It’s Ms. Waitress to you, mate.

I love my job in Hospitality. I enjoy the people I work with, I enjoy the people I meet on shift, and I enjoy the almost family-like environment that comes with working in the same business for a number of years. I love it. It may not have the working hours most cohesive with having a social life, but its suits me to work so close to home. 

What I do not enjoy, though it tends to come with the territory of serving alcohol, is dealing with heavily intoxicated people. Another downside is the harassment that comes from male customers. And put them both together? Nightmare. I have been fortunate and have not had many strongly negative experiences (excluding that one time I was slapped across the face by someone’s errant son), but you do encounter a degree of contempt from a number of the people you serve.

After all, to many you’re “just a waitress”. You almost lose a particular element of your humanity in the eyes of those few snobby people. You drop from being a contributing member of society (often it appears to be tertiary students working as wait staff) to being a person who just serves food. And booze. Ohhhh, don’t forget the booze. Woe behold you if you are delayed in bringing a jug of beer to a table of rowdy young men. 

Just the other night we were charged with the awards night of a football club. Over the course of the night, and perhaps due to the nature of the sport, the (largely male) clientele became very drunk, becoming more boisterous and excitable as the night wore on. I am sure this was both out of genuine, well-meaning excitement for the awards being presented, but also for the consumption of alcohol. While this is okay and understandable, what is not okay is the way that staff were subsequently treated, with multiple staff being propositioned for sex, and for one young lady to be slapped on her backside. The gentleman who delivered the blow was old enough to be her very-elderly father, or semi-young grandfather. And when she turned around in surprise and disgust, he winked at her. His audacity appalled me. 

There is no conceivable situation in which this type of behaviour is okay. The young lady was cleaning up a broken glass/spill/mess/etc, and this bloke took it upon himself to indecently touch her. They had never met. Didn’t know each other from a bar of soap. It doesn’t matter that it was ‘just a cheeky bum slap’, and it isn’t relevant that he was drunk. It doesn’t matter that he ‘didn’t mean it’, and its not ‘unreasonable’ to get upset about it. It was her body, and her personal space was infringed upon indecently.

You are not allowed  to touch a young girl like that. Or an old lady. Or a guy. Or anyone. You have NO RIGHT to engage in such indecent, inappropriate, and unwelcome sexualised behaviour without invitation nor consent. 

I’m sure many people will wonder why I was so angry about it personally, when the girl, while affronted and clearly displeased, did not appear as outwardly upset. The reason for that is simple: at one point in time, that girl was me. Only I was the one who was drunk (to the point of semi-consciousness), and the contact was even more sexualised. He was supposed to be my friend, and I had said No. Repeatedly.

I genuinely don’t understand why people do such things? Why do so many people engage in such horrible behaviour? When even old men act in such deplorable ways, is it really so surprising that young men (and women) adopt these behaviours? 

I do not mean to sound resentful to all men at all. I have a loving boyfriend, father, step-father, and male friends. There are men I shyly hope will one day become my in-laws. I enjoy the company and sense of security that comes from being with men who respect me, and I know they would protect me as fiercely as I would them.

That said, we need to stress the importance of what is acceptable behaviour in the youth of society (and I say this as a member of Gen Y). We need to impress upon our peers and future children the fact that everyone they engage with in life has a family; loved ones. Autonomy. They are a person who deserves to be respected as we all expect to be. There is no possible justification for touching someone in a sexual way, unless you are engaging in a consensual, sexual encounter. Really. There just isn’t. No amount of “she was asking for it”, or “but look how she’s dressed”, or “but she’s HOT”, or “I was drunk” will make it okay. You have just assaulted someone. There are no shades of gray. If someone says stop, that means stop. Women should not have to actively protect themselves from assault or indecent behaviour.

To repeat the obvious; NO MEANS NO.

Stop means no.

Drunk means no.

Asleep means no.

“I have a boyfriend” means no.

“I’m not interested” means no.

Silence means no.

Crying means no.

Walking away means no.

Anything other than ‘yes’, means no.

Don’t be a jerk. That waitress might someday be your doctor. Or your dentist. Or your kids’ teacher. Or your Prime Minister. Even if she’s not; you can be damn sure that there are a whole bunch of men and women willing to tear you to pieces for laying one unwelcome finger on her, or anyone else. 

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