While we’re still in the midst of COVID-19, there is a new epidemic taking place in our nightclubs.
After over a year of inconsistent restrictions, it was unclear whether nightclubs would be able to fully recover. Since welcoming the students back to the city, it seems that club nights have bounced back. While the environment filled with loud thumping music, bright lights and sweaty strangers isn’t for everyone, many of us enjoy blowing off steam and having a drink and a dance with our friends. However, the recent surge of spiking happening across the UK, including in the city of Nottingham, has threatened the safety of women and feminine-presenting people in clubs.
"The symptoms of spiking are dependent on the substance used, but common symptoms include confusion or memory loss, falling unconscious, nausea or vomiting, and difficulties with speech, vision, and balance"
Spiking is a deliberate attempt to make someone vulnerable. This can be done by putting alcohol or drugs into people’s drinks, but there has also been a rise in cases of people being injected with needles. The symptoms of spiking are dependent on the substance used, but common symptoms include confusion or memory loss, falling unconscious, nausea or vomiting, and difficulties with speech, vision, and balance.
To ensure that the severity of this issue is understood, “Girls Night In” club boycotts have been taking place nationwide. However, the scale of the problem in Nottingham in particular has caught the attention of people who live elsewhere; my friends in Liverpool are sharing stories on social media about people being spiked in Nottingham, and my aunt in Hull messaged me directly as she is concerned for my well-being on nights out.
While it is true that men can be victims of spiking too, as a man I am privileged to not be worried about it when I go out. Generally, when people bring up men’s experiences, it is used as a way to diminish the experiences of women and feminine-presenting people. I do not want to downplay the experiences of men and masculine-presenting people who have been or are worried about being spiked. To me, it is more pertinent for us to focus on the reality that women and feminine-presenting people are systemically more at risk of being spiked than men.
There are plenty of resources discussing the ways to prevent being spiked and offering support for victims, but what else can we do to protect vulnerable patrons? Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a clear answer. Many have called for more security and bag checks on club doors, but I don’t think this is an appropriate solution. Security and policing in general are inherently flawed systems and bouncers have been known to abuse their power to harass or harm people. An increase in security would disproportionately affect people of colour, who are more likely to be targeted in random searches and discriminated against for looking “suspicious”.
"In my opinion, existing bar staff should be trained to make them aware of what to look out for and how to help victims"
Lasting change needs to start inside the club rather than on the door. It is not standard practice to train bar staff on what to do if someone is spiked, and bartenders themselves can be perpetrators. In my opinion, existing bar staff should be trained to make them aware of what to look out for and how to help victims. However, clubs aren’t the root of the problem. Spiking, harassment, and assault do not happen without motivation. They are extreme actions that come from harmful and dangerous attitudes that can present themselves in other, more subtle ways like sexist “jokes” or comments.
So, here is my message to other men: challenge these ideologies. You may like to think that you are not the problem because you have not spiked or hurt anyone, but by allowing your friends, family and co-workers to spout these beliefs without consequence, then you are perpetuating their behaviour. To quote comedian Daniel Sloss – “If one in 10 men are bad and the other nine do nothing, they may as well not be there.” Don’t be one of those men.
Written by: Lucas Mannion
Edited by: Gemma Cockrell