it to anyone, but I skip anything vaguely feminine when going to a show with a crowd - because our culture is sexist, a skirt = vulnerable (see itsonreserve's comment about power trips). Big boots, pants (dickies or something similar that's tough), and a shirt with no boob-enhancing qualities would be my preferred show outfit.

This is a longer-term solution, but doing more upper-body exercises (push-ups, pull-ups, etc) on a regular basis makes me feel vaguely more confident in my ability to push back when needed.

And this may be further than you wish to go, but I sometimes bound in hs and college just out of general preference. It can be really painful and physically damaging depending on how it's done. While I didn't pass as male (and wasn't trying to), I got a lot less of the negative attention I had gotten used to dealing with at shows.

Enjoy the concert - don't let the fuckers ruin it for you.
posted by brackish.line at 10:20 AM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

The fencer's breastguard is called a plastron, FWIW.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:28 PM on June 14, 2012

I knew there was a use for these!

If this is a grope, these guys must have way more sensitive elbows than me. What a weird interaction.
posted by chundo at 3:09 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

You need to have a little Minneapolis meetup with other ladies who like to go to concerts but can never find anyone who will go with them. My taste in music probably sucks a little, which is probably why no one will ever go with me but I love checking out new artists and I flat out love rap so I would totally be into a meetup of this kind.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:32 PM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I perfected this as a teenager (I only went to metal shows back then and I must say 99.9% of guys were complete gentlemen but getting knocked around in the mosh was an occupational hazard for everyone). When in the mosh, put your hands or forearms lightly on the back/shoulders of the person/people in front of you. Instant cameraderie + boob buffer zone, also makes you less likely to fall over and easier to go with the moving tides. I've done this as an adult at rowdy hip hop shows (I went to see MOP alone for eg) and it still works :)
posted by lifethatihavenotlivedyet at 7:58 PM on June 15, 2012

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