The Dark Side of the London Gay Nightclub Scene
London is known for its nightlife scene. Many a night is spent in London's Soho district, which is known for being the gay side of town (you could say its the Red Light District of London). If you're visiting London and want a taste of the gay London life then Soho is the place to go. From bars to bath-houses, you can get it all in Soho However, there is a much darker underbelly to the gay nightlife of London.
There is a unwritten 'Harvey Weinstein-esque' rule where sexual assault is common practice and you're put into a situations where you can't say no. I'm going to talk about a number of different encounters that have happened to me and people who I've spoken to (who wish to remain anonymous).
I'll start this off with my first experience in Soho. I was a fresh-faced, socially awkward kid who had just turned 18 and wanted to taste some of the gay life I'd been dreaming of. Through Grindr I arrange to meet up with a guy at the 'Village' bar in Soho.
I couldn't contain my excitement. After years of being in the closet at a very homophobic school I get to be with my people, my tribe. Was I scared? You betcha. Was I nervous? Unbelievably so. Was I expecting the night to go like one of the many erotic novels I read? Yes, yes, and yes.
When I got into the Village, I was taken aback. I'd never been in a nightclub before and wasn't expecting it to be shoulder-to-shoulder rammed in there, but what really took me by surprise were the go-go dancers. There was something about having half-naked men dancing on stage that made me super uncomfortable. Don't get me wrong, now I love myself some half naked dancers, but as a virgin teen who had never been in a sexual situation before it was an odd change of scene for me. I was completely fascinated by it.
The guy who I meeting was on the second floor of the Village, which was more like a traditional style of pub, especially compared to the first floor. We chatted, had some drinks, and all that jazz. It was an all round OK experience. Until I went back downstairs to go to the bathroom. The bathroom was located in the back of the first floor in the basement, and to go there you past the go-go dancers' dressing room. One of the dancers was going from the basement bathroom area to the dressing room and passed me. He was in his late 20s-ish and wearing only a pair of underwear. When he saw me he eyed me up, then as he got closer he shoved his hand down my pants and started to squeeze my penis. I was in a state of shock that a man, hired by this club - a stranger - has his hands down my pants grabbing me. I tried to push him away then he put his other hand down my backside and proceeded to shove his fingers in me.
I managed to shake him off and get to the bathroom, where I cried. I felt violated and disgusted in myself that I'd let this happen. I wanted to throw up. I left the bathroom scared I was going to run into my assaulter. Thankfully I didn't. When I told guy who I came here to meet, he just laughed in my face and told me I was lucky. Tried to get me to go find him and let him carry on what he was doing. I felt dirty. I told the guy I hated it and it not's why i'm here, and he said that that's how things go in Soho. Guys grab your junk and you're supposed to like it. That I should feel privileged that a go-go dancer did that to me and i'm wrong for not liking it. I wanted to complain someone but he convinced me not to. I regret that to this day.
I was going to go into more details about this event, but I've gotten quite worked up writing this, even though it's been 4 years since that time. So, lets get on a lighter topic... racism!
G-A-Y (also known as Heaven) is London's most popular gay bar in Soho, hosting hundreds of events such as Porn Idol, pretty much all the girls from RuPauls Drag Race, along with in-house live music. However G-A-Y is owned by a less than tasteful person: someone by the name of 'Jeremy Joseph'. Think of Jeremy sort of like the Gay Tony of London, but more racist.
In 2016 Mr Joseph went on a Facebook rant blaming Somanlians for the increase of crime and stabbings in the Soho area. He declared that his 2017 resolution was to 'claim Soho back' (you could sense a 'Make Soho Great Again' vibe). Joseph grouped Somalians with drug dealers and scum gangs as the reason why Soho is not as safe as it used to be. The guards of G-A-Y are quite famously racist and just awful people. Inside the club I've seen lines of cocaine in the bathrooms. It's with the security guards of a Soho club that the encounter with my friend took place.
Because I wasn't here for this event I wont name the particular bar in this story, but going off its reputation I believe that this absolutely happened to a friend of mine. My friend came up from Portsmouth to see his family in London and wanted to do what most gay guys in their early 20s want to do, and that's hit up the gay clubs. He and a bunch of his friends went to Soho on a Saturday night. His friends got in while security wouldn't let him in. The reason why? He looked too gay...
Yeah. They didn't allow in people who looked too gay into the club, a gay club i reminds you, which is on the same street as a sex toy shop. This bar had an unwritten 'if you don't fit into the Masc4Masc stereotype then you cant come in' rule. It's not like he was dressed in a tutu with a dildo unicorn horn on, he was just dressed like everyone else, but he gave off a camp vibe the guard didn't like.
These are just some of the Soho horror stories I know of. Just be careful out in Soho. Unlike what Mr Joseph said the problem in Soho right now isn't the streets, it's the clubs and their staff causing a hostile environment for people looking to be accepted.If you have your own Soho horror stories, or maybe you wanna tell me how its changed please Tweet me @Jackaphobia.
Jack Dixon is a gamer, cinephile, and more than likely he's the guy who's ignoring you on Grindr. Tweet him @Jackaphobia.