This is what my friend yelled into my ear at the metal concert, moving me into position between herself and the moshpit – sweaty men slamming into anyone and everyone, violently asserting their space in the world. They smashed into everyone's personal space: into mine, and into hers.
I stood firm like a thick tree in a gale as the men, exuberant with their own privilege, nearly knocked me over again and again. My duty was to fully absorb these blows to spare her from them. It was my honor, not because of "being the boy" but because I relished protecting her. Because being a woman in this world subjects one to violence. Because there have been times when I couldn’t protect her, and it breaks my heart.
I stared straight ahead at the band. It was impossible to enjoy them in these circumstances. My eyes glassed over as my right side and shoulder were pummeled, my feet stepped on. I tried to firm my core as much as possible so that I did not so much as waver. And soon every time a sweaty man hurdled toward me I curled my lip and jabbed an elbow into his side or kicked his shin, surprised by my own violence. I was not playing, like they were. I was fighting. I was disgusted by them. I was disgusted that in order for my friend to be able to watch this band I had to fight for her. Everyone knows that the front of the stage is reserved for the aggressive men, for those willing to withstand the pit. I used to be 16; I used to spend plenty of time in the pit, often the only female-bodied person but not caring, still as aggressively high spirited as the rest of the boys, happy to slam into my friends at a punk house basement show in my hometown. But those days are over. I am an adult. I have been beaten and bruised too much, my body violated too many times; it’s no longer play to me. I am now fighting everyone who has ever entered my space or entered her space without consent. I am fighting just to stand here. I am fighting for her so that she can take a break from fighting for herself.