Gay bars provide a safe environment for women amidst a culture of harassment

When planning a girls’ night out, my friends and I end up in the Castro 90 percent of the time. Although we like going out there because of the great dance music and $1 drinks at Q Bar, most importantly, it’s a place where we can feel safe drinking and dancing without men in our group. Contrary to popular belief, we go out for girls’ nights to hang out with each other, not to try to meet guys to go home with. That’s why gay bars have become the straight girl’s favorite place to go out.

Gay bars are a safe haven for homosexual men who want to dance and drink with each other without the fear of sexual abuse, violence, hate, scrutiny or judgement from the heteronormative community. This is where the LGBTQ community and straight women’s desires overlap in a sense. We too would like to go out and dance and drink with each other without those fears weighing on us.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 1 in 5 women will experience sexual assault in their lifetime. It’s a statistic we as women are used to hearing. It’s why we second-guess what we wear before we leave the house, it’s why our parents buy us pepper spray when we move away to college and it’s why when we want to go out drinking we feel safer choosing to go to gay bars.

For me and my friends, going to straight bars consists of constantly getting hit on, groped or covering our drinks with napkins because we are paranoid about getting drugged. People make jokes about girls “always having to go to the bathroom together,” but the reality is, we were trained to go places in packs because our mothers have taught us we are less likely to get sexually assaulted that way.

In my experience, the guys at gay bars don’t notice me, and if they do, they’re not trying to sleep with me. I’ve still been hit on by women in gay bars, but in the past when I’ve told another woman I’m not interested, they’ve accepted it and moved on. However, when I’ve said the same thing to straight men hitting on me in a bar, they continue to harass me, even if I tell them I have a boyfriend. The only reason guys walk away is because they are respecting another man’s property, not the fact that I’m not interested in them.

In straight bars I am constantly in a state of anxiety. I’m always covering the top of my drink with my hand, I’m always avoiding eye contact with men near me, I’m worrying not only about myself but my friends. I make sure I use the bathroom before I leave the house, hoping that I won’t have to make that trek to the bar bathroom through all the men that, without fail, always grope me on the way. At gay bars, I feel free to dance with my friends without worrying that if I accidentally bump into a guy he will grab me and start grinding. I can smile at someone with ease and maybe even make a new friend. Most importantly, I feel safe and secure in my environment, free of worry, and ready to have a great night.