by Helena Hanson
It is no secret that I do not like bouncers. I actually once managed to craft over one thousand words in a column about how much I really do not like bouncers. I think they are often bad-mannered, sexist, racist and some of them are just downright nasty. As figures of significant authority, in a setting where they are expected to safeguard potentially vulnerable people, I think they suck.
Having not yet ventured to the SU on a Wednesday or Saturday night this year *gasp*, I can confirm I am yet to have been exposed to some of the new initiatives that appear to have been rolled out by the university. I have not experienced ‘Juice’ (why does it sound so dirty?) in all it’s sticky, fruity glory and this year I am yet to palate the nauseating, but familiar taste of murky orange and vomit in a plastic bottle. What I have also not yet experienced, is the interrogation from the bouncers you now receive if you leave the SU alone with a member of the opposite sex, or, frankly, if you’re just completely wasted.
During fresher’s week last year, there was a series of three sex attacks, which took place over a period of just five days in Cardiff city centre. The attacks received a significant amount of media attention, and prompted many to call for improvements to be made by the university, to improve safety in Cardiff for students after nights out.
So then, now, before you can begin the deadly descent down the concrete stairs, if you are with a member of the opposite sex, or look drunk and/or vulnerable, you will be pulled aside by a bouncer. If you are alone, they will ask you if you are okay, how you are getting home, where are your friends. If they are concerned for your safety they will send you down to a volunteer, who will escort you home safely. Wonderful. However, it is perhaps a little more…indiscreet, when you are leaving with somebody else.
Wednesday and Saturday nights in the Union are somewhat comparable to David Attenborough’s ‘Planet Earth’. If you have ever had the misfortune of being sober during The Lash, you will recognise the thick smog of testosterone that hangs in the air, you will know that VK’s are nothing but a plastic bottle overflowing with orange fluid and sexual tension, and that the moment the lights come on, ravenous, voracious predators will lock eyes on their target and drag them back to their den.
This is not unusual. In fact, I would go as far as to say it is common practice. Many clubbers get their whole weeks’ worth of ‘YOLO-ing’ done just in that one night. So then, it is understand awkward when you and your one night stand are pulled aside, to discuss your, ahem, plans for the evening.
Pairs are being pulled aside by bouncers, and then separated. They are asked questions such as, ‘what is his/her name?’, ‘how long have you known each other?’, and, significantly, ‘do you feel safe and comfortable leaving with them?’
Clearly, this can be quite the buzzkill as you are leaving with Becky-thought-her-name-was-Britney that you met ten minutes ago outside the toilet and who is now flouncing off with her mates because ‘you got her name wrong which is ridiculous because you just told her you fucking loved her’. It can also be quite the ambiance assassin when the bouncer is visibly judging you and ‘think his name is Dan or Sam or something like that’ for leaving together having clearly no idea what each other’s name is.
It’s awkward, and if handled incorrectly, it could be incredibly offensive and degrading. That said, friends have assured that they have felt entirely comfortable, if not a little embarrassed, by the whole process.
Ultimately though, if their questioning leads to sobering second thoughts or doubts or discomfort around leaving with an individual that had initially seemed nice during the dim, dingy lights of the dancefloor, then this is only a good thing. If their interrogation gives an individual who feels vulnerable or uncomfortable the opportunity to get out of a potentially volatile situation, then this is only a good thing. If their post-Juice interview will only serve to deter potential creepers from preying on vulnerable, drunk people, then this is only a good thing.
Yes it’s awkward that the bouncers know who you’re going home with each week, yes it’s awkward that you don’t know each other’s name and that you met when you both reached for the same VK at the VK stand in the corner, but they also know your safe, which is definitely the most important thing.