Article originally published on Louder Than War
Dolly Daggerz is the fiery powerhouse behind, at the front of, and often twirling round a pole high above rock band Tokyo Taboo. She recently disclosed online that she had been sexually assaulted during a performance – an assault further compounded by vitriolic backlash from internet commenters keen to blame her for the assault. Clearly some still have lessons to learn from the #metoo movement. With those lessons in mind, Dolly writes about the experience here in her own words (as told to Cassie Fox).
I’ve been sexually assaulted so many times I can no longer count. This is not me ‘bragging’. This is me being brutally honest.
I’ve found myself in the most absurd and, at times, dangerous situations. The most extreme: Once a man who claimed he was an A&R executive locked me in a room and told me I couldn’t leave until I had sex with him. Luckily I got away, but when I spoke about reporting him I was talked out of it by a barrister friend of mine. He said, ‘Look at your sexy image. No jury will care.’ This seems to be a common theme: If a woman is attractive she becomes the ‘temptress,’ the one in the wrong. Poor men are ‘confused’ and can’t help themselves.
Now that I’ve added a pole onstage, things have gone from bad to worse, in terms of unwanted sexual attention. But I am not to blame for being a ‘pole addict’. Pole has simply exaggerated the issue that has been there throughout my life from the age of fourteen.
I remember once walking along a busy main road in the middle of the day. A guy approached me from behind, put his hand up my skirt, and asked ‘Can I have your phone number?’ Seemed a little odd that he felt he could grab what he liked and then ask for my number. How about a simple, ‘Hello?’ Or just leave me alone as I walk along the street with headphones on? He seemed shocked when I was angry, as if he had no idea what he was doing was disgusting and actually illegal. He quickly ran away when I mentioned the police. A common reaction. It’s just ‘a bit of fun’ and that I need to ‘lighten up.’ Such casual assault, as if it doesn’t mean anything to these creeps.
Now, men, I know this isn’t all of you. And I know some women who haven’t experienced anything like this (albeit very few, after the ‘me too’ movement revealed how awful and widespread this problem is). But there are lots of instances in my life like this. You can victim-shame and blame me, or you can wake up and realise that young women (especially those in the entertainment industry) are very vulnerable. I’ve been in rooms with modelling agents who offer work in exchange for sex. I’ve worked with music producers who have made a move on me simply because they had the upper hand. If you are young, female and dream big you might (naively) think these men will help you. They will guide you in your career as they have the knowledge and experience to do so. But in fact the worst kinds simply take advantage.
Even as we approach a new decade, women are still massively vulnerable. If a woman walks into a male-dominated space she generally feels unsafe. You won’t catch a man feeling worried about being surrounded by women. At gigs I’m very aware that men are everywhere and it’s so important that women should feel safe whilst watching bands and artists they love.
Things hit a new low for me recently. A guy decided to grope me whilst I was walking back through the crowd after singing in the audience. This has hit me hard. When I am performing I am ‘Dolly Daggerz’: a superwoman character who is physically and mentally strong, a woman who doesn’t take any shit. I’ve dreamt up this persona that, I thought, terrible things could never happen to. So this assault felt like a kick in the face and I was so shocked I could barely react. I went from feeling strong and empowered to small and weak in an instant.
During our ten-gig ‘Lips Can Kill’ tour I counted five instances of sexual assault and inappropriate behaviour: A man asking for a kiss who I’ve never even met before. A man actually kissing me to say goodbye. A drunk man sweeping his hands down my ass when leaving. And so on. It’s something I can shrug off at first. Maybe chat to the guys in my band about it all the next day and be like ‘weirdos…yuck’ but after a while it’s actually exhausting. Hands Off Gretel’s Lauren Tate, who spoke out publicly about this same behaviour recently, revealed that she ‘doesn’t enjoy’ touring anymore due to the harassment she receives. She claims, ‘I had guys taking the piss out of me asking if they “had the consent to kiss me now.” Disgusting.’ Speaking out about it is apparently not always very effective. Following this last assault, what’s been particularly scarring is the backlash about this awful incident online. I’ve had (a very small percentage of) people saying if I dress like a stripper and pole dance, it’s my fault. ‘Of course men will grope at you! What do you expect?’ Then lots of laughing emojis. I’ve had direct messages from fake accounts saying I ‘might as well whore myself’ and should ‘sell naked photos’ as I already ‘sell my body’. Wow, and I thought that I could dress how I wanted whilst on stage and perform how I want without any random old man touching me? Crazy thinking!
I also read someone saying that posting about sexual assault is ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ and that some people do it to ‘seek attention’. All men commenting of course. Another female jokingly wrote that she’s unsure of why she hasn’t been assaulted herself or seen anything at shows. Maybe she’s not ‘good looking enough’ or doesn’t ‘behave in a way that attracts attention.’ Maybe because she is ‘moody and unapproachable at gigs.’ These remarks point to an underlying consensus that it’s about the victim: how they look or act might provoke assault in some way. I’m sure that since performing pole onstage I’ve received more male attention. However I have also been assaulted when walking in the street, when dancing in a club, when singing in a recording studio. I’ve been harassed whilst in full make up, no make-up, in pyjamas, in running gear. This has nothing to do with how hot someone is or what they are doing at the time of assault. If someone wants to grab flesh they will. The victim is not to blame.
Let me write that again: THE VICTIM IS NOT TO BLAME.
I’ve received hundreds of comments writing how unacceptable this incident was. And mostly men in shock and horror that someone would grab at someone else without consent. But then I’ve read a post with someone confused. ‘Why is someone who dresses so sexy upset with male attention? Stop complaining’.
Attention is fine. Touching out of turn isn’t.
When it comes to such a sensitive topic, I wish people would please think before commenting online. Women are made to believe they ‘deserve’ assault, rape and violence. If you dress sexy it’s ‘your own fault.’ If you pole dance or show skin expect to be groped. We are moving into a new decade where I want to encourage women to report sexual assault no matter what the outcome. I wish I had ignored my barrister friend and reported the fake A&R guy who I naively believed wanted to help me.
Make sure you publicly support women and question the assailant not the victim. A woman could be completely naked and we still need to look at the guy who grabbed her inappropriately. It’s our human right to feel safe.
Also, a message to young women starting out in music: some male producers are full of shit and want to take full advantage of your hopes and dreams. If it seems to good to be true, sadly, it probably is.
What am I going to do to feel safer? I’m currently considering hiring security at our gigs (though part of me thinks this is giving in to those guys who don’t know how to behave). Maybe pepper spray in my bra somewhere, microphone in one hand whilst my other hand grips the pole?