Women and feminine presenting people are boycotting nightclubs – What can be done next?

By Amber Turner-Brightman

Tonight, students and societies at UoP are joining a nationwide boycott of nightclubs to demand higher protective measures against spiking, a problem which is now being described as an epidemic. As well as an increase in the spiking of drinks, people have also started to report being spiked via injection. Coming off the back of cases like Sarah Everard’s, it is apparent that our safety is not being taken seriously by either local or national government. 

In the interest of making our voices heard, I asked other students for their opinions on safety in clubs, whether they’d be taking part in the boycott, and what changes they’d like to see. 

Everyone I spoke to was planning on taking part in the boycott and had encouraged their societies to plan other activities on the day. Many also shared that they felt unsafe when clubbing in Portsmouth, with most having been spiked at least once whilst on a night out. One student told me they rarely went clubbing anymore because “it’s not fun spending the whole night feeling worried for yourself and your friends”. Another agreed, adding that we “have a right to feel safe but we don’t, and it hurts”.  

Whilst this issue affects all genders, it occurs disproportionately within women and feminine presenting people of all identities. The representation of queer folks in conversations about spiking is vital. For example, one queer student told me that they were spiked in HB, a space which is supposed to be safe for us. That’s why it’s so important for all of us, regardless of our gender, to take a stand.

@girlsnightin_pompey: very important (Source: Instagram)

Home Secretary Priti Patel has acknowledged outcry by encouraging victims to report any incidents to the police. However, given police response to other forms of violence against women, this is not a viable solution. Reporting to bouncers rarely helps either, with many students arguing that club staff do not take the safety of their visitors seriously. One student told me that clubs here continuously throw girls out without giving their friends any notice, leaving them alone, vulnerable, and unable to get home safely. Regardless of whether somebody has been spiked or has just had too much to drink, it is still clubs’ duty to “make sure [everyone] is safe and gets home safe”. 

Astoria and Popworld have also responded by agreeing to more thorough searches at doors and cancelling Purple Wednesday in solidarity with the those boycotting. However, this is not sufficient. Whilst many have been campaigning for increased searches, I believe they are likely to target minority groups disproportionately. Giving security more power, when they evidently do not care enough about our safety, isn’t going to solve the problem. Students suggested a number of other responses- including free drink covers and drink testing kits in all clubs, safe spaces within clubs for those who have been spiked or have had too much to drink, and free vetted taxi services or night buses to make sure we get home safely. 

Agreeing to close for one night also isn’t enough- overall system change is needed to ensure the safety of women and feminine presenting individuals. Students suggested mandatory classes for societies on consent and keeping female/feminine friends safe on nights out, as well as extending the boycott. This last suggestion is one I agree with wholeheartedly. Taking part for one night isn’t likely to put much pressure on institutions. Whilst the boycott as is has already raised national attention, I believe that by boycotting nightclubs for more time we are likely to make more meaningful, longer-term changes. As one student put it, “we must strike them where it hurts, financially”.  

You can find more information on @girlsnightin_pompey on Instagram. 


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