(TW for VAWG)
So, I went to Magaluf in September. It was fabulous and loud, as were the girlfriends I went with. However, I was assaulted whilst I was there, and although I almost immediately had the idea to write about and deconstruct the conditions that were in place that made it possible for this to happen to me while I was there, I only now feel able to do so clearly and fairly.
Now, I don’t know how many of you have been to Magaluf, but it is one of the trashier places I’ve visited. It seems to be a tourist destination almost entirely funded by men, or boys, in their late teens or early twenties, which in turn means that sex is on the agenda at every occasion. (Here, as ever, selling “sex” seems to pretty much translate into selling the female body.) Pretty girls stand at the entrances to every bar and club, flirting with potential male customers, and groups of women are ushered into bars by male staff members seemingly in the hopes that they too will attract more men. Get the women there, and the men will swarm, apparently. Luckily, I clearly do not fit in in such places, so I was treated more as a novelty than a sexual commodity.
As you might imagine, the place is also littered with strip clubs and in general has a large and varied population of sex workers. Again, these facilities seem to exist exclusively for the male tourists. However, in a place nicknamed “Shagaluf” this is to be expected, and as I visited the destination in full knowledge of what I would encounter there, I treated it as an anthropological exercise, learning the ways of the horny teenage male.
I would like to point out that a few bars did employ pretty men to stand outside and attract women, and there was the odd male-gymnast performance for the straight ladyfolk to enjoy, but in general, these men were accompanied by the usual sexy women and were allowed to keep their clothes on; besides, we all know how privilege and sexual entitlement works anyway.
It was actually upon my exit from one of these gymnastic shows that I was assaulted. I was walking alone (shock horror!) — as I always dare to do, as I refuse to let myself be frightened into thinking I need a chaperone to keep me safe — when a sunburnt, British, presumably teenage man put his hand up my dress. I was sickeningly reminded that I was wearing a thong and no leggings or tights. In hindsight, I’m assuming this was meant as “a laugh” and my consequent actions were “uncalled for” but I gave the man a swift and indignant shove. (Really, I’m curious what reaction I was expected to have?) As you might expect, one thing led to another and pretty soon I’m on the floor with a black eye.
I’d like to entertain the possibility that, had the location been different, this man perhaps wouldn’t have behaved as he did, or at least would have received my reaction with something more polite than criminal battery. In a place that genuinely has printed adverts for “girls”, as if we, as a gender, are offering a commercial service, is it any wonder that our bodily autonomy is disregarded even more than usual? Even in the day time, every establishment screams to male customers “Spend your money here and we will promise you women!” After exposure to this kind of culture, these predominantly young, arguably impressionable men are basically told that they have even more entitlement to women and their bodies when in Magaluf than back in Britain.
Needless to say, my holiday was kinda-sorta ruined, and I’m pretty sure I was suffering from shock for the rest of it. I was really angry, but weirdly at myself for ruining my holiday, as well as impairing my friends’ holiday. I don’t have any lesson that I learned from the incident, except maybe that assault isn’t something that just happens to other people, and I know that in a way I’m lucky that it wasn’t more serious. I’m not going to say that I won’t drink in public again, or that I won’t walk alone in a strange place again, I won’t urge you to watch your drinks or warn you not to go home with strange men. I won’t even tell you not to go to Magaluf, or other boozy holiday destinations. I’ll live my life, and I’ll enjoy my freedoms, and I’ll despair and rage if and when people take that away from me, but it’s not me who needs to adjust my day-to-day activities to stop things like this from happening again.